I don’t remember many travels before we moved back to Kansas from Tennessee. I remember riding a train from Memphis to Dodge City to visit Mom’s family. I remember that we were in a sleeper car that had several bunk beds curtained off and we were in an upper bunk. I remember being excited about the whole thing, but I can only remember a few minutes of that trip.
After we moved to Kansas, Dad started an optometric practice, so we didn’t have a lot of extra money for trips. We would take day trips or go to Dodge City to visit Mom’s family.
It was especially fun when we would meet up with a friend of Dad’s at Lake Kanopolis. Dad wanted to start out as soon as he got off work, so we always started out in the late afternoons. Mom would have a picnic basket, swimming suits, and a change of clothes packed up. When Dad got home from work, he’d change his clothes and get the car ready to go.
The exciting part was when he fixed up the back seat. He had a board that he had cut to fit the back seat of the car and he put a couple of stools on the floor behind the front seats to support the board that filled up the back and turned the car into a station wagon – of sorts.
My brother and I would get our pajamas on and crawl into the back of the car and we were ready to go. We could stretch out, go to sleep, read, or watch the road and never have to worry about falling off the seat. We’d head out into the night and, when we woke up the next morning, we’d be at the lake.
The best trips were when we went to Colorado. My mom’s dad had a younger sister who owned a cabin across the street from Pike’s Peak, in Cascade, Co. It was actually two cabins – a main cabin that faced the street and a guesthouse behind the main cabin. Mostly we stayed in the guest cabin which had a living room, dining room, kitchenette, and bathroom downstairs. Upstairs was a sleeping loft with a few beds and windows at both ends. The main cabin was one story with a kitchen, a living room, two bedrooms and a bathroom.
Once out of Colorado Springs, we’d drive along the highway and, when the sign said to turn left to Pike’s Peak, we’d turn right to Cascade. We’d drive up the side of the mountain and turn right again at the hotel on the corner of the block. Down that road, we’d drive to a big blue spruce tree and a fenced in property. We’d open a big metal fence to drive the car in behind Aunt Mary’s cabin and park in front of the guest house.
You had to go in the shed to get the key and turn on all these mysterious things so that the house would warm up and we could have water and electricity. We’d open the back door and go through the kitchen into the main room with a big fireplace to the left along the wall. Across from the kitchen door, there was a picture window to look out at the mountains.
There was a radio and a recliner next to the fireplace so we could hear what was happening in the rest of the world but for the most part, we read, played solitaire, and fed the squirrels. Across the road was a grade school. Since we only went in the summer, they weren’t having school so we could go play on their swings.
Looking over the school yard and across the highway, you could see Pike’s Peak. It was tall and green with fir trees. Sometimes we would get there in time for the races up Pike’s Peak and you could see the cars racing up the mountain through the trees.
The best sight though, was The North Pole – Santa’s Workshop. They had goats you could feed (and who would try to eat your shoelaces)! There were gift stores and an ice-covered pole proclaiming to be the North Pole! There was a chapel on the grounds as well as rides for everyone. And, of course, Santa would be there so you could get a head start on your Christmas list!
It’s amazing how much fun we had on not much money. We’d drive down to Eleven Mile Canyon with a picnic basket of sandwiches and chips. We’d fish or climb the hills or walk across the stream on stones. We could become explorers and make great discoveries. Or we could drive on Gold Camp Road above the clouds and see forever!
Garden of the Gods was a good day trip and Manitou Springs had a shopping area with lots of little shops and a restaurant where you only had to pay for the food you left on your plate! (well, that’s what the sign said but I think there was more to that story!)
Somehow, I really liked those trips where I didn’t have to plan or pay for! I’ve taken a lot of trips since then and have been to some fascinating places. Those family trips, however, were the best!