Where it all began… my love of travel, passion for adventure, and the realization that the world stretched sooo much further than what I could see down my front sidewalk. Dad drove us from Ohio… to Alaska. Five females, one Winnebago and one very brave man ; )
My parents’ first home had an empty living room for many years. For my three sisters and me, it was a welcome extension to our play space. But for my parents, it represented a decision that enriched our lives.
The story goes that when my dad purchased a camper, the neighbor girl next door wanted one for her family too. Within a couple of days, Julie rang our front doorbell, stepped in far enough to peer into the vacant room just off the entry, and then wordlessly walked past my mother and back home. We found out later that her visit was to verify her mom’s explanation that, “Yes, the Dugans may have a camper, but they don’t have any living room furniture!”
That room eventually gained my grandparents’ baby grand piano, and later, a sofa, love seat, and a couple of swivel chairs. By then, however, my dad had already driven us through most of the United States and Canada. His curiosity took us up the east coast and by ferry boat to Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. It carried us across the Plains, into the Southwest, and even north to Alaska. I remember fresh lobster at Peggy’s Cove, a late lunch atop the revolving Space Needle with views of Mount Rainier and a pre-eruptive Mount St. Helens in Seattle, fresh salmon in Fairbanks, and countless peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on the road.
There was the occasional battle for a KOA or Jellystone RV Park where my sisters and I luxuriated in chlorinated pools and ate canned stew as our camper sat, resignedly parked within a grid of lots that felt strangely similar to the suburbs of home. The remote sites next to untouched streams or under canopied pines are the mental snapshots that linger with clearest focus, however. These explorable playgrounds of rocks and trees and water held wonderful secrets for even the casual adventurer. We reveled in the acoustics of our “concert performances” atop giant boulders in the northwestern woods. We optimistically tossed rock after rock into the edge of a crystalline Canadian lake in hopes of crossing to the mountain on the other side. We sketched the elaborate castles and cities our imaginations discovered within the eerie majesty of Bryce and Zion National Park’s pinnacles and cathedrals.
Dad eventually “upgraded” to a motor home, apparently realizing that five females would never make it up the unpaved (at that time) Al-Can highway without restroom stops. Alaska had been on his travel list for years and was our lengthiest summer adventure.
We ferried up the Inward Passage, sleeping at night in our sleeping bags stretched across the boat deck.
We camped beside Mendenhall Glacier, peeking at a fresh iceberg through our bunk window in the starlight.
We traveled to Denali National Park, which was just as majestic and rife with wildlife back then when it was named ” McKinley”. Through Fairbanks and the Yukon… We went as far north as Dad could take us -to Pt Barrow, the northernmost US community where a young Eskimo girl became my newest friend and most distant pen pal.
We learned in spite of ourselves. We were on vacation from school, but history and geography lessons readily seeped into our curious minds. I took my first photographs with my dad’s old Brownie and began journaling in green stenographer notebooks. Wish I knew where those pages were today…
My parents died young twelve short years ago. In the moments I miss them most, I slide back into these distant memories; to the family explorations that fueled the curiosity that drives me yet today. I smile when I remember that empty living room and am so thankful my parents filled young girls with dreams before they filled their floor space.
*Forgive the old photos. I took them as a twelve-year old in August of 1974, and they hold more sweet memories than pixels…
Updated from July 8, 2007.1 Comment