Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Our First Move Across Country

I missed the end of the first grade at my elementary school in Huntington Beach, California.  We were busy moving from California to Rhode Island.  My dad served 30 years in the Coast Guard.  He had just served several years on board the Big Red icebreaker.  That ship would be gone for six months at a time traveling to Antarctica to break ice.  My dad had received orders to be part of a shipyard that was building Coast Guard Cutters in Newport Rhode Island.  

Our move was definitely an adventure.  I want to say that we spent at least 4 weeks driving across country.  Our full size red conversion van was a great way to travel.  We each got to have one clothes basket of our own clothes for the trip.  We also had other clothes baskets with things like towels and other camping necessities.  They would get stacked against the one side of the van and fastened down with a bungee cord.  We also had at least one ice chest that traveled in the van.  It was great because there was still a lot of space for us to play on the floor of the van while my dad drove (again, this was before seat belts were required legally and in our car.).

I remember visiting so many places on this trip.  Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks stick out in my mind.  We also camped at Yellowstone National Park.  Being little, I did not want to leave the Old Faithful Geyser but was happy to get out of the areas that stunk of sulphur.  

We visited my mom's brother and his family in Colorado Springs.  There was a tornado that passed by one of the days we were there.  One of my mom's other brothers had towed my mom's corvette to Colorado Springs for us.  It was the kind of corvettes that had glass t-tops.  Somehow my dad and uncle managed to squeeze the car into the garage with his car.  It was a good thing because the hail was so large it left dents in the top of the van.  We had to go down in the basement and I was the only one who cried.  I didn't really understand what was going on but just knew that it was bad.  We were all fine and I got another first on my list - tornado sirens.  We hooked the car trailer onto the van and kept driving across country

I also remember staying with family friends who were living in Kentucky or Tennessee (fuzzy memory here).  We visited an underground cave there which was super cool.  I saw my first fireflies at their house and was amazed at how they glow.  

I think that we also made a stop at my dad's cousin's house outside Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  I remember while driving over a bridge very near their house there was a large popping sound that came from the car trailer.  My dad had been closing the metal handle when we reattached the trailer after camping but did not put a padlock on the handle.  As we crossed the bridge, a bump in the road had made the handle pop open.  My dad was totally freaked out because if he had not pulled over it was possible for the trailer to bounce out of the hitch and off the van.  The first thing he did was go buy a padlock to lock that handle in place.

The most dramatic moment of the trip was when my mom left our family for an hour at a rest stop in the middle of nowhere South Dakota.  My sister and I had been bickering all day and my mom had just had enough.  As soon as we pulled up, my mom got out of the car and walked to the table furthest away.  After about 5 minutes, I remember asking my dad if we could go say hi.  He wisely steered us in the opposite direction.  After about an hour, my mom was ready to be trapped in the car with us again.  Now that I have my own small kids, I totally understand what happened that day.  I am so happy that she got back in the car!

I learned how to read maps on this trip.  My dad could not read the map and drive at the same time.  My mom was usually busy with us kids in the back so I volunteered to help.  My dad taught me the basics of what the different lines meant and the little numbers between locations.  I became the official family navigator for our family.  Today, it does not surprise me that I would do this.  Not only do I still love maps, my family calls me the human map.  If I go somewhere, I can usually get back to the same place without looking it up on a map.  

Our trip ended with a stay at Joe and Marge's house in Groton, Connecticut.  Joe was my mother's stepfather's brother.  They lived across the river from the Coast Guard Academy.  I thought their house was so cool because it had 2 stair cases.  One started at the front door.  The other staircase was located in the family room at the back of the house.  The two staircases met at a small landing that lead to the upstairs hallway.  Another strong memory was Uncle Joe's snoring.  It was like a stereo was on.  We stayed at their house for about two weeks before our rental house was available.  

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