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Road Trip = Exquisite Torture or Sheer Insanity?

July 21, 2009

My Dad was in the military (the Coast Guard rules!) so we moved around quite a bit when I was a kid, including several cross-country road trips.  All six of us would pile into the Brown Bomber (a Buick Estate Wagon – biggest station wagon they ever built) with our luggage artfully arranged in the back to allow a small area for our loyal dog, Lucky Pierre, to hang out in.  And then off we would go on a grand adventure.  *Quick aside:  Are all men born with a car packing gene?  Is it a left brain spatial thing?  My husband excels at this skill as well and it seems to be universal.  Just asking.

My sisters and I generally did very well on these trips, considering we were roused each morning pre-crack of dawn to dine on breakfast cereal eaten directly out of cut-open mini boxes (we were thrilled because the selections often included Sugar Pops which otherwise were verboten) and then rode hell-bent for leather until 5pm that evening.  The only thing we really had to look forward to was the invariably over-chlorinated, undersized motel pool.

I’ll never forget the time we drooled for miles over the billboards promising an “Olympic size” swimming pool.  We found out after checking in it was Olympic size alright – if your resume included a stint as R2D2’s stand-in.  We girls were shocked – shocked! – that something advertised two stories high for twenty miles didn’t live up to its press.  (You’d think we would have learned our lesson from the “Exotic Reptile Zoo” fiasco at a midwest Shoney’s).

As the youngest, I naturally was easy fodder for my older sisters’ warped entertainment.  Stuffed animal abuse, whispered name-calling (“Super Duper Pooper Scooper Trooper” still sends a shiver up my spine) and accusations of being an abandoned baby found in a ditch by the side of the road (“Mom and Dad saw you there and felt sorry for you”) were all part of their rather creative repertoire.

Three things kept us sane (please note I’m speaking of my sisters and I; how Mom and Dad managed is a mystery to this day, although there were one or two ugly incidents which I shan’t mention at this time):  Reading, egging on truck drivers to blast their horn as we passed (I’m thrilled to report they’ll still do this if you do the “toot toot” motion even though I think those chain-pull-action horns are a thing of the past) and putting a wig and swim goggles on Lucky.  He actually was quite fetching with his sandy blond bouffant bob, and would gaze imperiously out the window at passing cars.  Some of the double-takes he got were priceless.

So I guess if I were to rate my childhood family road trips, I would say they were exquisite torture.  My parents might vote for sheer insanity, but I know they always remembered our trips fondly, too.

Stay tuned for some great internet resources related to safe and sane travels with your kids…

One Comment leave one →
  1. Shirley Marquardt permalink
    July 23, 2009 4:04 am

    Full disclosure required; I am one of the blog writer’s three sisters (the nice one) and I just last summer took the first major road trip with my husband and two kids. From Michigan to Seattle via San Diego. Don’t ask. I missed Lucky and the swimmers goggles ( Mom was sure he would lose an eye hanging his head out the window at 60 mph), the green algae kiddie pools and the Wagon Wheel Burger in Montana (bigger then your head). However, we started our own set of funny and bizarre memories that Emma and Rex will be telling their kids someday. Road trips are not for sissies, but they are one of the best parts of my growing up experience and I remember them all with a smile.

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