You know the closing shot of “Dazed and Confused” where they are heading down the road, windows down, radio cranked, driving off into summer? I love that scene. It sums up one of my favorite parts of summer- the roadtrip.
We are a roadtripping family. We take them all year long, but come summer, when we are free of school and the routine that comes along with it, we have a tendency to hit the road with much frequency. We haven’t had a proper vacation in years, but we have lots of roadtrips and mini-vacations. We seem to have a number of friends who either live near, have second homes near or access to a family member’s second home near a large body of water. We like to renew those acquaintances during the summer months when school is out and yes, enjoy the large bodies of water. It doesn’t have to be a large body of water, it could be a creek, as long as there is water nearby, and we are there. We are not limited to just visiting those near the water, but certainly, water bumps you to the top of the must see list.
This summer is no different, with our first big family roadtrip this week to Virginia Beach. While Edie & I have a certain groove all our own for mother/daughter trips, and Pat & I have a groove for our roadtrips, there are some rules in common for all our family roadtrips.
1. Music is the driver’s choice. If you don’t care for the music, you are welcome to put your headphones on at any time. Edie can and will sing louder than you can play Slayer when she has her headphones on. Daddy might cut her some slack and play the Pandora channel he set up on his iphone for her that is chock full of Taylor Swift, but I’m not that nice. (I’m pretty sure the Taylor Swift channel is a total result of her outshouting Slayer. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.)
I like to think of our time in the car as a chance to work on her musical education and explore new music with her. Of course, I also have a tendency to listen to the same music over and over which drives everyone nuts, but hey, that’s life. As a family unit, there currently is a small handful of artists we seem to agree on. Last Christmas, we spent 10 hours one way in the car only agreeing on NPR’s All Songs Considered series of podcasts on Bob Dylan celebrating his 70th birthday. (If I could find the podcasts to link to I would. They were great to listen to.) I spent the rest of the time trying to drown out the little voice behind me in the back seat that insisted on singing Michael Jackson over and over while it competed with what her father was playing over the car stereo system. Clearly I had neglected to pack my headphones.
2. Road food. I will pack a cooler with drinks, mostly water bottles, but we are fans of the pit stop at gas stations and truck stops. I might pack a few snacks, a bag of goldfish, an apple or two, but honestly, we eat junk food on the road. Everything in moderation, including moderation. We eat healthy the majority of the time – even when we reach our destination we eat healthy (with the exception of Oysterfest, when we have funnel cake for breakfast), so in the car, it’s whatever you want. I personally have a thing for BBQ corn nuts on roadtrips. We are also big fans of the Buffalo Hot Wings Preztels, which seems so wrong on one level and yet, they are so good.
Summertime is also perfect for slushies, preferably half cherry half coke slushies. Sometimes there really is nothing better on a hot summer day than an ice cold Coke. Not Pepsi, Coke. In a glass bottle.
I’m also always on the hunt for Orange Nehi. It’s nearly impossible to find anymore. If you happen to know of where I can find it, will you let me know? Thanks.
3. Maps. You may have picked up the fact a few weeks ago when I talked about how impressed I was with my friend Bonnie for bringing her own map on our roadtrip that I am not known for having current, up to date maps in my car. I don’t even always print out directions, rather I scribble notes down from mapquest and if I remember to bring them, great. If not, well, we’ll get there eventually. I happen to think I have a great sense of direction, no matter what my family says.
I recently got rid of the pocket sized 1989 road map that got me everywhere I wanted to go from my college days until it’s replacement with a newer version. I now have a road atlas from earlier in this century I picked up at The Green Valley Book Fair for something like $3. It’s never quite in depth enough for my husband, who’s job has required much traveling over the years to the point where he carries his own Gazetteer in his work truck, but never seems to have it on hand when we are in the family mobile. He has a habit of stopping and purchasing a new map for my vehicle that always seems to end up in his work truck at some point before our next roadtrip that could utilize the map.
Now that he has an iphone and we have access to whatever app it is that tells us how to get where we are going, we no longer find ourselves stopping to buy new maps. Not that I bother myself with them anyway. Despite this, he still listens to me when I give directions and we still find ourselves sometimes slightly uhm, not exactly sure where we are.
4. Route. We prefer back roads to interstates. Sure, there are times when we take the highway, but there are only a small handful of destinations we go to that require the highway route. This is generally where it can be an issue that I don’t always carry a proper map. I think it makes for more of an adventure myself.
I don’t always remember road names or route numbers, but I remember the landscape surrounding a turn I know I should take. Sometimes it’s the name of a town on a highway sign that tells me where to turn – not a final destination, but I’ll recognize I want to drive through a particular burg to get where I’m going. This can drive my husband nuts. Tell me to turn left at the dog and I know exactly where I’m going everytime. It’s not for everyone, just those of us with extra special senses of direction.
5. Packing. We are not pack ahead people. I might do laundry before hand, but for the most part, we are get up, pack up and hit the road people. If I’m feeling especially on the ball, I might write up a list the night before of what I want to bring, but don’t count on it. Really, the only thing I do ahead of time is make food to share with our hosts when we arrive. The important stuff.
Each man is responsible for themselves. I started making Edie pack her own road entertainment bags when she was still a toddler and then a few years ago I started making her pack her own suitcase. I used to double check her bags before we left and sometimes if I remember to do that, I still do it. There have been times when we’ve gotten somewhere and I’ve realized she’s packed no books to read, or worse, no clean socks or underwear. I chose to look at it as a learning experience for her. I’ve learned from it too, in that I now remind her to pack underwear. When I remember of course.
6. Departure Times. We as a family are not necessarily known for our promptness, especially if we are headed out for any sort of fun. I once overheard a friend say to another friend “I knew when they said they were leaving at 8 am that they’d be here for lunch. Always add two hours to whatever time they say they are getting on the road and you’ll know when to expect them.” That still rings true. Even when we do manage to leave at our announced and we really mean that time, we always seem to have to turn back to pick up some forgotten essential. Our last family roadtrip, it was the tent we were supposed to be camping in.
7. Windows down vs AC. I would always much rather drive with the windows down and the air conditioning off. I love having the wind in my hair. I do make exception for those roadtrips in the middle of those brutally hot days, but if I’m alone, I’m driving with the windows down, period. I don’t care how hot it is.
8. What we leave behind. It’s always something. Perhaps it’s a statement on how much fun we’ve had that we don’t want to leave, but one of us always manages to leave something behind when it’s time to go home. Always.
And that is how we roll down the road. Music blaring, junk food eating, not always exactly sure where it is we’re going but knowing we’ll get there and half the fun is the journey, right?, hoping we didn’t forget anything too terribly important and if you know how to translate us, right on time.
So if you are within a few hours driving distance, have any access to water and would love company this summer, just let us know. We’ll bring baked goods.