As gas prices have continued to rise, and American families have had to tighten their financial belts, vacations have become a luxury that many have had to put on the backburner. But one of the most affordable, enjoyable and traditional of all summer vacations is still the American road trip.
I have wonderful memories of family’s road trips when I was young. My parents, my two older brothers, and I would pack some clothes, games and snacks and load into the family station wagon (I don’t remember seat belts) and take off into the wild west. I would ride in the very back with my little vintage alligator suitcase full of things to amuse me on the long ride. I was what they used to call ‘hyperactive’ back in the day, so having things ready to amuse at a moments notice were essential. I still remember the strange odor of that suitcase… smelled like travel.
The view from the back of that station wagon was magical. My mom would lay out an old blanket and I would lay on my back (apparently not affected by car sickness) and stare up and out the window at the blue sky and puffy clouds. I would ask questions all along the way, like “what are those hills called” and “does God live in the clouds?” and “are we there yet??” I think that last question is every parent’s favorite.
We toured mines with glow in the dark rocks, saw snow covered mountains in the middle of summer, stood under natural stone arches, and walked onto a lake filled with salt water. If we were lucky, the hotel we pulled into at the end of the day had a pool, with a diving board. We would swim our wiggles out and maybe meet a new friend and exchange addresses.
There were no computer games or DVDs to play while we were driving through America, instead there were license plate games to play and crayola pictures to draw of the scenes we saw out our windows. There was also talking, singing and good old fashioned sibling squabbling too.
Things did not always go as planned. There were engine troubles, wrong turns, and upset stomachs. But years later these seemingly ‘end of the world’ dilemmas became family lore and the very experiences that would bond us together more tightly.
Now days families seem to be changing their vacation habits. Statistics show that visits to our nation’s national parks are way down. Apparently families would rather visit amusement parks and ride adrenaline pumping rides. And while there’s nothing wrong with making a stop on your summer road trip at an amusement park, there is no bigger thrill that watching your child oo and ah as they pass through the gates of Yellowstone, or Yosemite. There is no view from the top of a rollercoaster that rivals the view from the foot of a sequoia in the middle of a forest. And in between, being confined in the small space that is your family car, well that’s just magical.