Road trips – love them! (Didn’t always)

When we were four small boys crammed into the back of a Ford Cortina, I didn’t much like road trips. On the plus side, if you live in the UK, distances aren’t far. On the minus side, traffic congestion, especially during peak vacation time, is terrible. It’s always been terrible. It still is. Short distances, but long travel times. Now for some time travel, back to the early 1970s: 

Road trips and vinyl car seats are bad…

Imagine the lovely feeling of clambering into the back of an old Cortina, wearing short trousers and sitting on sun scorched vinyl seats. You are one of four brothers trying to fight without parents noticing. (They knew, but what are you going to do? Not visit friends and relatives? Although, on reflection, friends and relatives might not have been too upset if we hadn’t arrived, all pleasantly sweaty and odorous…) 

Oh dear. Uncomfortable isn’t even close. It was territorial war. Pushing and shoving, fighting for an extra millimetre or two of buttock space. Are we there yet? Silent wrestling, forming alliances, then breaking alliances, leaning extra hard on corners, real or imaginary. How did we not fall out, bursting open back doors and bouncing down the road? Astonishing, and a testament to sturdy 1970s build quality and car construction. Now add the dog who was carsick most of the time. Four little boys and a farting dog? Well, the dog got the blame. No air conditioning and we weren’t always allowed to open the rear windows. Inhumane, but something to do with the drivers behind us complaining about half eaten food items hitting their windshield. Are we there yet? It’s a wonder that any of us made it to adulthood. All credit to our parents, and hats off for their patience. There must have been times when they wanted to…

Somewhere in New Mexico – timeless

Fast forward to the present:

These days, I love road trips! We travel in the summer, our trips are usually in Canada and the US, we use routes that are generally pretty quiet – especially compared to UK roads in summer – and we stay in campgrounds and the occasional hotel/motel. Our time is our own, and we allow for frequent coffee stops, aiming to turn off the highway and venture into unknown (to us) little towns that almost always seem to have an independent coffee shop. Are we there yet? Seems like it.

 Follow that truck!

There is a rhythm to life on the road. An early start, a stop for coffee, a couple more hours, a stop for lunch, a couple more hours, then a campground arrival. Stay a night, stay two, then on we go. Repeat as necessary, and it’s necessary! Don’t much care if we are there yet, the fun is in the trip.

Music on the trip is important. Might be a local country radio station, or it might be a CD or two from our dubious collection. Tastes can vary in the music department. Won’t be me singing, because that’s not fair to fellow travellers. At other times, it’s the windows wound down, the rush of air, and our own thoughts. Non drivers will snooze, there’ll be snatches of conversation, but it’s all pretty laid back, and a far cry from those childhood days of burning bare legs on leatherette seats. Don’t want to be there just yet.

 Somewhere out West – don’t need to be “there” yet!

I appreciate some would find the idea of a road trip the height of tedium and monotony, but I enjoy the trees flashing past, or mountains in the distance, or dusty desert vistas, or the shimmering haze of sweltering blacktop. The exit signs of promising sounding towns – we might need a stop, we might not, and if we miss it, there’s always next time or another town. I don’t think any two roads, or two towns are ever quite alike. I’ve lost count of the shaded bandstands in small parks where we’ve sheltered from the sun and enjoyed a picnic. 

Once you surrender to life on the road, it is contradictory; you are travelling quickly (but well within posted limits), yet life seems to slow down, and there are few hassles. Not even road construction delays. We once drove from Calgary to Berkeley Springs, WV and back, and only got caught in construction delays twice. Amazing!

  Somewhere in WV

School is almost out, and it’s been a very pleasant academic year, but now my mind has turned to the road. Instead of writing report cards, I’ve found myself planning a couple of road trips for this summer (my report card would say I’m easily distracted). Time to unfold and flatten well used road maps, top up the car fluids (and hide Mrs PlaidCamper’s CDs) before we set off – can’t wait!

 Let’s go! Needles, CA

Do you have a favourite road trip? Any rituals for the road? Please feel free to share! Thanks for reading, and keep your guy ropes secure.

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I am a would be outdoorsman - that is if I had more time, skills and knowledge. When I can, I love being outdoors, just camping, hiking, snowboarding, xc skiing, snowshoeing, paddling a canoe or trying something new. What I lack in ability, I make up for in enthusiasm and having a go. I'd never really survive for long out there in the wild, but I enjoy pretending I could if I had to...

19 thoughts on “Road trips – love them! (Didn’t always)”

  1. Great post, buddy! And I liked that you included a pic of the Mountain State! Was that I-79?

    I am a seasoned road–tripper. It seems that my lot in life is behind the wheel. Most of the driving is for visiting my daughters (well worth the drive), but I’d drive just to be on the open road. My only complaint now is that I’m driving grown–up cars w/ decent gas mileage, automatic transmissions, and GPS. I miss those days of shifting gears and studying maps. But I don’t miss the fuel costs to keep an old V8 firing.

    As I said, great post. I’m looking forward to hearing about your road trip adventures.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re right – driving isn’t as involving as it used to be! Although I like the reliability I get from newer vehicles…
      I deliberately didn’t take the GPS option on the Jeep, and only use paper maps on the road. (I have to confess to using google maps in conjunction with map books when planning new trips, if only to figure out realistic driving times). We’re never lost, just taking the scenic route. I know this kind of old school stubbornness could end in tears one day!
      The road in the WV picture might be the I-70, somewhere after Wheeling, heading east? We were coming from Colombus, Ohio.
      Thanks for reading and commenting, and I hope you have a great weekend!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Great post, it brought back memories of the back seat with my brother and many silent fights of the sort that you described. Lovely to find a fellow traveler who prefers maps over GPS…we travel all over the desert without GPS and people ask how we do it. It requires a bit of studiousness but pays off hugely in that we not only observe our surroundings closely but also hold in our minds a visual context for our location. In desert travel, that is invaluable.
        Happy trails!


  2. Great post pc! Your discussion of road trips as a boy and an adult brought back great memories for me. My family of 7 would travel in a 4 door sedan and fighting for space was a given. Of course the windows were always the big draw. I chuckled a few times, here, of you hiding your wife’s CDs, and I enjoyed the relaxed and mellow attitude you created that comes from driving and driving and driving.


    1. I’m glad this brought back great memories for you!
      I really enjoy the driving and driving and driving – it works if you have plenty of time, and then you can be relaxed. I switched from driving to walking and catching a train to work, even though driving is quicker, because commuter driving is no fun at all…
      Have a wonderful weekend, Jet!


  3. You’ve done it! You have captured the “romance” of the road…wonderful post!

    As a child I have many memories traveling from Idaho to Southern Californian with my 3 other siblings in a Datsun 510 sedan (a hatchback). We had to take turns laying in the back and staring up at the sky. One day we were specifically eager to take our turn as the contest was to see who could figure out the locking mechanism from the inside. Somewhere in the Nevada desert I figured it out…wow! The momentary breeze was nice, but it didn’t last long before we pulled over and our perplexed dad gave us a good (and necessary) talking to.

    My favorite road trip? That’s hard! Here are a few:
    -Glacier Park in Montana to Banff, AB.
    -Highway 12 between Idaho and Montana.
    -Montana down through Wyoming to the Black Hills of SD.
    -Pecos, TX up through NM and Colorado.


    1. Figure it out, brief winning feeling, and then busted – that’s how we learned things in our childhood! Great story! Also, a splendid list for spectacular road trips.
      There is romance to be found in road trips, and I think the key is probably time. If you have it, it’s usually all good on the road.
      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment, I appreciate it.
      Have a wonderful weekend!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I use to hate road trips as a child. My stepfather was a horror to be around on such a restricted area as a car (we always had Volvo’s..since this was in Sweden.)

    Nowadays I love them, long and short ones, doesn’t matter. I love them! Music is important, and also to find good food on the way (not a big fan of fast food.) Of course whoever traveling with me needs to enjoy stopping at all beautiful places.

    Hav e great weekend!


    1. You are quite right – the food has to be good! Good food, good coffee, good music, and good travelling companions, and the trip will often be great!
      My Dad had a couple of Volvos – those cars never seemed to die…
      Have a wonderful weekend!


  5. “Are we there yet” ahhhhh long distance trips as a kid are terrible, I remember the ‘turf wars’ over space in the back-seat. Like you, now as an adult I love road trips.


    1. I don’t know if all road trips as an adult are any better! I just read your post about travelling by chicken bus…very funny, didn’t seem easy, but I love that you appear to have an optimistically reckless approach that works – good for you!
      Thank you for taking the time to read OldPlaidCamper, I appreciate it.
      Enjoy your weekend!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Love the post! Distances in Finland are nothing compared to the distances here in the states, but there were three siblings and all of us had motion sickness, so it was smelly and painful for everyone. Also yes, the fighting when not feeling sick. Nowadays I’m fine in the car (if I don’t read).


  7. Great post! I hated road trips as a child, crammed in the back seat, parents bickering about which way to turn. It took me a long time as an adult to try a big road trip. Fast forward to now and we road trip 30-40 thousand km a year between Alberta and the Southern Gulf Islands. Now we love the drive. We tend to do it different to most and drive the bulk of it through the night when traffic is less. We love having GPS and hands free on the vehicle, plus a huge playlist. Also, because our final destination requires a ferry, we are never in a rush as we have until 8 am to get there …… not having to rush makes all the difference. Enjoy your summer drive!


    1. Being on the road when everyone else isn’t is perfect! Music, plenty of time, and an exciting destination makes for a great trip.
      Have a wonderful weekend! (Are you headed for the islands?)

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Ah, your post has brought back many fine memories of being on the road, and of hopes for many more to come. From sitting in the backseat behind my father who was driving (careful not to get him riled) to hitching across the U.S. and back, to driving with my own Are We There Yet kids in the back, to solo drives with my wife… Romantic, perhaps, but never real easy… Yeah I’ve tried to hide my daughter’s and my wife’s CDs, as well.


    1. It’s a strange notion if you stop and think about it – so many of us have defining memories of some of our nearest and dearest from time spent cooped up in a car! From other times too, no doubt, but road trip memories seem particularly strong.
      Hope you’ve had an enjoyable weekend!


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