It’s easy to plan vacations today.
You can look at videos or pictures on the internet, buy tickets to Branson shows, even calculate precisely how many hours it will take you to get there.
Growing up in the early 1950s, our family vacations were taken sight unseen.
Some were short — only a day or two. Others were a full week long.
We had very little money, so staying in motels or eating in cafes were not even in our dreams. And we liked it that way.
My mother made everyday events, and even hard times, into adventures. So talk about a car trip made for lots of pre-vacation stories, telling about the great aunt who lived in Moore, Oklahoma, where we might stop for supper, and maybe stay the night.
Or if we went toward Colorado, it meant stopping in Great Bend to visit a cousin. With no telephone in our home, my mother would drop a post card to them and let them know we might be coming.
It must have been quite a sight to see us arrive, seven excited travelers whom our hosts knew must be hungry.
We were never once disappointed, as we were invited in to share food, beds and couches. There would be old stories told, giving the kids plenty of memories to store in our young minds.
My parents always attended church twice on Sunday and on Wednesday night, too, so they made sure our route took us through a town where they knew of a church like ours. It always amazed me that when we walked in the door of each church, it was like home.
My mother and dad could play the connection game better than anyone.
Give them five minutes with strangers and they would connect a common friendship or relative.
I saw it happen in dozens of places, as I grew up. And it instilled in me an inquisitive nature, one that led to smiles among those we met, even if only for a brief church service, or a chance encounter at a filling station.
My mother packed food that we could eat on the road, so there were lots of roadside picnics. I remember one trip to Colorado when we ate longhorn cheese, bologna, crackers and water every time we stopped.
No one ever complained, because our parents were taking us on a vacation — something we had dreamed about for weeks on end.
To this day, I love longhorn cheese and crackers, because it spurs those happy memories.
We drove by places where we couldn’t afford to stop — but we still looked, pointed and captured invisible pictures.
But the best things in life are free, so we waded in creeks, sang songs as we drove and always took the time to thank two parents who created such special memories for us.
Today, I’m so glad that we have the internet, wonderful places to go and stay, and smartphone pictures that we can share as we travel.
But I’ll always keep the simple times in my heart when five kids and two parents rode along in a 1938 Ford, believing our mother’s kidding promise that “there’s something really fun just over that next hill.”
Rudy Taylor is publisher of the Montgomery County Chronicle and the Taylor Newspapers group, headquarted in Caney, Kansas.