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Jun 18

“You are never too old for a summer road trip” – from my archived columns first published in The Examiner, a Jackson County, Mo., daily newspaper

summerroadtrip“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails.

Explore. Dream. Discover.”

Mark Twain

A clue that I love road trips is the packed bag sitting on my closet floor, just in case the opportunity to travel cross-country or anywhere else presents itself.

I blame this trait on my parents.

You see, they loved to travel and believed that seeing unfamiliar locales via the open road was a vital part of childhood education. So do I.

Thus, that was a good enough reason for me to “suggest” quite recently that our two young adult single sons accompany us, mom and dad, on a road trip west. They have done this before and know the drill.

Yet, I worried that they are not kids anymore and might not be thrilled at the idea. My husband tried guilt to coerce them saying, “Boys, this could be the last time the four of us take a road trip together.”

I was thinking, “You have to be kidding; I plan on making them take us when we’re 88.”

Admittedly, they might have a reasonable fear of boredom and embarrassment at the idea of traveling with their parents. Yet, they embraced the road trip good-naturedly, probably because they come by wanderlust naturally.

In my youth, back in the 50s and early 60s, it was not unusual for the boys’ grandfather to come home from work on a Friday evening and announce happily, “We are going to Colorado in the morning. Do you have a bag packed?”

I learned to have mine ready.

Sometime between 3 and 5 a.m. the following morning, our family would leave our Missouri River bottom farm home for Colorado or California or other parts west (sans automobile air conditioning and thus the night travel).

For some reason, we never went east, and I have yet to figure out why. Summer after summer, we headed west toward the mountains with all our shoes piled in one open cardboard box in the back of our green woody Desoto station wagon.

Another box held a loaf of white bread and cans of Spam, apples, cookies and a jug of water for a noon picnic at a roadside park. We thought it a feast.

Those roadside parks, by the way, were usually located next to an historical marker, and I am quite certain we stopped at every one of them between Kansas City and the Pacific Ocean. That is, if my mom, a history teacher in her day job, had anything to say about it. My dad was the photographer for the trips, lining us up in front of countless such markers, and when we stopped at gas stations, he treated each of us to a bottle of soda pop (as long as we did not fight too much in the backseat).

Mostly, we read road signs and jingles, sang songs, quibbled some and laughed a lot.

A family squeezed together in a hot car on long road trips with only each other for company sears unforgettable memories into one’s psyche.

I guess I was hoping to create the same memories with our sons before they spread their wings and fly too far away.

We didn’t leave at 3 a.m., although my husband wanted to, and we did not eat Spam and white bread (it wouldn’t have surprised me if he wanted to do that, too). I never made the boys stand in front of one historical marker, although I almost did in a fleeting, nostalgic weak moment.

I guess I look at this road trip as a practice run for when we are 88 and the offspring get an urgent phone call from us asking, “Boys, do you have your bag packed? We are leaving for Colorado in the morning, and oh, by the way, will you drive us?”