Unless you’re a parent.
When I was a kid, the road trips were epic. First, any road trip that began in central Texas was guaranteed to hurt because it would take you at least three hours to get anywhere, four hours to the coast, 8-12 hours to the nearest neighboring state. So the inevitable “Are we there yets?” and “Are we still in Texas?” were particularly torturous for all members of the traveling party. Actually, THAT part is still true, and it’s still painful, and it’s still character building.
Man it must be nice to live on the East coast and be able to visit half a dozen states in one day. Lucky bastards.
As much as Texans love bein’ big, I’ll admit right now we’re jealous and fantasize about being able to travel to not so distant lands quickly. Texans should get a hardship discount for airfare.
Second, we didn’t have AC in our family car as a kid. IN TEXAS. I spent every trip half passed out from heat stroke and wind batter. I can’t imagine what I looked like, or smelled like, at stops along the way. I’m guessing it was something like Newt in Aliens.
I remember those stops. The refreshing blast of cold air when you entered the store or restaurant. The pleading look you gave other patrons as you left that said, “please call 911, these people are trying to kill me…slowly.”
Third, I was an only child. So it was me, a book, my parents, and AL JAREAU. A lot of Al Jareau. Who, don’t get me wrong IS fabulous, but will drive even the most sane child nuts after considerable exposure. Sometimes I entertained myself by poking holes in the upholstery of the back seat. That was fun until my parents figured out what I was doing. Their reaction wasn’t fun…it was character building.
And finally, my parents liked to play a little game on road trips. It was called hysterical marker. No, not historical marker, hysterical marker. Because the words sounds close, and they thought it was funny, and it made me f*cking nuts. These people, my parents, would stop, in the scorching heat, to read every historical marker we passed. If we missed it, we turned around. Ever been to Texas? We think everything about ourselves is important and historical. There are thousands of these signs in the state. “William B. Travis farted in this here prairie.” Kill me now.
Ohhhh, I KID. I really enjoyed many aspects of our trips, and no shit, they were CHARACTER BUILDING. I’m sure I’m a better person today because my parents ruthlessly tortured me. And I know I’m not alone in my generation. I have friends who survived family road trips with siblings by sleeping in the back window of the car- cooking in the sun, or the station wagon wheel well. I have another friend who took a road trip in a third world nation (military family). Shortly into the return trip, her dad noticed a boy in the rear view mirror chasing their car. He commented that the boy looked like his son. It was in fact his son. It seems my friend’s brother had opened the car door and rolled out during the trip without anyone noticing. (Though I’m borderline convinced he crossed the invisible sibling line that separates children on car trips and got his ass thrown out of the car by my friend…which she adamantly denies.)
Regardless, character building road trips are a thing of the past. I mean my kids bicker and drive their father and i crazy, which is hard on us, but they have it pretty good. I knew this last night as we road tripped to Florida from Austin. At night. While the kids slept. In the AC. I looked back and they were snuggled up with blankets with a movie playing and video games in their laps. Cush. You have no idea.
You’re welcome, kids. And yet, I feel sad for you that you’re missing out on something awesomely terrible…or terribly awesome. Sigh.
Maybe on the way back we’ll turn off the AC for empathy’s sake. Or stop at some hysterical markers. It’s not too late to give them something to lament about when they’re older.