Road Trippin'

Time to Hit the Highway

My wife and I are in the process of our yearly migration to Destin, Florida. Our hurried preparations yesterday morning reminded me of road trips we used to take with our kids. It also brought back memories of my family’s road trips when I was just another rugrat in the backseat. The process of getting from Point A to Point B has come a long way since the days of the Family Truckster. Depending on your mode of transportation, long sweaty journeys have been replaced by all the comforts of home. I am actually typing up this article as we are driving through Alabama, on the way to the Emerald Coast. Try doing THAT back in the day!

As I mentioned in a previous article, I have always been a practical car owner. I knew the acquisition of our first Minivan would change our travel lives, and I was right. Always on the cutting edge of technology, I purchased a 9-inch TV/VCR Combo, just for our road trips. I also bought a cassette audio adapter that allowed our two sons to watch Star Wars, in realistic surround sound, from the comfort of their very own captain’s chairs. I also constructed a TV Stand from an idea borrowed from my sister-in-law and her husband. Thanks, Patti and Mike! That stand allowed us to put the TV in the prime viewing position. My boys quickly became used to trips down to Destin, or Virginia Beach, while enjoying the latest movies and Pokemon episodes, recorded on our home VCR. They had no idea how good they had it.

When I was a kid, The Lambert Summer Vacation was a trip to Clark Lake in Irish Hills, Michigan. Back in those days, my Dad didn’t have access to Google Maps. His route involved a great deal of zig-zagging across Michigan, through exotic towns like Manchester, Bridgewater, and Saline. The signposts for upcoming turns were local landmarks like The Big Green Barn and the Road With No Sign. If they ever painted that barn to match its neighbors, we were done for. Even though the journey was under two hours, I’m sure with four squabbling kids and a dog, it probably seemed endless for my parents. However, the payoff for over an hour and a half of sibling-poking purgatory was a glorious week at Clark Lake. Right now, my wife is at the wheel, and we are just over two hours away from glorious Destin. Here’s to The Great American Road Trip! May you have a great one, without any Griswoldian Moments!

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The Furry Intruder

Take No Prisoners!

Every family has certain stories that can be encapsulated in just one word. In our case, that word is Bumpuses! Many years ago, when my boys were still very young, our nephew Bret used to sleepover nearly every Saturday night. So much so that I told my brother we were claiming him as a tax deduction. As Bret got older, some strange things started to occur when he spent the night. Strange events that seemed to be tied to his weekend visits. One time the fireplace flue was frozen shut and this resulted in thick smoke spewing back into the family room. On another occasion, his visit resulted in a cat running into our basement and disappearing into another dimension. Here is my tale.

One evening, as I was returning a VHS tape to our local video store (I told you it was many years ago!), we had an unexpected intruder. As I opened the side door, a blur of gray fur scrambled inside and shot down the stairs before I had time to register what was happening. It was a stray cat from the neighborhood. He had been curled up on our stoop, trying to stay warm on a frigid night. Since a similar male cat had taken up residence in our garage a few weeks earlier and laid down a horrific territorial stink bomb, I was terrified he would do the same thing in our basement. The odor in the garage had lingered for weeks.

We have a pocket door, and thinking quickly I was able to seal off the basement from the rest of the house. Then, I slowly crept downstairs to see if I could locate the unwanted guest and get it out of the basement before any damage was done. Upstairs in the kitchen, my wife had organized the three boys into a posse of sorts. They were armed with leftover oranges from Christmas and yelling “Bumpuses!” for some unknown reason. They were all laughing and having a hell of a time. I yelled up for my wife to be ready to open the side door, as I tried to escort the feline outside. At the same moment I had corralled the critter with a hockey stick and was chasing it up the stairs, my wife decided to come down and “Check on the kitty”! Lord, give me strength.

The cat turned tail at the sight of my wife coming down the stairs and ran deeper into the basement. It wound up locating the secret portal to another dimension that our cat Jewel had used for years. She would sometimes disappear down there for hours. Then, around dinnertime, come strolling upstairs like she hadn’t just emerged from another galaxy. The unwanted visitor had apparently found that portal. I spent the better part of an hour tearing the basement apart looking for that stupid cat and come up empty.

Later that night, my wife went downstairs to do some laundry and found the cat curled up on a typing chair like he owned the place. I crept down the stairs and tried to shoo him upstairs and out the door. He managed to give me the slip again and dove under the basement stairs. Since I had no idea whether this cat had rabies or some other infectious disease, I wasn’t taking any chances.

Wearing a heavy coat and thick gloves, I was able to cram the cat into a duffel bag. My son Jeff was at the side door this time. My wife had been relieved of duty after failing miserably to hold the side door open earlier. I grabbed the bag full of struggling cat and met Jeff at the door. I told him to take it outside on the neighbor’s front lawn and “Let the cat out of the bag!” Haha! I was getting a little punchy by that time! So, that’s my tale. I’m sure your family has had similar experiences that are tied to one word, or a phrase. Hopefully, the telling of my story has stirred up some memories of your own. Until next time, BUMPUSES!

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My Favorite Mug

Remembering My Kid’s Masterpieces

No, I’m not talking about my face. I like my face well enough. I just don’t like how it keeps looking older whenever I walk past a mirror. No, what I’m talking about is a coffee receptacle. Like any dedicated coffee drinker, I have a favorite mug. In my case, it’s a Halloween mug with a cartoon of Dracula displayed prominently on the side. I saw it at Kroger a few years back and it was one of those impulse items I just had to have. Even though that mug has gotten cracked and chipped over time, it still has a special place in my heart. Not because of the mug itself, but for what it represents.

Back when my boys where in grade school, numerous masterpieces would make their way home in their backpacks. Every parent has had not-so-flattering portraits of them drawn by their little Picassos. Invariably, any pictures of me, drawn by my son Jeffrey, would all have the same recognizable widow’s peak. The trademark of Dracula. Since the Count and I share the same hairline, I came to be known as Dadula in all of his artistic creations. It became the family joke, as more and more of these drawings would depict Dadula in various activities. Dadula mows the lawn, rakes the leaves, shovels the snow, goes to the beach (SPF 5000 of course), etc.

Although I have become more follically challenged over the years, I find that I miss those sketches. Since my boys are all grown up, the stream of drawings has ceased to flow. My only regret is that we didn’t save any of them. There are plenty of other pictures, but Dadula isn’t in any of them. I feel like part of my son’s childhood has been lost. Oh well, you can’t save every picture your kid draws, otherwise, you’d have to rent a storage locker. Even though Dadula is lost to the dustbin of time, he can still rise from his coffin. If I ever want to see him again, all I have to do is grab my favorite mug out of the cupboard, and Dadula Lives!!!

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