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I grew up with a daddy who loved to go and a mama who was willing to sacrifice to satisfy his wanderlust. They weren’t going to let the smallness of Daddy’s paycheck keep us at home.

Mother and Daddy on Vacation
These are my parents. I think we were at the Memphis Zoo.

Since Daddy worked until 9:00 p.m. on Saturday nights and went back to work on Monday morning at seven, weekend trips were pretty much out of the question. However, we took lots of three-hours-there and three-hours-back day trips, plus a yearly family vacation.

Sometimes we stayed in inexpensive hotels. Once we rented a cabin at a state park. At other times we camped in a tent. Some of my favorite times were mornings when my parents put our Coleman stove on a picnic table and Mother cooked us a hot breakfast.

We moved up in the world after Mother and Daddy bought our burgundy and cream Volkswagen bus. I remember well when Mother and Daddy transformed it into a “camper.” It was a four-step process.

  1. Mother made curtains out of white cotton.
  2. She used screws to attach screen door springs above the VW bus windows to use as curtain rods.
  3. Mother and Daddy removed the center seat from the VW bus.
  4. They put a twin mattress on the floor.

Project completed, we took off on our first VW adventure. I don’t remember where we went on that first VW camping trip, but it was probably to the Cumberland Mountains or to the Smokies, since they were our most common overnight excursions.

Boyd Hillbillies
My brother Steve, myself, and my mother on one of our many jaunts to the Smoky Mountains. I think we were at Hillbilly Village.

Mother and Daddy slept on the twin mattress. My brother Steve slept in the cargo area in the back. I slept across the two seats in the front of the bus along with the steering wheel and the four-in-the-floor gear shift.

As Joe Gargery often said to Pip in Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations, “What larks!”

I don’t remember ever planning to follow in my parents’ footsteps and try to take my own children lots of places, but early in our marriage, I had a cousin who lived near Washington, D.C. Ray and I were hoping we would soon start having children, so I told him, “Let’s go see Debbie and Chris and see Washington before we start having children.”

I was thinking, “We had better travel now while we can!” I had no idea then that by the time John our oldest was 21, we would have taken our children to all of the lower 48 states.

This is how that got started. We were living in Oxford, Mississippi, in 1984. John was five, Bethany two, and Mary Evelyn a little bitty thing. Friends asked us to go tent camping with them and we did. I hadn’t known you could camp with a baby, but that weekend I found out that you could.

We moved to Illinois the next year. The following spring or summer I told Ray, “We don’t know how long we will live up north. While we are up here, let’s go to Mount Rushmore.” He agreed, so we bought a tent and started our own make-it-work-somehow travel adventures. Mary Evelyn was so little, she called it “Mount Mushmore” (which is, of course, what we often call it still), and to her we came home through Misconsin.

Mount Mushmore 1986
John, Ray, Mary Evelyn, and Bethany are beside our tiny tent at our campsite near “Mount Mushmore.” What larks!

So, here is Budget Travel 101 — Lesson 1: Be willing to do what it takes to make your family dreams come true. I’m thankful for a mama who was willing to do just that.

An excellent wife, who can find?
For her worth is far above jewels.
The heart of her husband trusts in her,
And he will have no lack of gain.
She does him good and not evil
All the days of her life.
Proverbs 31:10-12

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