When my kids were little, packing for a road trip was eazzy-peezy. Two suitcases. A pillow. A blanket. A road atlas. (Used only to hold over my head as we ran in the rain to the Rest Area bathrooms.) Plus a list of the tackiest and least expensive motels right next to the highway. Thus saving gas money and the need to stop for directions which we would never do except in case of an emergency and there always was one, but not the kind that required a trip to the ER. More along the lines of a Twizzler stuck up someone's nose or disasters of that particular ilk.
We did not have a movie theater in our fake-wood-paneled mini-van. We did not have high tech car seats with safety straps.
We kept our children safely in their seats by leaning over the headrest and yelling,
"Do I have to come back there?"
Our children packed lightly for the journey ahead. Each had his own lunch box and tucked inside every toy that would fit. The boys held a strategy session days before the trip, plotting how to get six He-Men with bulging biceps, nine Mutant Ninja Turtles and twelve Hot Wheel cars into their respective boxes. Sometimes, to fit in just one more, they would share their space and swear blood oaths that they would be responsible for their cargo and reasonable on down the road.
Meanwhile, we the adults, the drivers, the chaperones and tour guides, would do rock, paper, scissors to decide how to divide up the driving distance. Who would man up to the wheel, so to speak. I held the Mother Card and played it regularly to avoid driving at all costs. I was needed to mind the children. That meant a lot of yelling and then resting between bouts. Hence the pillow. For my well earned naps.
We played a number of games, back in the day. Alphabet games. Even though our children still counted on their fingers, we could fool them into looking for signs that began with the letter "A". Poor babies. Hours and hours of looking. Pointing. Hoping. And me knowing, that the last letter of the alphabet would elude them until we crossed the border into the next state.
Ha! I earned my Mother's badge with that prize.
Oh, about those nutritious and organic snacks. Yeah, well forget it. That's not what rest stops are for. Instead, bags of Funyuns and Beef Jerky and ice cold bottles of Coke. And of course, more Twizzlers. So what if the interior of the car smelled like a rendering plant?
The kids were in Hog Heaven so why not smell like it too?
Oh, I agree. This was not a trip for beginners. Not a trip for the faint of heart. Not a trip for following the rules of the road. We taught our sons how to pee in the woods. We taught our children that bears would climb in the windows if they left their light on in the cabin after 8PM. We encouraged our children to appreciate the local flora and fauna, like Albert the Bull, a thirty foot high plaster of paris forty-five ton phenom endowed with an equally enormous and exaggerated set of testicles, which, if we stood underneath, made a great Christmas family photo.
We taught our children that Daddy gets crabby after ten, "Are We There YET?" questions and that the Pool Closed Sign does apply to us too...so how about a nice long bath in the rusty tub in our tiny little room with the Air Conditioner that rattles and wheezes like a six-pack-a-day smoker.
Yes, I do. I look back on those road trips and I see my son with a rabbit fur tucked in his pocket, wearing a cowboy hat and a holster, and my other son with his neatly combed hair and mouth full of braces and I...
Because somewhere along the road, we made memories.
We made family memories on those road trips. To Yellowstone. To the Badlands. Even to the Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota. I tried. I swear I tried to admire a building made of corn. The husk exhibits. The corny corn kernel attractions.
Anything to get OUT of the car.
To catch my breath.
Those days are long gone. Visions in the mist.
My misty visions.
Now, we have a new grandson and I fear that he will spend his road trips hunkered over a Video Game or his IPhone. Watching movies above the console. The car will be quiet. The ABC Bingo a lost art. The conversation...can you change the channel. I am not sure if anyone will even look out the windows at the scenery anymore. With GPS, the driver will no longer argue with his wife, but with a faceless and nameless voice booming through the surround sound. The granola and gluten-free treats will replace the Twizzlers and the motels pre-reserved through Expedia for a room with a view and WiFi.
No more tacky tasteless tourist attractions.
Only educational facilities.
No picnics with the ghost of Buffalo Bill in Cody Wyoming.
No wide eyed wonder as Devil's Tower looms out of nowhere.
We are going on a road trip soon.
The thought of it made me sad.
Then my son called.
He wants to take HIS son to see Albert, the Bull.
There is HOPE in this world.
Some memories are not soon forgotten.
And be sure to watch for our family Christmas photo this year.
It's the one with us...
smiling like fools...
underneath a pair of massive plaster of paris testicles.
While chewing on Twizzlers.
(Special thanks to Albert...
you can visit him and read his story at