A collection of distilled sarcastic wisdom, numerous photographs, discussions of books and stuff to learn and more stuff to think about from a retired economics professor turned blogger and photographer.
Perhaps the main reason why our family loves National Lampoon's Family Vacation so much is because we could have written a similar script a dozen times over when our kids were young and we had numerous opportunities to criss-cross the country in our own family "trucksters"; i.e., station wagons.
My choice of professions, that of being an economics college professor, was not especially remunerative. However, in crossing the country from east to west and back again numerous times while going to graduate school, visiting parents and family, changing jobs, and for whatever reason, we had many opportunities to load up all four kids (earlier; five kids later), cram them in the back of the station wagon, give them a stack of comic books, and take off across the country. I often had opportunities to attend professional meetings and chose to use my air flight allowance for car expense, which was usually enough to get us wherever we were going as long as we skimped on lodging and meals.
Initially, we had a beautiful 1960 copper-colored Chevy station wagon; later, we had a '65 blue Chevy wagon, and later, two classy Mercury wagons. In these pre-child-restraint and SUV days, the kids all just floated around loose in the second seat and in the far back. We are thankful, looking back on those days, that we were never involved in any accidents and that no one ever got hurt.
The luggage, of course, had to go on top of the car, and we had to trust to luck and my ability to tie it on that we wouldn't lose any of it. We did fine until, one day, going up the Columbia River Gorge toward Olympa WA to see my parents, who had inconsiderately moved from Wyoming to the far end of the country, the wind blew off our camp stove and two or other three items. The camp stove was damaged beyond any prospective use, and whatever else was blown off was lost forever.
My son Russell, beginning at the age of six or so, became the chief family packer. While I would be pondering how I could possibly arrange our stuff, Russell would already have it figured out and have it all neatly stowed and organized. The loading and unloading became more complicated when we entered our tent era. I had bought a big blue tent while I was working in D.C., and we hauled it around all over the country, together with all of the cumbersome tent poles and equipment. One time I decided to go across the Trans-Canada highway north of Duluth and come back via upper New England. One night we found a camping site in the pitch black of the Canadian forest and set up camp about midnight. Another night we all had to sleep in the car. My kids are still traumatized at my nasty behavior in trying to get everyone to quit wiggling and go to sleep. I still am traumatized myself and regret being so stupid.
Another time, while I was teaching at Penn State, we decided to take the kids to the World's Fair (why did they quit having World's Fairs?) in New York. We found a nice campsite in New Jersey close to the Fair and had a great time. Over the years, we went through much of New England, the Blue Ridge, the Smokey Mountains, traipsed across the midwest and the endless cornfields countless times, saw most of the national parks and monuments, and gained an enduring appreciation for our great country. The kids, on the other hand, were generally reluctant to look up from their comic books when we would say to them, "Look kids, there is one of the most incredible sights in the country." After which they would look up, say "huh?", and then go back to arguing over whose foot or hand touched who, and who wouldn't shut up, and to the inspiration of their comic books.
I don't think my wife and I would have the courage or stamina to replicate these early family journeys and road trips. But whatever the problems and challenges they presented, we are grateful that we had such opportunities once upon a time and that we still have the memories that accompanied them.
camping in New Jersey while attending the New York World's Fair, 1965
For some of the most stunning photos you will ever see of Glacier National Park, go to this article in National Geographic by Douglas Chadwick appearing in the September 2007 issue. Be sure to check the photo gallery. Chadwick warns that
"By 2030, Glacier National Park may have lost all its glaciers."
Brian Passey has put together a wonderful slide show of the incredible winter scenery of the Kolob Canyons in the St. George paper The Spectrum and Daily News of February 26, 2008. As the Spectrum article suggests,
When stark white snow joins the deep red cliffs and dark green flora under bright blue skies it's a wonder to behold.
I thought maybe some of my readers around the country and around the world might like to see "some of the most spectacular sights in Southern Utah." Maybe you'll come to visit one of these days and see for yourselves. The photos are by Brian Passey for the Spectrum. This website also has many other scenic slide shows of southern Utah that are worth looking at. You'll be busy for awhile, so bookmark these pages.
If you are looking for "one of the least-visited and wildest places on the Colorado Plateau", you must go to Lees Ferry, which for many years was the only crossing on the Colorado River for 600 miles. In a Salt Lake Trib article by Tom Wharton, referenced in the preceding link, Wharton highlights the attractions of this isolated spot on the map in northern Arizona near Page and near Lake Powell and Kanab, UT. River runners come here, as do bird watchers who come to see the rare California condors, as well as fly fishermen and history buffs. Some come just for the silence,
". . . a place where on moonless nights the Milky Way spreads its way across amazingly clear and dark skies."
Jacob Hamblin, a Mormon pioneer whose home is an historical site here in St. George, UT, is reputed to have made the first river crossing here in 1864. Lees Ferry is named for John D. Lee who operated a ferry at the crossing before he was executed in 1877 for participating in the infamous Mountain Meadows Massacre.
Many people discover the incomparable scenery of southern Utah and northern Arizona each year for the first time. Once you have been here, you will never forget it, even though anyone who has seen John Wayne westerns and other old western movies has seen some of the best scenery in the area. We have driven through Lees Ferry several times on our way to or from Phoenix. So do a little research and come and visit this incomparable haven of quiet and awesome scenery. Read the complete article at the above link.
The historic Jacob Hamblin home in Santa Clara, UT, just west of St. George. Hamblin was a famous early Mormon pioneer.