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It's vacation time

Rick Ryckeley's picture

Vacation time — a much needed break from work and all the stresses of life — is once again upon us.

No matter whether you want to splash into the ocean, dig castles and suntan on white sands of a distant beach, or catch a flight to some exotic location – all summer vacations start out the same.

Everyone and everything must be packed and then crammed into a family vehicle. And that, my Dear Reader, is where the fun-filled vacation ends and the yelling and belting begins.

For the eight years we lived at 110 Flamingo Street, our family vehicle was an avocado green station wagon with faux wood panels. State of the art, Big Green came with luggage rack on top, AM radio, automatic transmission, and high speed air-conditioning. When we got hot on our long road trip, Dad would yell, “You kids roll down the windows.”

Unfortunately Big Green didn’t come with power brakes. They would’ve really come in handy when we got back from vacation that first year.

But just how and why I ran over Twin Brother Mark in the backyard when we were 6 years old will just have to wait for another time. This story is about the road trip that started our family vacations.

With five kids, our parents were rather smart when it came to vacationing. They realized it was better to travel at night than during the day. When we woke, we’d be at our destination rested and refreshed. It only took two bloody noses, a small brush fire, a broken arm, and three years for them to figure out that traveling tip, or I would’ve said they were brilliant.

Thirty minutes into any vacation trip was all it took before one of us started the Punch Bug game. When a VW Beetle was spotted, whoever yelled “Punch Bug!” first got to punch everyone else in the arm.

A few miles of Punch Bug and the game turned into a pushing match. The pushing match quickly escalated into a full-fledged car fight with shoes and Barbies being thrown. Soon the fight would spill over the middle seat, to way-back seat, and back to middle seat.

By this time Dad would sound those famous words, “Don’t make me pull this car over. I’m gonna belt you kids.”

Now to some who aren’t familiar with the 1960s station wagon, those words may seem a little harsh. Our station wagon came equipped with lap belts. Every vacation Dad did eventually pull Big Green over and belted all of us in our lap belts. This was fine with me. I was really good at the Punch Bug game and once strapped in, Twin Brother Mark couldn’t climb over the seats anymore to escape.

Not to be outdone, Mom had her own saying when we got a little too crazy in the car, “If you kids don’t stop, I’m going to get out and walk back home.”

The first time she said this, I quickly pointed out we lived in Georgia, we’d just crossed the Florida state line, and it would be a long walk home. And that’s when Dad pulled over the car and belted me. Mark easily won the Punch Bug game that trip.

It’s been said the person who needs a vacation the most is the person who just returned home from one. I’ll see just how true that statement is next week after The Wife and I visit the white sandy beaches of Panama City Beach, Fla.

Sandcastles will be built, many pictures taken, and seashells will be added to our growing collection. But the most valuable things The Wife and I will bring back are the memories spent with each other.

Regardless of your age, time with the family on vacation should be treasured — even if yours starts out with fighting in an avocado green station wagon with faux wood panels or your dad actually does pull the car over and belts you.

Both are memories one never forgets. It’s been nearly 50 years, and I never have!

[Rick Ryckeley, who lives in Senoia, served as a firefighter for more than two decades and has been a weekly columnist since 2001. His email is His books are available at]

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