The Great American Road Trip of 1966, Seeing the Sights in A Ford Wagon

There is nothing like a month long car trip pulling a camper for a seven-year-old girl. My sister and I were invited to take this megatrip with our grandparents and even today, I have stark and vivid memories of this trip.  I have seen a photo of us dressed in our bright yellow, matching traveling outfits, preparing to leave Birmingham Alabama for our road trip to California. I actually remember that picture being taken and the moments leading up to it. I was so excited my stomach was in knots and I was afraid of getting carsick before we ever cranked up the white station-wagon.


Worst memory was when we stopped at the beginning of the trip and my grandmother picked up some little sachets for our purses. By the end of the month, I was so nauseous from smelling those potent sachets I could just die. I am sure it was intended to be pleasant, but it was an epic fail.  I never want to smell that scent again.  I guess just like in Family Vacation it was meant to keep the back seat odors to a minimum.  

We pulled along behind us the pop-up camper that we spent so much time in and around each evening.  My grandmother at the end of each day and hundreds of miles, would cook a meal on the butane Coleman stove. It was a meal with veggies, a meat or fish and she cooked on that pop-up stove like it was her regular gas stove at home. I can not remember eating a meal in a restaurant. She made dinner every night, state after state.  The one exception was when there was a tornado warning and we stayed that night in a motel. It was a scary night on the plains. Coming from Tornado Alley, we do not take a tornado warning lightly. So it was one secure night in a roadside motel.

From crossing the Mississippi River to following along the Platt River, bit and pieces of memories float in. There was a camp in North Platt Nebraska where we met a group of girls. My sister and I became fast friends with them and posed for pictures with them. It was a sunglasses extravaganza.  There is nothing like seven and eight-year-old girls in horn rim sunglasses to scream 1966.

My fear of being stabbed in the back in my sleep, which leads me to still only sleep facing the bedroom door, was initiated during that trip. My eight-year-old sister felt it was funny to tell me to sleep against the tent’s canvas side in case a rogue longhorn rammed the camper. Oh yeah, the fear was real and lasting. Now I can laugh as long as I am facing the door at the time. That was my Texas memory.  It was a keeper obviously.

rogue steer

When we climbed down from the Rockey mountains and went into the deserts of Arizona and California was another great focal point. It consisted of the two girls in the back seat changing clothes from winter mountain appropriate gear to a nice polyester short set, matching, of course.  As long as we are in the desert, there was the recollection of a sign that said last water for the next hundred or so miles.  I can’t remember the number, but it was large.

service station

The next memory is of the road trip crew sitting under a peak of rocks waiting for someone to stop and share water with us when the car overheated.  There is nothing so hot as being in Death Valley waiting on the kindness of strangers. I have no clue how long we stayed there, but we must have made it out before dinner time, or I would have remembered missing dinner.

scary double decker bridge

San Francisco’s memory was of my Grandfather running red lights because they were hanging on the right side of the street instead of the center. It took my Grandmother a few illegal crossings to get her point across. Her tone of voice might have been hard to understand as she was screaming “Arthur, Arthur, you are running the red lights. We are going to wreck, or get a ticket!”  It was pretty intense. My other memory of San Francisco other than the double-decker bridge was turning left at a Dairy Queen. I so wanted to go to Dairy Queen. There was a huge sign of a milkshake and I wanted one badly.

The massive trees in Sequoia National Park,

Sequoia-National-Park-drive through

Seeing across to British Columbia from Oregon, and watching a deer chew bubblegum on top of snowy Mount Ranier.

Mount Ranier.jpg

Then there was the fire on Bald Mountain Idaho, obviously, we were terrified, the air was filled with smoke and the scent of burning pines. It probably resembled this fire from 2007.  

I remember seeing it out the window of an antique store we were shopping in. It might have been in Ketchum I got a little miniature Kerosene lamp. I loved that lamp. It was clear glass and about 8 inches tall.

The rest of the trip is a bit of a blur, but when my sister and I get to talking about it, I have a few more memories crop up. It was a once in a lifetime experience for a girl my age to get to go to about 30 of the 50 states.  It was an amazing adventure and I hope I shared my appreciation to Mama Kate and Grandpa for the opportunity.

Thanks for taking this trip down memory lane with me. I hope you enjoyed it and it made you remember an epic vacation of your own. If so, share it, I would love to read yours.










17 thoughts on “The Great American Road Trip of 1966, Seeing the Sights in A Ford Wagon

  1. Wow….this brought back several station wagon road trips for me. I enjoyed the post and the great photos. Thanks for sharing.


  2. Loved reading this, Vicki! It does bring back memories of some of my family’s own road trips – though none were as extensive as this 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My grandparents were consummate road trippers. They were so excited to see the places that were new to them, as well as repeat locations. So glad you remembered your own trips too! Hoe often we just forget to look back at the amazing opportunities.


    1. That’s why it is tricky if we say we remember things, are we actually remembering the photo? I believe I have as many of those moments as I do actual memories. Thanks for reading and taking time to comment!


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