Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: ROAD TRIP (vacation) (07/02/15)
TITLE: El Cajon or Bust
By Ken Grant
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"Okay," I groggily reply as I struggle out of my bed and place my feet on the hard wood floor.
During school time that would usually be followed by running to the wall heater to warm up, but this was Summer time and Norwalk, California can be a very hot place during the Summer. Normally Summer is about sleeping late and lazing around, but not today. Today is the beginning of vacation and oddly enough that means rising early to spend a couple hours in the car. Our destination is El Cajon; a sleepy town near San Diego.
"Let's go," My dad barks as he steps outside the door.
He's not angry, that's just the way he talks. He grew up with tough love and little intimacy and brought that into family life.
I wearily trudge to the car, get in the back seat, and prepare for the endless drive.
"Here we go," Mom says as dad backs the car out of the driveway and we are on our way.
Today the drive from Los Angeles County through Orange County into San Diego is filled with homes and shopping centers, but back then it was empty and desolate. Quickly any signs of scenery disappear and any hope for something exciting exits as well. We don't travel very fast, but it isn't for trying. Our transportation is an AMC Gremlin; a classic American mistake. It lacks power steering and drives like a truck. It lacsk anything remotely like acceleration. The brochure selling the car focused on its inexpensive price tag, $3000 right off the lot, and didn't talk about its zero to sixty time which most likely didn't exist.
"Almost there," Mom says hopefully with a heavy sigh.
Once off the freeway we meander on roads that look like they would be better off in Kansas or Wyoming. Dust covers the windows that surround the vehicle and make it look like a bubble. As we finally pull into my Uncle's driveway, the irony that they own a Pacer, a similar automotive disaster, is not lost on me.
"They're here!," My Aunt yells as she runs out to greet us.
Within moments the long trip is forgotten, We get together to talk, share, and enjoy life. We are happy to see my grandmother looking well; sadly she will die from lung cancer not long afterwards. I learned early the downside of smoking cigarettes for forty years. The evening event is penny-ante poker and even the young ones like myself are given a stake. We play seven-card stud, baseball, and other strange variations until eventually one by one everyone turns in for the night. El Cajon is hardly a tourist destination, but it is where family is and so it is a good time.
Eventually it is the last day of vacation. While Summer still has more time to run, my parents have to get back to work. And so we pack up, get back in the Gremlin, and we are on our way. The trip back is just as boring and lifeless as the trip up. These drives never get better and I blame the Gremlin for that.
Still, I wouldn't miss these road trips for anything in the world. The suffering of the road trip makes the end that much better. We as a family have endured and that means something special in the end.
"We made it," I exclaim as I crawl out of the Gremlin, grab my stuff, and rush inside the house.
With all my moaning and groaning you wouldn't know it, but I can't wait till the next road trip. I believe such trips are making me into a better person. I am learning important lessons that I wouldn't have learned any other way; and all because of El Cajon.
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