School here in the Shenandoah Valley is wrapping up for the year and my own summer vacation is just a few weeks away. Summer is upon us.
When I was growing up, the end of school and the start of summer meant one thing: summer family vacation.
Every year, Dad meticulously planned our trip, made the motel reservations, and plotted out the routes with a little help from the Sunoco.
Early in the spring, he and Mom would decide on the destination and then Dad would write away to Sunoco for a trip packet, which basically was one or more maps, depending on where we were going. The routes we were to travel were marked in yellow.
I can still see Dad sitting in “his” chair, pouring over the maps. He would study the maps until he had the routes memorized.
That worked like a charm and our road trips were smooth sailing to our destination, whether it be New Hampshire, the Amish country in Pennsylvania, or upstate New York.
Well, it worked like a charm most of the time.
There was our first trip to Williamsburg, Virginia.
He miscalculated how long it would take to drive from Massachusetts to Virginia, especially with two women and a dog in the car.
Then he took a wrong turn in Richmond, Virginia.
We had a lovely scenic tour of the city – at nine o’clock at night.
We arrived at our motel hours late and exhausted.
That did not matter to Dad in the least. He was up bright and early the next morning, raring to go.
Mom, the dog, and I had no choice but to follow suit, however sleepily.
And then there is that infamous three-hour tour of Route 495, also known as the DC beltway.
We were heading home from our vacation in the nation’s capitol. We had seen many of the sights in Washington as well as a side trip to Mount Vernon.
Dad was driving and Mom, map in hand, was navigating.
“Here’s our exit,” she said, pointing to the large green sign reading 95 North/New York City.
“We don’t want to go to New York City,” Dad said. “We want the next exit.”
“Are you sure? It says 95 North.”
“I’m sure. I studied the map before we left. The directions say 95 North. Nothing about New York City.”
My ears perked up. I loved geography, and I was pretty sure that New York City was north of Washington, DC.
I realized then that while my Dad might know a lot of stuff, geography wasn’t one of them.
Of course the next exit didn’t say anything about 95 North.
“It’ll be the next one,” Dad said as we cruised by, not sounding quite so confident.
Three exits later it became obvious that we had missed our exit. Dad admitted defeat.
Even the back of my mother’s head screamed, “I told you so.”
By the time we looped around again, traffic had picked up. Dad was in the wrong lane and couldn’t get over to take the exit.
Around we went again. Dad and Mom didn’t say a word, and I slumped in the seat, burying my nose in my book.
At the ripe old age of 10, I knew that silence is the better part of valor on a family road trip when you’re the kid.
Home was going to look good, very good. If we get there, I thought.
We did, of course, with no more missed exits.
Dad and Mom weren’t laughing at the time, but the trip soon became a family legend to recall every year after when we set out on our annual summer vacation.
Do you have any favorite summer vacation memories, whether a day trip, a weekend away, or longer? Share them in the comments below.