Back in the day, my parents bought a used, dark green Chevy Impala that functioned as the family car for the times that it was operational. (They later upgraded to a brand new Chevy Celebrity station wagon when my dad got tired of tinkering with the Green Machine.) Whether we were rolling in the Holla, Impala or the wagon, Grizz usually equipped the roof with a complicated assortment of bungee cords, tarps, and duct tape in order to maximize the storage space for all of our stuff. You see, Thule racks were either not yet existent or a cost that was never to be considered.
Mom manned the front passenger seat and the navigation system: a road atlas and handwritten notes of directions provided by our intended host over the phone. "After you get off the highway, turn left. You'll go straight through 4 or 5 traffic lights before turning right near the McDonald's. Drive until you see a big red barn and we'll have balloons tied to a mailbox. That's our place." Don't forget, no GPS, OnStar, or mapquest. No fast lane either, for that matter.
If we missed the turn at McD's or drove past the balloons because it was dark (about 95% of the time for my family), then we had to circle back to a place where we could find a pay phone. And to find change because calling cards were a creature of the 90's. While Manhattan stock brokers carried cellular phones the size of a briefcase, that technology had not reached "Main Street USA."
No, I'm not going all Grandpa Simpson on you. "Back in my day, we ate glass for breakfast - and liked it!" It just amazes me how technology completely tweaks the dynamics of a family road trip. For instance, what clan of 5 today rolls together in a sedan with just two rows of seats AND a baby seat to boot? I can't even remember how many times I got my arm stuck behind that baby seat trying to annoy the crap out of my brother.
The lease on our Civic ends this November. While we consider our own family truckster of the future, one important question has arisen. Do we go with or without the in-car TV/DVD player? Truth be told, I flip-flop with this question as much as whether I like or hate Kanye West. (The Billy Ocean/Eddie Murphy "My Girl Wants to Party All the Time" 80s shades are sweet but his live performances kind of freak me out lately.)
The purists say screw the TV/DVD. What ever happened to "Eye Spy with my Little Eye" and the 50 state license plate game? What about "99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall" and the like? Or even better, what about just talking with your kids?
The realists, I imagine, will invoke Bo Jackson: "Just do it." Who cares if you find yourself humming an Elmo song on your way to work because it played 300 times during a weekend family trip? The kids weren't melting down and you drove the family safely there and back without having to assault any of them. Just kidding - making sure you're still with me.
So, I turn it over to you folks. You don't have to be a parent, or even own a car for that matter, but I am particularly interested in hearing from those with little ones. Also, any fond or not so fond memories of childhood family road trips? If you're weighing in on the TV/DVD debate, please also disclose if your truckster is a wagon, SUV, or God forbid a mini-van.
I'm off to pack for our drive to Cahvah. Hey Clark, can you loan me some bungee cords because the trunk can't hold our pack-in-play with its changing station and bassinette, 2 strollers, diaper bag, breast pump bag, bottle bag, clothes, toys, blankets...