Summer Road Trip Reminiscing

The summer after first grade, my family began a new annual tradition.  A day after school let out, we’d pile into the car and hit the highway.  ‘Road trip’ became synonymous with the adventure of new states, new license plates, and new sights.  Years later as an adult, when the heat of summer first pressed down, I’d get itchy feet to hit the road once more.  I still get that urge to GO around each Memorial Day.

Back then, chain hotels were a new concept.  We stayed in motor courts with orange and brown fixtures considered modern in that era.  The smell of hotel room deodorizer still takes me back to those days.  When a chain now considered ubiquitous first marketed their centrally-placed swimming pools and consistent styling, my family was hooked.  I learned to swim in one of their pools.

Eating at diners was a treat only topped by the occasional fancy restaurant.  I ate hamburgers across this country and back again.  My little sister loved chicken.  A pie place with trains circling, a spot in the woods where we could eat on a deck, and countless picnic tables with sandwich fixings live on in my memory.  I tried my first seafood on one of those trips, and after that, I tried every different food I could find.

We stopped at each roadside attraction, be it a National Park, museum, public garden, or concrete and foam dinosaur statue.  My parents loved to collect rocks, meaning the tail of our sedan would be dragging by the time we got home.  Sometimes, the pile extended to the back seat, and Sis and I had our knees under our chins after six weeks of accumulation.

Dad did all the driving, since Mom didn’t have a license back then.  She marked the route maps with colored marker and planned the stops and served as navigator.  Dad visited the manufacturing plants he oversaw, the implied purpose for our odysseys, but really, those road trips were our annual family vacations.  Wide open spaces, interstates or backroads, urban jungles new to us – each had its special charm.

One summer I put my toes in the Atlantic for the first time.  Another year, the lap of Pacific Ocean waves spoke to me as the coast I belonged on.  In the cold of each Chicago winter, we’d pull out the US map and an atlas, and we’d begin to plan, dreaming of new adventures.  We always stuck our toes in some body of water.

I got my original camera the first year, a Kodak Instamatic that became an extension of my arm from the very first click.  I learned to shoot a Leica SLR on those trips, and a movie camera.  I never met a landscape vista or flower close-up I didn’t love.  I don’t know how many tons of negatives I finally jettisoned a few years back, in the interest of reducing clutter.

Summer road trips.  Good times.  A week ago, Dear Hubby and I returned from a week that brought it all back.  A throwback to the olden days.  National Parks.  Roadside diners (one with trains).  Motor courts with the same artificial scents.  Pulling out for every highway marker.  The crinkle of the paper map.  Getting off the interstate in the interest of adventure.  Smiles and miles and rocks.

Good times.

What does ‘road trip’ mean to you?  Please share your experiences!

PS:  The photos in this blog are from our recent adventures.  Check back here to hear more great stories about it!

 

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