I remember the trip well. It's a long way from southern California to west Texas. . . approximately 1400 miles! I remember breathing a sigh of relief 15 hours into the trip when we finally crossed the border into Texas. My excitement was quickly dashed when I realized that, given the size of Texas, we were still only half way to our destination! My parents had told us to only get off the bus when we needed to go to the bathroom, and generally speaking, we followed their directive. We did disembark for one unscheduled stop when the bus driver instructed everyone to get off the bus at a diner which served his favorite pie, but we were extra careful not to get left behind. Other than that, we sat, slept and ate on the bus. After a day and a half, we rolled into Houston, feeling tired and grimy.
Now, my oldest brother was the apple of my parents' eye. As the first born boy, my mother spoiled him terribly. He also had mild asthma, which was a bit of a concern to her. Well, not liking having to spend all that time on the bus, he disembarked and immediately let out some weak sounding coughs. He complained loudly about how the air conditioning on the bus had aggravated his asthma. Sounding like Mimi at the end of La Boheme, he eventually convinced my parents that he couldn't possibly make the long bus journey home. It was decided that he and my father would switch places. My brother would fly home in style, and my dad would ride the dog with the three hearty kids.
Although we had made the trip to Texas a nonstop affair, after a day on the bus, my father decided we should disembark in El Paso and spend the night in a hotel. My father was a prolific story teller, and he regaled us with stories of the hotel we stayed in, the restaurant in which we ate and his various exploits in El Paso. He also decided that we should walk across the border into Juarez, Mexico. He agreed to buy each of us one souvenir of our choosing. I remember looking at all the stalls and feeling a bit of panic. I didn't want to make the wrong decision. I feared settling on one thing, only to find something I liked even better later in the day. My dad got a little impatient with my indecision, and I remember getting a little teary when he said that if I didn't decide soon, I would leave empty handed. Finally, I found it . . . the perfect souvenir. A wooden treasure chest, in which I could keep all the treasures of my youth. I took it home and, through the years, it housed all kinds of secret and sentimental curios.
We still occasionally tease my brother about how he weaseled out of the bus trip home. . . we look at him, give a weak cough and say "oh, my asthma is acting up." I still have the treasure chest my father bought me in Juarez. That's it, in the photograph at the top of today's post. There's nothing inside it right now; yet it contains the most important thing of all. It's full of the memories of that trip . . . of the dark nights in the bus, watching the mile posts go by; of the taste of that wonderful apple pie from the diner off the interstate; of my father's voice telling stories; and the vision of him walking the streets of El Paso and Juarez. The chest is empty of physical items, but it contains an even bigger treasure - the memories 0f riding the dog with my father.
I hope you enjoyed this travel story, brought to you as part of Sian's Storytelling Sunday. For other stories, check out this link. Speaking of travel, I'm on vacation again. This week, the family is visiting Seattle, Washington and kayaking in the San Juan Islands. I've left some auto-posts for my blog but I may have trouble visiting your blogs and commenting until I return.