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The Art of the Road Trip

 

Roadway
Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

When I was a kid, road trips and Sunday drives were the norm. It was not at all unusual for mom to whip up some southern fried chicken and potato salad, throw it in the cooler and load up the car for a Sunday drive.

The rural highways in southwest Virginia were dotted with cement picnic tables at pullovers along the highway. These roadways were not nearly as populated as they now are, nor were the highways as well traveled. We meandered along, just enjoying getting out away from the small contained environment we lived in.

We never traveled by other means. No trains (in my lifetime) or buses or airplanes. Everything was by car – Dad driving, Mom riding shotgun and four kids piled into the backseat of whatever Buick we had at the time.

We spent our time talking or singing folk songs until some of us would wear ourselves out and fall asleep. I usually stayed awake to keep Dad company. We had some of our best talks when everyone else was sleeping.

It was on these trips I learned how a car could draft behind a truck (dangerous I know now) and save on gas according to my dad. I learned about my family and saw the places my parents frequented growing up. I learned what a mirage was on hot days when I thought I could see a lake on the road ahead of us.

We pulled our arms up and down urging truckers to reward us with a blow of their horn. We had a game we played counting station wagons we saw along the way shouting ‘my wagon’ to claim the car before someone else. I don’t think there are enough station wagons on the roads these days to make that game much fun.

Dad was a risk taker. When Interstate 77 was being built, he always snuck on the highway, bypassing the blockades to test out the new roads. Even then I had a strong sense of what I felt was right and wrong and I did not like my father breaking the rules.

Before the pandemic, we took road trips often to see our family. I often made the 8 hour drive to Florida to spend a week or two with my daughter and her family. I miss the freedom of just packing up the car on a whim and hitting the road.

When it is safe again, I look forward to heading out to see some of the places I’ve always wanted to visit. I’d like to go back to Maine and Vermont, and maybe even take a drive across country. There’s always Mackinac Island, and I’d love to visit Greenfield Village again. So much to enjoy. But this will all be after our family gets sick of us and suggests, kindly of course, we “hit the road”.

20 thoughts on “The Art of the Road Trip”

  1. Roads trips were never a part of my growing up. When Dad’s brother moved 40 miles away we would leave for the long trip at six in the morning all on single lane roads. And Dad never went above 30 miles an hour.

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  2. When I was young, my dad always drove us to our annual summer holiday in Cornwall. Although it was only 270 miles, there were few major roads, and we had to go through every city, town, and village on the way. Because I was freqently car-sick, we used to stop overnight in Somerset at a farmhouse bed and breakfast. It took almost two full days of driving to travel that relatively short distance.
    The car broke down at least once every time, and we always got a puncture. My dad fixed the car himself, sometimes using one of mum’s stockings to replace a worn fanbelt, and patching the inner tube of the tyre to cure the puncture, before using a big foot-pump to inflate it again.
    We would stop wherever it was possible, as there were no designated picnic areas. Mum would use a camping stove to make tea, and unwrap sandwiches she had made before dawn when we left.
    Even now, that journey takes almost six hours, as once you turn off the new motorway, there are only small roads the length of that county.
    Best wishes, Pete.

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    1. Travel was certainly different then. It was long hours in the car with narrow and winding roads, and for us, never any hotels. It was drive until you get there. We never took a vacation that did not revolve around going to visit our grandparents.

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  3. We did a month’s trip of France, Italy Swiss borders, the lakes and then home again. It was lovely, we also did a four week trip and drove up from Miami to Orlando and all points in-between. It was just hubby and I, and our dog in Europe…. Never as a child as we never had a car, and never when our children were young as we could never afford the petrol .💜💜💜💜

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    1. It is wonderful to travel when possible, Willow. Our trips were never for vacations – well, vacations that did not involve visiting relatives anyway.

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  4. Four kids in the back of a car! There were only three of us and that felt tight, especially since one of my brothers was a terrible tease and took advantage of our being trapped with him. Thanks for the memories!

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    1. Thank you for reading. I am not sure how we managed to do all that car travel with the four of us bickering in the backseat. Mom and dad must have had a lot of patience or an innate ability to tune us out.

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  5. This brings back memories. My dad drove us across the country more than once, I remember rolling the windows down for air in warm and hot weather. Mom never learned ho to drive.

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    1. Ahhh, the days before A/C. When we moved from Virginia to Florida, my mom had her arm out the window and got a nasty sunburn – but just on her elbow!

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  6. In our family they were just called Sunday drives and we went on them regularly,like you with four kids in the back. I grew up without church, so that was what I associated with Sundays. In Connecticut some people think going across the river is a big deal, much less driving down to NYC for the day. Coming from Oregon my husband and I think of it as pretty typical.

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    1. We spent a lot of time in the car, Elizabeth. It was the only means of travel available to us, other than Greyhound, but that was reserved for a single person long distance trip.

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