Thankful For The Gift of Travel

While we are enjoying this special time with our family and loved ones gathered near, we hope you are as well.  Far too often we let the opportunities pass to tell those we love how much they mean to us.  Please take advantage of that time today and let them know, while the the time is still at hand.

We are thankful for many things during this season of reflection.  We’re thankful for a gracious Creator, our dear family, which means more to us than life itself, and today I am especially thankful for my parents, who from an early age exposed me to the wonderful gift of travel.

As a young child my parents frequently gifted my siblings and I to travel across the United States.  In the summer of 1969 my father loaded the entire family up like Clark Griswold, and in true Family Huckster tradition we headed off for two weeks, to trek a course to the west coast and back.

NATIONAL LAMPOON'S VACATION

With family in Vallejo, California, dad was determined to pack as much exploration into the journey as was possible, given a borrowed Bonneville and a few tanks of gas.  Interstate 70 was just recently completed and interstate travel was still in its infancy, but we were destined to explore this great country and learn much about the history and geography that heretofore had been known only by the black and white photos in the World Book Encyclopedia.

Parading westward from Kansas City through hours of monotonous and barren Kansas prairie, were it not for Dorothy we would have never heard of this place.  Save the occasional ball of twine there was little to explore or recall except wheat, corn, and the occasional oil rig.  We flew straight as an arrow towards our first destination, Denver, Colorado.  Salvation from the mundane came initially in the form of the foothills of the Rockies.

I really didn’t know what to expect save what I had seen in photographs.  As we grow and begin to experience more of what this wonderful planet has to offer, we soon come to realize that with all due respect to Thomas Edison and Eastman Kodak, pictures really do not do justice for all the grandeur and beauty that nature and our wonderful Creator can bestow.  I recall thinking upon seeing the foothills, that these “mountains” really were nothing more than big hills, “Whoop-ti-do”.  With the mountain peaks beyond, still shrouded in the darkness of what appeared to be just another bank of clouds from an approaching storm front, I knew not what lay ahead.  As we continued westward and the mountains began to unfold before us my father was at last redeemed.

www.rockymountainmagazine.com

We sojourned through all the requisite tourist destinations as we criss-crossed our way to the Pacific.  A stop at Salt Lake City was probably more to satisfy my mother’s curiosity than any other, as she was our church organist and she had to see what I was sure was the biggest pipe organ known to man.  The stop at the Great Salt Lake was rewarding enough, though I must confess the only attraction to me was in knowing that this was the spot where all the land speed records were set.  Through Reno for a quick stop so mother could drop a few quarters, a photo-op to shoot flowers at the capitol steps in Carson City, Nevada, and a short fly by along the edge of Lake Tahoe.  At long last we were back in stride heading for the coast.

Keeping in mind the times in which we lived, and the fact I was a prepubescent boy of only 10-years old, when we finally reached our family in Vallejo, I would find out much later, I had reached my Nirvana.  My cousins at the time were teenage girls in the most stereotypical blond-haired, blue-eyed California girl fashion that one could imagine.  We made short duty of the ‘hellos” and “how are yous” and somehow, I’m sure we made for the coast post haste.  I recall Otis Redding’s classic hit playing again and again in my mind as we made our way around San Pablo Bay towards our first glimpse of the ocean.

If the encyclopedia photographs paled in comparison to our first glimpse of real mountain peaks, the initial sighting of the vastness of the endless body of water known as the Pacific Ocean was spine tingling.  There is no way a picture or words can prepare the mind for what we would see.  I was instantly envious of my older cousins and wondered why my father instead had accepted work in a munitions factory in the heart of the Midwest.

ShawnXian via Flickr

And now, many years later I reflect back and thank my father for 1969, for a seemingly endless drive in a Pontiac Bonneville, and for my introduction to the beaches of California.  It has resulted in a passion that gives me more joy than anything else.  I wouldn’t trade that for all the money in the world.  Thank you Dad, I Love You!