Last week, I posted about my friend Jonathan and his modern road trip. But what about the nostalgic road trip? The one you took as a kid. The road trip where you didn’t need to wear a seatbelt, couldn’t use the AC the whole way or the car would overheat, and the one where your dead aunt gets tied to the roof of the car. No, not that one…
We used to take them every year when I was little. We would pile into our red station wagon super early in the morning and set off for adventure, making Clark Griswold proud.
My mom sat in the passenger seat so she could be the navigator and snack distributor. Maps were large and cumbersome and a co-pilot was a necessity. The cooler used to sit in the front seat between my parents where my mom would open cans of pop, usually Squirt because for some reason the only time we ever drank it was when we were on a road trip, or when my parents were having a party. She would put said pop in a plastic cup for each of us. This screams “living on the edge” – a sticky drink in a plastic cup without a lid being handled by children in a car that pre-dated cup holders.
You know what else these cars pre-dated? Seat belts. We were lucky if we were wearing one, and in fact most times, my sisters and I were laying down in the back of the car with the seats folded down so we could nap or play board games or do Mad Libs.
Music in the car was only played on the radio and once you lost the signal, you were shit out of luck. Silence was your only option. Or an AM station, which again, silence was your only option. Nothing like being in a desolate part of the country with no music.
The destination varied. It was usually within a two or three state radius if you lived in the west. Unlike the east where you can drive through three states in the matter of a few hours, in the west we could drive for the same amount of time and still not cross state lines. Our road trips were to states like Nevada, Utah, California, and even our own colorful Colorado. States with vast areas where there is literally nothing for miles.
My favorite road trip was a two-week jaunt to California. We stopped in Vegas along the way and stayed in some no name motel at the end of the Strip where my parents left us alone while they went gambling for the night. We were dying, dy-ing to stay at Circus Circus because our neighbors had just been there and they said it was amazing. If you were a kid in the late 70’s and early 80’s, Circus Circus was the shit. My parents were way more practical than that and could care less about Circus Circus.
Side note – when I was 19 years-old and I moved to Las Vegas for college, one of the first places I went was Circus Circus. I had to see it for myself even as an almost adult. It was gross. No name motel was probably the better option, even if we didn’t appreciate it at the time. Sorry, Circus Circus…
My love of road trips carried into adulthood and I’ve had several, even technically meeting my ex-husband on a road trip. Unless you’re Jonathan, the station wagon has been replaced by an SUV, the radio replaced by a satellite, the snacks have stayed the same. Always Funyuns, and always pop. And candy. Nothing helps you stay awake like shit tons of candy on a road trip.
While nothing beats the family road trip as a kid, the solo road trip as an adult can be fun as well. Not really. As a woman there were times I found myself alone in some God forsaken place wishing the gas would pump a little faster. I used to drive alone from Las Vegas to Denver at all hours of the night, all by myself. Not really the smartest or the safest but who has time to worry about that when you’re young and wild and free. On the flip side, there’s a lot of time for self-reflection.
Now, as for my daughter. She hates road trips. She hasn’t even been on very many of them, and with modern conveniences, they certainly aren’t the ones we took as kids. If it’s longer than six hours, she’s not at all interested. Even though she can watch movies, play games on her phone, and as an only child, she gets the back seat to herself, she still hates them.
But, there is one game she’s usually up for and some of our fondest memories in the car now and then, have been playing the license plate game. We have yet to get all 50 states, but hey, we’ll keep trying. And when she asks why we aren’t flying to our destination, I reply in the wise words of Clark Griswold, “Why aren’t we flying? Because getting there is half the fun.” Can’t play the license plate game on an airplane…