Camping trips, trail hikes, family reunions, amusement parks and the list goes on.... My parents, aside from any others, had the most frustrating times of family planning throughout most 90's decade. Not a lot of stuff took off as planned due to them both getting into the usual parental arguments, but a few years were covered to some extent. Heck even the smallest thing could set them off...
But what we were given were just a few years in experiencing summer. Not only that but there were members of the family that I hadn't even seen before, despite the late years of my youth. So today I have for you the misadventures of the most memorable summer vacations that I spent with my family. Or as I like to call...
It was in the middle of '94, and school had just let out. I envied summer just as much as my folks, so after coming home I was told by my dear ol' maw to tidy up my bedroom and organize any leftover school stuff that I had left. My trapper keepers, erasers, and textbooks had already bitten the dust, so I threw them out and kept whatever was either unused or still looked like new and had put them in my closet for safekeeping (though I was the type of person to freak out the next school year and forget where my stuff was kept last).
I suffered the same fate. But it didn't get me down.
And with the school supply cleaning process over and done with, my family and I had a little gathering in the living room for any ideas in going somewhere. It was common that my parents had absolutely no money at this time of year after paying for their bills and going out to buy crap that they didn't need. Having TWO count 'em, TWO home theaters seemed a little over the line, but if my dad wanted a theater system for his bedroom, he's gonna have that system in his bedroom, no matter what. So we thought... And we thought... Until my older brother mentioned Busch Gardens Williamsburg.
This place... was a dream come true. It wasn't just your run-of-the-mill theme park, oh no. This had amusement rides, roller coasters, and classic arcade games, the kind that had water shooting, precision aiming, etc.. They did have video game arcades as well, though I never got to go in to try any.
Now to get started, this wasn't just a theme park all in one. It had different sections for all of its attractions, based on different states, such as Germany, Italy and Ireland. Was I eager for the trip? You know I was.
The car trip as a whole lasted two hours, and due to a lack of travel games, a conversation started, and my eldest sister secretly pulled out her old Gameboy handheld playing Kirby's Dreamland with the volume down. Our dad was always the first to start, so he casually mentioned his time at work, and getting fired in the process. I'll just admit it, he was always a failure at staying in a good mood at each job he went to. So I butted in before we all droned to sleep and talked about my year at school. And before we knew it, we were already at the Busch Gardens toll, paying for a ticket, immediately followed by a long LONG half hour of finding a parking spot. We then ventured to a tour guide car before going to buy a season pass.
And of course with it being a tour before even getting to purchasing the pass, we are given some neat viewpoints of what the theme park looks like as our tour goes around its interior. Seeing the roller coasters though did kind of give me a gut feeling as I had a fear of heights at the time, but I was curious to check out the amusement rides. And since the weather was blazing hot I wanted to try out "Roman Rapids". Which was a water ride in which up to six people can go in a flume and float down a canal.
So as the tour was over, we were dropped off at the pass purchase center and my dad purchased the season pass, which was supposedly good for one year, so even if we had another school year, we could come back during a weekend and enjoy the experience all over. But before going any further we had to get our hands stamped for approval in arriving to the park. Once that was said and done, I finally asked my parents if we could go on Roman Rapids, so we strolled all the way to the Italy area to get to it.
Before getting in the ride, we have a line of people in front of us, and further down is a trail of stairs that takes us down to a rotating platform and a dock for the flumes. We headed into ours after about fifteen minutes of waiting, and as we're buckled in the ride technician pushes our flume out into the canal. The ride starts out calm, then soon picks up by the currents pushing us faster. What was also interesting was the 25 cent machine nearby that could shoot out water causing the riders to get wet. As the ride comes to a close, we're then taken uphill leading back to the dock.
Well, my older brother and sister wanted to try out the Lochness Monster, one of the first roller coasters that we encountered, and one of the first in the theme park. I make a sigh of relief as I see that I'm not tall enough for it, so I watched them both ride it.
The ride starts off slow, as usual, but then it begins to go into interlocking loops all the while letting you see some of the the sights around the park. Just don't blink or you might miss some.
So with my siblings off of the ride, we decided to go and eat some lunch. Now Busch Gardens did have their own food bars and malt shops, but we didn't want to pay for any food there... Yet. I will say that they did have some great options for meals though. So we headed back to our car and empty out the cooler from the trunk. Half of the ice that was keeping our beverages cold was already melted so we got we could and opened our satchels to eat as quick as possible.
Of course some of the time the inside of the car trunk would look like this, either because of my dad's excuse of "meaning to clean it out before a certain type of event" or "feeling too tired from work", but my mom gladly stepped in to take care of that as we packed our things for the trip. My siblings and I pretty much packed our food as we do for an occasional school lunch. You know the usual meal/healthy food/snack combo. Yep, that was us. A family so used to the school year that we prepared our food like we were still in it.
We were all still soaked from Roman Rapids, so we decided to grab a pair of dry clothes that we kept as well. My dad being the dork he was, decided to just get dressed while still in the parking lot while the rest of us went to the bathrooms to change. Him and my mom had kind of an argument about what mattered about where to change, so it pretty much left from there. After changing into some fresh attire, he meets with us again for another ride.
The Land of Dragons area, which just happened to open that very year, was a place of kids' attractions. "Flutter Sputter" was a ride featuring dragons that went up and down in a carousel type way. My fear of heights wasn't a problem at all with this one of course.
There was also a treehouse-like play area that I went to as well, so I decided to traverse into it before we all left the area.
The Tradewinds was our next ride in line. It was back in the Italy area, and also seemed like a carousel ride, only this one stayed on floor, but also went upwards. This thing went FAST, and I had hoped that we could've used this as a way to dry off after getting off of the flume ride.
Well, time didn't seem to stay in our hands for very long, so we decided to check out one of their live shows before leaving. Jack Hanna's Wild Reserve was our stop, and featuring a few animal experts who had several different wild animals to perform a variety of tricks. On a rare chance There would be a parrot they had that would fly around the audience, and if one of the people sitting was to hold their arm out high enough, it would perch on it. It was a very entertaining fifteen minute show, and it was exciting to see the many different animals.
By that time it was already dusk at the theme park, and glow lights were being sold around some of the areas. My dad gladly got be a green glow stick and we headed out of the pass center, awaiting our trip from the tour guide car to take us back to the parking lot.
And only a little while after being on the road it was pitch dark outside. We weren't up for much of a conversation, so we just talked every now and then. When we were smack dab in the middle of the trip on going back home, I could swear that I saw a hitch hiker standing near a ditch awaiting a ride, but my dad just let him be. I'm sure he would've given us trouble anyway.
So as we're finally home at our cul-de-sac trailer park lot, our belongings are put back and I spend the rest of the night at my friend's house playing a bit of Super Mario Kart on his SNES and his mom orders out some Domino's pizza. Before we drone out for the night I take him on some 2 player battle competition, followed by a 500cc GP mushroom cup race, taking turns playing as Yoshi after each race was finished. No matter how my other friends played, the both of us could smoke them as either Yoshi or Koopa. Except when we were dumb enough to toss a green shell as it ricocheted right back in front of us.
He performed a bit better than Mario, and he was chosen more than Koopa was in terms of making turns.
So just before I turned in we watched a bit of some of the shows on SNICK. You know the usual suspects, The Ren & Stimpy Show, Are You Afraid of the Dark, and All That. As the block came to a close for the night, we finished off what was left of the pizza and went to sleep. Following the next morning, I left around 8 A.M. to take a bath and head outside to play. The family and I didn't really have much to offer that same year but to go back to Busch Gardens, leading to summer of '95.
We kinda took it slow on this one since we were making two trips this time around. We first ventured out to a park called NorthWest River, a familiar place that my dad had gone to from time to time before meeting with my mom.
It was about twenty miles away from us, but it was never too packed nor was it a noisy environment. Not too far from the park is, well, the river itself. You could take a canoe for the payment of six bucks an hour and paddleboats for five bucks for every hour.
The activities that my family and I shared came from the same experiences. We brought a few outside activity games like paddleball, football/catch, and velcro ball. Occasionally we would take our dogs with us, either for them to play a game of fetch or to go with us on the hiking trail. And that's where we go to next.
From here on is a trail that lasted a good hour or two for us to walk back out of. It's not easy at all to get lost, but that's how long that it would normally take for us to get out. It's because of how much we observed nature within the trail. Along the bridges that formed over the lakes in the area I fed the ducks and watched the fish splash out of the water. But because of how narrow the trail was we had to keep our dogs good distance from anyone that crossed our paths who also had dogs.
Just as the park connected with the hiking trail, the river did the same. At times we pointed out fishing bobbers that were seen hung over tree branches. We didn't fish here often, but believe it or not I caught my biggest fish here, a largemouth bass that was over forty inches in length. Truth to be told though, I never did get into fishing. Maybe it was the fact that I had a dad who encouraged his own son to go play in traffic, but it's behind me now.
When not playing games in the park area, we usually went back to our car to unpack the cooler full of hotdogs, potato chips, lunchmeat sandwiches, and canned soda, then go to the shelter area to eat or meal. Depending on the number of snacks back at home, I sometimes brought my own such as fruit roll-ups and rice krispies treats. If the dogs were with us, we had their leashes tied to the legs of the chairs, but sometimes that wasn't enough. One of us had to stop enjoying our meal and hold onto their leashes while the others ate.
We stayed for maybe a good amount of five to six hours, and then spent the rest of the day at home either watching a movie or some family friendly shows on Fox or ABC.
So before summer was almost over, we had a family reunion all the way down in Greenville Ohio. This would be the first time that I would meet some of the members of the family on my mom's side who happened to live out in the country area. Our intention was to stay for a good two weeks down there, so each of us had our own suitcases to bring, three could fit in the trunk, and two others had to be with us in the backseat. There was an elderly couple that were friends of my mom who lived across the street from us, so we had them watch over our pets while we were away. we had a housekey made for them in the process since they were one of the few reliable neighbors in the trailer park.
Funny I should mention my pets, because that very same time of leaving we received a call from the neighbors about our dog turning on the living room television. It was a short phase though, so he stopped doing that after a small step in discipline.
We stopped at our grandma's house before leaving, and upon hearing about our trip she lent us some cash to make for any restaurant stops and any trips to the gas station. We stayed for about an hour upon hearing her babble about her job working at a printing factory, and we were given a batch of cookies for the road. They were in a variety of oatmeal and chocolate chip, so I stashed a few of the chocolates and finished 'em off quick before the sun melted the chocolate chips. Yeah, I'm not a fan of oatmeal cookies. Nor oatmeal raisin, but I did eat raisins plain.
I wasn't fond of this car trip, mostly because of the jetlag feeling I had during the whole experience, whenever we made a small stop at a restaurant or gas station I just had to get out and stretch for a bit before dreading the rest of the trip. We also had sleeping bags in the car to sleep with, though for whatever reason I don't know, since we had plain blankets that we could just take. I had to just sleep with a plain pillow since at the time I was still dealing with bed wetting problems. Upon getting close to Ohio, we paid a toll to go through the next intersection.
the wait was about ten minutes for us, so while we were waiting for our turn my dad caught us by surprise by playing a Tom Petty CD. Normally he listens to Matchbox 20 or Hall & Hoates, but I guess he bought it exclusively for the trip.
As we make it through the toll, Ohio is another hundred miles down the road, so I decide to cause a bit of mischief with my sister as she's getting through a level of Super Mario Land on her Gameboy, and then getting cut short as the handheld is handed over to our mom. One last restaurant trip, and we're finally instate.
Our first stop was at my uncle Greg's house. He's drunk off his ass watching football, but we're greeted and given a tour by my aunt Angie. I wasn't too fond about hanging around them, but they were family so I couldn't be rude.
Here's my uncle Greg and aunt Angie. I apologize for the rather small photos, but they were the only ones straight from their Facebook. We spent half of our time with them playing outside sports like volleyball, though sometimes cut short because of the nasty weather. It would snow occasionally in the state, though.
Our next visit was at my aunt Shelby's house, which was a little farther down in the countryside. We spent some time watching a few movies, and got to know each other fairly quickly. We also met two cousins, Michael and Lacey. Mike was around 15-ish at the time, and Lacey was pretty much my age, 8.
Aunt Shelby, Lacey and Mike at their current age. Had a bit of a hard time looking for older photos, so I just had to deal with these.
Mike seemed to be more interesting of the two, since he was into playing guitar. He bonded well with my older brother, but I got along with Lacey and Shelby more so it didn't matter.
Before the last days of our leave we spent those nights at our grandma's house and went out to a few restaurants, mostly McDonald's since it was the closest in town, and in the morning my grandma would serve us a set of waffles or we'd get some cereal if we were the first ones up before the adults. This was also my first time eating the Kroger's Store discount cereal, King Vitamin.
Sweet merciful Batman this stuff was good! Unfortunately none of the grocery stores in my state had it on their shelves at the time, so I just had what I could live with.
Our trip back was a dreadful one, but we made it back safely. As for the senior neighbors watching over our pets, everything was all hunky dory and they gave us back the key that we made for them. And so, with another year of summer gone, we hit the summer of 1996.
By this time I was nearing middle school, however my dad had something up his sleeve. Camping. Originally he thought that I would be a good loyal member for the boy scouts, but I never made it in so his means of getting me to know the wilderness was to have me learn the basics of camping out, all the while dealing with those pesky bugs and some of the crappy weather that came by every now and then.
So one evening I was told to pack my things while my brother and sister got to stay home and hang with their friends. We weren't leaving that night, but I went to bed early, only to wake up at the crack of dawn and head to a campground that was just a little farther than NorthWest River. This campground had more features to it though, a boating dock, a fishing hole, and a hiking trail were all waiting for us. So my dad proudly takes out his camping tent and sleeping bags while I had gotten the other supplies.
I was surprised to see that the tent we had wasn't the usual triangle shaped ones seen in the cartoons, but it didn't matter. So as we dug out the rest of the supplies I was told to put the fishing lures in with the tools, and to let the hooks be as he got his fuel lamp ready. It was still pretty damn dark outside so he carried it around the parking spot as he held some of the supplies in one hand while i carried the rest in handfuls, and slept in a bit after getting our stuff all set.
Unfortunately it started off as a nasty day, so we got our water proof jackets ready and decided to make some ham and bacon. I wasn't entirely fond of the grills that they had to offer. Not because of them being just out in the open, but because whoever was using them last either left cigarette butts under the trays or never picked up any leftover food that was left hanging from it.
And to quote Skippy Squirrel: "SPEWWWW!"
But jokes aside, I had a love/hate relationship with the experience as we'd gotten this far already. I was sure that my dad would understand the level of boredom that I'd leveled to, but this was possibly because of my previous time of going to Busch Gardens. Nothing was clicking because I wanted to go there rather than spending time with nature. You could say that at the time I got easily bored with certain outdoor activities and had fun with others, but this was my youth, and I didn't develop a strong sense of discovery until a few years later.
Getting back onto terms, our main focus of camping was to try at fishing. This was a little familiar to me since I'd once been on a fishing trip with my uncle Terry who once lived way down in Pennsylvania. I had to dig deeper into this sport because it was really the only casual one that I hadn't gotten involved in very much at the time. As far as the catches went though, I managed to catch a few speckled trouts. I only say a few because, well, my dad wasn't always the best at finding a good time to have us set our stuff up during our time at the river. One, because he took so long in setting up the supplies, and two, it took me forever to get my breakfast in my stomach. I was lucky enough to catch a 50 inch largemouth bass at a late point of our camping trip. It was a real achievement to me for this time in my life, and I was a little proud for the effort.
Our tackle box pretty much had the same layout and features of this one, and it really kept the bait, nightcrawlers and bobbers in a neat and tidy fashion. It was kept for a good several years, and was eventually sold and replaced.
Well to my surprise, my dad had set up vacation time from his job to take me out to this camping, or moreso, fishing experience, and time was closing in, so as one last Saturday came along, we packed up our supplies and folded the tent back up and headed back home as the sun was going down.
And, as a welcome home I received a hug from my siblings and my mother, and spent the last days of my '96 summer watching cartoons, and playing Pilowings 64 and Super Mario 64.
My last real year of summer didn't start with a bang, but more of a poof. By this time, my older sister decided that it was time to move out and live closer to some relatives that lived far away from us, and whom I'd never met before, that, and my older brother was spending more time outside of the house and with his friends, so at this point I felt a little bummed out, especially with my mom at home doing all sorts of chores while my dad would be at work with longer hours. So mandatory to this year of summer was to be outside, everyday. Though just playing simple games like "hide and go seek" and "red rover" wasn't enough for me. I loved causing mischief though sometimes getting me into trouble.
My first activity of "fun" came from a mattress in front of a small abandoned shed. A friend of mine had dared me to take a ladder from the back of a neighbor's house and go up on top of the shed, and jump down to land on the mattress. Well, the both of us managed to try it out a good twenty times until a nosy neighbor had caught us and called the landlord, leading to a week of punishment. Welp, I tried.
Since I still had my Super Nintendo at the time, I had borrowed a game from my same friend and decided to take a crack at it, titled Demon's Crest. This game was pretty much a spin off to Ghosts n' Goblins as it featured the red flying demon enemy that was difficult to defeat, and had him in his own world, known in the game as "Firebrand". Now this game, aside from the one that it spawned from, had an overworld and locations that you could visit, and the point of going through it was to defeat enemies, and collect these crests that gave you the appearance of different gargoyles and with certain abilities.
It also came with a nifty password system, so being cautious about my SNES overheating, I took a break after about forty minutes of play a day. The bosses that I came across went from a flying hippogryph to a slime monster with spikes. There were even alternate routes in some of the levels that lead to other bosses and a chance at picking up a life upgrade, or a power up for your fireball attack. The crest abilities that you were able to obtain would let you fly higher, go underwater, and break certain obstacles.
I did manage to beat the game, however there was one crest left out, and I didn't get the correct ending. Apparently the real ending was to take down an overlord named Phalanx (not to be confused with the obscure SNES title of the same name) in an overpowered form and to keep the crests as your own. Instead, I had one crest left out, and I fought Phalanx in regular form and dropping the crests over a cliff, never to be found.
So with that out of the way, I returned the game and I decided to take a crack at the Super Mario All-Stars version of Super Mario Bros. 3 all in one sitting, and on a brand new save file.
I went through the first two worlds with smooth sailing until I reached the next one. It took several tries to make it through those water levels with the giant fish, Big Bertha that would go back and forth trying to gobble up Mario, but since I had extra lives being thrown at me getting to it, I eventually made it out and finally to the battleship.
World 5 was a personal favorite, since I could easily get a tanooki suit in the first toad house and come back to it after saving and coming back to that world. And following to world 6 went from a rocky start to a walk in the park. I was never fond of those piranha plants that kept the big black balls afloat, or those green enemies that threw them though. World 7 was pretty much a semi-hell and world 8 WAS hell, but I was able to make it through to Bowser's castle with all of my lives stocked up from getting 5-ups in pulling off the three star card combo so often. So yeah, it was over forty minutes as opposed to Demon's Crest, but I felt so much better after accomplishing it that day.
Before my summer was over I'd decided to get back into doodling cartoons (a hobby that I developed back in 1994, and was a small distraction to some of my school classwork). Many Saturday morning cartoons had influenced my hobby, so I went to town with drawing as many odd and whimsical figures as I could before my time with summer was over. Nowadays my art style has excelled much better, but it only proves to how much better I've gotten as the years have passed.
And so, my last good times with summer had ended from there. Any other summers that really followed after weren't as memorable, but did offer a very nostalgic experience to me. That about wraps up this article, and I hope it was an enjoyable read from the past!