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Don’t Forget to Take Notes!

June 30, 2022

Another Way for week of June 24, 2022

Don’t Forget to Take Notes!

My dad and mom gave us kids one of the best gifts any family could ever have—at least if you enjoy travel. The summer of 1964 we had a six-week adventure from our home state of Indiana to the West Coast and back, hitting 17 states and 12 National Parks on our particular itinerary.

After my Mom died last fall, us kids went through all her stuff. We uncovered her small notebook of highlights of our trip. I drank it in.

Mom’s diary of the trip starts out: “Left July 11 at 2 p.m. Forgot pillows, soap, comb. Spent night in Illinois in pouring rain. Quite a mess to get supper with six in one place.” See, we had rented a very very small travel trailer for $2 a day. It slept five and we had six in our family. My brother ended up sleeping in a pup tent or the back seat of the car for most of the trip.

Not too great of start—like many camping trips. We also suffered one major breakdown when a spring broke and a wheel came up through the floor of the trailer, if I have the facts correct. Dad had to work hard to find a place to fix it (and remember, no cell phones). I think someone finally stopped to ask us if we needed help and drove Dad to a town somewhere. Long story short, we got to stay in a motel that night on good beds and mother was elated because she could spend the morning washing and ironing our clothes. (Iron, on a camping trip?? Yep!)

Dad always tried to visit people or families he knew, especially in the Midwest. We parked the trailer at the homes of about 10 different families or couples Dad and Mom knew. Some were relatives but most were guys Dad knew when he worked at Glacier National Park for alternative service during World War II. He so wanted us to see the things he had seen out west.

Our family trip in 1964: Pert, Melodie, Nancy, Terry, Mom (Dad took this photo) at Mesa Verde National Park, a place we enjoyed immensely.

Camping in backyards saved a bushel of money of course. In 1964 gas was only about 30 cents a gallon so we squeezed through spending on average, $20 a day for a family of 6. That’s “eats, camping fees, entertainment, sightseeing, and gas,” Dad was proud to tell folks.

When we drove up Pikes’ Peak with that 1960 Chevrolet, (leaving the trailer at a camp) the Chevy had to take a rest, like many other vehicles. My dad and mom were extremely grateful when after a brief stop—where we kids crawled around some rocks—the Chev started up again as we completed the 14,115 feet elevation in our drive up the mountain.

Toward the end of the trip, according to Mom’s diary, Daddy was very anxious (as we all were) to get home as quickly as possible. We even decided to forego the Tetons. By late August the weather was getting chilly in the mountains and we hit snow a couple of times. We did stop in South Dakota at Mt. Rushmore.

The trip was planned five years in advance, set for the year my oldest sister graduated from high school. Some of us younger kids belly-ached that we would be too old to enjoy such a trip if we waited five years. I was just eight (the age of two of my grandsons now) when we began planning it. But it did give us time to save up our money (and Dad and Mom too). We purchased many a souvenir from the places we visited.

I love the note Mom inscribed on the little Penrite Memo Book where she kept track of our adventures. In 2016, she did a follow-up note on the cover, “You kids will want to read this many years later. Ha.”

I’m not sure why she added the “Ha.” I will be forever grateful for her little trip diary, because without it, so much history—and memories—would be gone forever.

Thanks Mom and Dad for one of the best trips of our lives.

This (poor) photo was taken in 1998 when many of our extended family were able to gather at Rocky Mountain Mennonite Camp, Colorado, and remembered the 1964 trip there: Yours truly, sister Pert, sister Nancy, (brother Terry was not able to come), Mom and Dad.


I would love to hear about any great trip you were able to make! What made it special?

Comment here or write to me at or Another Way Media, P.O. Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22834.

Another Way is a column by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. She is the author of nine books. Another Way columns are posted at a week after newspaper publication.  

  1. Fun story, Melodie!
    We couldn’t take vacations in our family due to the need to milk cows twice a day and no hired help. So our vacations consisted of a day at Hershey Park or swimming at some local pond or bay. We only had the hours of 8 a.m.- 4.p.m. One time we went to the Philadelphia Zoo, left our purses in an unlocked car (we never locked anything), and returned to find them stolen. It was easy to feel discouraged about our attempts to enjoy “vacations.”

    • melodiemillerdavis permalink

      Thanks for sharing these difficulties. I’m newly aware of the efforts my Dad and Mom went to make it possible to travel. For one, he ditched milk cows early in their married life–precisely because they tied one down so much. We did hire a guy I think to take care of the chickens while we were gone–or perhaps he made sure we had no chickens to worry about for the 6 week trip. How devastating to return from an excursion and find stuff was robbed! Hope you are enjoying a good day today!

  2. What a special treasure you have with your mom’s notes of that trip. Kudos to you in heaven, Mom!
    I wish I would have thought to do that on the few trips we made when the children were younger. I’m catching up on that now for the grandkids though. (Ages 3, 8, and 12) In March I started a journal for each where each month I’m posting a picture and a short note.

  3. melodiemillerdavis permalink

    Never too late to make up for lost time! Great idea.

  4. melodie permalink

    From Nicholas:
    My cousin’s exceptionally smart 4-yr-old grandson is being enrolled in a private school to avoid possible boredom/behavioral problems that might arise if he goes to a public school. He keeps impressing his parents. He knows all 50 states and their capitals, and can identify most of the countries in the world. He’s doing 4th grade math.

    At the park one day he told a child’s parents not to let her go on a slide because it’s hotter than a chili pepper. When his dad said that his behavior was making him madder and madder, he suggested his dad say angrier because madder can be confused with matter. One day he told his 6-month-old baby sister that she was old enough to learn the alphabet and proceeded with a lesson.

    With all the problems in the world, maybe he will be able to use his talent to help solve some of them.

    Nick Russian

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