The scorching road trips of my youth

ImageToday, the WordPress Daily Post posed a writing prompt that I could not resist: If time and money were no object, what car adventure would you go on?

We’ve taken a few car adventures, and I’ve loved them all. Even three sweaty, bickering kids packed in the back of the van with 40 DVDs and a bushel of fattening snacks can’t quell my joy. I adore the open road. Stopping for scenic roadside views. Poking through tiny museums where the docent is so bored they’ll give you the personalized, two-hour tour.

We’ve hiked the Badlands, and trails in Glacier National Park. Taken the Montana Dinosaur Trail. Trooped across the Little Bighorn Battlefield.

But if I were to take the ultimate car adventure, there is no doubt what it would be. I would recreate one of the scorching trips of my youth.

My father grew up in Arizona, so our final destination was always in the middle of the desert, and because he was a university professor, we had to travel in August between summer school and the start of the fall semester. It was hot. Really, really hot. And we had no air conditioning in our station wagon. That did not stop us.

We’d depart early in the morning and bomb across the boring, flat states like Iowa, Nebraska and Kansas (sorry neighbors), then we’d slow down a little. We’d hike through the Utah canyons, including my favorite, Mesa Verde, where we got to walk through the ruins and climb ladders to go down into the kivas. We’d visit Four Corners, where Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico all come together, and each stand in a different state for a family picture. Perch at the edge of the Grand Canyon, my mother far back from the railing convinced one of us was about to pitch to our death.

Then, because we lacked air conditioning, we’d make the last leg of the trip through the desert at night. I can still remember the warm breeze, and the hum of the pavement as we sailed along in the dark.

Once we reached our destination, we’d explore early in the mornings before it go too hot. Climb sand dunes and tour territorial prisons. Take a day trip into Mexico and barter for the interesting little trinkets that my grandmother called “cochinada,” which she roughly translated as little, (expletive deleted) things.

I know there were long, boring stretches of highway. Beautiful canyons that my sister and I could not be bothered to view because we were too busy playing cards in the back of the station wagon. Bouts of car sickness. Remote areas where all we could tune in on the AM radio was “Song Sung Blue”. We listened to it for hundreds of miles.

But I think travel is worth a few unpleasantries.

I have not been able to convince my family to make this trip. My own children are Minnesota-born and bred and they melt when the temperature exceeds 85. Spoiled by all that air-conditioning, no doubt! And to be honest, they are a little sick of my 3000-mile extravaganzas. This year we are opting for the quiet, “up north” vacation typical for our region. It will be a nice break, but I intend to use it to plan next year’s vacation.

Which will be another epic drive. Where shall we go?

20 thoughts on “The scorching road trips of my youth

  1. My last big vacation was driving along the California coast. Both my husband and I enjoyed it, but driving through 17 miles of a rainy stretch of curving mountain road put him over the top. Now all he wants to do is camp or fly fish in here in Wisconsin.


    1. Last summer we drove all the way around Lake Superior which was a great trip, but LOTS of miles. By the end, my husband was practically road-rage tired of driving. I didn’t think we’d live to see home. Half the reason we are driving to a lodge and parking this year.


  2. When you’re brought up with the road trip it just seems the only way, but people who aren’t just can’t see it, and no amount of logical argument will turn them around. They complain of being “bored” when the whole point is to be bored.

    Gah. Well, more road for the rest of us, I suppose.


  3. Do you remember our famous road trip from Chicago to LA ? One of the best parts (and there were many) was when we hiked through Bryce Canyon and decided it would be great to take a swim completely forgetting we had a 5+ hour drive to our next stop! The smell of our wet clothes bathed the interior my Ford EXP until I sold it. Simply one of the best road trips ever.

    Can you remember the soundtrack we played over & over?


    1. How could I forget! It was a pinnacle point in my youth. Best. Trip. Ever. The only thing I remember listening to – ad nauseum – was a tape of Roman Holiday featuring the outstanding lyric “A touch too much of your good, good lovin’ ” Also, reading aloud to you from Kerouac’s On the Road. Weren’t we the thing?


      1. I forgot about reading “On the Road.” It’s official we were cooler than our kids can ever be. Do you remember when I got pulled over for speeding (while blasting Roman Holiday) and I told the officer I didn’t even know he was behind us? He said, of course, because he had been following us for at least 5 minutes. Not my finest moment but so incredibly fun.


        1. Oh, yes! Totally forgot that. I do remember those shady guys at the service station in Utah that slit our tire and then tried to tell us we needed a repair. We were so on to this scam – you checked all four tires, said they were fine, and off we went. The tire didn’t go flat until we stopped for the night in Vegas.


  4. Something about the ride that keeps my mind loose and not so focused on lists and to-do’s. I can just listen to music and watch the world go by. My husband hates being in the car, but takes me on long road trips because he knows I love it so much!


    1. Me, too. As soon as I get in the car the endless to-do list just falls away. A little like my days traveling by car for work (before everyone had cell phones) when I was guaranteed solitude for the length of the drive.


  5. I love road tripping. Seriously love it. We actually took a long roadtrip without movies, without personal hand held games or crazy smart phones and it is among my very favorite of all our trips ever. We’ve also done Mesa Verde – I literally cried when we drove through the gates…. it was a lifelong dream. My son loves the four corners. When we went there twenty years ago there was almost nothing there. Now its so fancy!

    I have also enjoyed my New England travels in the past few years. Actually seeing both the revolutionary/colonial era locations as well as the cultural renaissance/arts places make my heart and creative spirit VERY happy!

    I’ve tried to write about these adventures in the past – some I have – but you are reminding me of gaps in my content. THANK YOU and yes, I love this!!

    OH! And when I was a kid on our crazy road trips we didn’t have AC, either, and all six kids were mooshed into our country squire station wagon. I was always stuck in the “way back” – no seatbelts back then! ACK!


    1. My sister and I loved the “way back.” We’d just lounge back there and play cards. Those were the days. (I’m guessing there would have been waaaaay more carsickness if we’d been strapped in all the time.) We have not gone east at all, mostly because we are STILL locked into August vacations because of spring/summer sports. I would love to tour the Civil War battlefields before my kids get too much older.


  6. We had our fair share of road trips when I was a kid, even driving up and down the AlCan Highway, but our last big road trip landed us here in Arizona of all places lol! You’re right, IT’S HOT!! Get your family to visit someday, you can hang out for an afternoon in my house…..with the AC blasting lol!


  7. Three kids in the back seat? Ha! You ain’t been there until you have eight kids and two adults in a Chrysler sedan bombing 400 miles from Montreal, Quebec, to Buffalo, NY, several times a year. Parents and two kids in the front seat, five kids across the back seat, and one more lying across the “package shelf” beneath the rear window! All of this before seat belts and air bags, of course!


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