Road Trips: Past, Present, and Future!
Some of my favorite memories of family vacations when I was a kid were the ones involving road trips. We would either load up the station wagon or fly somewhere and rent a big car and drive around seeing the sites.
The memories I mainly recall are of car games, eating at great road side restaurants, nice naps with the windows open, and that glorious feeling of reaching some great historical monument, throwing open the car door, and running around in the sunshine.
My parents tend to remember things differently (of course): constant complaining from the kids, someone getting car-sick, fighting, the long monotonous hours of driving while trying to figure out the correct route from a foldout map. These trips were in the days before GPS, satellite radio, electronic games (with headsets at least, the Coleco’s existed but the non-stop beeping of the football or basketball game made them persona non-grata in the car), and in-car televisions.
In my college years I took various road trips, both in groups and by myself. The group trips were to save money on airfare and to enjoy my friends company. The solo trips were to see what I could see, and to just get away without any restrictions.
The group road trips were filled with misadventures which, while at the time, were scary, exhausting and even infuriating, are now the stories we love to tell over and over again. One particular event I will always remember was when a friend and I were driving from Texas to Colorado over Spring Break. We got stuck in an unseasonal blizzard in the high passes of New Mexico. It got so bad we eventually had to pull off the road and stop the minivan due to poor traction and very poor visibility. Imagine our surprise when the sun rose the next morning and we discovered we were actually in a small town. Like I said — poor visibility! We also realized how dangerously close we had come to driving off the road and over a cliff….
There seemed to be a break in my long-distance wandering as I got older. There were no more family trips and the pressures of work and life made it so I rarely had the chance, or even the desire, to take to the open road for any extended trip. When I did drive, it was to get from home to some relatives’ house and back again — as fast (and perhaps faster) as the law would allow.
Now as I reach an age where I am (let’s say more settled), the siren song of the road trip is something I look forward to heeding. And as I write this, the episode of Frasier is airing where they take a trip in a Winnebago (one of a few road trip episodes, all of which I love). I keep wondering what it would be like to rent a reasonably-sized Winnebago (or the like) and take a trip.
In recent years we have taken plenty of trips to some great locations in our car or in a rented car. But how great would it be to take a trip in a vehicle that you could also sleep and cook in? I am torn on renting and driving something that large — always slow on the road, heavy on gas, and take up huge chunks of parking space.
I will admit, my memory of past trips can definitely be selective. There are always the bad parts of road trips (which my parents easily remember): the boredom, tiredness, snippiness, and on-the-road food that can only be described as subpar. The grumbles are real and unescapable, and there is no laugh track or fast forward option in reaching your destination. 10 hours a day in a car is still 10 hours in a car.
Although moments may be unpleasant during the road trip, those moments are often trumped in memory by the sights, company, and adventures. When it comes to planning another trip, the low moments are forgotten, all you can think about is where you are going to go, the things you are going to see on your next trip, and the excitement of planning the trip itself.
What is your next trip? And what does your family do to help pass the long hours and keep spirits up?