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I remember those summer vacations fondly

One thing my parents did in our upbringing was to give us memory-filled vacations.

Every summer, we went camping — on the Oregon and Washington coasts, a couple of times we went to Canada, and one year we had two vacations, including a trip to Death Valley for Easter vacation.

There is a reason it is called Death Valley. There was nothing but rocks and tumbleweeds and a single golf course, for cryin out loud. On the way, our dad remembered that he forgot to bring an ax, so we stopped at a surplus store to buy one. He came out frustrated, saying they were too expensive, so he didn’t buy one, which turned out to be OK because there isn’t any firewood in Death Valley to begin with, is there?

Most of our trips were prefaced with some learning history, and the Death Valley trip was no exception. We learned about the Donner Party, Scotty’s Castle and the desert in general. I wanted to bring a tumbleweed home, but they have stickers that stick to everything, so that didn’t happen.

On trips to the Oregon Coast, we learned all about Jessie M. Honeyman, Jedediah Smith, Fort Clatsop, the Astor Column, and Lewis and Clark. My parents even taught us how to read maps when we were very young — life tools that we needed to know. And boy, did that north, south, east and west business stick with me. I’ve used that information all my life. Because of that, I can read a map and never get lost, even if I don’t have my phone — well, that is if I have a map. And if I don’t forget my phone. I am thankful they took the time and effort to enrich our lives.

There was never a dull moment, and we had a blast. We ate boysenberry sherbet in Florence, swam in Detroit Lake, and made pen pals from all over the country that we wrote to for years. We are still affectionately bandying about the names of people that we met. As in, “If you are ever in Lebanon, stop and see the Kinney sisters. Just ask anybody.” Wonder whatever happened to them, and if they had any idea how memorable they were.

For our excursions, my dad built a small trailer to pull with our little economy car. It carried our tent, sleeping bags and other kinds of stuff. He built a kitchen box, a bathroom box, and miscellaneous boxes all organized strategically to fit into the trailer. He outfitted us by buying one sleeping bag each payday at the Payless store in Klamath Falls and carried it home on the train until we all had one. (He was a locomotive engineer. Yep, and I thought we were poor.)

He bought a special heavy one for my mom to make sure she didn’t get cold, which I now think was sweet, but back at the tent my sister and I froze our butts off.

We got to eat out twice a year on our trips. Our parents took us to Shakey's Pizza. My mom always drove back to the campground, my dad enjoyed the pizza and beer so much.

Another time, we bought crab. It was an all-you-can-eat buffet. Have you ever eaten enough crab that you thought you couldn’t eat another bite? It happened to me every summer on the Oregon Coast. Of course, there was always salad to go with it. Balanced meals and all that. My mother's favorite saying was, “don’t eat pie for breakfast!” She was always nutrition-conscious.

I wish I would have listened to her, since I am the only one in the family who has any girth, because, yes, I have eaten a few pieces of pie for breakfast in my day. Thanks anyway, mom, for planting that tiny festering seed of making good nutritional choices into my guilty conscience. It didn’t grow.

My parents taught my sister and me how to make a lot of friends in a hurry. Nowadays, it’s called an icebreaker. We always had a wiffle ball and bat, and we would go into the campground road and start to play, just the two of us, and before we knew it, every kid in the campground was in the outfield. After that, we would go to the beach and have a campfire with all of our new friends. Is it any wonder that we had a long pen-pal list by the end of the trip? It never failed.

Marilyn White lives in Medford.

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