What happened to Dairy Queens and snake farms?
A quick gander at the calendar on the old wall shows that it’s February, which means it’s almost April, which means it’s almost May, which means it’s almost summer. Which means, dear compadres, that it’s vacation planning time again. And that means it is high time for Dad to take a second and third job. I figure that about 16 weeks of mowing lawns and cold-calling potential investors for the Happy Shores Time-Share Villas in Enid, Oklahoma (in addition to my regular 40-hour editing gig), will put just enough in the family coffers for a week of, uh, “summer fun.”
Call me old, call me fuddy, call me duddy even, but the family vacation just isn’t what it used to be. And I’m not just talking about the cost—although I’m mainly talking about the cost. Remember when your parents would gas up the station wagon, pile you and your siblings and the dog and just about anything else that would fit into the back, and aim the car at the nearest national park? And the trip always started at 4 a.m. No matter the destination, you were rousted from bed, still slobbering and sleepwalking, hustled into the car in the black of night, and whisked off like a fresh cult recruit. That was the vacation. No questions asked, no negotiations, no whining.
And you were grateful for any and all unscheduled pit stops along the way. For you readers who happened to be boys back then, you’ll recall that if your dad was far enough behind schedule en route to the Petrified Forest, your pit stop was an empty coke bottle. Nuff said. The wheels had to keep rolling.
Thing of it is, as much as we old-timers enjoy grousing about just how spartan and militarily executed the vacations of our youth were, we actually look back on them fondly. Sort of. You must admit, the rules of the road were different. If you could fit in the rear window deck, and who couldn’t back then, you had a vista view for the entire ride to Carlsbad Caverns. The back floorboard, with the massive transmission lump in the middle, served as a two-bedroom suite. You could always tell quite easily what other vehicles were in vacation mode on the highway by all the arms and legs and feet and various other body parts hanging out the windows.
Meals and entertainment consisted of Dairy Queens and Snake Farms. And to my 9-year-old sensibilities, visiting the roadside Snake Farm was on par with the Taj Mahal, the Statue of Liberty, or any other great wonder of man or Mother Nature. In fact, somebody should write a country song about old-time vacations—and call it “Dairy Queens & Snake Farms.” I’m not much of a country fan—I’m more of an old rock and roller—but I would buy this record. (It wouldn’t be available on iTunes, by the way, only on 45 rpm records. Nyah.)
And lodging was simple. Once we hit our destination, the nearest motor lodge that didn’t have a red “No” winking in front of the neon “Vacancy” sign became vacation central. The TV menu was whatever local stations could be picked up by the motel set’s rabbit ears. In-room recreation involved either Nerf basketball with a small trash can or clandestine trampoline wars between beds while the parents were out of the room getting ice.
Today? Well, our kids have been on more airplanes than I ever saw as a youngster. Island resorts, all-inclusive fantasy-land amusement parks, and fancy fondue restaurants cater to every whim. The latest movies and 3-D videos are in the hotel room and on the iPod, which means constant state-of-the-art entertainment anytime all the time. “Hey, look out the window, kids! Get a load of that sunset!” “Yeah, sure, Dad, whatevs.” Clickety clackety click click.
I have truly come to hate that texting sound.
It’s our own fault, really. There is peer pressure, of course, especially when you hear your kid’s friend casually mention how boring Italy was this year.
But, darn it, it is time to make a stand. Who’s with me? We have to draw a line in the sand—and I don’t mean the alabaster sand of the all-inclusive Atlantis Paradise Island in the Bahamas. If we raise a crop of jaded, spoiled teens, you know what they’ll become? That’s right! Kardashians! Gads.
I mean it. This year, we’re piling everybody into the car, throwing the texting, beeping, streaming pod-things out the window, and heading nonstop to the great outdoors. Isn’t that right, hon? Hon?
“Hello, this is Roger with Happy Shores Time-Share Villas of Enid, Oklahoma. Have I got a deal for you. . .”
Roger White, a Burleson High alum from about the time they invented milk, is a freelance something-or-other living with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, an obese but mannered daschund, and a cat with Epstein-Barr Syndrome. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com. Or not.