It must be summer…for a lot of reasons. There is the obvious oppressive heat. The kids are all finally outta school. The crows are pecking their beaks at the ripening tomatoes in the backyard garden. Oh, and the morning traffic is as light as a Lean Cuisine entrée. Did I mention the pesky fly dive bombing the keyboard as I write this week’s column? Not sure where he came from. Smack! It’s the only time of year I type with a fly swatter between my teeth. It must also be summer if there is a road trip in your future. I fondly recall a family vacation the summer before I was to enter the eighth grade. The family took a very long trek from our home in Michigan all the way to California. That is like over two grand in road miles if you don’t take any wrong turns. Because my dad traveled for his job during the week, he never considered taking a long road trip like the one Chevy Chase made infamous in the “National Lampoon’s Vacation” movie. That summer, we’re talkin’ way back in 1966, was the first, and the last, family vacation road trip. My dad had a work convention to attend and since we had lots of extended family in southern California, the parents musta decided what the heck! I am the oldest child and my little brother, Carl, the youngest, was still in diapers. Before dad backed out of the driveway, my four siblings and I were as neatly packed as a can of sardines into the green station. Everyone had claimed their spot. At least that is how we started. Does anyone remember the travel games they played while toodling down the interstate? “I Spy” ranked in the top 10 but our favorite was finding a license plate for each state in the United States. Unfortunately, I think we got tired of that one by the time we hit the west side of Chicago. The other day, I had lunch with my little sister, Gretchen. It was my mom’s birthday and we took her out for lunch. I happened to mention the subject of my latest column when Gretchen reminded me of a travel game she recalled playing on that car trip. Actually it was more like a personal challenge. “I remember taking my Tootsie Pop and counting the licks until I got down to the stick. It took many hundreds of licks. Guess you could say I was pretty bored,” Gretchen said. My sister also related how she repeated the Tootsie Pop challenge just recently and was astonished at how small the suckers have gotten. We are talkin’ several hundred less licks to the stick. “I know whatcha mean. It’s like that with lots of things. Rick and I were in the grocery store the other day to buy charcoal for the grill. I kept looking for the 10 pound bags but all they had were eight. When did that happen?” I asked. Did I mention my dad’s rules regarding our road trip? It’s probably why it was doomed to fail. Besides the motel stays, we only stopped for meals and gas. All potty breaks were scheduled during those stops. Anyone not in the truckster by the time the car pump went “ding” would be left behind. Average miles per day topped out at about 800. That meant no sightseeing. I vividly recall driving through Missouri. They must have had a large billboard every 10 miles touting the official Jesse James Hideout. The very first sign read “Only 847 miles to the Jesse James Hideout.” The kids in the car were beyond pumped by the time we finally passed the one that indicated it was 100 miles down the road. Still my dad held firm. We rode right by the hideout and many others including the Grand Canyon! When we rolled into California, my dad deposited my mom and his five ducklings at one of my relatives’ houses. The station wagon smelled real bad. We blamed it on my little brother. And the rest of us kids … we all had the flu. I wasn’t surprised when the following summer my dad put in an above-ground pool with a slide in the backyard. Yep, my dad was the first to invent “staycations.” Smart guy. Smack! Finally got that pesky fly. Dixie Frantz is a long-time Kingwood resident and newspaper columnist since 1996. E-mail Dixie with your comments at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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