Sunday, July 4, 2010

Road Trips

I grew up with a very distorted view of traveling via the automobile. My father was in the Air Force, and we moved many times over the years, usually, it seemed, across these United States.

My father had a singular purpose, and that was to make the trip in "record time". I know, I know, there are others who aspire to getting where they're going, as quickly as possible, but my Dad? He was a nut about it. One of his techniques for minimizing time lost when switching drivers, involved a tricky, death defying stunt, where my mother would scootch over as close as possible, on the bench seat, to my driving Dad, then he would start to slide towards the passenger seat. At this point, Mom would either be hovering over my Dad's lap, or may even, briefly, be sitting on his lap. Frequently, at this point, my mother would get the giggles, and could barely complete the maneuver. But, she ultimately would make it into the driver's seat, thereby achieving a change in drivers, WITHOUT STOPPING THE CAR. You must imagine two small girls in the back seat, eyes as big as dinner plates, watching this, and wondering if we were going to die in a fiery crash.

It probably goes without saying, that a stop for any bodily function, was out of the question. We had to limit our food and fluid intake for a couple days before the road trip, and then would only be given some form of nutrition if we started hallucinating.

I have, literally, been across the U.S., probably 6 - 9 times, but have no memory of any landmarks. As an adult, I got into an argument with my Dad, about whether or not, I had seen Hoover Dam. Turns out, my idea of "seeing it", and his idea......vastly different. The fact of the matter is, that we passed Hoover Dam at about 2:00 a.m., and Dad hollered (ala Chevy Chase in "Vacation"), "there's Hoover Dam, kids!". I don't even think I lifted my head off of the back seat, but, rather, glimpsed a freeway sign that said "Hoover Dam Exit".

Yep, those were the good old seat belts necessary, thank you very much! Dad put some plywood over the back seat, thereby creating the equivalent of a full size mattress, and threw in pillows and blankets, so the kids could travel in comfort. Never mind, that the hasty application of brakes and/or or gas pedal sent us flying. What's a little bump on the head? Shake it off!

The really bad news about road trips, for me, was that I got extremely car sick. Seriously, even now, I can get car sick going down my driveway. A particularly bad experience involved my parents, my sister, and my three step brothers, all crammed into a full size sedan, careening up a mountain road on our way to go camping. Finally, I could hold it no longer, and begged for an "emergency stop". As we tumbled out of the car, I proceeded to hurl everything I had eaten for the two weeks prior, and THEN, all my siblings followed suit (apparently, vomiting is contagious).

As an adult, I find that I have inherited my father's tendency toward getting places, as quickly as possible, preferably via a little known shortcut. My Mom says that Dad and I are the only people she knows that come back from a trip to the airport, with weeds and burrs, sticking out from the wheel wells.

When I was about 30 years old, my Dad and I were driving together to Wyoming, and I was on a quest to make record time. He started seeing signs for "Fort Bridger", and started talking about how much he'd like to see it, how much historical significance it has, and how he probably won't have this "opportunity again". Are you kidding me? This is the same man who bypassed any and all historical landmarks, eating establishments, and rest stops, in his all consuming goal of beating his previous time! I pressed on, pretending not to hear, and eventually we approached the cutoff to Fort Bridger. Without slowing an iota, I called out "there's Fort Bridger, Dad!"

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