by Maka MacKenna

In America, summer is everyone's favorite season. How could it be otherwise? When you're growing up, summer means no school and you get to go on trips. A few years of this and you're programmed.

When I was a kid, summer meant picnics at Freshwater or Sequoia Park or Grizzly Creek, usually joint ventures with other families. We got to eat junk food: flabby hot dogs on squishy Wonderbread-type buns and potato chips.

At home, we weren't health food fanatics, but Wonderbread was not a part of our regular diet. In fact my grandmother had a kitchen sign displaying what was supposed to be an old Scots saying:

"The whiter the bread, the sooner you're dead."

Summer meant that we went to a lot of barbecues. You got to eat junk food there, too, although true culinary triumphs were few and far between. My Uncle Fred made excellent stuffed cheeseburgers, but when he tried to do chicken it always came out raw on the inside but blackened on the outside, a sort of unintentional Cajun effect. No one in our family could barbecue chicken with any success. For years I thought "teriyaki" was Japanese for "burnt."

Summer also meant the advent of seasonal illnesses, especially carsickness. We spent most of the summer at our family's place in Marin. Every year we drove down and every year I got carsick. U.S. 101 had plenty more curves in those days and more than an ample supply of bumps and potholes.

I used to throw up at exactly the same spot every year, near Leggett about halfway between Carl's Coffee Shop on the left and Grundy's Resort on the right. Whoever was driving automatically pulled over so I could get out of the car and do my thing. Since Grundy's was our favorite place to stop for lunch, I had to make a quick recovery. This went on until I was about 14. To this day I don't know if I was cured by puberty or by CalTrans.

Leaving town was not without its hazards. One year we were closing up the house and the neighborhood old-lady busybody type came by to check us out. We had five lovely goldfish in a tank above our kitchen sink.

"I'll take care of them for you," she said. I knew as I watched the Blue-Haired Menace retreat down the street with our tankful of fish that I'd never see them again.

I was right. As soon as our car disappeared around the turn, she cleaned out the fish tank with ammonia, then put the fish back in without rinsing it. The next morning they were all floating on top. She didn't even give them a proper burial, just flushed them down the toilet.

Summertime was also the time to spend a few days at Richardson Grove in a cabin that was the moral equivalent of camping out. More junk food and lots of floating in the river on inner tubes.

A few years ago I got nostalgic. Let's spend a weekend at Richardson, I said to some friends and they all bought in. I called the park to reserve a cabin.

The ranger tried to be tactful. "The cabins aren't available for rent," he said. "They're in need of repair." How bad can they be, I asked. Pretty bad, he said. In fact, he added, the cabins were so old they were being considered for possible nomination as a historical monument or landmark.

Guess I know where that leaves me.

Since Maka last checked, several of the Richardson Grove cabins have been restored and are available for rent. For reservations and information, call 247-3415.

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