Vacations Then and Now

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During those seven magical years we spent growing up at 110 Flamingo Street, some things were easier to predict than others — especially when it came to our summer vacation. Summer vacations for kids now-a-days are very different than the ones we enjoyed, but then again perhaps not.

Back then

Growing up on Flamingo, while we were car traveling to our vacation, if one of us kids poked another, then the poker would be swiftly poked back — and rightly so. The back-and-forth poking continued until we got too loud, causing Dad to yell, “You kids stop poking each other!”

Once the poking stopped, the pinching contest officially began. Pinching continued until Dad yelled, “You kids stop pinching each other.” If we continued, Dad would pull the car over, and sternly say, “Stop now or we’ll turn around and go back home!”

This statement always ended all poking and pinching. We actually believed he’d turn the car around and there would be no summer vacation.

That was then; this is now

Traveling with our two granddaughters on vacation, there isn’t any poking or pinching going on. Guess that’s a boy thing. But there’s a whole bunch of other stuff going on just as irritating to the driver. On our recent vacation, the conversation emanating from the backseat went like this:

“Get off my side.”

“You’re on mine!”

“Not fair.”

“It’s my turn.”

“That’s mine.”

“No, it’s not.”

“I’m hot.”

“I’m cold.”

This was all within the first thirty minutes of our trip. Having heard enough, I firmly stated, “Girls! Stop fighting. I’ll pull this vacation over, and we’ll go back home.” Their reaction wasn’t the same as when we were kids.

“No, you won’t,” they giggled. “You want to go on vacation too.”

I smiled. True. The Girly Girls know me too well. Wonder if my dad was saying something similar just to keep us quiet?

Back then

There were no rest stops. Well, actually there were rest stops, but Dad didn’t pull into any of them. If we had to go, we held it until we stopped at a gas station. A gas station stop meant two things to us kids. First, we all got to use the bathroom. Second, Dad complaining about the high cost of fuel … 35 cents a gallon.

This is now

We stop at every rest stop, whether anyone has to go or not. The Wife and I have found that stopping every two hours, stretching our legs, and then switching drivers makes the long drive to the beach much easier. And yes, when we do refuel, just like my dad, I complain about the price of gas — now over $4.00 a gallon.

Back then

Are we there yet? During the early sixties, to get to the beach from Atlanta, we’d have to take a lot of back roads through little towns. For us kids it seemed to take forever, and every couple of hours we’d ask, “How much longer?” Whoever wasn’t driving would unfold a paper map and calculate how far we had left to drive.

This is now

When the Girly Girls ask, “How much longer is it?” the answer is simple. The Wife or I point to the GPS on the front dash. The large, colorful LED display of the roads, rest stops, and a moving blue dot depicting our car appears on a large 15-inch screen. They can see our current location, number of miles and time to our destination without us saying a word.

Back then

And finally, during a Flamingo Street vacation, to say that things we could do in the car for entertainment was limited would be an understatement. Reading billboards, playing the License Plate game or I Spy were the extent of what we could do to make the drive not so mind-numbing. That and the before mentioned poke, pinch game.

This is now

Days before we load up the car, I make sure to contact our cell phone carrier and order a mobile “Hot Spot” for our trip. When the Girly Girls are tired of playing the License Plate game, I Spy, and the Yellow Car game, then they can watch a movie on their phones or I-Pads.

Back then

Even though it was long before the internet, we did have a mobile “Hot Spot” in our car on our vacations growing up, but only when Mom drove. You see, our car didn’t have air-conditioning, so during the summer we always drove with the windows rolled down … and Mom smoked. When she flicked the cigarette ashes out her window, they would fly back and hit anyone who was sitting directly behind her in the “Hot Spot.”

The Wife and I have planned a beach vacation for the second week the Girly Girls are out of school for the summer break. We’ll take snacks with us, visit every rest stop along the way, and make sure to activate our mobile “Hot Spot” before we leave the house. And we’ll point to the LED screen on the dash when asked “How much longer?”

But when we finally arrive at our hotel and make it out to the beach, we’ll do the same thing as our parents did. We’ll set up the umbrella then relax in our beach chairs as we watch the kids play in tidal pools and build sandcastles.

That was then, and that is also now.

[Rick Ryckeley has been writing stories weekly in The Citizen since 2001.]