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In the 1960s, a typical family vacation was the car trip. Like every other California family, mine headed for the national parks. We zipped along highways and crept down gravel roads on our way to exploring canyons, deserts, caverns, and forests. The itinerary for a week long excursion would weave through several states. Mom undertook the packing – clothes for all of us, sandwiches for the ice chest and a thermos for coffee. Dad gassed up the Plymouth for 32 cents a gallon and perused interstate routes on a gigantic fold out map that never folded back down to its original size.
In late October 1968, Dad got the itch to visit Monument Valley on the Utah/Arizona border. Putting in marathon mileage behind the wheel, by the end of day two, he announced he was stopping. The sun was setting and there was no Motel 6 or Travel Lodge in sight. We were miles from the next cluster of roadside diners and street lights. In the gathering darkness, we spotted a lone neon sign ‘Sunrise Motel,’ and Dad pulled off the highway.
More tired than hungry, we gratefully checked in a small, dingy two room cabin. Dad and my brother shared the back; my mother and I in front. We’d finally settled in, our blankets pulled way up to shield us from cold drafts wafting through the cabin. The wind rattled the window shutters like unseen fingers stroking them, but we fell asleep anyway.
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Outside, still uncertain of our proximity to danger, we tiptoed to the Plymouth, our wonderful big blue, four door, bat-less refuge. Everyone pretended to nap as we waited for sunrise before driving away.