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I am a Denver-based writer, travel lover, and author of The Drive North and Destination Paranormal. I have several other books in the works, including fiction.

The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid

The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid is a fantastic memoir of what life was like growing up in Des Moines, Iowa in the 1950s for Bill Bryson. And as far as I’m concerned, despite a 30 year difference, it’s not much different than what it was like growing up for me just a bit farther up Interstate 35 in the Twin Cities.
With each page I turned I felt as though I swam a lap in my own memory. The book helped me recall so much of my own childhood that I found it quite difficult to put down. The recollections that came to me in the most vivid fashion were from the family vacations I enjoyed as a child.
Each summer my parents would take my sister, brother and myself somewhere different. When my sibilings were both old enough not to feel as though family vacations were cool any longer, my parents allowed me to bring a friend with instead. And so we would set out to wherever my parents had decided we would go, more often than not by car.
So many trips were decided by work for my parents. I recall one trip, in my teen years, where we, stopping at several places along the way, went to Detroit for my father’s work. Many other trips coincided with the Jaycees conventions, whose pin trading kept me fascinated for whole months at a time.
Heck, I still have a towel that I used to display my collection covered in pins some where.
Unlike Bryson though, I cannot recall all of the details, nor make them up well enough to sound genuine, of all the places we traveled. Everything to me is just a quick and fleeting glimpse that makes me sigh in appreciation for the good ol’ days. Trips to Branson, New York City, northern Minnesota and Wisconsin Dells are only a flicker now in my head.
I still find all of them absolutely fascinating though and love to recall them. For instance, with Branson, I love to think back to how, during one of the busiest times of the year there, my father didn’t book our hotel in advance. He said it was because we had always complained that our vacations were too structured and we wanted to “wing it” more, but I would’ve never thought this meant not having a hotel; I always thought we’d just wake up each morning and decide what we’d do that day.
Or, in going to New York City, I love the memory of walking up in the crown of the Statue of Liberty, which is opening again this next week for tours, and thinking, “I walked all of this way up here and this is all it is?” But, then again, I was only a kid and was exhausted from this extremely frightening climb up the stairs that only had one hand rail and seemed to fall to infinity if you lost your balance. And what about northern Minnesota and Wisconsin Dells? Well, those both local trips that I had every bit of fun on as I did the ones that were farther away. I know I’ll never forget having a bat fly at my head as I exited an elevator shaft in an iron ore mine or winning a Yogi Bear doll in a contest at a campground at the Dells. But any part of the rest of those trips, like seeing where Bob Dylan grew up, I know I’ll never recall.
They were all great times though with great and interesting memories, as were Bill Bryson’s trips to Disneyland, Omaha and his grandparents farm in Iowa. Although, in truth, I’m not sure I could, even to this day, ever top his trip to New York City where his parents booked them into a hotel in Harlem, in the 1950s, because the price was right.

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