I was talking with one of our clients the other day. We were chatting about vacationing as children, especially road trips. She asked me, If I remembered my first road trip as a kid? I thought about it, and I said, “Yeah, I actually do.”
It was 1988. I had just turned 12 and the tail end summer was upon us. My Mom was a teacher, and she spent most of that summer teaching summer school. So when August came, needless to say, my Mom was ready to decompress.
I remember it was a week after my birthday when my Mom came into my room. She told me we were going to go on an adventure. “Where are we going?” I asked. My Mom just looked at me, smiled and said, “Get your room clean and I’ll tell you after dinner.” As with any 12 year old boy, I grabbed the dirty clothes and miscellaneous action figures, and shoved them all in the closet. Once the laundry basket was propped against the closet door, and the bed was “made”, I quickly ran to the dinner table, to get the lowdown on the upcoming adventure.
“Platteville.” My Mom said.
“Platteville?” I asked. “ What’s a Platteville?” I’m guessing my Mom just looked at me shaking her head, while putting mashed potatoes on my plate. I loved mashed potatoes.
“Platteville is a city in Wisconsin.” She said. “It’s just a little south from here.” Of course I had no idea where Platteville, Wisconsin was, and I lived in the state all my life. Regardless of where this place was, the fact that my Mom called it an adventure, got my attention and peaked my interest.
We left in the afternoon the next day, it was a Sunday. I remember it was a Sunday, because Mom showed me on the calendar that it had been two days since my last bath. In the Summer Two days was the mutually accepted grace period my Mom gave me before having to bathe. We packed our suitcases and got into the Chrysler Horizon.
My mom had three activities for me to do on our drive there. The first, was to look for license plates with different states on them, and write what the states were. The second was to keep an eye on the gas gauge, and tell her when ¾ of the tank was gone. The third and final thing,
was to write down what I thought we were going to be doing in Platteville, Wisconsin. No, I have no idea what I wrote, but I’m pretty sure Mario Bros was referenced.
We finally arrived to our destination. Platteville, Wisconsin. Not a big place as I recall, but the hotel we stayed at did have a pool, and honestly, for a twelve year old, does anything else really matter? We could have stayed at Bates Motel and as long as it had a pool, boom, you’re set. We got all checked in and we went out for pizza. I know that we got to the restaurant, only to find that it was very busy. So we ordered our pie, and took it back to the hotel room. We dug into the pizza all the while going over my list of different states and my adventure guesses. None of my guesses were correct of course, and she wouldn’t give me any hints. So, we stayed up eating our pizza, watching cable t.v. (which was awesome, since we just had antenna at home) and I continued to guess until I fell asleep.
Finally the next day arrived. It was Monday, but for me and every other kid during summer, every day was a Saturday. We hopped in the car and went to a restaurant for breakfast. After I finished eating my pancakes and Mom swallowing her last cup of joe, we headed off. She asked me if I was ready to discover what the surprise was. I said, “duh, Mom.” Went to the bathroom and we were off.
This part of the story I remember vividly. We pulled up to a parking lot surrounded by older looking buildings. My Mom found a spot, put the car in park, turned off the engine and looked at me with a smile. “Are you ready for your surprise?” she asked. I nodded and got out of the car. It was warm that and sunny that day. My Mom threw me my Chicago Bears cap, and I put it on.
We walked for about two or three blocks. I remember being surrounded by buildings that had UW of Platteville. “Is my Mom taking me to school?” I thought to myself. That’s when I saw her, the lady with the Chicago Bears shirt. She was walking towards my Mom and me. Behind her was a sea of burnt orange and navy blue. Men, women and children were all wearing Chicago Bears apparel. As we continued forth, I noticed that the Bears fans were surrounding what seemed to be a football field. As we got even closer to the crowd, my suspicions were confirmed as I saw gigantic men with football uniforms on playing football. My Mom looked at me, I looked at her and she smiled and said, “This is Chicago Bears training camp!” I lost it. I saw Richard Dent, Neal Anderson, Mike Ditka, Jim McMahon almost hit me on a Spree scooter, I got Mike Singletary’s autograph, and all in that one day. It was awesome.
Years later, when I was in my thirties, my Mom and I were talking about the trips we took during that time. She said that the trip to Platteville to see the Chicago Bears training camp, was the trip that sparked “travel adventures” tradition. We drove to New Mexico, California, Florida and Texas. The Grand Canyon, Meteor Crater and of course who can forget the Wisconsin Dells. Now, I probably couldn’t tell you a whole lot about all of those places, but the memories of my Mom smiling and making me laugh will always be with me.
So now it’s my wife’s and my turn to share adventures with our children. It doesn’t matter where we go, just that we go as a family.