BSC in the USA (SS#14)

Original Publication Date: 1997

Ghostwriter? Yes, Peter Lerangis


Dawn's dad has a friend who needs his RV driven from New York to California, so he decides to take Dawn and Jeff on a road trip back home (Carol can't get the time off work). Watson Brewer is intrigued by the idea, and suggests his family do the same for their vacation, and that Kristy can bring any BSC friends who have permission. Dawn's dad makes the same suggestion. All the regular members get permission for the two-week trip (I guess Shannon and Logan take care of the few sitting jobs?).

The Schafer van takes Jack, Dawn, and Jeff Schafer, Mary Anne, Kristy (because her desire to see Major League Baseball fields is flexibile and her own family's RV is overcrowded), Claudia, and Stacey on a northern route including a baseball game in Cleveland, OH (sadly, not side trip to Cedar Point for roller coasters), Detroit, Chicago, the Mall of America in southern Minnesota to meet up with Mary Anne's grandmother, South Dakota where they run out of gas in the Badlands and visit Wall Drug (I skipped that; after seeing signs about for it for more than 450 miles I was thoroughly sick of the idea), Yellowstone National Park where they see a bear, the Grand Tetons, southern Idaho, Seattle (yay!), foolishly NOT through Crater Lake, OR, and San Francisco (another ball game) before ending in Palo City.

The Brewer van takes Watson, Elizabeth, Karen, and Andrew Brewer, David Michael (Emily Michelle stays with Nannie which is just rotten; Sam and Charlie are at camp), Abby, Jessi, and Mallory south through New Jersey complete with a stop to see Jessi's extended family, Graceland in Memphis, TN, a slave/plantation museum in Dalton, MS, a visit with a college buddy of Watson's in Oklahoma that includes an F1 tornado, a rodeo in Ten Gallon, TX (complete with enlightened disdain of the event before even seeing it), visiting the Zuni children from Dawn and the Big Sleepover in New Mexico, the Four Corners, the Grand Canyon, and the San Diego Zoo.

They all meet up at Dawn's house in Palo City, where they are greeted by a party.

Here's what happens:

Jessi: thinks Mallory's nervousness about wanting to make a good first impression on her family is because Mallory is a secret racist or something. Her grandmother sets her straight, and she can enjoy the trip to Chincoteague with Mallory. Jessi's main destination is Dalton, MS, where some of her ancestors were slaves on a plantation (Watson and Elizabeth take the kids elsewhere for some family time during this). It's a pretty jarring experience for her to be confronted with the reality of what she knew from stories, as one would expect.

Kristy: wants to see as many ball parks as she can. She gets visit the fields of several teams: the Cleveland Indians (plus see a game against the Boston Red Sox), Detroit Tigers, Chicago White Sox, Milwaukee Brewers (with another game, but the competitor isn't specified and oddly even though they're right by Minneapolis she doesn't visit the Minnesota Twins), Seattle Mariners (with a game, which they might have won: the Mariners won the AL West title that year...in a game I got to attend), and San Francisco Giants (with a game against the Pittsburgh Pirates). By the way, the Major League Baseball season runs from about April to October, and most teams play about four or five games a week, so it is possible for her to see the games she does. At the last game, Kristy sees her father! She seeks him out and has a brief, awkward reunion of sorts.

Mallory: her dream side trip is to see Chincoteague and Assateague Islands, home of a herd of wild ponies. They eventually see the animals and the experience is everything Mallory thought it could be and more. While on Chincoteague, the RV gets rear-ended by an annoying family who keeps turning up in the same places as the Brewer RV people.

Claudia: wants to see the Art Institute of Chicago (my choice there was the Field Museum, which has Sue, the most complete Tyrannosaurus skeleton ever found) and has a great time seeing the exhibits. Too bad that on the way to Chicago, she accidentally picks up Stacey's journal and reads a few lines, causing Stacey to get PISSED at her. She buys a piece of art from Wall Drug, SD which turns out to be an authentic Georgia O'Keefe!

Abby: being an Elvis fan, she wants to see Graceland. They juuust miss Elvis Week, but Abby stiell gets some good memories, including seeing a particularly good Elvis impersonator who makes her think maybe the King hasn't quite left the building yet, just for a moment. She also has a very emotional time at the Grand Canyon, because her family had been planning a trip there before her father died.

Mary Anne: aside from dealing with Dawn's dad implying that Richard is a shoddy father and husband on several occasions (but he's "just joking"), she gets to see her grandmother who visits Minneapolis from Maynard, Iowa. Her grandmother sticks up for Richard, too, which helps curb the teasing for a bit. Mary Anne ends up speaking to him about in California, and he agrees to hold back.

Dawn: wants to visit a ghost town, anywhere. She ends up in a tourist trap in Idaho, but is able to have fun anyway.

Stacey: has plans to meet up with her boyfriend in Seattle, where he's vacationing. They have a nice afternoon walking around downtown and, according to the illustration, somehow manage to be on top of the Space Needle at 6:00pm in the summer at nighttime. In August, the sun doesn't set in Seattle until around 9:00 and the sky can be light until almost 10:00. Anyway, it relaxes her enough to patch things up with Claudia.

We are also treated to chapters from Jeff and Karen. Jeff had wanted to go rock climbing, but sadly Yellowstone doesn't allow it...so he gets to do in the Grand Tetons! A bit out of the way, but Yellowstone isn't on the main highway from South Dakota to Seattle anyway. Karen's is about the visit to the Four Corners, where Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and Utah meet.

Established or continued in this book:

The Girls (and Logan):

Claudia candy: there are no scenes set in her room, but she brings and buys some food on the trip, including goldfish crackers, Milky Ways, Chunky Bars, and chips

Again, Stacey and the wearing of black to set off her hair.

I would assume that people living in Connecticut would have at least heard of the Boston Red Sox even if they're not baseball fans. But it seems only sports fans like Kristy know the name.

Mary Anne has plastic knitting needles. I find those awkward to use myself; I like aluminum or steel.

Abby and Claudia both get motion sickness trying to read or write in the RVs, Abby more often than Claudia.

Quote from Dawn: "I think coyotes are vegetarians." Granted, they're not obligate carnivores (they're omnivores), and most are too small to be a huge danger to adults, but still. Nature isn't all fluffy and cute. In fact, it's often quite brutal. Side note: I also heard a coyote and saw its tracks in South Dakota, just like the BSC.

Abby saw a guidance counselor to help her deal with her emotions after her father died? Not a regular counselor or therapist or psychologist or psychiatrist? Yeesh.

After the trip, Mallory sends a patchwork quilt to the Zuni school. It's made by several students at Stoneybrook Elementary, presumably with her help. She's been shown to know how to sew in the past, and while quilting is a little different, it's not a huge stretch that she would have learned it.

Their Families:

Dawn, it's not that your father's humor doesn't work for everyone, it's that his version of humor is trash-talking everything and everyone to try to make himself look better.

Ooh...gotta agree with Karen, much as I'd rather not. While I loved Dinosaur National Monument, which it's implied David Michael suggests over the Four Corners, it's massively out of the way from where they are.

The epilogue is a bunch of letters, as usual. Kristy writes to her father and says it was nice to get a postcard from him, and that she'd love a letter with more details about his. No response is included in the epilogue. I agree with Kristy that he's not really a "dad" to her anymore. A lot of men are dads to their biological children, but plenty of stepfathers and adopted fathers and father figures act like dads to the children in their lives. I'm lucky to be close to my dad, and the contrast between him and Patrick Thomas is striking.

The Club (and clients): nothing new.

SMS: summer break.

PSA Time:

If any of you ever buy a home in tornado alley, look for one that includes a tornado shelter, okay? Just makes sense. And, FOR GOODNESS SAKE, if you have to resort to camping out in the bathroom, BOARD UP OR TAPE THE WINDOWS.

Speaking as a Seattle-area native and someone with a commercial driver's license, please don't try to drive an RV around downtown Seattle. The roads are narrow, there's very little parking, the traffic is almost always thick, and one-way streets pop up to surprise you a lot. You're better off parking in a less crowded part of Seattle, near a park for example, and taking a city bus. The arboretum would be good; the number 12 runs from there right downtown. In fact, Stacey should have just arranged to meet her boyfriend somewhere else, like Mount Rainier National Park. Or if they wanted to stay in Seattle, the Woodland Park Zoo has bus/RV parking. Stacey likes the zoo, according to another book.


I halfway agree with Stacey that baseball isn't fun to watch. I can't stand watching twenty minutes of excitement crammed into two and a half hours when baseball's on TV. But in person? Different story.

Typo in Chapter 22: Kristy's notebook entry implies that the Giants are playing the Brewers, but the dialogue of the chapter has the game against the Pirates. The Brewers are from Minneaoplis, MN (oops, I mean Milwaukee, thanks commenter Steffi!) and the Pirates are from Pittsburgh, PA. Not very close to each other.

The annoying girl who keeps turning up where the Brewer RV goes mentions that Assateague is a funny name, and my inner twelve-year-old giggles.

Just a clarification: Puget Sound is an estuary WITH bays not just ONE bay, the eastern border of Seattle is more properly Lake Washington not mountains, and Seattle has mountains visible to the east--the Cascades--AND west--the Olympics. In fact, thanks to those mountains, you can see three national parks from the city on a clear day: Mount Rainier NP, Cascade NP, and Olympic NP.

Stacey describes the route they take through downtown Seattle trying to find the coffee shop where she's supposed to meet her boyfriend...they could have gone from Point A to Point B to Point C to Point D, but go more like to B to D to C to A and back to B.

Most of the geography is done decently well, for example, going from Gallup, NM to the Four Corners to the southern rim of the Grand Canyon doesn't necessitate too much back-tracking and isn't an unreasonable amount of going out of the way.

Dawn's California friends are at the party at the end, and Jill Henderson is portrayed as less mature than the rest. This will become important soon, when the California Diaries enter the picture.

The numbers:

Starting 8th grade: 9

Halloweens in 8th grade: 6 (plus one in seventh)

Thanksgivings in 8th grade: 3

Winter holidays in 8th grade (that BSC members celebrate, not just reference): Christmas-3, Hanukkah-1, Kwanzaa-2

Valentine's Days in 8th grade: 3

Summers after 8th grade: 10

BSC Fights: 11

SMS Staff and Faculty: 67

Students (other than the BSC): 207: 118 8th graders (not including Amelia Freeman, who is deceased), 25 7th graders, 47 6th graders, 15 unspecified. Baby-sitters' Winter Vacation tells us that SMS has about 380 students.

Clients: 37 families

Types of candy in Claudia’s room: 128

Mary Anne-2


Anonymous said...

Go back and read the first sentence of this post. You pulled a Claudia!!!

SJSiff said...

I totally did. How and Who are are not the same words. Thank you for pointing that out! Can I blame pregnancy brain? Or maybe reading too many of Claudia's notebook entries has destroyed me.

Steffi said...

Minor correction long after the fact - the Brewers play in Milwaukee, not Minneapolis. The Twins are the Minnesota team.

SJSiff said...

Thank you, Steffi!

Donica said...

Just have to point out (Because I know you're from the NW), if youre in the middle of a tornado, you're not going to have time to tape or board up your windows. :D
Ha, but yes, basements/storm shelters are wonderful.

SJSiff said...

I guess I was thinking of how my brother in Tennessee got warnings about tornadoes and would have time to grab some cardboard or tape for the windows while they were sheltering. But I've only ever heard the warnings for a tornado, not seen one, so I don't know how much time one would have between the warning and the storm, or how much time one would have had when this book was written. Would it make sense to keep some tape or something in the room you'd shelter in for a storm, so you wouldn't have to just hope the glass didn't shatter on you?