A Life of Travel…So Far, Part I | Such a beautiful sight to behold

Everyone has a story similar to this. As Americans, most of whom come from elsewhere, wanderlust is part of our nature. Here is Part I of a brief summary of my travel life so far.

I grew up in a strictly bourgeois family, and we had a car, so of course we travelled. My earliest travel memories involve visiting both sets of grandparents and a large number of relatives in Iowa and Nebraska. As a city kid, visits to Great Uncle Walter and Great Aunt Pearl in Ponca, Nebraska were a delightful insight into farm life. My sister, Peggy, and I couldn’t wait to get the baby pigs back. I’m here to tell you that baby pigs don’t want to be held and cuddled. And watch out for the mites that inhabit the chicken coop. Ewwww!

Every summer, my two sisters and I would board the Union Pacific train in Kansas City and travel to Council Bluffs, Iowa, to visit my maternal grandparents. This train was huge, loud and scary. A visit to the bathroom revealed the floor rushing under the train as you flushed. Pretty awesome for a little kid! By mid-morning, we had already finished the lunch my mother had prepared for us, along with the water dispensed into the little cone-shaped cups from the water cooler.

Grandma Dunmire always took us to visit her family in Nebraska, where she was born and raised. I knew some of these people were second and third cousins, but I never understood what our connection was to many of them. We usually took the bus and spent a few nights at random farms across the countryside. Once we went to Lake Okoboji in Iowa where we weren’t allowed to swim because some kind of flower had turned the water a disgusting red hue. Raw!

When I was 11, my grandparents took me on a three-week trip west to the Black Hills, Yellowstone National Park, and Salt Lake City. It was a rare pleasure to bask in their undivided attention without competition from my three siblings. Alas, I remember feeling homesick halfway through the trip and being immensely relieved to return to the chaos of my childhood home.

My family always took summer vacations. We would load up the Chevy station wagon and go out of town for a week. It was the time when there were no seat belts or air conditioning in automobiles. Because there were six of us, someone always had to ride in the middle, and we had a rotating schedule for who got the coveted window seats. To keep us quiet and busy, Dad made our first stop at a roadside market to stock up on chewing gum, candy, and comic books. Often he would offer us an ice-cold bottle of root beer or grape soda. Nothing tasted better!

Destinations included Colorado mountain towns, Lake of the Ozarks, Branson, St. Louis and Minnesota. One year we hiked all the way to Yellowstone and back in about 10 days. Mom would find interesting places for us. One cabin had no plumbing so we had to use the outhouse and brush our teeth while spitting in the creek out back. Peggy put on her swim caps before using the facilities. I guess this cabin was quite economical!

Another place we stayed was deep in the woods in Missouri, and I was terrified of a bear eating me because there were bear sighting warning signs. Once in a blue moon we were staying at a place that had a pool. Heaven! We once tagged a three-bedroom house in Ouray, Colorado, where I happily read old National Geographics and Reader’s Digests for a week.

Our vacation was filled with hiking, picnicking, horseback riding, scenic drives and, of course, souvenir shopping. Eating at the restaurant was a rare pleasure. Mom was quick to buy a loaf of Wonder Bread and a packet of bologna, put together sandwiches, and pass them out for a rather tasty meal. Both of my parents were adept at finding free and economical activities to entertain us kids.

After my freshman year in college, I traveled by plane for the first time to visit my roommate in Chicago. This was back when you could travel standby for half the price. I clearly remember when the plane took off that a lifetime of travel adventures opened up to me. What an incredible feeling!

The purpose of these trips was to connect with each other and extended family members, experience new adventures, see our glorious country, and expand our world beyond Kansas City, Missouri. Oh, the sweet memories that still accompany me today! These moments definitely planted seeds for future journeys which I will delve into next month in Part II.

Libby Kinder is a retired freelance writer and clinical mental health counsellor. She and her husband have lived in southwest Colorado Springs since 2003. Contact Libby with comments and travel ideas at ekinder62@gmail.com.

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