Vacation From Hell

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It was the best of vacations and the worst of vacations.

The year was 1966. I was fourteen with two younger brothers, Dave and Ted (12 and 10) and mom and dad. In our new Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser and pop-up tent trailer in tow, we took off for California by way of the Grand Canyon.

The first part of the trip was pretty uneventful but, during a side trip to Phoenix, an event occurred that is remembered fondly by us boys as The Day Dad Poked the Eye Out Of the Ice Machine With a Tire Iron.

A typical July day in Phoenix, with temperatures near 110 degrees, it was a Sunday and most businesses were closed. Dad had been looking for block ice to put in our ice box in the trailer, without much success. His temper was flaring close to the heat index when we came across an ice machine that claimed to purvey 20 pound blocks of ice for 50 cents. The machine had a red glass light which, when lit, indicated the machine was empty. But the red light was not on, so Dad put two quarters in, pressed the button and...nothing. Press the coin return...nothing. Two more quarters, same result. After a few choice words, he pulled the tire iron from the back of the Olds and proceeded to beat the red lamp to oblivion.

We made the turnaround point in LA uneventfully, had a nice visit with Uncle Paul and Aunt Irene, then headed back east, via Colorado. In the mountains, we got a really nice campsite, high up in the pines, with a mountain stream flowing nearby. It had rained recently, and everything was wet and slippery. The first thing, after parking the rig, was to disconnect the trailer by means of a jack on the tongue that had a wheel you could slip on the bottom of it, for maneuverability. Brother Dave put the wheel in place, but it slipped after the jack was raised sufficiently for the tongue to clear the hitch ball and the wheel fell off. The tongue of the trailer dropped down slightly, enough to smash Dave’s hand. A visit to a doctor in the nearest town confirmed it was not a broken hand, fortunately, and a few stitches later, Dave was almost good-as-new.

Once this trauma was dispensed with, we were able to go for a dip in the stream. The water was cold and swift, but felt great. I wear glasses for very bad vision, so I didn’t even think to take them off. Of course, the first time I put my head under water, the fast-flowing water ripped the glasses right off my face, never to be seen again. We still joke about the myopic trout who could finally see- with my glasses. I was effectively blind. For the remainder of the trip, every time I really wanted to see something, I had to ask mom to borrow her glasses, through which I could almost see. Not an ideal situation for sight-seeing.

Well, we made it home from that trip without further incident. Dad didn’t get arrested for destruction of property, brother’s hand healed up just fine and I got a new pair of glasses. All’s well that ends well and the next summer we were back on the road with the trailer, off on another great family vacation.