As I kid, I was a voracious reader. My sister was too, so between the two of us, we went through books at an astonishing rate. One summer, when I was probably nine or 10 years old, I realized I had run out of good things to read. Uh oh!
There I was, out in the middle of the country, at the height of summer vacation, and we were out of books. Can you imagine the horror?
So I hatched a mad genius plan. We would ride our bikes to the bookstore!
The nearest bookstore was a place called the Paperback Trader, and they were pretty much the only affordable option for a kid on my particular budget. Besides, I was absolutely certain we could get there and back before anyone noticed we were gone.
Somehow, I convinced my sister to go along with me in this scheme, even though it hadn’t occurred to me just how far away the bookstore really was.
In fact, round-trip, it was a full 25 miles.
Still, we knew the way by heart, since our parents had driven us there and back so many times to buy books.
We were ready for the journey. My sister’s bike had a banana seat and a white plastic basket decorated with flowers. I had a black fixed-gear Huffy bike with checkerboard padding. I also had my backpack, two Whatchamacallit candy bars, and a whole pocketful of quarters for buying books.
What could possibly go wrong?
Onward to the bookstore!
We spent the entire hot summer day pedaling the long, exhausting road to the Paperback Trader. When we finally arrived, breathless and on the edge of sunstroke, the bookstore was like a musty summer oasis.
I carefully counted out my coins. I had just enough for a yellow-edged Star Trek book, the latest Blue Devil comic, and a worn-out novelization of Jaws 2: The Revenge. I don’t remember what my sister bought, but really, how can you beat Jaws 2?
With a sense of satisfaction, I crammed my newfound treasures into my red vinyl backpack and shrugged it on. Mission accomplished.
Except that we still had to ride all the way home again.
Hot and sore, but hyped up on candy bars, we mounted our bikes and pedaled back. My sister’s enthusiasm for the adventure quickly flagged.
After a few miles, she suggested we quit and find a phone to call home for help. Remember, this was in the days before cell phones. Making a phone call meant finding a pay phone – an impossible feat out in the country – or knocking on a stranger’s door. Not a great plan.
She kept saying she couldn’t go on. But failure was not an option. Against all odds, I had to keep her going. After all, I had gotten her into this.
So all the way back, I engaged her in debate about books, with the skewed wisdom of a 10-year-old. Which was better, The Hobbit or The Forever Formula? Who was smarter, Tom Swift or Nancy Drew? (I didn’t know a thing about Nancy Drew, so I had to bluff on that one.)
On and on. Mile after mile.
By the time we reached the top of a long hill about a mile from home, it was so dark I could barely see the road.
But we made it back home in one piece. Of course, by that time, I was much too tired to read anything. But that didn’t matter. We had a serious haul of books to read. Summer vacation was back on track.
It was the best worst summer trip to the bookstore, ever.
Growing up, what was your favorite summer vacation read? Leave a comment below.