Some of my favorite childhood memories are from road trips with my family. We rarely flew anywhere, because with four people it didn't make monetary sense. Plus, we were driving from Kansas City to Colorado so it was only a days' drive. We drove to Colorado a lot because both of my older sisters lived there for college and we could go see them and ski. So all four of us (mom, dad, brother + me) would pile into the car with way too much luggage, ski boots, skis, cooler for snacks, and stuff to keep us entertained and my parents-usually my dad-would drive us there. My dad liked to sell or trade cars, so sometimes it was a big spacious van with swivel seats, or the trusty wood-paneled van we ended up keeping for years. My favorite part of the drive was at night. Sometimes there would be music on, but most of the time my parents would talk to each other (about boring adult stuff) and I would put on headphones and maybe read a book (my dad devised a light blocker device so it wouldn't distract his driving skills-it was made with duct tape, cardboard and love), snuggled under blankets or a sweatshirt sprawled out in the first row of seats. My brother took the back, his feet sometimes getting in my face and prompting a fight. But there was something so comforting about being surrounded by the people I loved most in the world, going somewhere to see more people I loved, hurtling towards them in the dark. Sometimes if my dad wasn't looking, I'd squish my face or hand up against the cold window (he hated smudge/hand prints on the window!) and just be overcome with how lucky I was to be on the inside where it was warm. The backseat was the place to be-remember the middle seat belts? They were the best for road trips. I would stretch it out as big as it could go and then lie down so basically the only thing the seat belt would actually prevent was me rolling off the seat-I'd probably still slam face-first into the driver's seat, but who cares-I was comfy.
|Care Bear pillow and middle seat belt for optimal comfy-ness|
During the day, we'd listen to music or books on tape (Harry Potter was the favorite when I was older), or play road trip games. Animal, Vegetable, Mineral (or 20 Questions); the sign game where you have to find a letter in a sign and go all the way through the alphabet in order (A in 'gasoline!', B in 'Burger King!'); and my personal favorite, the State Capital game. My dad would say states in a random order and my brother and I would have to name the capital. To this day, I still know all 50 states and capitals. Other times my dad would quiz us on spelling words. We'd read books out loud to each other and then when we were sick of that, my dad would teach us his favorite songs and sing them to us. He and my mom both had such great voices. His personal favorites included anything from Nanci Griffith's Other Voices, Other Rooms; This Old Guitar; and The Golden Vanity. There was of course always the game called "Guys, look for wildlife, there might be a bear or an eagle!" That would usually result in my brother and me looking up from our books and going "mm-hmm bears" before looking back down at our books and ignoring the beautiful scenery around us.
Eating during the road trip was always fun. Depending on where we were going, we had some favorites picked out. Once, driving later at night in the middle of nowhere (I think going from New Mexico to Kansas City?) we started to get hungry. We passed town after town with no restaurants in sight. To pass the time and keep us from whining, my parents started going around and naming what food they would pick if we could have anything right then in the car. It varied from banana splits to lobster drenched in butter to a great reuben and by the time we finally found a Red Lobster open, we ate enough for 8 instead of 4. It's one of my most favorite memories.
Looking back on these trips I realize now how lucky I am. I have such an awesome family that was always ready for an adventure and brought my brother and me along no matter how much we probably complained at the time. While getting to our destination and seeing friends and family to go skiing (with some great stories there too-the time I broke my thumb; the time we had adjoining rooms with some crazy fun family friends and both the dads mooned each other a the exact same time through the door; having the tire come flying off the van because the tire shop forgot to tighten the lug nuts (!); learning how to ski at the age of 5; hotels, fast food and gas station pit stops) the road trip was something I looked forward to in and of itself.
|The part my parents looked forward to most-my brother and me sleeping|
I also loved to sit in the very very back seat and stare out the back window at night and seeing all the cars' receding taillights and wondering where everyone was trying to get to. It made me feel so small, and yet part of such an awesome world all at the same time. My sister made me a mixed tape for my 11th birthday that I cherished on those road trips and still have to this day. Sometimes I play it in my car now, driving around and am immediately brought back to that feeling of being in a car just entirely filled of love. A road trip is so iconic as a way to let go, be free, go anywhere you want and it is iconic for a reason-the memories you make are ones you will never forget. The playlist is almost as important as the companion, but a good road trip partner is hard to find: you need someone who will be your DJ/navigator/water bottle opener/pit stop manager/food scouter/jacket remover/wheel holder/temperature controller and whatever else is required. I can safely say that I am great at all of these, and I know that I have my family to thank.
|Passing on the road trip bug-my best friend and I drove from Idaho to Flagstaff|
I've heard some people say they've never been on a road trip and I can't help but feeling sorry for them. While airplanes are great because you get there faster and are totally necessary especially when crossing oceans, there's just something magical about a road trip. I love the spontaneity of it-you can jump in your car without needing as much notice and just go. Once, my best friend (from the pic up above) and I drove 12 hours from Flagstaff to Salt Lake City to go see a concert. It was snowing out and her right windshield wiper stopped working. We drove the rest of the way there with a piece of rope tied to it so I could occasionally roll down the window and drag it back down when it got stuck so she could see. Another time we drove down to Phoenix where she lived so we could do laundry the next day and hang out at her pool. We left at 10pm and scared her dad coming into the house he had a baseball bat ready (luckily he knew it was us before he needed it!).
So if you have never been on a road trip, you should go on one. Now. It doesn't matter where you're going, the adventures will come. Just find someone awesome you want to be stuck in a car with, bring some money, music and possibly a map of some kind and go.
Get lost, get found, get broke down.
p.s. if you're looking for more road trip posts, I talked about it here and here