By Eilene Lyon
The Slide Years is a series in which I select an image my dad took from 1957-1982 with Kodachrome slide film, then I write a stream-of-consciousness essay – a sort of mini-memoir.
The most epic road trip in my early life saw my family moving from Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, to Guatemala City, via Oregon. Yes, first we crossed the country to spend Christmas and New Year’s (and my 12th birthday) in Corvallis.
Then it was time to head south, across the border. We drove through California and then on to Arizona, where I got to throw snowballs into the Grand Canyon from the South Rim. Then a stop in Tucson, where winter ended and summer began – in January.
We crossed into Mexico at Nogales and kept on moving south. I know we camped in one location. I remember there were peso coins scattered around on the ground there – the peso was nearly worthless at the time. The campground had a foosball table and we used those coins to play, until we realized that by slamming the coin slide hard enough it would give us the ball. However we got the ball, my brothers and I played a lot of free games.
We made stops in Mazatlan to swim in the ocean, and Guadalajara. Mexico City provided some cultural sites, such as the National Museum and a university campus. We visited a palace and an amusement park, where I got to ride the roller coaster – a perennial favorite of mine.
Outside Oaxaca, Dad was having trouble locating the Howard Johnson’s or Travel Lodge – some well-known hotel chain or other. Not having much luck, we stayed at a pension instead. It had a traditional floor plan of a single level forming a hollow square, with the rooms all opening into a central courtyard filled with flowering shrubs and a fountain. The restaurant served fresh homemade potato chips with the meals, the first I ever had like that.
The next morning, about two miles down the road, we passed the hotel Dad had been looking for. I wasn’t sorry we’d stayed at the pension. I’m sure it was much nicer, if more rustic.
I don’t recall how long it took us to drive all through Mexico and Guatemala to arrive at our destination. Once in the city, we got rooms in the Biltmore. It was exotic to me, finally being in the “land of eternal spring.” The move had been a bit traumatic, leaving all my friends behind in Pennsylvania to go live some place where I didn’t speak the language and didn’t know a soul.
By the time we left Guatemala three and a half years later, it had won my heart and I hated to leave.
Feature image: Little brother exiting a pyramid at the Monte Albán ruins near Oaxaca, while I’m being assisted with my exit on the right.