Déjà Vu All Over Again: Local Family Relives 1989 Cross-Country Trip
(Pictured above: Jim and Kris Parker, grandson Jimmy, Melanie Parker, and granddaughter Madison in Yankee Boy Basin.)
Those humorous words rang true for one local family that decided to write the sequel to their 1989 cross-country trip – this time, with a few additions.
Thirty years ago, Clarion resident Melanie Parker decided to take her two children, 11 and 14, and make a 5,500 mile, 28-day trip to see the U.S.A. in a van, sleeping on the ground at night.
Parker decided it was time to do it again this summer; however, this time it was her two grandchildren, who are the same age as her children back in 1989. It was an 8,700 mile trip over 39 days and in a motorhome with her ex-husband Jim and his wife, Kris.
“If it hadn’t been for them taking us in their motorhome, it would not have happened,” said Melanie. “We all got along great, and they have a lot more experience traveling.”
Melanie wanted to recreate some of the 1989 trip, and this time, the grandchildren would have their grandmother and grandfather.
In 1989, her two children on the trip were 14-year-old Megan and 11-year-old Michael. Megan is now tax claims director of Clarion County, and Michael lives in Butler and works at Conair in Cranberry Township.
On the trip, Melanie’s grandchildren – 14-year-old Madison and 11-year-old Jimmy – were able to see the Canadian Rockies.
“On the first trip, we went in the van and slept on the ground when weather permitted, sometimes in rest areas. Sometimes, we would stop at campsites and tent sites if it was five or six bucks a night. We slept at a hotel in Seattle and stayed with my brother two days in Manhattan Beach, California, one night at Circus Circus in Las Vegas, and then we came across and stayed one night with my sister Barb in St. Louis.”
“Five nights inside in a bed and the other 23 either in the van sleeping or out on the ground. We stopped at grocery stores and filled the cooler, got ice, and we would get the hibachi out or build a campfire at night. We would sit there at a picnic table and look at the Rand McNally book; this was not pre-planned, and we decided how far we wanted to go the next day. It was completely spontaneous in 1989.”
This trip was different.
“This year, we had a giant map that you saw at Rotary, and it had pushpins on it when we thought of things we wanted to see. Kris also put locations in a program called ‘Map My Trip’ and gave us a basic idea, and we changed it as we went. We ended up hitting all of the pushpins and more because we found places we didn’t know existed.”
“That Code Talkers Museum was a real find, and the funny thing was Jim had been talking with Jimmy up front on the trip across Arizona that very day about code talkers and how important they were in World War II. We landed in Tuba City, Arizona, where the Navajo Code Talker Museum was.”
The Navajo Code Talkers Museum has actual gear and tools used in battle, victory stories, transcripts of a Code Talker, and exceptionally detailed photos. The Code Talker’s primary job in World War II was to talk and transmit information on tactics, troop movements, orders, and other vital battlefield information via telegraphs and radios in their native dialect.
A major advantage of the code talker system was its speed. The method of using Morse code often took hours, whereas the Navajos handled a message in minutes. It has been said that it was not for the Navajo Code Talker’s, the Marines would have never taken Iwo Jima.
Another change this trip was a demand by Melanie, a former teacher.
“I required the grandchildren to journal every night. They were written journals, and I kept one, too.”
Also, a well-known local photographer, Melanie took plenty of photographs.
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