Something for folks headed out on the classic American family road trip vacation...
When I was growing up, my dad was notorious for squeezing the last mile out of a tank of gas. He ran out of gas at least twice on the Golden Gate Bridge. At a time when the bridge toll was twenty-five cents and a gallon of gas was thirty-five cents, the Bridge Authority would charge dad five-dollars for a gallon of tow-truck-delivered gas. Dad never learned. He even ran out of gas at night in a snowstorm on Donner Summit with his family in the car. Luckily the Brandow Party didn’t become as famous as the Donner Party.
One summer on vacation we were headed north on Highway 101 for a camping trip in the Redwoods. As per usual dad was once again tempting fate.
Mom leaned over towards dad and saw the red needle bouncing on “E,” and started her oft repeated mantra, “You’d better get gas, Art. Art, you’d better get gas.”
Dad chanted back, “Oh Helen. Oh, Helen.” And this devolved into verbal fracas in the front seat, which made things uncomfortable for us kids in the backseats.
To break the tension my little brother, Paul, piped-up from the far-backseat, “If dad runs out of gas I’m going fishing.”
Well, as per usual, dad ran out of gas in a meadow in a forest in the middle of nowhere. We’d been running on fumes for some time and now mom was fuming. Dad got out and started to hitchhike in search of fuel. I’m sure dad appreciated he would soon be out of earshot of mom’s justified tirade.
Meantime, Paul and I grabbed our bamboo fishing-poles from the back of the station wagon, and leaving baby sister Sue and mom alone by the side of the road, off we went, two young boys in search of a stream to wet a line. We slithered through a barbed-wire fence and headed across a meadow looking for anything that might be fishable, catching grasshoppers for bait along the way. We found a small stream in the willows, and we had great fun catching a mess of bluegills or some such fish. Nothing very edible, but it was great kid-fun.
When we got back to the car dad was just pouring in his precious five-gallons of gas he’d purchased at the nearest service station which must have been miles away. Mom, of course, was not smiling, until she saw Paul and me arm-in-arm returning triumphant, beaming and holding up our smelly stinger of fish. Mom was so happy her boys were having fun on vacation and weren’t fighting with each other that she decided to cut dad some slack and began to relax and enjoy our time together. This was going to be a great trip. Dad never ran our of gas again ………………….on that vacation anyway.
P.S. By the way, for those who might be interested, the family car was a blue 1965 Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser with a big V-8 engine, which dad bought new and served our family well for 25-years. Paul’s wife Mary Ann even wrote a song about that car.