We Real Women, with our real families, spend a whole lot of time in our cars. There is commuting back and forth to work, there is chauffeuring children and family members, and there are endless errands….and, on weekends such as this holiday weekend, there are road trips.
We don’t have limo drivers to deliver us in comfort to our destination. We don’t have private chartered planes to zoom us quickly to our next stop. We have the family car, suv, or truck. We generally travel by car because it is supposed to be the most affordable way to travel (although recent gas prices have made me wonder if this is really still the case), and with our own cars, we can set our own schedules. Traveling by other means, like train, bus or air, can not only be extremely expensive, but in many cases is no longer enjoyable. When was the last time anyone had a pleasant, fun experience with air travel?
So we pack our belongings, family and pets into the car, gas up, and head out. Today one of my co-workers happily welcomed her sister after she drove about six hours to arrive on the doorstep. Our good friends who live next door just minutes ago greeted weary family travelers who had a very long drive through several states and heavy traffic to reach their destination. As for us this weekend, we are keeping our travel to a minimum – just a day trip tomorrow to meet some family at a half-way point for lunch. Yet next weekend we will pack up again to drive north to go camping.
I grew up experiencing family road trips. As the youngest of four, I was practically born in the car. We did regular trips to visit family members in other states, and for family vacations – always by car, and usually towing our tent camper. I have very clear memories of our times on the road. Mom would pack a picnic dinner so we could get on the road as soon as dad was home from work, and we’d stop along the way at a picnic table to eat – saving time and money. In an attempt to avoid stopping at service stations every five miles, mom would limit our liquid intake. One special “treat” of one can of soda would be opened and passed around for all of us to share. Or, mom would break out grapes for us to have – and after several hours in the car in a ziploc bag, they were no longer refreshing. I remember my brother and I sitting in the “way back” of the station wagon, our own little village set up back there. In those days of course we didn’t have hand-held video games to keep us occupied, or portable DVD players. We relied on reading, car games, and singing. To this day my Dad will cringe if he hears the opening strains to “Oats, Peas, Beans and Barley Grow.” Dad would do his best to entertain us by pointing out animal sightings along the way… preferably alive, not road kill.
The comforts and conveniences within the closed doors of our vehicles have changed over the years, as have the highways, and the performance of the vehicles. But not so much else has changed. We will still travel great distances to have time with family, and to get away for vacations. We will have to put up with occasional traffic jams, poor weather conditions, late nights, crying babies, whimpering pets, toll booths, unique pit stop areas and unhealthy road trip food. All we can hope is that we arrive at our destinations safely, and with all inhabitants of the vehicle still speaking to each other. After all, nothing beats the welcoming hug of family or friends when we get there, nor the stories we can tell about the journey.
To any of you traveling this weekend, be safe, Godspeed, and enjoy.