My friend just got back from Florida with bug bites all over her arms and legs from No See Ums, tiny biting bugs you literally can’t see until the bite begins to swell and itch. Talking to her reminded me of our favorite family vacation which we took in 1981 to celebrate my husband receiving his master’s degree.
The adventure began a week before the trip when I went to the dentist to have a tooth filled. The dentist put in too much filling and the extra height threw my jaw off slightly. By the time we got to North Dakota, where David and I were to sing at our niece’s wedding, my jaw had atrophied. Before it was time for our duet, I had to go to the back of the church and pull my jaw up and down with my hand to loosen it up enough so my mouth could move as I sang.
Later that day, my brother-in-law noticed the inside tread on our back tires was really worn. We realized the tires were so out of alignment that they had been ruined. We drove to Grand Forks to get new tires, only to discover that people in North Dakota don’t drive small cars, so no one carried our size.
We left North Dakota and camped the first night in International Falls, Minnesota. We were the last ones in the campground, and they placed us in the middle of a circle of tents and trailers. We had borrowed a tent and had never set it up. As we worked to put it up at the campground, it became obvious to us–and to everyone who pulled up their chairs to watch–that we didn’t know how to do it. Finally, a man from Chicago, wearing a hat with a fish protruding from each side, came to our rescue. (As a token of friendship, he gave the hat to our then eight-year-old daughter, Jennifer. We had it for years!)
From International Falls we drove along the southern edge of Canada. It was beautiful, but it was also one of the rainiest summers in their history. (Oh, I forgot to mention that when we borrowed the tent the owner told us, “The tent is great except there’s a hole in the top and it leaks when it rains.”)
After four days of traveling, this best vacation we ever took, brought us back to the States where we tried to find a camping spot outside of Duluth, Minnesota. We were brewing sun tea in the car’s back window. While driving on a dirt road. One bottle broke, sending shards of glass and liquid raining down on our daughter in the back seat. We had to stop, put band-aids on the spot the glass cut our daughter’s arm and clean up the wet tea mess. David piled Jennifer’s pillow and favorite doll on the roof of the car. He forgot to put them back in before we drove away. Of course, they fell off.
In Duluth, we ran out of money and my father had to wire us some. (This is before we owned a credit card.) We ended up camping in Wisconsin at Timberlee Christian Center because it’s our church camp and we could stay there free. While boating on their lake, my glasses fell off and sank into the water. On our way back to shore, a horsefly got into my shoe and bit my arch. I’m allergic to horseflies, so by the time I got back to our tent, my foot was so badly swollen I could barely walk.
Why was this disaster our best vacation?
A dentist at our new nephew’s army base in Grand Forks leveled off my tooth and charged me nothing. Sears happened to have mis-ordered one set of tires in our size and had not yet sent them back.
The tent may have leaked, but during that wettest of summers it rained before we put it up or after we took it down. Never once did it rain on the tent.
We got so lost outside of Duluth that as we drove around trying to figure out where to go, we circled around and came to the spot where we saw Jennifer’s pillow and doll laying on the road. We picked them up. In fact, we hadn’t even missed them before we found them! Jennifer’s cut was only a scratch. We also got to celebrate the 4th of July watching Duluth’s wonderful fireworks while we waited for money to arrive from my father.
My glasses sank in the water, but I was able to grab them before they completely got out of sight and my swollen foot resulted in an invitation to drive into Milwaukee to a great pizza restaurant for dinner.
We had a terrific vacation. You know a vacation is great when years later you recall so many details and have dozens of wonderful stories to tell about it. It was truly the best vacation ever.
– Julia Ewert (May 21, 2009)