This week, as we prepare for a family trip, I am reflecting on the Family Road Trip of my day. In one generation, this phenomenon has changed dramatically. Let's revisit the road trips of yore for a few minutes. OK, we'll be reflecting on the road trips of my family of origin, which may have looked completely different from your family road trips. But as I explained to my husband when we were newlyweds, my family is the epitome of normal, healthy, and mainstream--any deviance from our way must be condemned as false, dysfunctional, and truly bizarre!
Every summer in my childhood, we would load up the family car for a trip that would end in Idaho. Most of my friends' families would never have taken a trip that far in the car, but most of my friends had two siblings, tops. My parents never would have considered flying all eight of us to Idaho or anywhere else!
In my younger years, our vehicle was a Volkswagen Vanagon; years later, we traded that in for a Dodge Ram Van. These road trips took place in the days before seatbelt laws, dependable air conditioning, and DVD players. Often, we would leave while it was still dark in order to beat the heat of the desert and so as to avoid overheating the car as we climbed Cajon pass. We would spread out all over the back of the van (wherever there was a space not filled with luggage.) We would argue over who could stretch out on the floor and go to sleep. Generally, we traveled with a portacrib in the cargo area of the van with the luggage underneath and on the sides, so that the baby could travel in the crib! It seems so ridiculous now, but my mother was quite proud of that idea and we used it many times. We would listen to my parents' music mostly, which is why we know all the words to James Taylor, Carole King, Bob Dylan, Randy Newman, Paul Simon, and Steeley Dan. We also enjoyed the Police, show tunes (Les Miserables when I was a teenager), and our family favorite, Wierd Al Yankovic. We'd memorize scriptures together (my dad's idea), make up stories, and on our mega road trip one year (across the country and back), we even wrote a song and produced a music video. We never stopped at a fast food place for lunch--we were all about the cooler that Mom had packed that was wedged between the two front seats and doubled as a jump seat for a child who was causing trouble in the back. We'd play card games in the back seat and I generally read at least two novels while we were on the road.
Our trip would start in Southern California and go along I-15, through Baker (home of the world's largest thermometer, Las Vegas (which my dad liked to call Nineveh, and which we usually drove right past,) St. George, (where my dad had a former mission buddy. We would often crash on their floor or in sleeping bags in their backyard. Most years, they had about 2 hours notice that we were coming to town because my dad's one responsibility in getting ready for the trip was to call them.) Our next stop after St. George was Provo, Utah, home of my future alma mater (also my parents' alma mater.) Aunt Kim lived there and we would usually spend a few days at her house, going up to the BYU campus, eating at Heaps of Pizza (which everyone else called Brick Oven--since Heaps was the late 60's and early 70's name of the place), going to Temple Square in Salt Lake City, (that's me with Baby Tyler) and visiting various other Utah landmarks. After a few days, we would get back in the car and head to Idaho Falls, where my grandma, aunt & uncle, and cousins lived. We'd spend a night or two there, then pack up and go to Grandma's cabin on Palisades Reservoir. (My sister, Alli. Isn't she cute?) This is where I have the best summer vacation memories. I'll have to post about that tomorrow--it deserves it's own.
Once we left Idaho, we'd retrace our steps, although often we'd get a hotel room in Utah so that 1) we wouldn't wear out our welcome with relatives and 2) we could swim in the hotel pool. We'd arrive home so grateful to be there; we were tired, y, and with enough laundry to bury a few small children (I only know that now, Mom!)
We took other road trips, too, including to Sequoia National Forest, Washington, DC, upstate New York, the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, and many other destinations. Now that I look back on it, I am in awe of my parents. They were determined for us to see the country and made sure that we did, in spite of the inconvenience of traveling with six squabbling kids. And to think that I barely survived my 400ish mile drive home from Whittier this month because the DVD player was malfunctioning!