Biographical Non-Fiction posted September 26, 2020 Chapters:  ...63 64 -65- 66... 

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The pros and cons of a vacation.

A chapter in the book Remembering Yesterday

Niagara Falls

by BethShelby

We buy a new car and spend a week traveling, which isn't always easy with four children along.
With the exception of the `56 Buick, which you bought just before we got married, all the vehicles we’d owned had been pre-owned. We were told that once a car was driven from the lot, it automatically lost a large percentage of its value. After our paying off that Buick, we decided financing a vehicle was not a smart move, so whatever we'd owned since was paid for with cash. 

I didn’t realize you were looking at cars, until one day you came home and told me that you had found a brand new car at a dealership which we could afford. The new models were out, and this was the last ‘74 Dodge Charger on the lot. You thought it looked sporty, and you wanted to buy it. It had a standard transmission, but since I ‘d learned to drive with a standard, I didn’t think I’d have a problem.

The sales pitch you used to convince me was that with a new car, you’d feel okay about going on a week long vacation trip. You suggested Niagara Falls. This came as a shock to me because, you had never really been fond of going anywhere, except back to Mississippi and your cows and acreage. The fact that we now had four children who were usually restless after the first 20 miles made this seem all the more astonishing. It proved how badly you wanted that car.

When I asked why you were willing to take this trip, given the fact that every other overnight trip we’d ever taken stressed you out so badly that you were physically ill the next day.  You said your stress was probably due to the lack of planning. You suggested that if we had it all planned ahead of time instead of "spur of the moment", things would go smoother.

Your willingness to take a trip cinched it for me, and we soon had that new car parked on our lot. We both had vacation time coming up, so you told me to go ahead and plan the trip. By nature, I’m not a planner, but if that was what it was going to take, I was willing to give it my best shot. I accumulated brochures and road maps and started calling ahead for reservations. We had only a week set aside for the trip. I needed something interesting we could do everyday to keep the kids happy and driving time to a minimum. I decided we should drive to my parent’s home in Mississippi on Friday. That would cut several hours off the driving time when we started the trip.

We took our time the first day, switching drivers every couple of hours and making plenty of stops to keep the kids happy. I’d seen to it that we had games that could be played in a car and puzzle books to ensure that the kids not get too bored. We stopped early at a nice motel with a swimming pool. The kids and I enjoyed that while you stayed in the room and watched TV.

I’d always heard the Blue Ridge Parkway was beautiful, so without knowing anything about it, I scheduled that for our first main day of travel. By Sunday morning, we were near the beginning of the Parkway. It would be the first point of interest on our trip. Since we would be on winding mountain roads, you told me you would do all the driving. I was to keep the kids in check. They were already bored with their books and games and starting to tire from being cooped up in a car.

Since we both loved mountains, the view from the Blue Ridge Parkway was breathtaking, and certainly worth seeing. Still after hours of being on twisting roads with few restroom stops and no place to purchase snacks, everyone was getting testy. You wanted coffee and the kids just wanted out. On the parkway we weren't able to travel nearly as fast as I had anticipated. Slowing us down even more was the fact that we’d pulled into almost every overlook to see the view and take a photograph or two. Eventually, we found a tiny mountain town just large enough to get a light lunch, but it was miles back to the interstate, so we had to get back on the parkway.

By mid-afternoon, you’d been driving far too many hours, and you’d developed a sick headache. I was becoming frustrated, because we were still miles from the spot I picked for our next motel stop. The older kids were picking fights in the backseat, and Connie was whining from sheer exhaustion. You had lost all desire to be hospitable and were looking for someone to blame for your discomfort. I was the one who’d planned this segment of the trip, so it was I you lashed out at.

"You’re trying to kill me,” you said as you pulled the car to a stop. “You take the wheel, and get us out of here.  I’m dying. I need coffee, food and a place to lay my head. I’m through with vacations. We need to turn around and go back home.”

I think your words even shocked the children into submission. I didn’t argue. I took over the wheel and you slumped over in your seat and never said another word. At the next exit we came to, we got off of the parkway and pulled up to the first motel I saw. It was four o’clock in the afternoon, so there were still plenty of vacancies. I got us a room, and you groaned and fell across the bed. We knew to not linger until you'd recovered. You had passed the point of wanting anything, except rest.

I asked if I could get you something, and you said “No, just leave me alone.” The kids and I went next door to Denny’s and got something to eat. By the time we got back, you’d recovered enough to make yourself some coffee with the complimentary packets left for motel guests. The kids and I put on our bathing suits and went to the pool. You eventually went out and got something to eat, but the frosty feeling lingering in our room had nothing to do with the air conditioning.  

By the next morning, you had partially recovered, and we continued our trip. Since we weren’t as far along as I’d planned, I canceled the rest of our reservations and vowed to give up making plans. Plan A hadn’t worked, and I’d not made a plan B. It was just as well, because when we got to Niagara Falls, New York, we blew a tire which further delayed us. We spent that night on the American side of the falls.

Niagara Falls was impressive on the American side, but far more impressive on the Canadian side. The following morning, we crossed into Canada and went up in a tall observation tower. We decided to take a tour beneath the falls. This meant we all had to put on black rubber rain coats with hoods. Connie threw a fit about that. She hated wearing the required water gear. She cried over the way we looked wearing black coats and hoods. Not only that, she hated the roar of the falls. I guess all that noise was scary for a two-year-old.

Aside from the beauty of the falls, the neatest thing we saw on the trip was the formal flower garden in Niagara Falls, Canada. After we left there, we drove through the Canadian farm country until we came back into the states through Detroit. I had some things planned for there but since we'd gotten off schedule, you vetoed the idea of spending time in Detroit.

We drove through the Amish country of Pennsylvania and browsed in some of the shops. We all found that to be interesting. We’d never been around Amish people before, and we were shocked to realize how large and prosperous their farms appeared to be, all without the use of automobiles or electricity. I had expected them to be poor and unable to afford the luxuries of life. I was wrong. Their religious convictions made them feel it was God's will that they keep themselves plain.

I was mispronouncing the word saying 'Amish' with a long `a’. Every time I said it, Carol corrected me saying it with the short ‘a’ sound. When she said the word, I invariably thought she had seen someone walking, who had the traditional costume of a long dress and bonnet, or a man with suspenders and a beard. Our conversation went something like this.  Me: “A-mish” Carol: ‘AM-ISH!” Me: Where? I would have my trusty camera ready to snap a picture. We did it so often, it became a joke.

After we left Pennsylvania, somewhere along the way, we found a wave pool, and that was fun for everyone but you, because you didn’t like wearing a bathing suit and wouldn't get into the water.

We stopped by Mammoth Cave in Kentucky and hiked on some of the trails around the cave. We toured an old homestead, but we didn’t get to go through the cave because of our time schedule.  It was just as well because I realized that Connie would freak out about having to go into a dark place. She seemed to have a lot of phobias.

The highlight of each day for the children was that each place we stayed had an outdoor swimming pool. We were all exhausted by the time the trip ended, and we were happy to be back home again.

I can’t imagine how difficult it would have been if we'd tried to travel for more than one week with our four children along.  It would be a while before we recovered enough to try that again.


I'm continuing to recall memories of life with my deceased husband as if I am talking aloud to him. I'm doing this because I want my children to know us as we knew each other and not just as their parents.
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