This is another book I never read as a kid. I feel bad that this keeps messing up my format, but since I’ve covered most of the books I DID read as a kid, it’s going to start happening more and more.
Dawn’s father volunteers to drive a friend’s RV from the east cost to California. His thinking is that since Dawn and Jeff need to get home from a summer visit to Stoneybrook, they should make a family trip out of it. Watson must be drunk when he hears about this, because he decides that putting his (big, and usually loud) family in one RV and driving it across the country is a great idea. He also invites any BSC members “who can fit” to come along, because we all know how much extra room RVs have.
Mr. Schafer gets competitive and decides that any BSC members who don’t fit in Watson’s RV should come along in his, and all the BSCers get permission to go. Each RV will be taking its own route – the Schafers take the northern route and the Thomas/Brewers take southern route. Each person gets to pick one place to stop for a visit. There is not a whole lot else in terms of plot.
The Thomas/Brewer RV’s supposed to have Watson, Mrs. Thomas, David Michael, Karen, Andrew, Kristy, Abby, Jessi, and Mal. However, this creates an uneven split and overcrowds Watson’s RV. Since Kristy’s destination choice is “as many baseball stadiums as possible,” she’s the only one who can switch to the northern route. Her family lets her get away with this, and the Schafer RV becomes Mr. Schafer, Dawn, Jeff, Claudia, Stacey, Mary Anne, and Kristy.
The northern route’s early stops include Cleveland (a baseball stadium and the Rock-and-Roll Hall of Fame), Chicago (Wrigley Field for Kristy and the Art Institute of Chicago for Claudia), and the Mall of America in MN (where they meet up with Mary Anne’s grandmother). Then they have an unscheduled stop in South Dakota, because Mr. Schafer ran out of gas in the middle of the Badlands. Jeff’s pick was Yellowstone National Park because he wanted to try rock climbing, but since you can’t actually rock climb there, they also stop in the Grand Tetons. Then they stop at a theme park in Idaho that Dawn thought was a real ghost town, in Seattle (so Stacey could hook up with her latest love interest), and in San Francisco (Mr. Schafer’s pick).
The southern RV visits Jessi’s family in NJ, Chincoteague Island (the location of some horse books Mal likes), Graceland (because Abby’s obsessed with Elvis), and a slave plantation in Mississippi where Jessi’s ancestors were slaves. After this, they visit Watson’s old college roommate in Oklahoma and get there just in time to see a tornado. But, they all make it out alive and go on to a rodeo in Texas (David Michael’s pick), Four Corners (Karen’s pick), the Grand Canyon (Mrs. Thomas’s pick), and the San Diego Zoo (Andrew’s pick). They also make an unscheduled stop in Zuni, NM, where they meet some of the pen pals that no one’s thought of for 60 books.
Anyway, at the end everyone meets up again at Dawn’s house in CA.
- Claudia refers to touchdowns when talking about baseball. Doesn’t even the most sports-ignorant person know that touchdowns are part of football?
- Sam and Charlie get out of the trip because they are at camp, and Nannie stays at home with Emily Michelle because she’s smarter than the rest of the family.
- When they stop at Jessi’s grandparents’ house, Jessi noticed that Mallory’s sort of hanging back and is a bit quiet, and she thinks it’s Mallory’s hidden racism coming into play. She mentions this to her grandmother, who says, “she’s just nervous about meeting your family. Don’t think such bad things about your best friend.”
- I can’t imagine what it’s like to be in an RV with 7-8 people. My family went on a trip in a motor home a couple times, and it felt crowded and small. And there were four of us.
- It hardly seems fair that they go to so many baseball games. I mean, Mary Anne has one afternoon with her grandmother, Claudia has one afternoon at the Art Institute, but Kristy gets to have multiple stops. And while Jeff and Mr. Schafer like baseball, none of the other girls really do.
- Dawn says her mother was pissed at Mr. Schafer for wanting to take the trip, because it meant Dawn and Jeff had to leave Stoneybrook two weeks earlier. I have to say, I see her point, and I’m surprised she agreed to it. Unless Dawn was just pissing her off.
- Claudia packs two down jackets for a trip in the middle of summer. Seriously, WTF?
- Jeff mentions how Old Faithful only goes off every seventy minutes, instead of every hour, and that Dawn says it’s because of what people have done to the environment. Then he says, “but Dawn says that about everything.”
- At Yellowstone, Jeff claims that a bear wanders into their picnic spot. But they just stay quiet and he walks away, so they are able to hike out in the opposite direction. For a bear encounter, it’s surprisingly boring.
- At a stop in South Dakota, Claudia spends a dollar on a sketch that she thinks is by a random artist. But later Mr. Schafer’s friend (an art dealer) looks at it and they realize it’s a Georgia O’Keeffe. He offers to buy it for $500, but Claud decides to keep it.
- One of the few continuing stories is that Mr. Schafer teases Mary Anne a little, and makes a few cracks about her father (his work habits, his diet, etc). Mary Anne’s tense about it the whole trip, but finally says something to him, and all is well.
- Abby tries to convince everyone that Elvis is still alive, and of course Karen gets all into her stories. By the time they get to Graceland, Watson and Mrs. Thomas drop everyone off and make Abby, Jessi, and Mal, take care of the little kids while they go off and do their own thing.
- Karen picks Four Corners, and David Michael keeps making fun of her because he thinks they won’t be able to tell where the borders actually are. When they get there they see it’s actually a major tourist stop, and the border’s marked. Which makes me laugh because when I went there as a kid, I thought it was going to just be dirt as well.
- Stacey’s pick for a stop seems sort of lame. The guy, Ethan, is someone she met in New York and has been writing to. He’s in Seattle on vacation with his family, and she wants to visit. But….he lives in NYC. Stacey visits her dad there all the time. Why not use the trip to go somewhere you normally wouldn’t get to go to, and see the guy next time you’re in NY?
- I guess this book’s recent enough that We Love Kids have meetings around a pool with a cell phone and Mr. Schafer wants to shake Bill Gates’s hand.
- However, the book’s old enough that Stacey has Mr. Schafer driving all over the city because she thinks she got the meeting spot wrong, and can’t contact Ethan. With cell phone, a problem like that would be pretty rare.
- Claudia mentions how the girls and Jeff play cards to kill time during the ride, but that everyone kept beating her.
- The southern group keeps running into this girl who is traveling on a similar roadtrip with her grandparents. Everyone’s annoyed by her, but then they get offended when they hear the girl complaining about them.
- Like most Super Specials, the book’s structured as journal entries that the girls are keeping. But in this one, there’s no real explanation for it – like, they are making a journal/photo album as a gift, or for a school project, or the school paper, etc. They’re just automatically doing a trip journal.
- When Jessi, Mallory, and Abby meet Watson’s old roommate, the first thing they ask is if they can hold the guy’s baby. I get that they like little kids, but it seems rude to just ask right away.
- Claudia and Stacey have this really random fight….Claudia accidentally picks up Stacey’s journal, and Stacey thinks she’s snooping. So, she snaps at Claud and they don’t speak for days. After Stacey has her visit with Ethan, she’s so excited (because he kissed her) that she just starts babbling to her, and all’s forgiven.
- Abby has a lot of issues with the Grand Canyon visit because her father loved the place, and she and her family were supposed to vacation there before he died. She describes his death, and her description’s pretty much identical to her autobiography. So, good for the continuity person.
- Another point for continuity – they mention several of the pen pals from that Sleepover book by name.
- Kristy spots her dad in the stands at a baseball game in San Francisco (via the video screen). Her friends are all, “let’s find him,” and when Kristy says no, they ask why. Really? They can’t think of a reason Kristy wouldn’t want to see the man that abandoned her twice?
- Of course, Kristy DOES agree to talk to her father, and they somehow manage to find where he’s sitting. She basically says she has to go, right after saying hello. Then her dad says he wishes he could see her brothers, and Kristy’s all, “You could. Just come to Stoneybrook.” Then she leaves.
- At the rodeo, some guy in the stands starts telling David Michael about what actually happens when you rope a calf. He gets freaked out, and everyone ends up leaving and spending the day at some rodeo-inspired carnival thing in the parking lot.
- One of Dawn’s California friends tells her that Stephie Roberts’s mom wants her to baby-sit “next Wednesday.” So, I guess Mrs. Roberts thinks Stephie and Dawn will both be in heaven by then? Or else Dawn’s friend has the ability to talk to the dead, and is wasting it lining up baby-sitting jobs.
- When they get to California, Dawn makes a few comments about how her friend Jill’s acting babyish. I never read the California Diaries books, but I know this is a nod to events in them.
- Dawn’s step-mother and housekeeper have a surprise party to welcome the two RVs. Watson didn’t know about this, so he picked up food at a deli (including cold cuts) to treat everyone to lunch. When Dawn sees them, she’s all, “ew, processed dead pig slabs!” Way to be grateful.