Family Vacations: Road Trips

Sing it in an awfully-out-of-tune-voice with me now:
I’ve come back long ago
Long way down the Holiday Road
Holiday Road
Holiday Road
Holiday Road
Holiday Road…
I’ve been humming this song for days now, as I’ve been mentally preparing for this hum dinger of a post.
The National Lampoon Vacation movies have always been a staple in our family home, because somehow Chevy Chase and the gang got ahold of our vacation stories and made a movie about them.
Not really, and for legal purposes, I have to add that I’m joking.
But, for real, growing up, our family vacations were always very Vacation-esque ridiculous.
This is going to be a three-part series, because I’m attempting to not write novels every time I post. So, for the next three days, you will be positively inundated with family vacation stories straight from own personal National Lampoon series. 
So, care to take a ride? Make sure you pack a spare tire, some rat poison, and a life preserver, because it’s going to be a wild ride.
Literally Every Road Trip 
It didn’t matter where we were going-whether it was a trip up the Oregon coast or a day trip to some backwoods swimming hole, it was guaranteed that we would have car/boat trouble. I can’t count how many sketchy BFE car repair shops I’ve miserably waited at, while one of our hoopties was getting patched together. I’ve probably been to more car repair shops than to actual landmarks. 

Maybe we had trouble on road trips, because this was how we traveled?

I remember once, after days of packing and prepping for our 800-mile, two days of car hell up to our family’s lake cabin, we didn’t even make it five miles out of town before our vintage Winnebago pulled a big nope-I’m-not-going-fuck-you and we had to drive back home, defeated. I want to say we didn’t get to leave for real for almost a week.
One of my mom’s favorite family vacation horror stories is when she and my dad took my two cousins, my brother, and me to the Berlin Ichthyosaur State Park in Austin, Nevada in our ever-trusty Winnebago. She said we were coasting along, everything was going grand, and then, out of nowhere, the engine cover blew off. 
This all-important cover is what protects the engine and the inhabitants of the motorhome from the engine movements and the dust and debris from the road. 
My mom said that the second the cover flew off, everyone in the motorhome was covered in a thick layer of dirt. All she could see were the whites of our freaked-out eyes. 
For the entire rest of the drive to the park, she had to sit on the cover to keep it on. “It was only 80,000 million degrees hot. No big deal.” She said of her hot seat. 
Another Winnebago adventure happened after my mom thought it would be a great idea to take the behemoth beast camping without my dad. She wanted to meet my aunt and uncle at some campground in the middle of nowhere. All I remember is that she buckled my brother and I together in the front seat, and she kept saying over and over how everything was going to go great. 
Except, it was us and we were in the fucking Winnebago, so it didn’t go great. 
Somehow, we got a giant rock stuck between the rear tandem wheels and she had to call my dad to come rescue us. This was back in the early 90s, so I don’t know how she called him. Maybe they devised a bat signal, only it was a ‘bago signal, and was a giant “W” in the sky. 
My dad had to deflate a tire to get the rock out-all in the pitch black, in the middle of nowhere, in a freak torrential downpour. 
I would think they’d have just given up while they were ahead at this point, but no.
Back when I was about eight or nine, we went on a week-long trip up the Oregon coast. While we were inching along an especially harrowing stretch of the road along the coast, my dad’s axle broke off the driver’s side tire. He was in our old truck, and it was carrying the weight of our 70s-era camper shell and 8 tons of Shasta soda. That was actually pretty scary to watch from the trailing vehicle (we could never just bring one vehicle or one immediate family. No, it was the entire extended family and every moving vehicle we owned. It was straight-up carnival caravanning). 
Only a small fraction of our family. You would feel us coming long before we arrived.

What I remember most about that particular event was that while we were waiting for the axle to be repaired, I ate an entire can of pizza-flavored Pringles, and for the rest of the trip, I was shunned by the entire family for being such an unmannerly pig.
We made it to the Sea Lion Caves-a real feat! My brother was pitching a fit in this picture. My mom is probably threatening him with his life.

One summer, I think it might have been the same year as the Pringles Incident, we got majorly stranded out in our bay on Coeur d’Alene Lake in upstate Idaho.
Not only were we known for our hooptie cars, our boats weren’t much better. Actually, my Grandma’s Party Barge was brand new 30 years ago, and we’re still riding it, hoping the pontoons don’t fall off.
I think this was pre-Party Barge. But, look at those beauties!

So, this particular summer we had a speedboat at the lake. I can’t remember now if it was my grandpa’s old boat or my uncle’s. Either way, it wasn’t working for some time and after some extensive repairs, my uncle thought he had it up and running. So, the entire family piled in, other than Grams, because she was the only smart one of the lot.
We got precisely halfway across the bay and the engine just died. No sputtering, just gone and died dead.
One second we were cheering, the wind was whipping through our hair as the boat jumped the wakes left behind by other boats, and the next, we are at a dead stop and the entirety of the boat’s passengers are silent. No one said it, but we all were thinking it: “Typical!”
We spend the next 10 minutes trying to flag down Grandma, who is just a blob of a figure, sitting on the deck of the cabin, we can barely make out. She does not notice us sitting in the middle of the bay, and if she does, she probably really enjoyed her afternoon of silence.
My grandma next to her pride and joy. I’m surprised any of us crazies even got to see the inside of this thing!

We end up finding an old splintery oar to row, row, row the boat painfully, slowly to the closest shore, which happened to be the one opposite of the cabin. We tie up at a forgotten dock, and trek it, on foot, back to the cabin. We had to go all the way around the bay, on the tiny road that barely had room for two cars, taking turns carrying my brother who, despite being told multiple times by our mother to put on shoes, did not put on his effing shoes. I’m pretty sure he came into contact with poison ivy that trip. Kinda serves him right, the dweeb.
We call it the “*Smith Curse”. It started many decades ago. If more than five family members assemble for a trip, the trip will go to shit. But, those are the only ones worth remembering. 
The other night, as my mom and I were laugh-crying about these crazy memories, we hear my dad’s voice, from the TV room say, “Don’t mention that damn Winnebago!”
*Not our real family name 

61 thoughts on “Family Vacations: Road Trips”

  1. OMG I was thinking about posting about our crazy family vaca’s, this is exactly the type of calamities my family got themselves into!!! I feel sad that kids these days don’t get to experience this good stuff, travelling in new cars with apple products for entertainment!

  2. I laughed-cried whilst reading this! Gosh, what a curse… It certainly made for interesting holiday stories, can’t wait to read more!
    PS>: My colleagues are looking at me weirdly again, and it’s your fault… again! πŸ˜‰

  3. Dying laughing! Damn, your family just perseveres! If I get a flat tire I’m likely to never want to drive for another five years, but you guys just keep on going.

  4. We’ve also had a many “holy-Batman-what-just-happened” moment when you think you are happily on your way to some random destination that promises hours of fun- also on the way home. We had almost made it home from a three week trip to the Rockies when our tire on our trailer blew- cue us sitting like tiny hobos on the side of the road! I’d like to think that the universe was trying to “build our character” and not “screw us over”…

  5. Too funny! I start every vacation we go on with a custom playlist that ALWAYS begins with Holiday Road! Hahaha

  6. Oh man, I can’t wait to hear more! My family vacations have never been this interesting. Kinda jealous.

  7. Omg, the dreaded tails of a discount RV, I identify so hard with those! My parents invested in a Weekndr RV which my father proudly told me was made the year my parents were married…I swear it was just an old camper glued roughly to the cab of a pickup…Thank you for this post, I love ridiculous mishaps on family vacations!

  8. Delightful and hilarious memories! And I can really relate… Nice to look back now knowing those days somehow didn’t kill us but made us stronger! πŸ˜‰

  9. And yet, you still travel? Hell, my family didn’t have half the disasters you’ve already described, and I can’t be arsed to leave the Fox River valley for any extended length of time.
    I break out in a cold sweat just thinking about driving the 2 hours to visit with my dad.

  10. For what it’s worth, I don’t blame you for snarfing down the pizza pringlesβ€”those things are amazing!
    But see, this is the benefit of a bigger family: more witnesses. My parents insist that most of the vacation and road trip mishaps I remember “didn’t happen.” (Yeah, like I just imagined that time I got my tongue stuck in a glass coke bottle at a service station and they both panicked so hard they left me there while they went to get help. Com on, I’m not that creative!) You’ve got a dozen or more people who remember tromping around the lake right along with you, so there’s no way your uncle can claim the boat worked just fine or your brother can claim he always wore his shoes. On the other hand… if you had a smaller family, or traveled with fewer of them, you might have more vacation stories that included the phrase, “We made good time and it was a perfect weekend.”
    Life is about trade-offs.

      1. The old guy who ran the place sat me down and started telling me a funny story; I calmed down and eventually I went to ask him a question and it just popped right out! He brought me a popsicle and we had a grand time, until my parents realized there wasn’t much help they could bring me and came back to find me sitting on the curb enjoying a dribbly treat.

  11. I am crying from laughing! The ‘bago signal, OMG. That’s my favorite part of this story, followed closely by:
    “I ate an entire can of pizza-flavored Pringles, and for the rest of the trip, I was shunned by the entire family for being such an unmannerly pig.”
    “Unmannerly pig” is my new favorite insult.
    My parents always popped in a cassette tape of “Holiday Road” on our road trips. Nerds.
    I loved it.

  12. Great post. Sounds like some of your family vacations were similar to some of ours. We had a camperized old school bus that was temperamental. πŸ™‚

      1. This one was quite the site. My dad and brothers did the work inside, nothing fancy, no water or appiliences. It slept 8 though and was painted like the Partridge family bus.

  13. Katie, I love your blogs! Marcy forwards them to me! You have a wonderful gift for writing about the family mis-adventures and telling it like it is! Keep it up…. I see a book in your future! (Of course, it makes it even better to know the people involved!)

  14. OMG – awesome as ever, Katie – been on too many of these to count… #mydadistheunclewhoseshitnsverruns

  15. This is a humdinger indeed! I agree with you though, the disasterous ones ( as long as no one is SERIOUSLY hurt) are the best to laugh about later. And I did laugh- I wasn’t even there and I wanted to hand your dad a towel for rescuing you from the rock!
    I can picture an anxious but determined mom in the front seat repeating a mantra of excitement and fun and white-knuckling the steering wheel the whole time! Fantastic. Glad you survived to tell the tales.

  16. This is awesome and I can’t wait to read the other parts.
    My dad always bought cars that were on the cheaper-about-to-die moments in their car-life. We had a white mini bus for years because it was the only thing that could fit all my brothers and sisters, all our musical instruments, 3 cats and a dog! It had grass-like moss growing between the windows! I loved it, but my sister used to make dad park around the corner from places so her friends wouldn’t see it.
    A different cars engine exploded when we were on a mountain in Ireland in the middle of nowhere. We had to wait for hooours in the rain for the AA. I didn’t mind that one becuase mum bought us huge lollies to say sorry for the rubbish day.
    πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ Anyway, it’s not your fault about the pringles. You’re not even meant to stop after you ‘pop’, it’s in their advert!

  17. I’m sorry to be laughing at your misery, but that post was a riot – glad you and your family can laugh at your misadventures now, too! It’s true, things that DON’T go swimmingly are often what we remember the most as adults – and sometimes those things are even the biggest adventures to the kids! πŸ™‚

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