I love that spring is now afoot. Especially delightful hallmarks of this season for me include more hours of daylight, birds chirping away in the trees in our neighborhood, and the promise of new life. Spring also makes me a little antsy for a good old fashioned road trip. Over the course of my life, I have been fortunate enough to have several memorable road trips in the spring, some with family and some with friends.
My earliest recollection of a spring road trip was in 1974, when I was 7. My parents decided to take me and my siblings, who were 15 and 17 at the time, and my Grandma (aka Pearl Pearl the Party Girl), on a road trip to visit family in Phoenix. We drove from our home in northern Minnesota in a family caravan of sorts, with my aunt and uncle and their kids in their own car. My sister, brother (who was six feet tall with the longest, skinniest legs you have ever seen), and I sat squished together in the backseat of Dad’s sedan ( I think it was a Chevy Impala) for the long trek to Arizona, with the two family’s cars switching out Grandma Pearl for a kid during pit stops along the way. I remember singing along to songs like “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head”, “Knock Three Times”, and “Cracklin’ Rosie” while gazing at the totally foreign-to -me landscape of cacti-infused deserts. As this was long before portable DVD players and Iphones, we played “car games” to prevent boredom. If someone smelled a skunk on the road, we would play “I smell a skunk” with someone responding “I won it”, the someone else would chime in “I two it”, and so on until the last responder would exclaim “I eight it!” (get it? “I ate it!) Or we’d play the “alphabet game” where we’d spy letters from a-z on road signs and license plates. The winner was whoever got to “z” first. Or we’d count how many red, blue, or black cars we could find. Ah, those were simple times! The most memorable part of this trip, however, is when we lost Grandma at Disneyland. What a stellar moment for our family. I can never hope to tell this story in as much glorious detail as my mother could, but suffice it to say that my parents thought my aunt, uncle and cousins transported Grandma back to the motel we were all staying at, and vice versa. Everyone was confused and horrified to learn that Grandma was nowhere to be found. She came back a few hours later in a taxi and she was not a happy woman. Apparently, she made sure to tell the story of her family abandoning her at Disneyland to the motel owner upon her return. This is not a surprise as she tended to be a pretty ornery (I say this with love) broad. According to my mom, several years later, when she and dad went to check into the same motel on a trip to California, the motel owner exclaimed “I know you! You are the ones that lost Grandma in Disneyland”.
My one and only college springtime road trip involved a harrowing drive with my roommate/sorority sister from Minnesota to Pascagoula, Mississippi, during which the driver (not me) decided on a couple of occasions that it was a good idea to read her map whilst speeding down unfamiliar highways. I’m pretty certain that was the first time my life actually flashed before my eyes. Fortunately, we made it to Pascagoula, where we partied the nights away with my friend’s boyfriend and his Marine buddies, and soaked up the Mississippi sun on our plastic loungers during the day.
As a wife and mom through the 90’s and 00’s, I recall many fun family road trips. There was the time when our girls were still in elementary school, and the four of us drove to see my folks, who were staying in Alabama for the winter. The trip down was a blur of crummy fast food, stopping every hour or two for our youngest to use the facilities (mostly out of boredom we suspected), singing along to the radio (before there was Sirius XM), and playing the “alphabet game”. We spent a lot of quality time with my folks and all got to swim in the ocean together for the first time. And my husband bought a (mismarked) surfboard with a “Corona” logo on it for $9.99. He only used it while we were there, since we lived in Minnesota at the time, where of course there are no oceans.
As an empty nester couple for the past 4 years or so, we have enjoyed some really cool road trips as well. Like the times we drove from our home in Wisconsin to visit Colorado, stopping over in places like Omaha and North Platte, where we discovered some great restaurants, wine bars, and tap rooms. With spring upon us, I’m looking forward to some shorter road trips with the hubs to explore parts of Colorado and nearby states. I am relatively confident that these trips will not include crummy fast food, near death driving experiences, or one of us being abandoned at an amusement park. We shall see…