Saturday, April 11, 2009

Road Tripping 1985 style

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...


emilyteravainen said...

Oooo family road trips...the memories! With a fellow Grizwold as a father, I'm surprised that we are all here today....

-So many times my dad would be turning around in the driver's seat to scream at my sister's and I, while swerving all over the road.
-Annoying eachother was our favorite game: "Mooooommmmmm, she's breathing on me/looking at me/touching me...".
-My dad had the saying "car voices"...but this also applied to in-house use.
-Driving with grandma Grace is always a joy. Moldy crackers with old cream cheese on them are great snacks.
-Bungee cords were not my dad's thing (he's far to paranoid about one breaking loose and impaling someone's eye), but the car was always PACKED.
-Air conditioning never worked in any of our various jalopies.
-A toy or piece of clothing was lost out the window on almost every trip.
-One particular time my sister's and I had to dig in the cushions for change to get through the tolls...after about 5 minutes of screaming and digging the toll booth man just told us to go through.

Either way, tv/dvd or not, I think the memories will pile up!

darla said...

Speaking from experience, we were always looking for ways to keep the trip from being hell on wheels. I favored the get up ungodly early (as in still dark, where am I? early) throw the kids in the car with their pjs and drive for a few hours with the cherubs sleeping soundly in their car and booster seats. Then we could keep them occupied with their McD breakfast and make more time. Of course, this is all in a perfect world. And, Carl did not prefer this method, although I'm still not sure why.
So, I guess my vote is in favor of the movies to keep everyone zoned out and sedated, it's better than the hefty dose of benadryl passed out to the kiddos to help them pass out. For the record, we only talked about it, never actually followed through!!

peggypie03106 said...

Damn technology - go for PHARMACOLOGY!

Shannon said...

OK, first off, Hi-How are you guys-We need to get over there and see you-I promise we will asap!!!! Oh, and I really dig your blog.

Second - my memories are of two different trucksters. One was the actual, bonafide, olive-green wagon with wood paneling. We would sit in the way back (facing out the rear window!). One time, when my parents left my friend and I in the car while they shopped, we put on a puppet show out the window for parking-lot-passer's-by. The other memory is of our sweet, faded black Olds, where my brother used to sleep on the FLOOR of the back seat on long car rides, probably just to avoid sitting next to me. I love that neither of these scenarios could happen today w/out someone getting severely fined and/or reported to DHS. But anyway...

As far as the dvd player, I think "entertainment" of varying kinds is crucial for long car rides especially as our kids get older and spend less time snoring in their car seats. By entertainment, I mean favorite books; stuff that you've removed from rotation for the few days before you leave so it's like new for the trip; truly new toys/books that you bust out at the height of in-car/flight boredom; and yes, electronic entertainment. For our six hour car ride tomorrow (with our almost two year old), we have a variety of all of the above including a portable dvd player on which I'll probably resort to playing a dvd at some point. But when we bought our SUV, I never once wished for, or considered paying for, the installed dvd player. I figured, we have the portable one which costs a lot less than the in-car one (not to mention the potential repair cost), and I've never regretted that decision. Plus, I know at least one SUV owner w/ lil ones whose kids watch tv/dvd's during EVERY car ride, not just the long road trips. Obviously, the succinct, "no", would work in their case, but I'm sayin' there would be no temptation if the gadgetry wasn't a permanent fixture in the car.

But then again, with such a young one, I really had much need for the dvd's up until this point. My friend with older kids (3 and 5 ish) points out that neither of her kids (one boy, one girl) ever want to watch the same thing. They ski trip almost every weekend in the winter and then cape it in the summer so they are road trip experts. They recently went with iTouch's for each kid (which you can mount on the side window of your car or airplane etc.) so they can each watch whatever they want. Considering the pace of technology, I'm sure there will be something even cooler when Greta is their age.

I think it's easy to be wooed by the "it does everything" aspect of some of the latest in-car packages (that play movies AND video games, maybe even both at the same time...), but I just really like the thought of being able to rely on creativity/imagination first before resorting to the technocrack. Everything in moderation. I mean how long are we really going to be in this car?

So the advice from this momma who clearly has a love/hate relationship w/ technology is you can definitely live w/out that in-car system, and I wouldn't say that if I thought there was a remote chance you and yours would be pulling your hair out and cursing my name on your next road trip!

Tom Kirk said...

great Den

Scott Stevens said...

I had six brothers and sisters so we always had a station wagon that could seat 9. All of us in one car was rare but when it happened, one of the kids would ride bitch in the front seat between my mom and dad. This was before there were laws about how old you had to be to ride up front so it would usually be someone around age 6 with just a lap belt (I can't believe we all survived - my dad is not a good driver). Three in the back and three more in the "way back". The "way back" was usually facing the cars behind us so whoever sat back there got to mess with the people in other cars or attempt to get truckers to blow their horns. Best wagon ever: pea green with a wood panel patch down the middle.

We drive a Honda Pilot now which we like. It's got three rows but the third row is only good if you are a kid or you have no legs. Not very roomy.

Go with the DVD. Keeping them occupied is key. Driving long distances is hard enough but the kids can make you crazy if they get bored. You can also use it as a bargaining chip if they are acting up. Threatening to take their movies away usually makes them straighten up. The only problem with the DVD players is once you have two old enough to speak, they will fight over what they are going to watch. An 8 year old isn't psyched about watching Dora the explorer with his 3 year old sister.

Dennis said...

Kudos to the comments here. Great stories! I am totally enthralled with the descriptions.

- Den

Mary D said...

There were six kids in my family, so we road tripped in the massive, wood paneled Chevy wagon. Awesome.

As for the DVD player, when you have two kids, you will be so happy for the DVD player that you'll want to make out with it. Oh-- that's just me? Mine fight nonstop in the car, so it's pretty important to us on long trips!