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Summer Vacations on Fast Forward

Columnist looks back at trips as a child.

My BlackBerry was cradled in my left ear.

I was typing with both hands, drinking an iced coffee, watching TV news and editing copy.

At my house, we call this morning.

But then a voice on the other end of the phone stopped everything. While I was waiting for a conference call to start, I heard a fellow editor and his children talking about their Fourth of July vacation to the beach.

Ah, summer vacation. You know, a leisurely trip to someplace fun to play in the water or go to an amusement park to eat fried dough and take a wild ride on a roller coaster, or maybe it would be a nice week of hiking and camping in the woods or seeing a big city.

When I was a little kid, though, I only read about summer vacation in the books my mother gave me to read on ... summer vacation.

On the phone, the child was asking his dad about the traffic going to the beach. Traffic was never a problem when I was a little kid. We did take vacations.

My dad worked like a dog for 351 days a year, but that didn’t mean, he, and we as a family, ever slowed down.

Instead, vacations were well-oiled travel machines. We had maps, scouting reports on the roads and, of course, a CB. (A stop in the action here for those of you under 40.)  A CB was a primitive way drivers communicated in the 1970s and 1980s via a sort of radio.

It even had songs written about it and its own language. “You got your ears on?” That was a way of saying you were listening.

A side note, you know, I actually never take a vacation without my ears.

We never had to worry about traffic. My dad would pack the car the night before and we’d hit the road at 1 a.m. to beat the rush hour traffic in … New York City. I usually woke up in Washington, D.C., sometime around 9 a.m.

During one week in the summer, we usually went to West Virginia to visit my grandparents. It was only later in life that I realized that West Virginia wasn’t an eight-hour trip. We never stopped.

There was always a cooler stocked with sandwiches and cold drinks.

One time, we did stop. My dad, a friendly sort, visited with people at the rest stop and then came back to the car. “They aren’t making good time,” my dad said of our fellow travelers. “They stopped to see Philadelphia. We’re making good time.”

“Making good time” became a staple in my family. We’d be going out for breakfast and we’d say, “We made good time getting here.”  

If anything was on the left side of the road, my best chance of going there was on the way home. My dad had a lot of cars, but none of them made left turns.

I saw a lot of places when I was a little, almost half the country, from the car’s side mirror.

Once we got to my grandparents’ house, there were always things to do around the farm. It was work, but it was fun. A week of hanging out with my grandfather and my dad, chasing cattle and working in the garden was the best.

The beach?

That was for other families. After all, we were the ones who were making good time … on vacation.

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