My love for travel was instilled in me at an early age. Vacations and weekends free from work inevitably meant a road trip of one kind or another.
My mom would pack and organize the car to keep us kids comfortable, entertained, and separated. Separation was key to any successful road trip. Only a year and a half apart in age, my sister and I would often end up fighting like animals. On our own, we were both quite civil and well behaved. It was only when we were together that things had a tendency to turn ugly. To preserve everyone’s sanity, separation was mandatory. Neither of us dared cross the imaginary middle line between our two sides. Crossing it always meant trouble that wouldn’t end well for either of us.
To avoid the chaos of traffic, we’d set off on our road trips in the late evening hours and drive late into the night. Happily tucked away into my side of the backseat, I would cuddle down with my pale pink pig pillow, soft lap blanket, and my backpack filled with books and activities while my sister was secure on her side of the car with her round grey hippo pillow, her own soft lap blanket, and respective backpack filled with books and activities. Traveling this way never failed to lull me and my sister to sleep. To this day, I cannot ride in the back of a car without nodding off.
Our road trips led to all kinds of adventures, both big and small. The memories come one after another.
Riding the cable cars in San Francisco, I stood outside a shop in China Town staring in horror at the ducks hanging in the window until my mom insisted I go in to see all the things the shop had to offer. If memory serves, we bought spices from that small shop.
Camping deep in the mountains, we are delighted to find a small creek close to our campsite. My sister spend those few days wading and playing in the creek.
The storm was one for the record books. Creeping through snow and ice, we were cautiously making our way through it when we were stopped short by a man flagging cars down. My dad stopped, assuming the man had been in a wreck and needed help. As it turned out, the man had narrowly missed the seventy car pile up on the road ahead of us. He was flagging down cars to warn them, so no one else would get hurt. For the next hour or so, my dad and that man flagged down other unsuspecting cars until emergency personnel arrived.
Standing in what seemed to be a mile long line to ride the Matterhorn at Disneyland, my dad and I were both visibly dragging our feet. We both hated high rides while my sister and mom loved them. For some unknown reason, riding this particular ride was deemed a family affair. As we drew closer and closer to the front of the line, my dad and I grumbled about plummeting to our death. Almost to the front of the line, my mom either felt sorry for us or had enough of our grumbling and told us we didn’t have to go on the ride if we didn’t want to. Looking at me, my dad asked me if I’d like to get out of line. Instead of jumping at the chance to free myself from this horrendous experience, I was filled with righteous indignation. We had waited nearly an hour and a half to go on this ride, and that was exactly what I was going to do. As I was hurtling through the dark caverns at a thousand miles a minute screaming for dear life, my regret was swift and unrelenting.
Traveling along highways and back roads, we’d often stop at little road side stands seeing what treasures they had to offer. Fresh fruits, vegetables, ice cream, and curios at these little places always held my fascination.
Sitting cross legged on the floor of a longhouse, we watched in awe and delight as a Native American tribe danced.
Piling out of the hot sticky car, I lift my face to the sky and gratefully take in the fresh air. We’ve finally arrived. We are in South Dakota. We’ve come to visit my grandparents, but this trip also means we get to see Mount Rushmore and Flintstone Land. I think I was most excited about Flintstone Land.
There is something distinctly special about road trips. Cramming everyone into the car and hitting the open road is liberating. It allows you to connect in a way that cannot be done when work, school, and the outside world are continually knocking at your door. Some of the best childhood memories I have are when we were road tripping across the United States.