We didn’t have a ton of money while I was growing up, so flying wasn’t our regular form of travel. In fact, before I graduated from college and was supporting myself, I think I had only flown on a plane twice. Instead, we would always have the “family truckster” which would carry us around for our trips.
Those were the days before the child safety laws had really gotten strict. Once you were out of your baby carseat, you were on your own. The old Chevy Caprice station wagons had the seat in the way back, the cargo area, that faced the vehicles behind you. That was my seat. While my brother and I got along okay, I’m not sure that I have ever seen any siblings who haven’t warred over the imaginary lines that lie between them on a long road trip in a car. Sitting separately made things a little bit more tolerable.
We had our usual trips as a family, we used to go to Lake Pleasant in upstate New York every summer. Some of my fondest memories were from there. I learned so many life lessons and even spent an entire summer on staff at the camp where we would regularly go.
My father went to college in Columbia, South Carolina and made some strong friendships with people in Lancaster, just south of Charlotte. That became a fairly regular trip as well. Back then, Mountain Dew was like the nectar of the gods to me, it was such a treat to drink, something that we only had when we were on road trips. To this very day, I don’t think that I can drink Mountain Dew without thinking about our road trips down south.
We had friends who moved to the Chicago area and we took a road trip out to see them. Those mid-western states are downright brutal, especially when you are younger. It seems like an endless, flat wasteland which never changes. While the trip was worth it, getting there was not half the fun, it was more like half the battle.
As I grew older, road trips ceased with my family, but they began to happen with my friends. A good friend and I took a few trips from Pennsylvania (where I went to college) all the way out to Berea, Ohio. Pennsylvania isn’t the most exciting state to drive through either, especially through the longest part of it. We made the best of it and there is nothing like the roadtrip mix, a mix of music chosen specifically for the ride.
Not too long ago, I took a roadtrip to a meeting with 3 other people, 1 of whom I work with, the other 2 were new friends of ours. You can learn an awful lot about people by spending a total of 14 hours in the car with them. In some ways, that’s the litmus test to see whether or not you can be friends for the long haul. If you can withstand that much time in a car together without killing each other or pissing each other off, I think you’re doing pretty well. At the end of the time, God had done some pretty cool things in the friendship and I know that I learned a lot through our conversations.
As I prepare for my own roadtrip with my family, I think about how much has changed in the last 40 years. When we would travel, we would play games, sing songs, read books, play more games, and do all kinds of other things that rarely involved electronics. Now, it seems that the lack of a DVD player in a car means therapy for the parents when all is said and done. Even though we may be sitting within 3 feet of each other, we create our own little worlds in which we “live” for the time that we are stuck in the metal capsule that we call a car. Kids are engrossed in whatever movie is on the DVD player or game is on the DS. Games have somewhat ceased and conversations are going extinct.
As I think about it, it seems that intentionality is the word. I need to be intentional about starting conversations on the trip. I think of Clark Griswold, an ordinary guy who just wanted his family to be together and have fun, and he would go to whatever lengths necessary in order to accomplish the latter. To me, it’s making memories. Every moment spent together is a moment cemented in the minds of my three children. These are the moments that they will recall as they get older. What do I want them to remember? Do I want them to be excited about beating the next level in their latest game, or do I want them to feel that they have learned something along the way? About me, about their family, about themselves, about life.
How many times have I heard from people that these moments, the formative years of my children, will only last so long? Probably too many to count. I need to be intentional about our time together, and that’s something that I need to do a better job with. On a roadtrip, it’s not so much the destination that matters so much, it’s the process and the travel of getting there, otherwise, why not fly or get there faster. There’s something to be said about soaking in the landscape as you travel.
Next week, we’ll go through North Carolina, Tennessee, Missouri, Iowa, Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. That’s 20% of the 50 United States of America. Growing up, I don’t think that I knew what existed west of Virginia. When we come home, we will be different, the road will have changed us, shaped us, but only if we let it. If we sequester ourselves into digital bubbles, we will have failed, but if we engage this process together, it seems that the possibilities are endless.
When all is said and done, I think that there will be a lot to write about the life lessons that I learn from a roadtrip. Sounds like a blog series to me…….