Tag Archives: vacation

1986 vacation

Trip Down

Started at 11:00 6/7 from Ashton. Saw convoy of Army/camo vehicles. At 1:30 had a flat front left tire about 5 miles or less away from El Paso [Illinois]. Stopped down at 2 gas stations to get new tire. We got our tire at J.M.K. Tire & Wheel in Bloomington. We also had lunch at J.M.K. Tire & Wheel. Next we went to the Miller Park Zoo. 35 cents for us and 75 cents for parents. First tigers, mountain lions, snow leopard, Indian lions, which live 15–30 years. 13–15 years snow leopards live. Lemur, fox snake, tarantula, iguana. We saw spotted turtle, hognose snake, spiny mouse, screech owl, sparrow hawk, jaguar, siren[?] monitor, alligator, boa, snapping turtle, painted turtle, softshell turtle, king snake, ferret, piranhas, birds, sea lions, otters, raccoons, red fox, donkeys.

Then, we drove again, this time to a park north of Kewanee, the Johnson-Sauk Trail State Park. We decided to stay. First we registered. Then we went to site #48. We had supper at 8:00 and went to bed. It also sprinkled. We woke around 6:00. I had slept on the cushions next to the window in the camper. When we got up, we dressed and had some toast. Then we went fishing.

Our whole family went, and Nace used his new pole and a white popper to catch 5 bluegill, the largest 7 inches and the smallest 6 1/4 inches. Dan hauled a snake ashore while Mom read Deerslayer. For breakfast we had Tang[?], eggs, sausage, toast. Mom and Dad made it while I cleaned up the camp and Nace and Dan cleaned fish. 

Our stay at this park was part of Plan B. We were going to go to Kentucky and the Smokies, but burning oil and a blown front tire cancelled those plans. Instead. Plan B says that we stay one night in a state park and then go to Door County, Wisconsin, in our Suburban. I guess we’ll see if that plan turns out. 

After eating breakfast about 10:00, we packed back up. We then left camp and headed north, toward Morrison. At eleven we stopped and got 17.4 gallons of gas at a Conoco gas station in Prophetstown. Starting back at camp, I had been riding in front with Dad. At 12:00, we came to Morrison Rockwood State Park and Carlton Lake. We stopped near a bait shop and bought 1 dozen worms for $1.10. We then drove around the park looking at campsites. Mom and Dad liked #37. Next we settled down in a parking lot near a bay. Nace caught 2, 1 bass and a bluegill, and Dan got 2 bluegill. Dad and I only got bites.

Around 2:00 we stowed the fishing gear in the truck and went into Morrison to get an ice cream cone. We first went to a One Stop Store to get our cones, but their machine was busted. We then went down to a drive in-type place where we each had a medium-sized chocolate-and-vanilla-mixed ice-cream cone, except Dad, who had a medium chocolate cone. 

When we got back into the truck and started it, Dad and I drove just to the other side of the lot and bought a block of ice from a gas station. Then we were on our way back to Morrison Rockwood State Park. We drove back to the park to choose a campsite. We drove slowly and discovered #34. A little later a ranger signed us in. It was about 3:30.

From about 4:00 to 5:00, Dad and I rested and napped while Mom read and my brothers played around. After our nap, we had supper. Tacos, fruit salad, and Kool-Aid were on the menu. Then when we were doing dishes, chopping wood, and recovering from supper, we heard a sound like a truck was stuck. We heard it several times, and until we saw that it was a rainbow colored hot air balloon, we had no recollection of what it could be. 

After cleaning up, we headed down to the Lake Carlton. We got 2 dozen crawlers and a bunch of minnows. We started fishing on a dock for crappie. Two nice men over a little farther down on the dock caught some and gave them to us. Though we caught some. I had 2, Nace had 2, Dan and Dad each had 1. Mom ran the stringer while Dan ran the fish from the man [men?] to Mom. One of the men had blondish hair while the other was older and had black hair and glasses. Our family packed the truck with our gear and headed back to camp to clean fish. I used Nace’s yellow knife and scaled 3-4 fish.

After getting the fish smell away from our hands, we built the fire and had s’mores. We each had two. I tried to darken my marshmallow to a golden brown.  After that we got ready to go to bed and we got to bed about 10:00, June 8, 1986. 


This morning we awoke around 7:00. Again, I slept on the cushions around the table. We got dressed and had some cocoa. Around 7:15 we left our campsite to go fishing. Our family got down to Lake Carlton and we got minnows. After just a little fishing, the man with the blond hair named “Red” arrive[d] and caught fish which he gave to us. “Andy,” the other man, also came, but later. Nace caught a crappie and a bass. Dad caught a bass. We couldn’t have had many at all if Red hadn’t given them to us. Red and his friend caught crappie on little lead-head jigs with yellow, white, or orange color. I tried my beetle spinner like that but had no results. Before we left, I took the minnows back to the shop to take but he didn’t. Later we packed the fish and went back to camp to clean fish. Dad, Nace, and I cleaned fish while Dan stacked them up in a pile. When a fish would fall off the pile, Dan would patiently pick it up and set it back of the stack. 

About 10:00, we had breakfast. Friend bluegill and crappie went with toast and orange juice. Dad burnt some toast. After that I made toast. I got them nice and crisp, but not burnt. Following breakfast, clean up and messing around were activities performed. I rolled sleeping bags and straightened up the camper while my brother[s?] tortured baitfish. About 11:30 we finished packing and got on the road again, but before that, Dad threw the garbage in a container the ranger set out. Then we left camp. We drove on the toll road till [sic] we hit the next town, Dixon. When then drove through and out of Dixon around 12:20.

Next we rode through Franklin Grove, on our way to Ashton and Dad’s house. Maybe 5 minutes out of Franklin Grove when we reached Dad’s house. Following the stop at Dad’s, we took off to our house. We arrived around 1:30. Right away we started to clean out the Suburban, which we were to take up to Washington Island. Dad came up around 3:00 and helped us repack. Later, after repacking, we left about 5:30. I was riding next to the window in the short seat. 

We drove up to Rockford and got some gas [at] station by the airport. Dad bought us some cones there, which he made himself. After that we got on the toll road and paid the toll. The road went through Rockford. From there we drove along highways through Elkhorn and Eagle. Eagle is neat because the whole town looks older, especially the motel. Going out of town, we took the Kettle Moraine Scenic Route. Kettles are potholes formed by glaciers and a moraine is a hill with rock in it dropped by the glacier. Out of town, we came up upon the Ottawa Lake Recreation Center. We decided to camp here for the night. The campsite is #81. After arriving[?], my brothers and I set up Nace’s tent while Mom and Dad worked to set up Dad’s tent. After we got Nace’s tent up, us [sic] boys explored around in the trails. We discovered an entrance to the lake. Then we went back to camp. Right away we went back out to collect firewood, but we didn’t get much of anything. By then Mom and Dad had gotten the tent up. Mom took us for a short walk next to the woods. Then we came back to camp, but then left for the building which has restrooms, sinks, and showers, where Dad got water. We went back to camp and started the stove. Mom made ham sandwiches while Dad made cocoa. We had cookies after that. I cleaned out a space in the back of the Suburban, where I slept. Mom and Dad slept in Dad’s tent, with their blankets zipped together because the wind was blowing very cold and fast. It might have been 20–30 mph. 

We all awoke around 6:30, 6/10. Right away I helped the boys put away their tent because it was sprinkling. By the time we left it was raining. Anyway, we had cereal about 7:00. Mom made Banana Nut Bread in the shape of a pancake. We started packing the truck up and taking down Dad’s tent, and we left Kettle Moraine State Park. Ottawa Lake is one part of it. We left the park at 8:00 with it cloudy and raining. Dad was driving, Mom was in the front seat, Nace and I were in the second seat, and little Danny in the back. Around 9:30 in a Standard station in Mayville we got gas and Mom started driving with Dad next to her. We drove on Highway[s] 67 and 41 and didn’t run into any rain until we came into Fon[d] du Lac. We saw just a little part of Lake Winnebago around 10:00. Rain still came down when we went through many towns, including Algoma, Kewanee, and Manitowoc, Two Rivers, Alaska, and Pipe, all along Lake Michigan. We stopped at 2 rest stops, one in Manitowoc, the other outside Algoma. Mom and Dan [or Dad?] looked at a motel, but they didn’t like it. From there we went to the Riverside Restaurant and Drive-in for lunch. I had a Deluxe Burger with tomato, lettuce, and onion and a Dr. Pepper. We left there at 2:00. Dad got a paper on the way out.

At 2:30, we drove into Potawatomi State Park. We drove through the campsites to choose one. I liked either #42 or #48. Both were next to a cliff with rocks and were in the woods. We ended up with #42. We drove out and set up our tents. I climbed up the cliffs to the top. The climb is about 30 feet or more. Dad chopped two logs of pine. We went from there to the boat launch that goes into Sturgeon Bay. I picked up a couple of rocks, but lost them. We went back on the road and went partway up a tower. Mom stopped 2/3 of the way up because you couldn’t see much. We went to Sturgeon Bay. Roy’s Red Owl is a grocery where we bought our food. We went back to camp and had pork and beans, hot dogs, and soup. For dessert we ate s’mores.

I slept with Mom and Dad in their tent. In the night, one time it rained very hard, and another time it thundered and lightninged. We woke around 7:00 and had eggs, toast, and bacon for breakfast. Dad built a fire, but it was hard. After breakfast when Mom was doing dishes, Chipy the Chipmunk ran around rocks near our campsite. He ate from an apple core on the rocks. We let camp at 12:00. We went down to Sturgeon Lake to let Nace and Dan fish while Dad and I played catch. At 12:15, we left and got on the road home. We only stopped twice, one [stop] for gas in Appleton and one in a waystation outside Kickapoo [this location name might be incorrect]. We traveled on Highway #26 most of the way. At the waystation we had lunch. We hit a toll north of Rockford. Also, at the waystation, Mom and Dad changed positions. Mom drove the rest of the way home. We reached Stillman at 6:45, thus ending our 1986 vacation.

As a conclusion, we saw a rainbow when driving on North Cox Road. 

[From a pocket notebook entitled “’86 + ’89 Vacation Tactical Navigator Log.” I turned 12 in 1986.]

‘Let’s go show ’em what we fy-ound’: Notes from a week in the South

The full name of this store is "Crabs - We Got 'Em"

The full name of this restaurant at the public parking lot at Pensacola Beach is “Crabs – We Got ‘Em.” 19 June 2016.

“Have fun on your stupid trip,” said Caitlyn One Waitress at our diner as we ate breakfast before leaving for a 14-hour drive to Pensacola, Florida. Of course, Caitlyn One also told us, “I could barely go to Wisconsin Dells,” a two-hour drive away. 18 June.

"Pensacola Bch"? Pensacola Bitch?

Pensacola Bitch?

Crossing the Ohio River from Illinois into Kentucky, my wife said, “Now it’s really vacation. We’re not in Illinois anymore … though I’m not really sure now much ‘Kentucky’ says ‘vacation.'” 18 June.

View of Pensacola Beach from the third-floor men's room near the Drowsy Poet

View of Pensacola Beach from the third-floor men’s room near the Drowsy Poet coffeehouse. The Quietwater Beach is on the left, the south-facing, gulf-facing beach is out of sight beyond the center of the photo.

“Alabama is definitely the Nebraska of the south: a long frustrating state … between me and where I want to be,” my wife said as we drove south on I-65. Alabama is “prettier,” she said, but “just as unrelenting in its nothingness” of roadsides showing but wall-to-wall forests. 19 June.

Truck-nuts of a state highway logo.

Alabama exit sign.

“Truck nuts of a state road sign,” my wife said of the Alabama logo, where the gulf coast part of the state does seem to dangle a bit. 19 June.

A black skimmer bird, I think, at the beach at about sundown.

A black skimmer bird, I think, at the beach at about sundown.

As M. drove on I-65, she said of other drivers as she was speeding up, “Alright, fukkers, you’re between me and my beach.” 19 June.

Groovy sand dollar remains.

Groovy sand dollar remains.

At lunch in the Boardwalk Cafe at the Quietwater Beach at Pensacola Beach: A mom-ish woman said to a teen-ish girl, who’d been talking about parasailing: “You know what you’re gonna do? You’re gonna end up talkin’ yourself out of it … and it’ll all work, and if you did drop your sunglasses, you can say, ‘remember when I went parasailing and watched ’em go smash?’ It’ll be a better memory.” And then the young woman said, “Are you guys gonna be out on the boat with us?” And the older woman answered, “No, we’re goin’ shoppin.” 20 June.

Crucifix tramp-stamp.

Crucifix tramp-stamp.

“Think of Jeezus as you’re doin’ me from behind,” I heard someone say as we both spied a woman with a crucifix tramp stamp. 20 June.

Garbage bin at the marina: No fish carcasses!

Garbage bin at the marina: No fish carcasses!

“No shirt, no shoes, no problem, but please, no Speedos,” said a guy on a dolphin cruise boat — the “CHASE-N-FINS” — over his loudspeaker. 20 June.

Two days later, I heard a roll-call coming from that same boat. A young adult was calling out these names, to which elementary students answered “… Analise, Oliver, Micah, Isabelle, Hunter, Kaden, Isaac, Riley … Scarlett…” 22 June.

No booze, except at the beach.

No booze, except at the beach.

“Atticus was the daddy I always wanted,” said a woman at the hotel pool who saw me reading To Kill a Mockingbird. 21 June.

Alligator heads at Alvin's Island store.

Alligator head end cap display at Alvin’s Island store.

These alligators died for farm-related reasons.

These alligators died for farm-related reasons.

“Wur ’bout to do this thang,” said a white guy, seemingly in all seriousness of accent, outside of a watercraft rental place at Pensacola Beach. 20 June.

A beach corrugation with white sand.

A beach corrugation with white sand and sand dollar.

“Life and death. There it is, right off the end of the marina,” I said of big fish chasing little ones. 20 June.

A barracuda lies in wait around the corner of the elevator at our hotel.

A barracuda lies in wait around the corner of the elevator at our hotel.

“seh-CURE-ih-tee!” mock-shouted a 50-60-year-old dark-haired woman at the hotel pool as she tried to adjust her chaise lounge. She finally said, “I got it!” Another of the women in her party said, “I doubt it.” “Security!” was about the only spoken word of hers that I could make out through her southern accent. 21 June.

“He’s swimmin’ nay-ow!” said the dark-haired older woman to a gray-haired women, who had been teaching water-motility skills to a young boy. “And that’s how you can float on your back,” she’d said to the boy earlier. 21 June.

Please don't crap in the Hampton hotel's pool.

Please don’t crap in the Hampton hotel’s pool.


At the beach at evening, a woman said to a toddler, “Let’s go show ’em what we fy-ound,” with that last word having two syllables. 20 June.

The view on walking into Flounder's boutique.

The view on walking into Flounder’s boutique.

“I’m almost sick of the ocean — there’s too much of it,” said my wife as she was a little overwhelmed on the morning of our second day at the beach. She was less overwhelmed after a nap. 21 June.

A morning view of the marina near the coffeeshop.

A morning view of the marina near the coffeeshop.

“Now he’s walking slow as molasses … he hasn’t gone all day,” said a woman to another woman, perhaps about the 3-4-year-old boy as they and my wife and I all rode the hotel elevator one floor. 21 June.

At the Cactus Flower restaurant on the boardwalk, a 40-ish-year-old woman whose button-down shirt stopped well short of her white-patterned bikini bottoms came in with her family. A posted sign said that shirt and shoes were required, but the sign hadn’t claimed the necessity of pants. 21 June.

Two jazz musicians at Lillo's at Pensacola Beach.

Two jazz musicians at Lillo’s at Pensacola Beach. 22 June.

Be “ready to catch the meatball,” said the sax player at Lillo’s Tuscan Grill as he picked up his horn and aimed it toward my wife and me. His guitarist had already started playing a jazz version of Gershwin’s “Summertime.” Later, near the end of the song, the sax player added, “meatball’s comin’.” 21 June.

We went to Lillo’s the next night, too, and we heard him joke of the place, “you can tell it’s a classy place when they have lefthanded forks,” said Joe, the sax guy, 22 June.

“Don’t try to jump on that, dude. It’s pretty unpredictable,” said an adult guy in the pool. He had a full (but not long) beard, sunglasses, and a rust-orange baseball cap with an outline of the state of Texas on it. He said this to a young boy who was trying to jump on a floating object from the edge of the pool. After warning the boy a second time, the man said, “I did that one time; it didn’t feel good.” 22 June.

A little later, that boy, or his brother, was told by their mother, “five minutes time out. If he wants to act dumb at the pool, I’m gonna act dumb with him, too.” 22 June.

A folded bill on the tip jar at Drowsy Poet cafe.

A folded bill on the tip jar at Drowsy Poet cafe.

A waitress asked if she could get the plates “out of yer-all’s way?” 21 June.

“Would you stop talking like that? You’re gonna do it in public and then we’re gonna have to get killed,” my wife said of my repeating certain southern-accented phrases, such as when I heard a man at a breakfast place order “a sahd of” hash browns or something. 22 June.

A young girl declared that she was about to do a “butt-sit” on the bottom of the pool. 23 June.

From the balconies above the hotel pool, I heard a Southern- accented teenage female voice shout: “Let me see ’em — Ah get to pick!” A short time later, I heard the same voice shout, “You take one mo-er and this goes off the balcony!” 23 June.

My journal in front of a palm tree

My homemade (recycled cover around blank pages) journal in front of a palm tree at Pensacola Beach.

I asked a serious-seeming woman about the fairy tales books on her table at the Pensacola Beach Drowsy Poet coffeehouse. She said she was doing academic research about fairy tales and Shakespeare, and we talked about teaching writing. It was a fun conversation. Later that day, I searched her name, “Tana” (short for “Montana,” she said), and “Shakespeare,” and I found this website that seems to be hers, and it lists a number of her publications, several of which I was glad to read. It was neat to find out someone I had just met was so accomplished, but had I known that before meeting her, I might have acted like an awed fan, and then I might not have had as good a conversation. This was something I thought about again when I went to the Harper Lee hometown and thought of Lee not as a regular person but as an idea, quasi-magical Writer Harper Lee.

My homemade (recycled cover around blank pages) journal at the Monroeville, Alabama, County Old Courthouse.

My homemade (recycled cover around blank pages) journal at the Monroeville, Alabama, County Old Courthouse. 25 June.

After a tense couple minutes during which several lifeguards had searched for a missing boy at the Quietwater Boardwalk, the boy was found and he was safe, and as the lifeguards were leaving the boardwalk, a bystander teasingly asked if there were any sharks out there. “We checked all the waters: you’re set, man,” responded one lifeguard. 24 June.

The gray streak on left side of photo is the dolphin seen by boatmate Jeff and my wife, on right.

Swimming with wild dolphins off the Panama City Beach coast. The gray streak on left side of photo is the dolphin seen by our boatmate Jeff and my wife, on right. 23 June.

A dolphin.

A dolphin in clear blue water. As this was the best view I could get from above the water, I decided to push off the front of the pontoon boat with the others and see through the goggles. We saw dolphins several times, including babies with big ones, and my wife got within arm’s length of one big dolphin that glided slowly below her. I also heard some of the dolphin’s squeaks when my head was below water line.

View of Shell Island near Panama City Beach from the back of the pontoon boat from which we sought dolphins.

View of Shell Island near from the back of the pontoon boat from which we sought dolphins. Floating facedown and parallel to the waves, I felt lifted and dropped, like I was in a car getting a little airborne over a hill.

Beach lizard in my view as I wrote my journals, 25 June.

Beach lizard in my view as I wrote my journals, 25 June.

At the Tennessean truck stop near Lewisburg, TN. The fine print explains that $99.99 buys 16,000 firecrackers.

At the Tennessean truck stop near Cornersville, TN. The fine print explains that $99.99 buys 16,000 firecrackers. 25 June.