Where Did You Vacation as a Child?

by mia hinkle

When I was little we really didn’t take vacations. That is typical of farm life. The kids got to play but the adults always had animals to tend to and lots of work that could not wait. I remember five vacations my entire childhood.

WASHINGTON STATE: In the summer of 1965, fresh out of 5th grade, I was 11 years old. Our family took the Empire Builder through the backcountry all the way to the Pacific Ocean, to visit my mother’s sister, Gloria, and her family. Dad stayed home so it was Mom, Dick who had just graduated high school, Holly in 4th grade, and Solveig who was just 3 years old. We stayed with Uncle Frank and Aunt Gloria and our cousins Virginia, Christopher, and Margaret. 

I remember the views along the way were spectacular; the vast Dakota plains, the Missouri River, the Rocky Mountains, the stars so close and bright you could reach up and grab them, all simply breathtaking! I remember our train car had an “upstairs” with huge curved windows specially made for taking in the panoramic views. The first African-American person I ever laid eyes on was the porter who brought us towels and soap; he smelled so good.

Our cousins lived in a nice neighborhood in Tacoma which was pretty fancy compared to our old farmhouse. They took us to see the Space Needle in Seattle. They rented a little cabin on the Pacific Ocean; it was cold and drizzly but we didn’t care. We scampered around the beach in long sweatshirts and learned how quick you had to be to dig clams! On the way back to their house, Jenna and I secretly opened some smoked salmon our moms had just picked up at a market and ate little pieces from each end. I remember feeling like it was so exotic and delicious. Frank and Gloria were both teachers and were very outdoorsy. They spent many summers working for the Parks Department on Mount Rainer so they knew a lot. It was a fun trip!

And Dickie was a whisper away from getting married by the time we got back to Minnesota. Ask him; he’d love to tell you all about it! #lindarange

That was one crazy summer: Dick graduated from high school the end of May, we took the train to the State of Washington in June, Holly and I took the Greyhound bus to Minneapolis to see the Beatles in August, we auctioned off our farm life and moved to Chaska on Labor Day to begin school the next day. Our dad was in Eden Prairie teaching flying by then, and how our mother managed all that in one summer does not surprise me one bit. She could get things done!! And that was the summer she reinvented our family life.

THE BLACK HILLS AND WYOMING: During the summer of 1966, right after my sixth grade, we took a family vacation to South Dakota’s Black Hills and Wyoming. On this trip, it was my mom and dad, Holly, Solveig, and me. We were living in Chaska in a two-bedroom apartment and I remember packing up the powder blue 1965 Chevy Caprice for the trip. That nice big trunk was not nearly big enough. At the time Solveig was 4 years old and had two imaginary friends she called Misa NeeNee and Toki. She wanted them to come along, but Dad said NO. I imagine he thought having imaginary friends was nothing but foolishness. So, okay, we hopped in the car and started driving west. It was a long hot drive all the way across South Dakota, Holly and I in the back seat, and Solveig sprawled out in the back window. Suddenly on some very long stretch of a very straight highway, we heard a shriek! It was Solveig who squealed that Misa NeeNee and Toki were following us! In a red convertible! The best part of this story is that our Mom made our Dad pull the car over and open the door so Solveig’s imaginary friends could get in! My guess is that Dad learned a little something about Solveig’s sense of determination that day.

She was so happy to have her friends back with her; they all three hopped and skipped and giggled all the way around Devil’s Tower. Holly and I were too cool for school since we were 7 and 8 years older than Solveig, so our little sister made her own friends.

In Wyoming, we visited some friends of my folks, the Hagee’s. They lived in a canyon on a ranch and had horses. They saddled up one of the horses, handed us the reins, and the grownups went inside for coffee. Holly and I took turns riding around the property. I remember Holly taking off at a full gallop, disappearing behind the barn, and the horse with no rider reappearing at the other end of the barn! Holly had fallen off and the horse just kept running. Come to think of it, she was so tiny the horse probably didn’t realize she wasn’t still on his back!! No worse for the wear, we dusted her off and that was that.

We did all the touristy things on that trip; we saw Wall Drug, the famous jack-a-lope, the Corn Palace, Mount Rushmore, Devils Tower, the Badlands, buffalo, and prairie dogs too numerous to count.

Mostly I remember the windows rolled up tight (because this new car had air conditioning!) and my Dad smoking cigarettes until I was sick to my stomach. 

WASHINGTON DC: The summer after 7th grade was 1967, we traveled to Washington DC, and again we stayed with one of my Mom’s cousins, Valerie Block and her family. Again it was just the five of us. Again, a very long drive in that very fine Chevy. I remember getting as far as Indianapolis, hitting the loop around the city: the brand new 465 — still under construction. We drove around and around the city because we couldn’t figure out how to exit.

In Washington DC, we saw all the sights; the Capital, the Washington Monument, the White House, the Washington Mall, and the Smithsonian Museum. It was in the Smithsonian where we discovered our dad’s way of reading EVERY sign under EVERY exhibit in the ENTIRE museum. Or so it seemed to three antsy little girls.

NEW ORLEANS: By 1971, Holly and I were in high school and Solveig was in 4th grade. My dad, who was a pilot and a flight instructor, borrowed a little Cessna and flew us to New Orleans for a long weekend. We stopped in St. Louis to spend the night with another of my Mom’s cousins, Opal Creel and her family. We had hoped to make the flight in one day, but the fog was so thick for so long we finally had to stop for the night and surprise Opal. We kids had complete trust that our dad would get us there safe and sound, but years later Mom remarked about just scared she was the entire time in the air. “It was so “soupy” we couldn’t tell up from down. Thank goodness your dad had his instrument rating and was such a good pilot!”

In New Orleans, we drove across the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway which happens to be the longest continuous bridge over water in the world. We had Bananas Foster at Brennan’s. We listened to Dixieland Jazz on Bourbon Street. Our folks enjoyed Mint Julips at a sidewalk café as we girls enjoyed darting in and out of shops. Some creepy gross guy followed cute little Holly and tried to grab her inside a bookstore. We grabbed Solveig and scurried back out to the sidewalk café where, by then, our folks were enjoying Chicory coffee and beignets, completely oblivious to what had nearly happened.

Side note: A couple of years ago when the Me Too Movement swept the world in the wake of violence against women brought to light, (i.e. Harvey Weinstein, Roger Ailes, Matt Lauer, Bill Cosby, and the list goes on) I remember thinking, “What? Not me too! I’m too savvy to ever get myself in a situation where a man could take that kind of advantage of me.” But the more we talked about it, the more we remembered little long-ago incidents like the creepy gross guy in a New Orleans bookstore and the local perv who grabbed my ass at the top of the Eifel Tower and some drunk patron who chucked a baked potato and hit Solveig squarely between her shoulder blades when she was simply doing her job waiting tables. Total strangers were confident they could get away with violence against women (or girls) just because. None of us reported it, we just scurried away. I suppose most women, young and old, have their own stories on this topic. A sin as old as time. But I digress.

NORTH DAKOTA: I graduated from high school in June of 1972. All the other kids took senior trips to Florida or Europe or some such, but not Diane and me! We took the bus to Hebron, North Dakota. We were so hip. We marched to our own drummer.

Diane’s Uncle Ed and Aunt Tootie took us camping at the Little Missouri River and showed us around the North Dakota Badlands. I remember thinking they were more magnificent than the South Dakota Badlands. They told us family stories and regional lore and little-known facts about glaciers and regional history and local wildlife. And Tootie cooked. And cooked. And cooked some more.

We hiked in the hills around Hebron and found a rock shaped like a bathtub so we took each other’s pictures laying in it. The Greyhound bus stopped in Fargo on the way home and I bought Rod Stewart’s new album. 

It’s weird the stuff you remember…

Leave a Reply