Hey, hey, easy kids. Everybody in the car. Boat leaves in two minutes… or perhaps you don’t want to see the second largest ball of twine on the face of the earth, which is only four short hours away? – Clark Griswold, National Lampoon’s Vacation
As far back as I can remember, Mom and Dad would load up the car, pack a picnic for along the way, and head out with the four of us on a summer vacation. I have memories of Lake Okaboji, IA, visits to relatives in Iowa and Minnesota, and letting the goats chew on my shoelaces at the North Pole in Colorado Springs.
But the bulk of our vacations were spent in Estes Park, Colorado.
It was no easy task for Dad to take a week off from the bakery. He felt he couldn’t close down because so much of his business was wholesale. He needed to provide product for his wholesale customers or they would go elsewhere. The lament of the small businessman. So he would bake ahead.
And bake and bake and bake.
Then he and Mom would make arrangements so that the store could open daily and deliveries could be made. They must have been flat-out exhausted by time we backed out of our driveway to head out of town.
Many times, we would leave very early in the morning. It was almost impossible to sleep the night before because I was so excited. But I would pretend to be asleep when Dad would lift me out of bed and carry me to the car, where he would lay me down on the floor, my pillow on the hump. My siblings would be laid out accordingly – one more on the other side of the floor and two on the seat. Our children are cringing about now, thinking about us unattached to seatbelts, ready to be flung into space should the car crash. I wouldn’t do it now, but we didn’t give it a second thought in those days. The car didn’t even have seatbelts.
If we left in the afternoon rather than morning, we would generally have an overnight somewhere along the route. I recall an overnight stay in Sterling, Colorado, where Dad and I splashed in the motel pool along with another motel resident – an attractive female. As I write these words, I’m having a flashback to the classic Chevy Chase movie National Lampoon’s Vacation, in which Clark Griswold splashes in the pool with Christie Brinkley. I assure you, it wasn’t like that. Of course, I was only 6 or 7 at the time, so what did I know about flirtation? Still, it isn’t easy to flirt when you are armed with a 6-year-old. By the way, the rest of his life, Dad swears he taught me to swim that day. If he did, it didn’t stick. I sink.
Anyhoo, at some point after we had been going to Estes Park for many years, my mother spotted the Ponderosa Lodge along the Fall River near the entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park. Somehow she discovered that along with the lodge, there were a couple of stand-alone cabins, one of which would sleep our whole family. From that point on, that’s where we stayed each year. At that time it was green, and we cleverly referred to it as “the green cabin.” As in, “Can we get reservations for the week of July 12 in the green cabin?”
Oh, did we have fun. Dad would cook breakfast and dinner on the grill on the patio. We would take lunch up into the park each afternoon. We would enjoy the park until mid-afternoon, when we would come back to town where my brother Dave could begin his obsessive and ceaseless BEGGING Dad to take him on the go-carts.
When Jen and I were in Estes Park this past weekend staying at the Ponderosa, I hiked up to the green cabin, which is no longer green. Instead, it is painted a rustic-looking red….
Here is the view from the cabin….
One more story: Behind the cabin, there is a small mountain. One afternoon when I was probably 7 and Bec was 12, we decided to hike up that mountain. We made it up to the top without a problem. But as we turned to come back down, we suddenly realized that the mountain was actually very steep. Bec was always a really good big sister and took care of all of us. I recall vividly that she said to me, “See that tree down there? I’m going to walk down to that tree. When I’m there, you can start down and I will catch you if you fall.”
Well, she started off, but before you could say Yodel-a-hee-hoo, she lost control and began running down the mountain. She grabbed a tree and saved herself. In the meantime, I walked down the mountain to her without a single problem.
Thanks anyway, Sis.