Growing up, we drove everywhere. And I don’t mean commuting, running errands and all that. We road tripped. From long weekends at Grandma and Grandpa’s four hours away to epic treks from Canada through Denver or Ohio, my parents packed us up and took off. To this day it astounds me: we’re talking pre-internet and cell phones. I remember Dad at pay phones leafing through the thick yellow pages dangling under the booth looking for available rooms and campsites. The cooler was packed with a month’s worth of my moms bread and buns, slices of farmer sausage and cheddar cheese surrounded by tubs of peanut butter, jams, and an assortment of other snacks and lunch food stuffs. We started out in a Chevy Cavelier (yup, we were a family of six… seatbelt laws were a little lax in the 80’s) then moved in to a four door mini-wagon with no A/C which seemed the perfect vehicle to stuff full of camping gear, bags, and four kids only to break heat records in the middle of July in Chicago. Eventually we hit the family milestone of a minivan and that red Dodge Caravan took us all over North America with a little more space and working A/C.
It changes when your’re a single college kid: Texas to California in 23 hours is do-able. Denver to Minneapolis with your buddy, a stack of cd’s, and the windows down is more fun than the actual destination. Even though I would drag a reluctant new wife with me on some good treks, it took some convincing to ignore a cheap flight with promises of a picnic overlooking the Sonoran Desert outside of Yuma, but she always went for it. It’s now to the point where we’ve done multiple extended trips covering most of the western states with two kids in tow.
Granted, we’re in a Subaru. With working A/C. But there’s some good mystique to a road trip.
We still pack up a cooler but we do a good deal of Yelp-ing, stop by our fair share of Trader Joe’s, and usually have hotels and campsites at least scoped out if not booked in advance. And when we cleared the coast through Flagstaff (a ten hour jaunt where the halfway point is Barstow, California… look it up) it sure helps to have a couple movies downloaded and some headphones for the boys.
But there is nothing like it.
The little towns you pass through, the undiscovered shoreline, the mom-n-pop bakery (they still exist!), the late night truck stop for gas and potty breaks, the mandatory pic at the state line: these are things you miss at 35,000 feet. Of course, there’s a time and a place and right now in our lives we have the luxury of time to road trip it; we also use flights when it makes sense. I checked, but it’s nearly impossible to drive to Hong Kong…
We just got back from meeting up with my brother, Marty, and his family for a trek down through Big Sur. Of course, we extended it a bit and hung out with good friends in San Diego, shot up through the Grapevine (that’s a mile high pass, I just found out) and met up at a house literally suspended in the trees above Santa Cruz. Yeah, the boys loved it. A pretty rad Air BnB for sure. Then we trekked as far down Highway 1 as we could but it was closed due to rock slides and a washed out bridge. Undettered we rolled out of Monterey down the 101 to Pismo Beach. It was a pretty classic California road trip. And with beaches, boardwalks, and hotel breakfasts, it was heaven for the boys.
We’ve got a new tradition too. We’re picking up stickers of all the places we travel through (except Barstow, sorry…) and our goal is to cover our Thule car top. With a trip spanning California to Manitoba this summer, we’ll get a good part of that carrier stickered up. And if you have any suggestions of where to hit up in between, send ’em over: we’re all about exploring. We’ll try to smack a sticker up for it too. I’ll send you a pic.
Any road trips in your plans this summer? Long hauls or quick trips, let me know. It’s fun to share plans. And hey, maybe we’ll even meet up on the highway. Cuz there is nothin’ that keeps the slow, good life rolling like a trip out on the road.