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25 June 2008

Road Trip

Random "road" and "trip" thoughts...

My girls talked about taking a road trip together later this summer. The price of gas, among other things -- but mostly, the price of gas -- has them thinking otherwise. It makes me very sad.

I remember many trips "up north," when I was a kid. We always went in June. Dad would haul the boat behind his Jeep Wagoneer, Mom stuffed all of our stuff in the back. Dad rented space in someone's garage for the boat, since we didn't have room in our own. I was always in awe of backing the boat into the garage... or down the landing into the water. Maneuvering with something trailing behind is something I've never done. I remember the boat strung upside down from the rafters in our garage for a paint job once. It was a wooden boat -- most of it painted white, but also some varnished parts. I remember the engine from my Uncle Jim's MG hanging from those rafters, too. OMG, that was the COOLEST car.

He was/is a pretty cool uncle, too. "Uncle Duck." That's how he signed the note authorizing me to buy cigarettes on his behalf when I was 11. I remember him flirting with a girl at Red Owl.

It was the Summer of '69. That's been in my head since T's last YouTube Saturday. That's one of my favorite songs for driving -- one of those where I can actually "be" in my convertible, windows and top down, the road stretching straight as an arrow in the middle of nowhere for as far as I can see, the blue sky dotted with puffy white clouds, the volume cranked (because I have an AWESOME sound system... in my dreams) and I'm just happy, behind the wheel, driving...

I can "put" myself in the back seat of the Jeep, right behind Dad. He always drove with the window down, his arm hanging out, so he'd have that driver's tan. His arm would get so dark sometimes; sometimes burn. He never cranked the radio. It would always drive me nuts that I could only just barely ever hear what song was playing. He'd be smoking a cigarette or a cigar, one summer he was even smoking a pipe, but it was usually cigarettes. I loved when we'd stop for gas, how the smell would waft in through the open window. Back in the day when someone came out and pumped it for ya, and washed the windshield.

My sisters and I took a road trip 29 years ago this month. Hard to believe it's been that long. I had a brand new Toyota Corolla, my first-ever new car -- which I bought right off the showroom floor, for around $5400, my only requirement that they swap the AM/FM radio for one with a cassette player -- but we swapped for my stepdad's brand new Ford something-or-other small wagon -- because we were four girls and we needed the room, and even with a station wagon we STILL had shit in garbage bags strapped to the top of the car -- and not strapped very well, either, because we got the signal about 45 miles down the road that we should stop and secure the goods.

We drove to Oregon and met Dad, actually. He had sold his house and was moving stuff into storage -- we helped them move. My sister Sharon played "The Snake Charmer," her one and only song, on the piano in the back of a pickup truck through the streets of Dallas. When the work was done, we took a week to drive down the coast of Oregon. I took pictures of my sisters on the beach at Cape Kiwanda. My husband, who I'd not yet met, of course, had just purchased a lot there to build a house. I might have seen him; definitely drove right by the site. Six years later, I was married in that house.

We drove down to Crescent City, CA, and saw redwoods. We visited Crater Lake and the Sea Lion Caves and played on gigantic sand dunes. We had adventures battling mosquitoes while pitching a tent at Yellowstone, visited Old Faithful in the dawn's early light, spent an unplanned afternoon in the mountains of Montana (and I wouldn't have it any other way), visited Wall Drug and Mount Rushmore, spent every last penny we had on gas and food to make it home.

We made it.

Comments

Thank you for sharing such a wonderful story. We drove across country many times and my spot was right behind my dad, too.

What a great story, full of colorful images. We used to make a 12 hour drive at least once a year to see my grandmother in Colorado, and one of my favorite things was to lay in the backseat (before seatbelts were required) and watch the power lines swoop up and down, and watch the clouds go by - there is nothing like Colorado clouds. It was always amazing how soon we could spot the mountains, but how long it would take to actually get to them. We usually drove through the Texas panhandles and up through the southern part of Colorado. We only did the Western Kansas once - it was far too boring.

Ah yes, a car trip. I remember well the mornings that mom and dad would pack all SIX kids into the station wagon and take off from Green Bay to Jamestown ND--grandmas. No air conditioning in that car, so we always left by 4 AM. Kids everywhere, including sleeping on the floor of the back seat. Oh my, what sight we must have been. Today we rarely drive more than four hours--cross country just doesn't sound like much fun anymore.

Thanks for the Bryan Adams moment!

Backing up a trailer: one of the moments I am proudest of my husband is every time we need to maneuver a trailer. He immediately hops out of the driver's seat so our now-19-yo son can do it. Said son was apparently born knowing how to back up a trailer -- he has been doing it for us since he was 16. And husband feels no need to be Big Daddy Expert Driver; he lets son do it.

The girls should do a road trip. No it won't be as cheap as last year but opportunities don't come often and gas won't get any cheaper...
I remember road trips, lots of them, including the time I watched socks and jocks flying behind the car (the suitcase on the roof rack had popped open...)

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