Taking part in the Ann Dee Ellis 8-Minute Memoir Writing Challenge. This is Day Thirty.
We love road trips in my family. Maybe it was because we couldn’t really afford to take fancy airplane vacations. Maybe it was because my dad is a hunter and his idea of a vacation was driving to some remote wilderness and camping. Maybe it was because we lived in one of the most beautiful stretches of the entire world and had access to the entire coast of California. I don’t really know. But we took a lot of road trips.
The most frequent road trip we took was to head south on Interstate 5 and get off on Harbor Blvd in Anaheim. We did it so many times that we knew all the landmarks, trees, street signs, and even just exactly where the Matterhorn would be visible from the freeway. This was my mom’s passion, and she shared it with anyone and everyone.
Our trips to Disneyland from San Francisco were undertaken in our old Volkswagen Vanagon. It was a four-speed manual transmission, had a tape deck, and the air conditioning consisted of shoving open the uncooperative sliding windows in the back. It held my mom, my siblings and several other people, depending on how many of us double-buckled. We even had a folding lawn chair that we could place between and just behind the two front seats where another adult could ride. We may have looked like the Beverly Hillbillies going down the road, but man, did we have fun.
Twice a year, my mom and her sister would have a yard sale with the sole purpose of selling the junk they’d accumulated over the year in order to finance another trip to Disneyland. I honestly don’t even know how many times we made that drive, or how many days of my life has been spent in the Happiest Place on Earth. I could take friends with us, and my cousin Heather (Auntie Heather now to my kids) and Crazy Chicken Annie were almost always with us. We’d stay at the cheapest motel we could find, where the bottom of the pool was so rough it skinned your knees and feet, and we’d crawl through the hole someone else cut in the chain-link fence to create a shortcut into the parking lot, where we would skip to the entrance queues in a race to see who could place their foot inside the park first.
Disneyland wasn’t the juggernaut it is today, and you could still find a super cheap hotel in the parking lot, and still find yourself in an uncrowded park, and you could go for days on end with your pass. There was no California Adventure, and it wasn’t yet the Disneyland Resort, but simply Disneyland, with it’s retro-but-original 1950’s sign poking over the flashing cheap motel signs on Harbor Blvd.
Some of the best memories of my life took place in that van on that stretch of I-5, headed south to Disneyland.