In the summer of 1982, my family, and another family, decided to take a road trip out east. We started in St. Louis, stayed for a while at the World’s Fair in Knoxville, and ended up at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. It turned out to be a great trip. Almost meticulously planned. Almost.
Looking back, I’m relatively certain that the trip was the concoction of my Mom and her best friend Mary. They had a talent for planning trips not only for our families, but also for various corporate and military VIPs. They knew how to plan things. My Dad was more of the spontaneous type. I don’t think he was fully on-board. During the entire trip, he had one, oft-repeated, mantra, “All I have to do is drive.” Apparently, this was said to him at some early stage of the reveal.
And drive he did. We were hauling a truck camper and pulling our small Subaru wagon. Our plan was to camp at Myrtle Beach, and Dad hadn’t ever camped in a tent; and wasn’t going to on this trip either. Our itinerary had us staying on a houseboat at one of the many marinas off of the Tennessee River west of Knoxville. It was a bit of a walk to the parking area, but there were shuttle busses running to the fairgrounds. How these two planners found these accommodations, before the days of the internet, is beyond me. But they were good at this type of thing. Indeed, the trips course was planned thoroughly, in the days of paper maps. I can only remember one ‘detour’, during which my mother had to ask someone for directions. Because, as Dad said, “All I have to do is drive.”
The fair was great. I remember being impressed with the many different cultures represented at the event. I also remember some very long lines. But this was a two-part trip. Our next voyage had us driving through the Smoky Mountains on our way to Myrtle Beach. The Smoky’s are beautiful, but a tough, long, drive hauling a camper and pulling a car. I think somewhere along the way we ran a little longer than planned and decided to cut a stop out of the trip and drive straight through to the beach. A departure from the plan.
Even though it seemed like a good idea, our new plan landed us Myrtle Beach a day early, and there was no vacancy until tomorrow. The camp attendant suggested we stay on the boat ramp area under the bridge over the intercoastal waterway outlining Myrtle Beach. It was hot. It was late in the day. And there were 8 of us trying to sleep in a truck camper. The 5 kids were in the queen-size cab-over bed. The 4 adults where in the 2 double beds below. Did I say it was hot? No. It was stifling. Almost unbreathable hot. Our friend’s dad tried to escape to the towed car for sleep. Having to crack the window in the car to get some fresh air, he soon learned that South Carolina mosquitoes are the size of a Vultures. And travel in flocks. He quickly had to flee this nightmare, and return to our oppressive, merciless, riverside refuge. Where there were at least screened windows and an occasional slight breeze. Trying to sleep, we grew quiet until our friend’s oldest daughter, who, to this day, is always armed with the most appropriately hilarious comment, blurts out from the silence, “This is the most miserable I’ve ever been in my entire life!” This caused a round of laughter to erupt from the over-stuffed, over-heated, camper full of miserable people suddenly aware of the ridiculousness of their circumstances.
The next day, we made it into the park and finished out the week playing on the beach.
All in all, it was a successful trip. With just one little hiccup. Life is often just like that. No matter how meticulously you plan, something can go wrong. It can be a laughable event, like this one, or it can set you on your heels and leave you searching for answers. During this trip, advice from others helped us get back on course. No one knows everything. But someone probably has the answers you need. The sooner you ask, the sooner you can get back to planning your next steps.
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And remember to take the next step.
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