The very first road trip I was on was when we moved from Galveston back to Utah in the Crosley.
Of course, I was too young to remember this one, as I had just celebrated my first birthday in Galveston. My father was in graduate school at the medical school in Galveston.
Heard lots of cool stories about the Crosley and how it was really too small, even for the three of us, Mom, Dad and me.
The Crosley I never saw but heard a lot about was blue. Do not know the year, but they bought the Chevy in 52 and had the Crosley from 1946 and it couldn't have been a new car, so this '42 Crosley is likely around the year.
The favorite story I have from this era was when my parents wanted to go down to Mexico, but the dirt road was so bumpy they were afraid the bumpiness would wake me, as I slept in a cardboard box in the back seat.
But moving on to memories of road trips... (Think I should make a book of them...)
It doesn’t matter that you’re all of four years old and riding in a ’52 yellow Chevy with a black top and you’re tired of counting the missiles on the road -- those dotted white lines in between the yellow lines -- it doesn’t matter that you’re not in Utah or Michigan any more, because you’re still not in Missouri and your ear is playing World War three and the root beer spilled all over your blue seersucker dress.
None of it matters because there’s no radio and no siblings to entertain you -- just weeks of driving until we finally got to the St. Louis Zoo and I yelled, “She has orange teeth!” and Dad slapped his hand across my mouth to hush me up. “She ate too many carrots,” he whispered.
I could barely concentrate on the lion jumping through the fiery hoop for thinking about that poor girl with light brown braids and a green plaid dress. How many carrots did they make her eat? She should have stopped a long time ago. Her hair is curly enough. Does the orange rub off? The mystery of the girl with orange teeth seemed infinitely more fascinating to me than the lion act, in this greatest zoo my father had ever seen, until we got to the San Diego zoo.
Now that’s a zoo.
One year I got a special dispensation from 5th grade to spend an extra long Christmas vacation and arrive back to school a week late. (My father had scientific meetings, which was, in fact the main reason for all the road trips, which were every summer until we moved to Montreal, when they went on international scientific meetings.) By plane.
The year in December when I was 11 we drove to California in the Corvair Monza my Dad loved so much.
I nearly froze to death swimming in an outdoor pool at my cousins in Palos Verdes.
Why in tarnation don’t they heat their pools? Don’t they know that skinny girls only five feet tall weighing 80 pounds get cold?
That December my uncle poured red wine and egg nog for me when all I wanted was Hawaiian punch. I took one sip and gagged, then poured the red wine and the eggnog down the toilet. The eggnog smelled like turpentine and tasted worse. But it made the grownups smile a lot. It was always worth watching grownups who smile a lot because the booze was good.
My aunt and uncle still had Echo, the big black dog, that didn’t look quite so huge now that I was 11 and not 4, that I first met when hw had driven for weeks to Los Alamos, where my uncle was in training to be a rocket scientist.
I thought this was all well and good until I realized my aunt was sweeping a dirt floor in a three room adobe hut. Mighty strange way to prepare a guy to be a rocket scientist.
The tire swing in the front was awesome.
Grandma in Cedar City had a tire swing, too, and lots of red dirt -- the better to make pottery with and a butterfly chair to sit under, with white sheets blowing on the line -- the better to make teepees from.
But all that driving.
After you sing, “Oh my darling, Oh My Darling, Oh My Darling Clementine" a few thousand times and play 20 Questions another million more, a road trip gets old.
Even when you’re four or 11.
The sunsets in Arizona and the sun showers in California make it all worthwhile, though, and laughing at all the ‘Last Chance’ signs on the Mojave desert.
Last chance for gas. Next one is 200 miles. Honest. Last chance for water. Don’t look now, but there’s a dead man on the road. He didn’t get water when he could.
This could happen to you.
Or 12 and driving in the Chevy wagon. “Pull over, Dad -- the car’s exploding with white smoke.” I wanna get out of the Mojave. Sure the Grand Canyon is great, Dad, but so is Mickey Mouse."
43 states and 7 Canadian provinces and 19 countries. Waving to truckers who’d honk as Dad would say, “ Geezus. Geezus,” as we passed them.
Everything I know about Mark Twain is from road trips, from when my mother then my stepmother would read aloud to my father to keep him amused while driving.
It’s true what Mark Twain said.
“Common sense is not common, but the common man is.”
Many days were long. Six hundred miles in a day, which in those days, was a very long day.
Some pretty magical things can happen, like the time my father said, ‘’There is an oasis over there with palm trees on it.’’
He did see that mirage and so did I. That is called a shared delusion. The greatest thing that didn’t actually exist that I ever did see. Sometimes when I am stressed, I still go to that oasis. I close my eyes and it is there.
There was a huge orange moon over Gettyburg, the night we stopped at a 2 buck motel after seeing the battlefield. I swear, every time I go to that battlefield, I hear them call out to me. Twice been there, twice had that eery feeling.
One time, with my husband in his green Pontiac LeMans, driving up to Campobello Island in Maine and Canada, then in the poorer parts of Maine one summer, we stopped at a 2 buck motel when 2 bucks got you an even cheaper motel than it did when I was a a kid.
The area looked so picturesque, just like 'The Beans of Eqypt, Maine.' Of course, that’s not funny when you realize the people who are toothless have 5 kids and are only 20 years old.
And the room had flies and mosquitos and a lumpy, broken down mattress in 100 degree heat.
The next night we stopped at a lobster stand by the side of the road. Tastee. If you haven’t tried lobster that way, try it.
Finally got up to P.E.I. that summer. Prince Edward Island’s waters are as warm as Key West’s.
That is the reason the province that was formerly nicknamed Poverty Every Inch is now Profit Every Inch.
And don’t forget about the French Canadians who’ll keep you up all night in the next tent over, laughing, singing and drinking wine.
Complain to them and they’ll retort: “But we laugh, we seeng, all night long.”
Slept on the beach at PEI the next day, listing on the radio to Potato News. Farmers report their day on Potato News. Don't laugh. It's the hottest thing around.
But in 2011, the cars that fueled dreams have long bit the dust --- but their memories live on.
And we went on modern road trips with my Pinto that finally kicked the bucket when I was pregnant with my daughter.
And my first fantastic Toyota that taught me the difference between American and Japanese cars.
And I never went back. Oops, yes I did. Once...
But the road trips were never so special as when you're five or 10 and you see an oasis in the middle of the Mojave desert.
A freaking oasis with palm trees and a pond. With ducks in it.
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