Summer is almost here and it beckons us to yell out those two powerful words, “ROAD TRIP”!!!
I’m not talking about the kind of trip the Blues Brothers took. I’m going even further back than the Griswold family and National Lampoon’s Vacation. I’m talking about the road trips we Boomers took as kids, sitting in the back seat of our folks’ cars, or more specifically, station wagons. We went across country without air-conditioning, with a canvas bag of water hanging off the front grill of the car, and with only AM radio. Well, AM radio at times; not in a tunnel or in the mountains or out in the middle of nowhere, USA.
Disneyland opened in 1955. We got more and more excited about Disneyland as we watched updates about its construction on Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color TV show. We watched as Walt narrated the program about Disneyland’s opening day. Hundreds of thousands of us were compelled to travel from all over the country to visit this “happiest place on earth.” We sat in the back seat for days, driving from Denver, Minneapolis, Boston, Chicago, Memphis, Atlanta, Dallas, Rapid City and Wichita. An hour after leaving our homes, we began asking the dreaded question, “Are we there yet?” We could only play car bingo and sing silly songs for a short while before becoming bored. I praise my folks for not killing me as I sulked in silence wondering if the ride would ever end.The return trip was worse. But Disneyland was worth it. Unfortunately, the Grand Canyon, Mt. Rushmore and Yellowstone were not as spectacular a destination for most kids.
We learned a lot from those road trips, so much so that today’s cars, vans, SUV’s and trucks are like mobile family rooms crossing the country. A days-long road trip now features air-conditioned comfort for those in the cushy back seats. Today’s vehicles have TV monitors in front seat head rests so the kids can watch videos while they enjoy a sippy cup of juice from the cooler packed with food and drinks. Or the kids can play all their favorite games on smart phones or tablets. There is still the occasional “Are we there yet?” And there may be silly songs and car bingo. But the trip is more bearable for our children and grandchildren than it was for us. We learned from what our parents endured, and we changed the face of road tripping.
Late this past December, my son, daughter-in-law and two grandchildren aged eight and four, ventured on to the road for a month long extended holiday road trip that took them from their home in Southern California to Texas, Florida, Iowa, Colorado and finally back home. Their SUV was stocked with goodies for this incredible journey. The little kids did okay. When I asked them about their travels, they could only remember little things about the “road” part of the trip. Their memories are about seeing their grandma and grandpa in Texas, eating good Texas chili, swimming with cousins in Florida, Southern barbecue and some of the fun places they stopped en route. And that’s a good thing.
Times have changed since I was a child. There are not many cars cruising Route 66 now. Instead, there are crowded jets flying overhead on their way to Disneyland or Disney World, filled with kids asking, “Are we there yet?”
What are your memories of road trips of yesteryear?