“The air was soft, the stars so fine, the promise of every cobbled alley so great, that I thought I was in a dream.”
– Jack Kerouac
Ah, road trips. Growing up, my parents were keen to hit the road with the three of us in tow. They were then and still are adventurers, wandering souls, Flower Children in search of that bit of zen that growing up in the 60s had promised them.
My brothers and I were the beneficiaries of this wanderlust. By the time I’d turned ten I had stood in awe of mysteries of The Thing, met many a stoic carved Chief at the entrance to endless “trading” posts, and ate more than my fair share of car-snacks and roadside taffy. If it was the World’s Biggest ______, a ghost town or even a dinosaur, we detoured to check it out.
Getting up in the wee hours, watching as dad loaded the family wagon with that Coleman cooler and more bags than people was somehow magical. Hitting the road was a sort of alchemy that changed the very atmosphere. The air smelled different on those early mornings. Light filtered through the car windows making the ordinary seem more like a kaleidoscope
All the things that drove mom nuts on a daily basis at home somehow had diminished impact when we were on the road. Even my younger brothers transformed, no longer annoying little ogres. Jam-sodden bread became a delicacy worthy of at least one Michelin star.
The destination didn’t really matter all that much, it was the getting there that got to me. Deep in the very fabric of a growing young traveler the seeds of wanderlust took hold.
Traveling back then was certainly different from what it is these days. Many of those roadside wonders have faded into the background, sun faded and abandoned. My kids don’t know the simple joy of singing 100 Bottles of Beer on The Wall to the point of exhaustion. It might be a good thing that their devices keep them from playing Punch Buggy. But I’m left to wonder if, even though they are far more traveled than I was at their ages if they’ve missed out on something magical about childhood.
Do you have memories of special childhood road trips? What there a roadside attraction that amazed (or disappointed) you? I’d love to hear all about them. Shared stories are better than any souvenir – well except for that magnet I got at the Grand Canyon circa 1970something.