“Drive,” she said.


‘On the glories of the Open Road’

Last week’s tribute to my Male Parent and his napping powers included a memory of Dad piloting us on those long drives up to Gramma’s house. (Oldest Younger Brother Scott remarked that Dad was the only person he knew who could ‘simultaneously nap and smoke a cigarette while driving.’)

So true, Scott, so true. But I failed to mention why Dad would get so sleepy on those drives. It was because it was at least six hours to Gramma’s — on charming-but-small-town-clogged two-lane highways — and we wouldn’t start the drive till he got home from work. Sometimes, I remember, we would pull over to the side of the road so everybody, not just Dad, could sort-of-safely sleep. I remember that when we lived in Memphis, and the trip to Gramma’s was more like twelve hours, we had a mattress in the back of the Ford station wagon for the kids to crash on. Very Joad-like, but that’s the way it was.

Why didn’t you just pull into a motel? (you quite sensibly might be wondering) Well, partly it was because this was before there was a huge superhighway system studded with Motel Sixes and the like. There used to be these things called ‘tourist cabins’; I remember staying in one with my Aunt Marilyn when she treated me to a road trip for a high-school graduation present (she’s the saddle-shoed-teen in the shot below), and when we plopped our Samsonites on the bed, a cloud of dust flew up.

Getting ready to re-pile into the car and head back home after a Peterson Weekend. That’s Gramma and Grandpa over on the right. That’s Mom on the left looking very Jackie O. I was inside the car with the rest of the kids, sulking

But mainly, it was just because that’s what people (at least, people like us) did back then. You want to go visit Gramma? You pile in the car and hit the road. You want to visit a National Park? You pile in the car and hit the road. You want to go to Canada and do some fishing? Ditto.

And if the trip involved some overnights? Well, that’s why you had a Nimrod camper. That same Older Younger Brother Scott also told me once that he knew he and his wife were meant for each other when he found out her family ‘overnighted’ in a Nimrod too.

Where we slept if our trip took more than, say, twelve hours. True, there was no pool. But sometimes there was a handy lake we could jump into

Now I have to be perfectly honest here and admit that the whole Nimrod experience wasn’t exactly to my liking. Quarters were crowded (there were seven of us, remember), the canvas leaked, and whatever you ate was cold or cooked on a smelly Coleman stove (instant mashed potatoes, anyone?)

Fine dining, Nimrod style. That’s adorable Only Sister Laura sharing the cooler seat. And I think that’s a sliver of Middle Younger Brother Roger on the right

But hey. Drying wet socks on a stick held over a campfire may have soured me on camping, but it certainly did not dampen my fervor for Road Trips. And thank goodness The Dude (like the afore-mentioned Scott’s wife Patty) grew up Road Tripping too. His family, though, did not Nimrod. They actually toured the West in a Winnabago. Cool beans.

In fact, The Dude and I spent our honeymoon Road-Tripping. We rented a car in Lisbon and drove all around Portugal, Spain and Morocco. We did ‘overnight’ in permanent structures, though. Like these government-run inns they have in Portugal called pousadas. And hotels, even, here and there in Spain. Oh, and there was, of course, Malcolm Forbes’ castle in Tangier. You can read about how we got to stay there by clicking here.

That’s us, looking impossibly young, at a winery in the Hunter Valley on our Road Trip in Australia

We also Road-Tripped in Australia, which is getting its own story soon, I promise. (Or threaten, depending on how you want to look at it). And just last year we Road-Tripped in Africa.

Is it still a Road Trip if you yourself don’t actually drive? On the road in Tanzania

But one of the most memorable Road Trips of Our Marriage was the time we drove with the two-year-old Child from Phoenix to San Francisco. This too, shall get its own story if I live that long and keep on writing. But I will mention now that, adorable though she was, Two Years Old is not exactly an ideal Road Trip age. Even though I sang ‘If I Only Had a Brain’ from the Wizard of Oz like a Mom on rewind (she would shriek if I tried to cheat and hum a few bars), on more than one occasion during that week we were tempted to leave her beside the road.

Speaking of The Child, I’ll quickly note that she’s grown up enough now to go on her own Road Trips. This is tricky though, since like many New York City born-and-bred kids, she doesn’t really drive. I mean, I remember when my friends and I took Drivers’ Ed in high school. The guy who taught gym and social studies was the instructor. And you were excited. All you could think about was ‘when I get my license’. It was like freedom in the form of a little card. Well. The Child was like, ‘Drive? When will I ever drive?

When you live anywhere besides New York, that’s when. Or when you take a Road Trip, silly. And here she is, in Iceland. Where she and her friend Meredith could do very little no-experienced-driving-damage, the roads being so empty and all. Though the door of their car did blow off at one point when they stopped to take a picture. The car rental girl didn’t bat an eye. ‘Happens all the time,’ she said.

The Child takes a break from “driving” in Iceland. Note extreme emptiness of Road. Whew

Okay okay. This post is getting almost as long as a Road Trip. Got to wrap things up. There are beds to be made, laps to be swum, and kitty litter to change. See you here next week — or maybe out there on the Open Road.

Happy trails!

New York City. January 2017

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12 thoughts on ““Drive,” she said.

    • Thank you, Lisa! Yes, those road trips sure were fun. But some of them are waaaay more fun as memories — hah! But the Dude and I still do enjoy a good vacation on the road. So glad you enjoyed the story; I write a fresh one every Tuesday, so come on back!

  1. We used to have a trailer tent when I was growing up too! When we weren’t camping, my dad would insist on us driving from our home in North Yorkshire to the south of France. He would rest on the ferry and occasionally we’d stop overnight but often, it was quick naps and 24hrs of driving. Madness. Thanks for sharing and Thanks for joining the #weekendblogshare

  2. Scott

    I recall a heated argument with you over who would get to sit in the front seat in the station wagon during the drive over the Mackinac Bridge. At stake – bragging rights.

    And yes, I got to a foreign country BEFORE YOU. Thanks Mom, for the coin toss.

    • OMG! I had (almost) forgotten that! Thanks for the memory, Scott. Oh, and about that bridge — was that a scary one, or what? I remember that it was very very long, and very very high. I’m not good at bridges, ever since Educational TV played that film clip of the ill-engineered bridge that shook itself silly until it collapsed, spilling all the cars — and their unfortunate drivers and passengers — into a deep ravine. Oh no. I just scared myself.

  3. It was not a MacMeekin family vacation unless we drove there – and back- in about a 24 hour period. Most cities were seen via the “drive thru”: “Look over there kids!” One exception was the trip to D.C. Where we actually got out and walked up to the Lincoln Memorial. And then back in the car for the drive home to Michigan!

    • Yes, how I do recall the ‘look over there’ method of sightseeing. To be honest, though, after having traveled with just one small Two-Year-Old, I can’t imagine how my parents could have managed getting out of the car very often with (gasp) five kids to wrangle! Though, like you, I do recall an instance where we all got out to examine the Oregon Trail. This was near Hastings, Nebraska. There was nothing to look at. Not one thing. Well, there were two ruts. But that’s it.

  4. judy robbins

    God, you have to love the all-American road trip. Or anywhere else for that matter. No drop down movie screens or DVD players in those old cars. No air conditioning either. Books and books could be written about road trips, right Alice? By the way, we have a Posada Inn here – very nice but it seems redundant to name it the Posada Inn.

    • Hah! I love that you note that ‘Posada Inn’ is a redundancy. I often say that about ‘pizza pie’. And I am (obviously) not Italian. Double hah! Thanks, as always, for your pithy comments. BTW, you should have seen my face when I heard that new cars come with DVD players. Neither of our two cars — the ’98 Toyota nor the ’91 Honda — has one. Needless to say. xoxo

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