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Too Many Ghosts on Highways: Family Vacations Past and Present

I remember everything. I have my life in a filmstrip that runs constantly with intricate detail. The cues of stop and start are smells of food, the texture of the air of seasons and the smell of the ocean. So many different wonderful moments come back to mind and I live them with happiness, nostalgia and sadness.

The Happiness is remembering being a child, sleeping on the back window of a chevy. I don’t really remember the ride to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania but I do remember being there. We visited several zoos, an interest I’ve shared with my son on our trips.

I remember my mom being assaulted by lamas at a zoo in Pennsylvania. We had several banners on my bedroom door of the various zoos and parks we visited they have been replaced first  by shot glasses as an adolescent and  magnets for recent family trips.

Sterling Forest in New York and fishing with a cane pole, catching an eel at Johnson Park in New Jersey or my first bass in a pond in Englishtown New Jersey; they were all fond memories of my dad. It’s amazing how clearly I remember those moments.

All that is left is the memory and boxes of old slides, I can remember watching them on the old slide projector, the hum and constant click of the projector, the warm light and the images of our lives streaming across a white screen.

When I was very young, I felt great sadness every time I left a favorite place. I couldn’t wait to return to the same place and yet as I’ve gotten older I am always seeking a new undiscovered destination to explore. Its funny how we change as we get older.

After my father died, my mom picked up the tradition of the family vacation. I remember Ship Bottom, New Jersey, a saltwater pool at a hotel in Point Pleasant, camping in the Kittatiny mountains. My brother, my mom and I; we found peace and contentment in traveling and together we healed from the loss of my dad.

When my step-father came on the scene several years later we continued the visits to the shore and added fishing and scuba diving to our activities. I remember deer drives in north Jersey, drinking rolling rock and visiting the Point Pleasant pier or spending the night watching an eclipse on Sandy Hook. We slept on beaches, scuba dived in Shark River Inlet and various quarries in Pennsylvania.

After I met my wife, we added more destinations to the family vacation. We went to New England on our honeymoon, Missouri for weddings and to visit family, the scope of the family vacation got larger. She was a wonderful planner and always planned with my interests in mind.

 I remember one vacation where the whole family went to New Mexico and skied in Taos. I learned to ski in Riudoso and Durango Colorado with my brother and his wife. The vacations grew larger and the activities even more varied.

After years of going to Galveston and Jacksboro for summer vacations we enlarged the distance to Florida. After my divorce, we started a short-lived tradition of visiting Wisconsin. We went to Lambeu field and ate cheese curds and brought back cheeses, we became cheeseheads, Packer fans by default.

On the last trip to Wisconsin my son got a life changing stomach bug and our solo trips began. Every year we chose a new state and we went to caves, zoos, aquariums and dug for topaz and diamonds. We were travelers and I don’t think I have ever been happier.

Last year was the first  year I went solo, as my son grows up and gets involved in his own activities, I found myself in Colorado visiting a friend and for the first time I travelled solo. After the initial sadness and loneliness I realized an introspection that was incredible. I became a travel blogger, photographer, I found my niche.

We returned as a family to Navarre Florida this year and the ride home was filled with ghosts. So many years of travel and family vacations and I missed every one. I felt sadness for my son growing up, I’ve always knew it was coming but I never said I had to like it.


What do you think?

Written by stevelinebaugh

Oil painter and pastel artist, writer, photographer, graphic designer,
originally from New Jersey


  1. Thank you for sharing this story. I also miss the days of traveling to visit my relatives in New York City since they are gone into another world.