Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The All American Road Trip

Technology killed the family road trip
Technology killed the family road trip

If you know that this should be sung to, "Video Killed The Radio Star" then, you my friend, are old enough to remember the age of the All American Road Trip.  Back before GPS, portable DVD players and MP3 players.   Back when families hit the open road in the pitch black, wee hours of night, hoping against hope that the kids would sleep through most of the trip. 

Nowadays, minivan ads broadcast a different version of the road trip.  Parents are smiling happily, their offspring buckled into their own row of seats, watching their own DVD movies, earplugs firmly in place.  Peace and quiet, the commercial promise.  I can only assume that the person who wrote this spot is a mother.  A survivor of her own family's road trip.  Perhaps, my own mom.

Growing up, our vacations usually began in the middle of the night.   My mom and dad would carry sleeping kids out to the car, toss us in the backseat and drive off.  I'm pretty sure that the proper usage of seat belts was never involved.  Five minutes later someone would wake up and announce that they had to use the bathroom.  So much for peace and quiet.  We once made a trip from Ohio to Florida with a kid blaring, "His foot is invading my space.  His foot is invading my space.  HIS FOOT IS INVADING MY SPACE!" on a continuous loop.  Sometime around Georgia my mom threatened to drop us all off on the side of the highway.

Recently, my nephew came to visit.  He never once asked what there was to do or where a good restaurant was.  His trusty GPS held all that information for him.  We never had GPS.  My folks had me.  It was my duty to read the AAA trip book, shouting out data for hotels and restaurants as we sped past.  If a AAA discount wasn't offered we kept going.  No idea what was up ahead.  No idea how long til the next gas station.  We lived dangerously. 

Like the time my mom decided that she had been driving long enough.  So sure that our destination was closer to the state line than it actually was, she stopped frequently waving down total strangers on the street, asking how much further.  We drove around aimlessly trying to remember if the person had said turn left at the McDonald's, or right at Burger King.   When we finally pulled up to the rental, almost a day later than originally planned,  my aunt greeted us at the door full of worry and concern.   My mom blamed the state  for being so long and full of people who don't know how to give directions.

Somehow, through all the miles, through all those "she's looking at me", through all the "who can spot the most out of state license plates" contests, we built memories that we're still laughing over twenty years later.  And that's the real purpose of road trips, I suspect.


  1. I do remember that song and yes technology was part of our summer road trip- only part of the time. We did use the iphone to play the soundtrack to The Good, the Bad and the Ugly when we stopped at the Badlands. It was very cool:)

  2. I totally agree! I was telling my husband that I would not buy a dvd player for our car because I think it teaches impatience! I remember road trips, not all the bad things but how adventurous it was to see new states and places I have never been. To eat gas station food that you never get on a regular day!

  3. What a lovely trip down memory lane! Video did kill the radio star. Oh, and cassette tapes killed the 8-track player that was in my family's Ford Country Squire station wagon (with the fake wood trim on the outside) when I was a little boy. That wagon had at seat waaaaay in the back that my brother and I sat in on long family trips. Great to find you... or be found by you. On an unrelated note, love your photos. I'm following you on my google reader and on facebook. Have a great day!

    --Michael (aka:

  4. Thank you everyone for your comments! Daddy Blog, we had the same exact station wagon. Ours was green with the wood trim and I remember the seat in the back. For some reason my brothers and sister and I loved sitting back there. Lala's that does sound cool. Never been to the Badlands but I'll have to remember the song if we ever get there. And Jennifer, loved the gas station food!