Thursday, June 07, 2012

Auto Travel, Past and Present

Brian hasn't coughed all day.  I feel like smacking him.  And here I even walked to the drugstore and picked up Mucinex and VapoRub, just as you all suggested.  The input was helpful - I don't think he is sick now, but if he doesn't get that stuff up and out of his lungs soon, he could develop a real infection, as one of you pointed out.

I love the blogosphere.  Have I mentioned that?

Elsewhere in the blogosphere, Swistle is asking for help for Heather, who wants to know what sort of things she can use to amuse her 2 little kids on a cross-country car trip.  Really?  In an era of handheld games, DVD players for the car, books on CD, etc., someone has to ask this question?  And, more importantly, do you folks who are just now starting families realize how good you have it?

Please understand - way back in 1993, Larry and I set out from Maryland in a Honda Civic hatchback with a newly minted 2-year-old and a 4-month-old baby.  Our destination?  Our new duty station in Monterey, California -- that's right, the OTHER SIDE of the country.  Folks, this was still the dark ages of auto travel.  NO handheld games, no IPads, no DVD players existed.  There was no Internet  -- at least, not enough of one to allow us to map out a route that would hit as many McDonald Playlands as possible.  We had nothing but our own grit and determination to travel those 2000 miles.  It was like Lewis and Clark, only harder.

Did I mention we traveled in a 1989 Honda Civic hatchback?  We didn't even have a cupholder in that car, for heaven's sake.  And we were such parenting wimps, it took us 10 days to crawl cross-country.  Unlike friends of ours, also military, whom we were lucky enough to meet in Monterey....they managed to drive from Long Island with 4 kids aged 2 - 8 years old, and in far less time.

How did they do it?  They threw all those kids in their station wagon and said, "If you're good and let us drive all day, we can go to Disneyland when we get to California."  And off they went.

Don't worry, my friends buckled their kids in.
4 days, people.  It took them only 4 days, even with all those kids in the car.  I believe that is some sort of a record, even in military circles.  If there were a Purple Heart for military families, they would have earned it on that trip alone.

Oh, and Heather?  The main thing you need on a drive like that, even now, more than anything else?  Earplugs.  Don't leave home without them.

[Edited to add: We are getting some awesome car trip stories in the comments.  Please join in!]

[Station wagon image: DaddyTypes]


  1. I especially like the picture of the back of the station wagon! Is the baby in some sort of hammock? Ah, the good ol' days before carseats. I don't think I ever wore a seatbelt until I took my driving test... Now I'm a carseat nazi, and keep the kids in them forever.

    1. They were called infant carbeds, I think. I know I rode in one when I was a baby.

    2. We did our LONG road trip when I was 5. Just 2 adults and 2 kids in a Toyota Corolla (wagon, ha!) with no air conditioning and only AM radio. This was the summer of 1979, and we drove from Oklahoma City to Northern California... We had a small bag of stuff to entertain us including 3 Little Golden Books, some kind of activity book, and miniature pinball/maze game. It was a three day trip. I threw up right after getting to my grandparents house (at least it wasn't in the car!!). The only 'good' thing was that I didn't realize that other cars HAD air conditioning. Oh, and there was only Native American chanting on the radio through most of AZ. Fun times. I seem to have blocked the trip home.

  2. My husband wants to go on a 27 hour car trip (that's 27 hours each way). But I refuse to go until he buys me a limousine with the roll up window behind the driver's seat. Then I will consider it.

  3. HA! My dad was a marathon road-tripper, too. We had a minivan at least. He would take out the middle seat, pile in giant coolers of food, let us each pack one small bag of toys, and off we'd go. We argued over who got the 'real' seat in the back and who had to sit on the hard floor. Stopping to rest your legs, eat, and pee? Fugettaboutit. But we made great time!

  4. I remember the first time I saw DVD players for cars and my first reaction was against them. But then I just realized I didn't think it was fair how much boredom I suffered on our long family car rides by comparison. Why not watch a movie? My kids have no idea how good they have it.

  5. I'll play. In 1976, my family made a trip from the Tampa Bay are to Cleveland Ohio in a Mercury Monarch, a decent size room for five car. Doesn't sound to bad, does it? There were 9 of us, two adults and 7 kids ranging in age from 16 years to 18 months. We were too crowded to do anything.

  6. Oooooh. Memories! Back in the day, waaaay back, my parents crammed the four of us in the back of the car (sedan, no wagon)& drove across the Canadian prairies (from British Columbia to Manitoba)in a couple of days. Get up at 3 (that is in the a.m.), drive until you need gas, and hey, look at the time, you can have breakfast now too!), and then drive & drive & drive until you need gas again. Gotta pee? That'll teach you to watch your liquids intake! No peeing until the next gas stop. Them's the rules. Drive until 4 pm & if we all behaved, we got a motel with a pool. Oh, and no air conditioning in the car either. We were only allowed to crack the windows 1/4 inch so it wouldn't ruin the aerodynamics & screw with the gas economy. We read books, annoyed the crap out of each other, that kind of thing. I hate road trippin' to this very day.

  7. When there were three of us kids, my parents had an old (even old at that time) VW Bug. Behind the back seat was a kind of deep cavity, probably for luggage. A pillow and a blanket, and my younger sister and I were in heaven for a long drive. We'd snuggle down, or sit up and look out the back windo. My older sister sat in the back seat, and one of us cold join her if we felt cramped. Also, no radio, certainly no air-conditioning (this was in the late 1960's). We sang songs as a family, and I could always read in cars. In fact, all that time to read without any chores to interrupt me? Heaven!

  8. We never went anywhere. Our car would always break down if we attmepted to go farther than an hour away. That was fun.

  9. Never went on REALLY long trips when I was a kid (most was 4 hours or so), but whenever we would ask my Dad how much longer it was until we got there, the reply was, "Two hours!" No matter if we were 15 minutes away or 15 hours. Now we do the same thing to our kids...

  10. Back in the day, late 1960's, my parents drove across the country from Michigan to the Canadian Rockies. I think this was before my brother was born, so just the 3 girls and my parents. We were so excited to arrive in a large town with a real bathroom at the gas station. Evidently the other stops for a good portion of trip had outhouses...

    That trip was the one where Mom decided to take our shoes off and put them in the front seat. That way, she did not have to look for them at every stop.

  11. We'll be making that cross country trip from Tijuana to D.C. in just four short months. I actually don't think it's that bad--even with three kids in tow. It's a great way to see the U.S. Sure, I'll gripe about it, because that's what I do, but secretly, I think it's kind of fun.

    When I was young, my parents drove from N.C. to Texas with me and my two brothers in a tiny pickup truck that had a shell on the back. They squeezed my two-year-old brother's car seat in the front between them and my older brother and I rode out the 17-hour drive in the bed of the truck. Actually we made that trek a lot growing up in many different vehicles. I also remember sleeping in the floor boards of the car. Of course, that was all before seat belt laws took all the fun out of road trips.

  12. "It was like Lewis and Clark, only harder."

    Loved this.

  13. My siblings will never forget the annual family vacations because I was notoriously carsick. My parents liked me to sit between my brothers so they couldn't fight as easily (that way, they punched me in their efforts to punch each other, I whined, and my dad smacked us all). Of course, I got back at all of them by throwing up at least once a day.
    I will never forget driving through Bakersfield, CA, when it was 108 degrees. My folks had a deep blue Impala wagon with black vinyl seats -- and of course, no a/c. Rolling down the windows only let in the hot wind. We had sweat rolling down our legs where our knees bent. It was torture. I tell this to my kids all the time.

    Last year we moved 7 people, 1 cat, and 2 cars cross-country. I think we only used that DVD player once!

    1. AnonymousJune 12, 2012

      I was carsick too---there was no hand held device or book or movie that would have helped me at all---even now I can barely read the map to help the driver. I don't understand how kids aren't puking their guts out with all the movies and books and games that would cause me such carsickness. AngAK

  14. I first read this post a few days ago on my phone when we were right in the middle of a 12 hour drive, coming home from a vacation. (would have commented then, but I'm too lazy to type out a long comment on my phone) This was the first vacation we had ever been on where all of the kids were potty trained and able to buckle up their own seat belts :0)

    Before we left, I informed the kids that they would be responsible for their own entertainment during the road trip. I knew we would end up bringing the iPod touch and the portable DVD player, but what I didn't expect was what my sons rigged up in the back seat. Using a bunch of cables, extension cords and a power inverter, they were able to hook up the Playstation and a small video projector. Yes, as we were traveling, they were able to play video games projected on a piece of poster board which they taped to the seat in front of them.
    This is the advantage to having technology geeks for children.

    Several years ago when I first suggested to my husband that we buy a portable DVD player for the kids to use on road trips, he was adamantly against it because he never had a TV in the car when he was a kid and our kids could surely survive without one.
    He finally realized that the DVD player wasn't really for the kids, but for us because it would keep them busy and content for a few hours at a time.

    When I was a kid, my dad was a long haul truck driver. Some of my fondest memories are of the long trips we would go on with my dad in his truck. I somehow managed to travel for days without any electronic devices.

  15. All of our vacations as a child were road trips. For the most part we'd borrow the camper and pickup truck from my grandparents and drive to Yellowstone. This was no fancy RV mind you, I am pretty sure the dinosaurs hand crafted that thing. I think my parent's loved that they could sit in the cab of the truck in peace and quite while the 5 of us hung out in the camper- no seat belts, no parents, access to all the food and treats = heaven for us kids! The tricky part was at night when you were trying to sleep 7 people in one tiny camper perched in the bed of a truck. One kid always ended up sleeping in the cab of the truck. Alone. With wild imaginations of bears creeping up to open the door and snatch young children for a snack. Good times.

    Our most memorable trip was probably when we took a week and a half to drive from Utah to Kansas to Illinois to South Dakota to Wyoming and back to Utah again. There were still 7 of us only this time 3 of us were teenagers and my two brothers were each over 6 feet tall. Oh, and we camped the whole time. In tents. Rain or shine. Luckily my mom had a huge bag of toys, games, coloring books (my saving grace even at age 15) and other activities. She gave us a new thing each day to try to keep us busy. I don't know how we ever survived that one.



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