When was the last time you took a road trip? Memorial weekend kicks off the summer travel season and is a reminder of an American relic; the family road trip. Many Americans have fond memories of piling in the car (no seat belts, of course) and spending a couple of days driving to visit family or a national park like Yellowstone. Cars were simpler in the 1960’s and 70’s at the height of the American car travel. There were no TV’s, cell phones or gaming devices. Even radio was limited depending upon where you were traveling. Cruising across Kansas, there was little more to listen to than an AM station with the local farm report.
Dad drove and mom read the map as they tried to navigate unfamiliar territory. As a kid, travel by car meant you had to make your own fun. There were silly games like “I Spy” or the License Plate game where you tried to find license plates from all 50 states. There were letter and word games, too, like Name a Country. It went something like this.
“I name Belgium.”
“Belgium ends in an ‘m’ so name a country that stars with ‘m’.”
And so it went until you couldn’t think of any other countries. No one cheated, of course, because there was no Google to search the names of unusual countries on a smart phone. You slept, sometimes in the wheel well or on the deck of the rear window. You snacked on candy and pecan logs from Stuckey’s or read a book (if you could read without getting car sick). Most of your time was spent just looking out the window, alone with your own thoughts, watching the magnificent scenery of this enormous country roll along.
At the end of the day, dad would stop at a motel. If you were lucky it had a swimming pool. A pool meant a welcome opportunity to move after sitting all day and a chance to cool off since many cars did not have air conditioning. Dinner was a hamburger at the diner next door before going to bed in a room the whole family shared. The next day, up bright and early, it was back in the car so you could do it all over again until you reached your destination.
Today, flying is the preferred means of travel. Faster and more efficient, there is something lost in airplane travel, something sweet and nostalgic. In a car, time is your own. You can eat when you want to, stop when you want to and cover as many miles as daylight and a tank of gas will take you. Families bond over those many hours together. Years later, a road trip can help to create memories that only the family share.
This summer, why not leave the gadgets at home, jump in the car and head out even if it just for a few hours. There are so many wonderful things to see and do across America. Many of them you can only get to by car. Take a drive to a local tourist site like Carhenge in Alliance, Nebraska or head to Moomers for ice cream in Traverse City, Michigan. It doesn’t matter where you go the joy is in the journey. You just might rediscover one of life’s simple pleasures, the family road trip.
Just be careful out there.