It all started with my mom.
Before we went on summer vacations, there was a TripTik requested from AAA and a brand new spiral pocket notebook mom purchased to write the particulars of the trip in. Each year, she picked out a new bright color for the notebook, and dutifully logged miles driven each day, gas prices paid, restaurants frequented (along with a brief summary of our experiences for future reference), and the times we left and arrived at destinations.
This was in addition to unfolding the multi-layered TripTik to make sure we were on the correct highways, trying to keep us three girls (and dad) entertained on the road in the days before CDs and iPads, and doling out snacks and frozen washcloths when the ride became boring or horribly hot. She was wonderful at every one of her vacation duties, and played a mean game of motel mini golf when we stopped for the night.
Once my husband and I were able to expand our own family’s horizons and begin an almost-yearly trek to Pensacola Beach, I happily adopted my mom’s knack for travel notes. There were brief recaps at first, but little asides soon found their way into loose-leaf pages fixed on a clipboard that I kept alongside the atlas in the car — how many pennies we had found, the best motels we stayed at, what car games we played and which ones we would never play again.
Over the years, as our kids married and grandbabies were on the way, I often had a cross-stitch quilt across my lap on our trips, shifting the two quite deftly. But in 2013, when it was just my husband and I on vacation, he ceremoniously presented me with a 50-cent composition book.
The first couple of entries were pretty basic — which condo unit we rented, the dates we vacationed, beach restaurants we liked, how the weather was. But I found how wonderful it was in the dead of winter to read about a cloud in Mississippi that looked like a big dog, and the CD we were listening to as we crossed the state line into Florida.
I’m currently on my third composition book, and there are so many wonderful memories in those pages: unique license plates we deciphered, crazy billboards we laughed at, yearly gas price comparisons, the jellyfish swarm we barely escaped, a new beach location we found, conversations with folks we’d met, lists of things to be sure to bring with us and even the years we decided to leave early because the weather was getting bad.
There are notes about gas stations with buffets of fried foods, roadwork we hoped would be completed by the next year, sightings of cotton fields and chicken farms, reminders to start off early to miss traffic in major cities. Smiles, so many smiles.
Winter doesn’t seem quite as forbidding when I can read about the lizard that ran across the pool deck in front of me or the minor league baseball game we attended, complete with popcorn in a souvenir sand pail. Once again, I send a prayer of thanks heavenward to my mom for her fun example and the little pocket notebooks.
Vicki Bahr is a longtime reader of the Times. She has been published in newspapers and a variety of magazines, and is a wife, mother and grandmother.