I blame my wanderlust on my parents.
I grew up in the late 60s, early 70s. People were hitting the road. Gas was cheap, and cars must have been affordable, judging from the way my dad cycled through them. We were always on the go, taking memorable trips to Crater Lake, Vancouver B.C.and Disneyland. When I got older, my dad got a job that involved travel, and he arranged a partially sponsored three week road trip that took us through Yellowstone, down through Denver, San Antonio, Santa Fe, then L.A., before heading back home to Oregon. Looking back, that seems painfully ambitious. I was sixteen at the time, and probably not entirely pleasant to be around for short periods, let alone trapped for hours in a car with, yet I look back on that family vacation as one of the best. I can only hope my parents feel the same. I experienced so much of the country – geysers and bison in Yellowstone, great southwestern food and culture in San Antonio and Santa Fe, and always the mountains, plains, and deserts rolling by.
My husband and I made a point to take our kids on road trips as well. In our mind, it’s important for them to see the country, to know the expanse of the land in which we live, to develop a sense of place and geography, and to see what makes us different and, more importantly, similar. We have driven to Mexico City, through the Chihuahuan desert, a great expanse of nothingness where we came upon a group of people selling rattlesnake by the roadside. On our way back, we were able to make side trips to the Grand Canyon and Carlsbad Caverns. On a different trip to Disneyland, we swung by to check out Yosemite National Park and ended up staying and hiking up Vernal Falls. So many trips. So many memories.
Five years ago, I coaxed Maverick and Goose into going with me to take Sunshine to college in Texas. Mr. A was deep into his busy season and would fly down and meet us in Texas. It was just the kids and me, every nook and cranny of the little Kia Soul packed with Sunshine’s belongings and our bare-bones luggage.
Let me tell you, it’s a long road trip from Oregon to Texas. We had planned a stop in Arizona, where we took a couple of days to hike in the Grand Canyon and explore around Flagstaff, where we looked at the stars from Lowell Observatory and hiked through Oak Creek Canyon near Sedona.
We revisited Carlsbad Caverns on the way through New Mexico so my cave-dwelling sons could be impressed by the size and grandeur of the open areas we walk above. We finally reached San Antonio at the peak of summer in a drought year and made the best of the 108 degree heat with swims in the rooftop pool at our hotel. You’d never have known it at the time, but Maverick recently shocked me with his admission that this was his favorite road trip.
When the kids were young, we heard the same ‘are we there yet’ every other parent hears. We played all of the car games my parents played with us to keep us stimulated. The alphabet game had us searching for words that began with the last letter of the previous word. Someone was always excited to be the one to stump the group with a word ending with x, y, or z. We played a version of car bingo. We sang songs and listened to books on tape. During those times, we were a unit, a family, relishing our togetherness and sense of adventure. We got in each other’s space and lived through it. We had to learn to work together within the confines of the car and of the experience. We didn’t watch movies. We weren’t checking out on personal devices. We shared. We did this together.
You can keep your planes, trains and buses. Give me a car and the open road any day. Road trips offer a sense of adventure and exploration. On the open road I’m free to stop and wander, to veer from the path. I can travel on a budget or in high style, camping in the back of the car or having the valet park it for me at some ritzy hotel. I’m the captain of my ship (alright, it’s a shared job), and as long as we can avoid mutiny (says the parent of teens), there are wondrous adventures in store.
In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Trains, Planes, and Automobiles.”You’re going on a cross-country trip. Airplane, train, bus, or car? (Or something else entirely — bike? Hot air balloon?)