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I'm Eight Years Old

By Chuckmonster on Thursday, 15th October 2015 8:30am
  » filed under Las Vegas  comments: 11


Summer 1977, I'm 8 years old and sitting at the kitchen table with my Dad watching him scrawl "For Sale - $750" artfully on a piece of yellow construction paper purloined from my school supply stash. He held it up at arms length, admired and then bounded outside to mount the placard in the driver side rear seat window of his green '73 VW Super Beetle. I remember the smell of the magic markers and the inside of our "Herbie The Love Bug" like it was yesterday. A few days later the bug was gone and in its place was a brand new family truckster - a Chevrolet Impala station wagon in metallic blue.

For the next five years, the pile-the-family-in-the-car vacation was ON. Every spring, my folks would call or write away to various resorts requesting brochures be mailed to the house, the snail mail version of Expedia. We'd pour over the photos, listings and details, stare at a road atlas, calculate driving distances while cross referencing hotel options via Mobile Travel Guide and a Days Inn catalog.

To this day, the sight of a ginormous road atlas jump starts my heart. App schmapp. I loved the long, sensual striptease that trip planning was in the analog world.

Hotels. Motels. Motor inns. The drive-thru lobby. Parking lots filled with strange license plates. Playgrounds with swings and spring loaded rideable ladybugs. The pool, in the days when diving board antics were encouraged, not a possible lawsuit. The klackety jangle of metal hotel room keys and large plastic keychains. The numbers on the doors. The first smell of a room. The soaps, blankets, curtains, pillows, lamps and beds.

Inevitably, my folks would lock us in the room and head to the nearest bar (their room next door.) They'd leave us with a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken and explicit instructions to not to open the door. On the TV, strangely accented newscasters talked about people, places, towns and teams we knew nothing about. As my eight-year-old eyes filled with sleep, I remember the hazy blur of a colorful curtain as trumpet jazz and Johnny's jokes melted into the rumble of an air conditioner.


I learned pretty quickly that I preferred staying at the Holiday Inn. I fell in love with their majestic green and yellow lightbulb arrow marquees and the hotel rooms were a notch above the other brands. Best Western hotels were a close second... regal, yellow, almost as nice as their green counterpoint. My Dad, much to my tyke-sized consternation, consistently chose to stay at third tier hotelier, Days Inn. Other than the $8/night price difference, he didn't see the value difference between a Days Inn, Holiday Inn or a Best Western.

Despite my warnings, my Dad, his evil wife, my brother and sister, their spouses and gaggle of children set up camp at the New Frontier when Miss Monkay and I got married at Wynn. We went across the street and visited their block of rooms on the day of their arrival. They were horrified and embarrassed. The New Frontier's wood paneled rooms were fit with matted funky carpeting, various cracks and holes in the wall patched up by two pieces of mis-matched plywood paneling. At the earliest possible post-nuptials moment, they checked out of the hotel and beat it on down the California road. I would've too.

A year later, when I told Dad the New Frontier had been demolished, he said "Chaaaaahlie, that hotel was horrible!" I raised my eyebrows and agreed with him. Instead of playing a game of I told you so, I remembered a 149 mile long legal argument I made to him outlining the merits of a Holiday Inn. The argument ended in a Days Inn parking lot at mile 150, me in the back seat with my temper tantrum.

There is something amazing about being an eight year old. Nearly every moment is curious experience. Every view is a new. Every attraction is an invitation to the imagination. Every neon sign whizzing through the blur of a speeding car is a possible adventure. May we all be eight at all times, always. Next time you get out the suitcases, after you've made your list, checked it twice and packed your underwear, remember to pack your inner eight year old's wonder why.

Have a great trip.

Tagged: wonder   


Comments & Discussion:

Awesome advice for life in general as well.
Have a great VIMFP.

Growing up (between 5 and 13 years of age) my family made 3 cross-country round trips. My dad bought a 1970 Chrysler Plymouth custom to start us off and we pulled a little pop-up camper. Every 350-400 miles we would stop at a KOA campsite for a night. I would spend each day reviewing the telephone book sized campground listings for the amenities of each site we would soon be staying at. Every 3rd or 4th day, my father would give in to my mother and check-into a motel. We soon learned the differences between the relative luxury of a Holiday Inn and some generic motel.

I remember getting up early to drive through the Mojave between LA and Vegas before the day got too hot to safely make the drive. There were always numerous cars stopped by the side of road with steam coming out of the engine. We had this box that strapped to the roof with a hose into the window to provide cool air (a precursor to AC). I'm not sure my mother allowed us to stop in sin-city and probably forced my father to drive on to Salt Lake for the night.

Regardless, this bit of americana was formative and adds to my fondness for old-Vegas.

Beautiful writing, Charles. I'd almost forgotten about those Holiday Inn signs, and you brought me right back there.

I still carry a AAA road atlas in my navigation-equipped car because of the same nostalgia.

I never had to (nor did I see my parents) write to resorts for their brochures, but decades ago I think we used some of those rest-stop coupons to determine which hotel we'd use that night.

To this day, I still get excited to fly or drive to new places, to check into new-to-me hotels, and to experience new cities.

So ... thanks for this, and safe travels.

Beautiful post.

I love road atlases and hotel guides not apps. Having something tangible is wonderful.

Chuck, this is way cool. I'm assuming you were an East Coast guy back then, and would love to hear more details about the places you went to during those family vacations in the halcyon days of the late 70s.

Two thumbs up - way up - for this post!

Great writing and interesting story; thanks for sharing.

In the summer of 1976, dad, mom, grandma, my 5 brothers and sisters plus me piled into our no-A/C, AM radio only 1975 Ford station wagon for two road trips to visit out of state family members. Funny how my parents never took us on a family road trip vacation again.

My dad would spend 3 days checking out and getting the station wagon all ready for about a 5 hour car ride each trip. Then I recall having more spare car parts packed vs. luggage.

Very very nice piece.

Have similar memories, but we were more of a 5th tier Motel 6 family. Nothing is quite like peering out of that car window until dusk hits. Yes, 32 years later there tends to be some jade-ification. But you're absolutely right on about the first whiff of your room. That's when the 8 year old comes forth, still.
I have two little kiddies and I can't wait to get my wife and them into the dadvan. But no Motel 6's this time around.

Missed this post last week, Chuck, but it's awesome. Those 70's Holiday Inns were the best...

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