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Telltale Postcards

Agriculture.com Staff 07/06/2010 @ 5:18pm

The view from my south kitchen window is obstructed by an 8-foot-high mound of snow. The temperature today is 18 degrees F., with wind gusts of up to 35 mph. A light, powdery snow sifts across the roadways -- once again.

This time of year in the Northern Hemisphere, it's not surprising that friends and neighbors head to hot destinations in Hawaii, Mexico, and Florida. But this winter is causing the hardiest farmers to harbor fantasies of taking flight.

It makes you wonder how earlier generations endured blizzards, ice storms, and snow without any escape hatch. They didn't even have Web cams to gain a glimpse of white sands and blue waters.

But families did travel. In the winter of 1894, my great-grandparents took their three children to San Diego. Grandma was 16 years old when they boarded the train at Owego, Iowa. She told me that her dad hoped the climate might improve a health problem.

But Grandma suspected that he had a wanderlust for the western U.S. and its warm climate. A family portrait taken by Lenz Portrait Studio, Cor. E and Fifth Sts., San Diego, documents that trip.

In the twentieth century, Americans harnessed the automobile for exotic getaways. I have a collection of postcards sent to my great-grandparents by friends and relatives visiting dream locations: Catalina Island, California, 1937; the San Diego Exposition in Balboa Park, 1935; the Mormon Temple, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1936; St. Augustine, St. Petersburg, Singing Tower Mountain, and Cypress Gardens in Florida.

A few postcards were sent by my mom. On July 14, 1940, Mom, her sister, her sister's two children, and Grandma set out on an ambitious driving trip.

Recently I found a brown paper sack, stuffed with travel brochures, with the word California scrawled across it.

Handwritten notes in faded pencil and a few black-and-white photos in Grandma's scrapbook helped me reconstruct their itinerary: From Sioux City to the Black Hills in Rapid City to Sheridan, Wyoming; Yellowstone Park; Hot Springs; Salt Lake City, Utah; Reno, Nevada; and San Francisco.

Along the way, they took in the Golden Gate International Exposition in San Francisco, where they saw Sally Rand perform her infamous fan dance. Then it was on to the Redwood National Forest, Santa Barbara, and San Diego.

They didn't have Travelocity or Expedia Web sites to book vacation packages. But they managed to get real deals. At Yellowstone Park, they rented a cabin for $4.50 and averaged 45¢ per meal. Near San Francisco, they stayed at an auto camp in a cabin with a bedroom and kitchen for $1.75. In Santa Barbara, hotel rates ranged from $1 to $10.

One postcard features Silver Lake Auto Court at 500 Glendale Boulevard in Los Angeles. "This is where we stayed," is written on the back.

In Los Angeles and San Diego, they visited cousins with Iowa roots. I have a wonderful photo of Grandma seated beneath a beach umbrella, wearing a dress and a sweater. My mom is in a bathing suit and sunglasses in the background.

Returning home, they traveled through Las Vegas, Nevada; Winslow, Arizona; Boulder, Colorado; and Santa Fe, New Mexico. The two-week trip was not without incident. Their auto had a flat tire near Santa Cruz, and it required radiator repair in Santa Fe.

Today's affordable airline rates have transformed winter travel. Within a few hours of take-off, you'll need sunscreen.

You say you can't get away this winter? Escape winter's chill by getting out your family vacation albums and taking a trip down memory lane. Then start planning a summer trip. It's bound to warm you up.

The view from my south kitchen window is obstructed by an 8-foot-high mound of snow. The temperature today is 18 degrees F., with wind gusts of up to 35 mph. A light, powdery snow sifts across the roadways -- once again.

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