I suppose it should come as no surprise at this point that my parents and the rest of my family have some crazy in them. I give my father a lot of the “crazy credit”. He definitely kept our life interesting. You see, my father had a knack for collecting random things- he’d get on a kick of collecting something and he’d go a bit overboard. When I was about 8 or 9 years old, he started collecting Cushman Motor Scooters from the 1950’s and 1960’s. He would attend and even host “Scooter meets” where hundreds of people would gather with their Cushman Motor scooters, geek out over these scooters and then all go for a ride in the local area on the scooters. Think like a motorcycle gang, but way geekier.
One of the most memorable vacations we took when I was young was to a small obscure town in Texas – Cleburne, TX. For some reason, the motor scooter meet that year was in Cleburne and of course, we had to go (not that we really had a choice, but still…)
So, we packed up our station wagon – the ever so lovely Caprice Classic with the adhesive wood grain paneling – and hitched up a trailer full of motor scooters.
I’d venture to guess that we had between 3 and 5 scooters on our trailer. He’d usually bring one he was looking to sell or trade. We all had scooters of our own. My dad preferred the Eagle models.
My brother had one that looked like this:
My mom had one with a side-car so I could ride with her (I was too young to have my own). Yes, it’s true – even I got in on the fun. Our scooter looked like this, but it was solid orange and it had a side car attached, of course…
So, off we go – a giant station wagon pulling a trailer loaded with these scooters. We were truly a site to behold. Stuff a family of five in there with a rowdy middle child who loved to pick on his two sisters and you have a recipe for a real FUN family vacation that doesn’t differ much from National Lampoon’s “Vacation”.
To make things even MORE interesting, my father insisted taking the new interstate that was not yet open – up to Alexandria, LA. I-49 was just being built during this time, but he assured us that all of the pavement and bridges were complete, they just hadn’t gotten around to striping (painting) the roadway yet. So we take the scenic route onto the entrance ramp – we have to travel up a steep, grassy bank to the on ramp near an overpass. My initial fear is that the overpass would not be complete, but it was and soon we were on our way north to Alexandria.
I am not much of a rule-breaker (those who know me in real life can confirm this), so seeing my father so blatantly break the rules did not sit well with me. I was constantly on edge the entire time we were driving on this unopened interstate. What I feared most was being pulled over by a police officer, but I never anticipated what happened next.
As we’re driving in the north-bound lanes (we were at least in the proper lane) and my father is basking in the pure genius decision of his to take this unopened interstate as a shortcut, we see a bi-plane coming straight toward us.
The pilot is obviously using the interstate as a runway. I point this out to my father – that we are basically going to hit this plane as it’s coming directly toward us – and his response “Oh honey, he’ll take off before he hits us, trust me.” As an adult, I think he knew how much this bothered me and that’s precisely WHY he responded with that remark.
Did he slow down? Nope. We just kept barreling toward the plane and hoped for the best. All said and done, it worked out beautifully as the plane took off just before we were to collide – thank goodness. We continued on to Alexandria and then finally reached our destination in Cleburne.
I don’t remember much else about the scooter meet. I do recall lots of scooters, a vast metal building where the meet was held and some crappy hotel where we stayed. We were always too cheap to get two rooms, so all 5 of us were crammed into one room. It was glorious family time (NOT), but we can pretend, right?
Figuring that the journey to Cleburne held so much fun and excitement, I was expecting a mild trip back home. Unfortunately, that was not to be had. Yet again, we take the unopened interstate back down to the tiny town of Washington, LA – where we lived at the time and we proceed to get not 1, but 2 flat tires on the station wagon – at the same time.
My father assesses the situation and changes one of the tires, the one with the fastest leak. The second tire is refilled with a tiny portable air compressor that you plug into the cigarette lighter of your vehicle. Those things work as well as a bicycle pump (if you ask me) and it would take forever to get enough air in the tire to make it a few miles down the road. To make matters worse, we were on an unopened interstate, so there was no traffic and no one to be able to assist us and there were no gas stations off the interstate where we could go for help. Add to it that it was a Sunday afternoon in rural Louisiana and the probability that we could even find a gas station that was open at that time did not put the odds in our favor in terms of getting home swiftly, much less safely.
I cannot remember how we found a gas station in the end, but we did and we were able to patch both tires and get home safely. I will never forget that weekend trip to Cleburne for that Cushman Scooter meet.
History repeats itself (kinda)
Coincidentally, about 10 years later, my father was taking my step-mother and their two kids to another scooter meet in their family sedan, pulling a trailer full of scooters and he ran out of gas – in the middle of rural Texas. I was not there, but from what he told me, the kids became aware of the situation (that the car is out of fuel) and begin to ask what they are going to do. My father responds “If you’re lucky, we’ll be able to coast to that tiny area of shade up there and you’ll get to sit in the car in the shade, until I can figure out what to do.”
In the end, he wound up finding a plastic soda bottle along the shoulder of the road, using his Leatherman multi-tool to fashion a funnel out of the top of the bottle and used the bottom portion to gather gas out of the scooters. He would then transfer it to the gas tank using the funnel. I can imagine how slow and arduous this process was as the gas tanks on the scooters are like most motorcycles – near the handlebars. To get gas out of them, he’d have to tip them sideways and catch the fuel in the soda bottle. He was able to get enough gas out of the scooters to drive to the closest gas station to fill up their car.
I suppose these stories prove that life with my father was rarely boring. I have a friend who likes to say “It’s not the stuff that goes right on a trip that you remember, it’s the stuff that goes wrong that makes it fun and memorable.” Coincidentally, he is also an interesting fellow and has plenty of stories to tell. Now, when we’re traveling and we run into situations that are not necessarily in our “plan”, I revel in the memories we’re making. Sometimes just a slightly different perspective can shift an entire situation from being torturous to being adventurous or even fun.