My teenage years of travel continued along the same trend of road trips, with the single momentary incursion into Mexico with my Aunt Barbara, they were all in the Eastern states. I also want to state that virtually none of them were for exploration. They were all made mainly to visit family, can you say boring? The only sightseeing I got to do was from the back window of our RV as we speeded down the highways of our countryside. If I was lucky, we might actually spend the night at a picturesque campsite. This was the sum total of my traveling experiences. I had become an avid reader, so I would bring ten or so books with me for the trip and a few board games which I would play at our kitchenette in the RV, when I got tired of reading. When we arrived at the destination of our trip which was usually the backyard of some nameless family member that I had little interest in, that was it. We would spend a few days there and then move on to another relative in their backyard. You may ask what I did? The answer was read in the RV. What did my parents do? They would visit and play cards in the kitchen. We just spent three days on the road and drove 1,330 to 1,500 miles to park in someone’s backyard. How enjoyable was that?
I do remember one of our trips back home. On this trip we made a wrong turn or missed an exit, whatever happened we ended up in Washington, DC. So you would think, hell, let’s check stuff out, right? Not on your life. My mother blamed my stepfather who was the navigator responsible for the mistake. So there we are parked across from the National Mall where I could see several monuments. Monuments that were calling my name. But all I could hear was the two of them arguing about the trip route. This went on for almost an hour and, of course, during that time I was not allowed to explore because they worried that somebody would mug me. Really? Of all the missed travel opportunities in my life I regret this one the most. At least, my stepfather wanted to also take advantage of the mistake, so that we could at least walk by the monuments in the Mall. My mother adamantly refused and so we eventually got back on the road.
Of course, I was deemed too young to stay at home, so I was stuck trudging along on these all too frequent road trips. The only real enjoyment I had was when we visited my brother Robert. He was always good for an interesting adventure or two.
To show you what I mean I will include a couple of stories of not only my brother but of my family as well in the following section. I would like to make one little caveat, these stories may not be in a continuous time line. This is where my memory is a little fuzzy.
On our return trip back home from our journey to “Mecca” we stopped by my brother Robert’s house in New York. He had had not followed us to Florida yet. On this particular visit, he wanted me to help him with his farm animals. The glorious task I was assigned to do was to shovel pig shit into a wheelbarrow and roll it down a 45-degree hill and dump it into another pile. I have no idea why I was moving pig shit from a pile at the top of the hill to a pile at the bottom of the hill.
But I did what I was told. I was just a stupid tall skinny kid. Hell, the wheelbarrow weighed more than I did. Do you see anything wrong with this picture? Nah, all I know was that something smelled really bad in Denmark. So, I now have this wheelbarrow full of pig shit, and it weighed about 10,000 pounds. When I stared the wheelbarrow rolling down hill, it quickly got a mind of it’s own. It just accelerated like a sprinter out of a starting block. You know how fast I ended up going down that hill? I think I broke the damn sound barrier. Good ole Chuck Yeager had nothing on me. As luck would have it my wheelbarrow started wobbling and weaving all over the damn place. The next thing I know I and that damn wheelbarrow, are all tangled up and rolling down the hill like a big brown snowball. Pig shit was flying all over the damn place. It was in my eyes, my nose and even my mouth. And it was flying all over that damn hill. The only place it was not going was on that damn pile of pig shit at the bottom of hill. So, after what seemed like an eternity, I finally came to a stop at the bottom. My brother finally came out to see what all the ruckus was and that was when he saw all the carnage. And after, he went back in and changed his drawers because he shit himself from laughing so much. He simply handed me a rake and said “Clean up the hill”. What the hell? I guess he remembered me punching him in the nuts.
My family, besides being absolutely crazy were pretty normal and as a result, we liked family get- togethers. Since we liked the outdoors, our activities revolved on parks and local watering holes. This park was in Georgia and was a favorite haunt of, you guessed it, my brother Robert. It was a headsprings for one of the rivers near his house. It had a really cool waterfall and all kinds of cool little soaking areas with crystal clear water. In this particular event, Robert was there with his four kids and my Sister Regena was there with her spouse and two kids. I was also there with Mom and Dad. I believe Robert also had a couple of abused kids staying at his house as well. My brother while he had a small bank account, had a big heart and was always taking in strays…human and animal alike. I swear he was like Dr. Doolittle, he made pets out of all types of animals, from raccoons, woodchucks and even squirrels. But I digress, so back to my Sister. My sister thought it would be nice and refreshing to go and stand under the waterfall. I can hear my readers yelling right now, “No Regena, no Regena, not the damn waterfalls”. Did I mention to you that my sister was wearing a two piece bathing suit, and my brother-in-law was not wearing a proper bathing suit at all, just a loose fitting pair of running shorts with no draw string. He was very prime and proper and did not like how he looked in baggy swim trunks. So, you don’t have to be a “brainiac” to know that their plan was ill-fated from the start.
First of all, the waterfall was only slightly smaller than the Niagara Falls. So, all was going well with them both standing under the falls. They must have instinctively knew that the water was coming down very hard, so they were holding up their suits. My sister had the bright idea that she wanted a photo of them standing under the falls. So, no sooner than she started shouting and waving her damn hands to get our attention, then shit started to hit the fan. Of course, she had done a wonderful job getting our attention, because we were now all turned towards her when the following events transpired. When she had raised her hands to wave to us not only did her top come off, her bottoms did as well. Her husband immediately saw the problem and jumped in front of her in an attempt to cover her up. Too late, the whole family got an eye full. But we are not done here. So, with her husband being preoccupied with maintaining my sister’s modesty, his hands were not where they were most desperately needed. You guessed it, down went his swim shorts. Well, after we all had a great big laugh, brother Robert grabbed two towels and went in and covered them both up. The children eventually found the swim attire in the pool. My sister and her husband though, good sports, were very embarrassed. So, ended one of our most memorable family outings.
We did make two trips to the Florida Keys while we lived in Florida. The first time we went, they had not finished working on the new bridges, so we had to use the old ones all the way there and back. I remember how terrified my mother was when we met tractor trailers on those bridges. We, of course, took the obligatory tour the first time we went there. We did not spend a great deal of time there because I think the return trip on those narrow bridges was weighing quite heavily on my mother. Of course, she would never trust my stepfather with driving the RV under those circumstances even though he was a fine driver.
A few years after they finished the new bridges we went back to visit Key West. My mother was much more relaxed this time and as a result, we were able to spend some more time there. I even got to go snorkeling a little at the campsite we stayed at. Now that we were old pros at visiting the island, we opted not to repeat the tour. However, I don’t now how we missed seeing the Hemmingway House? I made a third and fourth trip back there many years later and still did not visit it either time. I know when my wife and I go back there we will see it, or die trying. I do love the drama, hehe.
As I mentioned previously, we received frequent visitors from the north especially during the winter months. While the winters in the the north were hell they were sheer heaven in Florida. The temperatures were comfortable and the humidity was tolerable.
During these times my mother was in her glory. She just loved to entertain and cook for a lot of people. On one of these occasions, my Aunt Barbara and her husband, Uncle Clifford came to visit us. My aunt had never been to Mexico, so we all decided to go to there. With our Florida schools being on a year-round schedule, we had three weeks off after every quarter, so I just happened to be off from school. So, we packed up our trusty Winnebago…yep, we still had it and went to Mexico. Not only did it rain almost every day while we were in Mexico, our little motor home was broken into by Mexican criminals. All he managed to get from us was a really crappy portable radio that was maybe worth $5 and he left the heel of one of his shoes behind when he jumped out the back of the RV. We surprised him because we came back early after we got lost looking for a famous local church. Well, my crazy ass Uncle Clifford tore off after him down the street, hoping to accomplish what I know not. Well, my Aunt Barbara of the snoring fame, who was never at a loss for words started hollering at him to stop chasing the rapidly vanishing criminal. So he, thankfully stopped chasing him and came back to our RV. Even though no real harm was done except for a cut screen in the back window and, of course, our nearly worthless radio, my Aunt refused to spend another minute in Mexico. So we had to immediately drive back out of the country. So we basically had just driven over a 1,000 miles for nothing. Needless to say there was a great deal of frost in the old Winnebago on the way back to Florida. Not surprisingly, it so happens that Aunt Barbara and Uncle Clifford were never invited on another road trip.
While we lived in Florida, we became friendly with a nice family, the Solacks. The couple had three sons, the youngest who was my age. The father was a construction worker and the wife was a school teacher like my stepfather. They would hang out together and go out to see shows. We also would go out collecting scallops in Green Key. They remained friends for several years until they moved away. As their friendship became closer, they decided to go on a trip together to see New Orleans. I, of course, was all for it. Their three boys stayed back at home to continue working on his construction jobs. By that time we had the Allegro, so we were travelling in style. Of course, we were highly focused travelers with only the destination in our minds, no matter how many cool things we went by. I don’t know why we were on such a tight schedule after all we had plenty of time for the trip but that was the way it was.
When we arrived there, we stayed in a nice campsite with a pool where I promptly got an ear infection in both ears. I remember us taking a tour through the city. I also remember Mr Solack and I were walking to a nice bakery in the French Quarter where we bought a loaf of french bread for our meal. I remember how good that loaf of bread tasted. I also remember that we ate at three nice restaurants. The Brennan’s where we had breakfast, we had lunch at a nice hole in the wall restaurant located on second story patio and we had another nice meal at the Court of the Two Sisters. That is about it for the trip. We were only there for a few days. After that we turned around and went back home. Maybe they were tired of each other’s company by then, I don’t know. I do know one thing…and that is, that the Solacks did not believe in using underarm deodorant. Maybe that was a deciding factor? I do know that as each day wore on, the pungent aromatic smell did become a little strong. Thank God they showered every day.
So even though I was getting older in these trips, I still had little to no say in what and where we went on our trips. I was still basically just along for the ride.