“Someday they’ll find our bleached bones,” Tim said.

My younger sister, Debbie, who was ten at the time, started bawling.

Mom pulled Deb onto her lap from the back seat. “Timothy, don’t say things like that,” Mom scolded my older brother, and then turned to Dad. “David just pay attention to the road and keep driving.”

“I can’t see a thing,” Dad shouted above the roaring wind.

We were on Route 66 in the middle of the Mojave Desert when a fierce sandstorm suddenly swooped over us. The Mojave is known for its summer heat and high winds, often above 50 miles per hour, that occur frequently along the western end.

West End Rt 66 West end of Route 66.

Every summer, Dad packed the station wagon with luggage, coolers, and games for a three-week tour of the United States, and off we’d go. Since he was a minister, our destinations always coincided with the cities hosting the Southern Baptist Convention. Invariably, a number of mishaps occurred on each trip.

It was 1962. Our course was set from Oklahoma, west to California, north to the World’s Fair in Seattle, back east through Yellowstone National Park and the Black Foot Hills of North Dakota, and then southward to home. The “Grand Tour” Mom called it. Daddy call it several other things by the time the trip was finished. I called it one big square and thousands of miles cooped up with Debbie, “Mommy’s Little Angel” and my obnoxious fourteen year old brother.

Dad stopped the car in the middle of the road, but kept the motor running. We hadn’t seen another vehicle in either direction for over an hour so I guess he figured it was safer to stop than to run off the road into a gully. The car rocked as it was buffeted by the wind.

For once in twelve years, I agreed with Tim that we might end this trip as a pile of dry, brittle bones. I put my hands over my ears and thrust my head between my knees. Stories of pioneers dying in the desert swirled in my mind as furiously as the sand whipped across the land.

“I’m too young to die,” I chanted to the floorboard. Tears threatened to spill from my eyes, but I sniffed them back. I didn’t want to be a cry baby like Deb who still cowered on Mom’s lap. If big brother wasn’t scared, then I wasn’t either.

I stole a peek at Tim. His face looked chalky-white and a sheen of sweat dampened his forehead. His lips formed a tight, thin line. Ha. He was as frightened as I. That made me feel better. I sneered at him just for good measure. He stuck his tongue out at me and then turned away.

The sandstorm barreled past as quickly as it had appeared. Dad got out of the car to check the extent of damage. The paint was pitted down to bare metal in spots and the windshield looked frosted like it had been sandblasted. Imagine that!

The last vision in my mind that day was of Dad driving to the nearest town with his head sticking out the window and muttering that at least we were lucky the windshield hadn’t been blown to pieces.

The experience was typical of our family vacations.

Connie Taxdal

Do you have a memorable family vacation to share? Please comment below.

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