There are many fabulous blogs out there (promotion anyone?) that recap BSC books, snark the ridiculous, and discuss the finer points of the series. My purpose is slightly different. Since this blog is supposed to be about travel, I'll be covering the books that are about, well, travel. And hopefully adding some of my own experiences where they fit. And I figure a good place to start is the
BSC in the USA opens with some handwriting from Dawn. At this point in the series, Dawn lives full time (minus vacations and summers) in California. She's currently in Stoneybrook for the summer, but that's about to be cut short as her father has agreed to drive an RV cross country for a friend. Despite Dawn's environmental protests, she agrees to go along, as does Jeff. When Dawn mentions the trip to the rest of the BSC, they're so excited about it they want to join in. Because Watson somehow can't help stealing vacation plans, he decides that a cross-country trip would be just the thing for the Thomas/Brewer clan. Minus Sam and Charlie. And Emily Michelle. And Nannie. What Watson lacks in desire for family togetherness he gains in generosity to Kristy's friends. And thus, the rest of the baby-sitters are invited along.
Not to be outdone, Jack (Dawn's father, remember? No?) insists Dawn invite friends as well. Basically, all the BSCers get to go. Each person gets to choose a destination. Just for the sake of simplicity, the RVs are divided up as follows:
Heading north with the Schafers: Jack (driving, San Francisco), Dawn (a ghost town), Jeff (rock climbing), Mary Anne (Maynard, Iowa, home of her grandmother), Kristy (major league ballparks), Claudia (Art Institute of Chicago), and Stacey (Seattle).
South with the Thomas/Brewers: Watson (driving, Lester, Oklahoma), Elizabeth (someplace scenic), Karen (Four Corners), Andrew (San Diego Zoo), Mallory (Chincoteague), Jessi (Dalton, Mississippi), and Abby (Graceland).
First off, half those places are fictional. Second, you'll notice that quite a few people had trouble with the concept of picking a place to visit. But we'll get to that.
Anyway, there's a lot that's snarkable in the first few chapters (before anything actually happens) but I'm skipping most of that because it's boring. On with the trip!
The first chapter on the road belongs to Jessi on account of the southern RV stopping for a visit with Jessi's relatives in Oakley, NJ. In case you didn't already know Jessi's black, her grandparents have an "African theme" to their house and her grandmother has provided a large meal consisting entirely of soul food. I just find all of that... a bit interesting I guess.
The only thing remotely interesting that happens in this chapter is that Jessi accuses Mallory, her best friend, of racism. Way to go Jessi! I mean, I get that racism is something she's dealt with and that's definitely not cool. But, seriously? Her best friend? Anyway, since I haven't been to the fictional town of Oakley, NJ, it's time to move on.
Sticking with the southerners, their next stop is Chincoteague (or, in Kristy's spelling if I remember correctly, Chinkateeg. Sure it's a hard word, but, you're not Claudia, Kristy.) This is Mallory's destination. Well, to be more precise, Assateague is. For the non-horse book fans (like me, and Mal and Jessi would so not approve) these islands have something to do with books. See Misty of Chincoteague for more info if you actually care. I don't.
While on Chincoteague, they get into an accident. It's not Watson's fault (or so we're led to believe, dun dun dun) but as a result, the group meets the annoying Hoyer family and their brat granddaughter Felicitas (or as she would say, "It's Liz, dammit!"). I wouldn't mention it except it sort of comes up later.
From there, Team South (as I think I'll call them from now on) head over to Assateague, where the wild, make that feral, horses actually are. Even though the island is big and visitors are only allowed on a tiny part of it, they get to see the horses. Of course they do. Mallory cries. (C'mon Mallory, you're not Mary Anne!)
Next stop, Graceland. Now we're getting somewhere. Graceland is one of those places I've actually visited. I therefore know exactly how ridiculous it is that Watson and Elizabeth leave the kids and take some "time off". In Memphis. A big, unfamiliar city. Five kids 13 and under (Abby, the oldest, being the only 13 year old) are left to visit Graceland by themselves. Honestly? If I had seen a group of young kids alone at Graceland, I probably would have... made an idle threat. But seriously, that's kinda cause for concern.
Abby, the supposedly ultimate Elvis fan actually doesn't seem too thrilled with Graceland. It seems like she's more interested in convincing the others that Elvis is still alive. Abby, you're already in a cult. You've sworn allegiance to the BSC, participate in
On to the house! Graceland is amazing. Amazing in an unbelievably tacky way. Rather than describe it, I'll let the pictures do the talking. Check this out:
The outside, obviously. I couldn't get a good picture thanks to the constant influx of people and tour buses.
The living room, I think. I think the style is called tacky fabulous.
Kitchen, complete with carpet.
In particular, Abby comments on the tackiness of the den, noting its "jungle decor". Uh, they call it the jungle room for a reason, Abby. Some Elvis fan you are. That room's famous. I actually plan to talk about the Graceland house in more detail in an upcoming post so enough about that for now.
Moving on, Abby et. al. decide to stalk an Elvis impersonator (who may or may not actually be Elvis) by following him to a motel. I really do hope it's the Heartbreak Hotel. Yes, there is one literally right next door to the whole Graceland complex. I have to say, though, it looked kind of seedy to me. Maybe not the best place for a bunch of kids to be wandering around? Well, no one's offered Watson and Elizabeth any parent of the year awards, at least as far as I can tell.
The kids supposedly meet up with the grown-ups at the mall "across the street from Graceland". Here I have to rant a little bit. Now, I don't know how much Graceland changed in the ten or so years between the publishing of this book and my visit. However, as it is now, the mansion, a museum, some Presley graves (Elvis is buried there) and some other things (property owned by Elvis) are on one side of a street. The information center, some other museums (maybe newer museums?) gift shops, etc. are on the other side. If the layout is the same as it was, saying "across the street" really doesn't make sense. The tickets are bought and the tour starts from that side of the street. (Does that make sense? I'll consider clarifying... eventually.) And I don't know what "mall" they were talking about. Strip mall of Elvis gift shops, maybe. Personally, I think maybe Watson and Elizabeth were just trying to ditch the kids. Considering one of them is Karen, I really wouldn't blame them.
Are you fed up with this yet? I am. For now. Thus ends part one. Part two hopefully coming very soon!
(Sidenote: I'm doing this from memory so please feel free to correct any details!)