I look back now and ponder why I loved our vacations and camping, The idea that we didn’t have to feel hemmed into everyday life, but could go out and explore, was precious to me. We could go to other states and towns and cities and places all over the US, and learn so much about the world. The National Park system was perfect for what we liked to do, because we could get information in encyclopedias and library books about what that place would be like, where to go, and what to do there. Then it was just a matter of pulling out the maps and finding roads to travel. We traveled on state and county roads, using the new interstate highway system only when we had to. This was in the late 1950’s and the 60’s. No electronic conveniences to search, just putting our own minds to work.
We made most of our own meals, and it was a real treat to get to eat in a restaurant. That doesn’t mean that we didn’t stop for ice cream or treats now and then! One memorable stopping place was Al’s Oasis on I-90 just west of the Missouri River at Chamberlain. Our farm was not far off I-90, so if we left real early in the morning, while it was still dark, we were at Al’s for Cowboy Pancakes and bacon for breakfast. Al’s Oasis is still there and we still stop there! Lunch was often sandwiches of white bread with peanut butter or jelly or cheese whiz, accompanied by some chips and fruit eaten right out of a can! We didn’t carry a cooler, which undoubtedly would have made life easier for mom. But she could improvise a situation and produce a meal out of our picnic basket so easily that we never questioned that we wouldn’t be fed. She even made jello by sealing the liquid in Tupperware, then submerging that in a mountain stream to get it to gel. Amazing!
So, with all of that background, I come to the point of marrying and learning that Bob knew nearly nothing about camping! And to me, it was second nature to plan a weekend or vacation around camping somewhere. I probably couldn’t conceive an idea of what I would do while staying in a hotel! Not only was camping an unknown to Bob, but vacationing, too. He never remembers a time when his whole family would go away on a vacation. It just wasn’t easily done with 9 kids in the station wagon!
We both became registered nurses, and found ourselves with holidays off and vacation time. Wow! Paid to go on vacation! Sounded too good to be true! And camping allowed us to go places and do things in a manner that we could afford. We started out with a little 2-man tent, sleeping bags and a cook kit. Adding a Coleman stove and a cooler really had us set up in grand style! We collected travel information from so many places that we would dream of visiting. There were a lot of things that I had seen with my family that I now wanted to see with Bob. Mesa Verde, Grand Teton, the Missouri River, Glacier Park were all on the list. Plus, we discovered together that the Boundary Waters Canoe Area was easily accessible and supplied us with many fun adventures. We hatched a grand plan to live in a VW van and camp and travel all over the country. I don’t think we ever figured out how we would get the money to do that. But I do know that we talked about what we would do when we had a baby, and I was sure that we would still be fine living in a van, our baby would just learn to be flexible with that! That makes me laugh now!
Our 2 little ones learned to camp while still babies. We graduated from pup tent to my parents' old green canvas tent and then to a nicer and larger tent for the 4 of us. But I don’t think having kids along ever caused us to cancel our plans or end a trip early. The kids were so much fun, and begged for more camping! We knew they were having a good time and learning at the same time. We found some good camping friends, too, and one of our favorite things to do was camp near bike trails. And it made me so appreciative of the time and energy that my own parents took to get our family out and camping.
I'll be adding to my story in the near future, when I get the next chapter ready!
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Hi! I'm Pam! Join me on this journey through the next steps of life!