Once upon a time, boys and girls, air travel was for the privileged, the upper crust, the well-to-do. Hence, most of my Summer vacation highlights consist of me and my older brother sliding around the navy blue Naugahyde backseat of our 1976 Mercury Cougar station wagon.
Why yes, it did have faux-wood paneling.
Hours flew by thanks to my always-prepared mother and our membership to the Exxon Travel Club (Happy Motoring indeed). License plate bingo. Bury your cows. The alphabet sign game. Watching for the first Stuckey's or See Rock City billboards. Wrestling into the front seat in order to be the "first" to arrive in the next state.
Were there no seat belt laws in the '70s?
Growing up in Atlanta, the majority of our family getaways consisted of Florida visits - St. Augustine, Captiva, Fort Walton Beach, Disney World.
On one such trip, we had a little extra excitement in the form of our luggage being ripped off the top of the family truckster thanks to a bad storm and a little drive-by speeding semi suction.
I can still remember trying to comfort my hysterical brother (16 at the time. Kidding, he must have been around 9) who thought his beloved teddy was in the suitcase now being drug down the Interstate by said semi. And then there were our poor parents, in the driving rain, trying to collect tire-marked clothing as we huddled in horror - good times.
You can believe that's the last time my father used the luggage rack.
We did however score an extra side trip to the Citrus Tower in order to calm everyone's nerves. I clearly remember making wax dolphin figurines via a vending machine. And Dad adding something to his dixie cup of complimentary orange juice.
So as I gear up this week for our annual 12-hour haul to Florida for the Fourth, I'm frankly giddy with excitement over the Road Trip part of our adventure. Yes, we could fly, but why? I can obviously loose the luggage all by myself, thank you very much. Each boy has a bag full of coloring books, crayons, special snacks and maybe a new Hot Wheels or three ready to fill the hours. We'll play license plate bingo and bury your cows, and throw in a few modern-day additions such as iPod DJing and a video or two.
But it's really the feeling of family camaraderie that I look forward to the most. There's nothing like a road trip to make friends out of siblings, pioneers out of parents - it's Us vs. the Road.
And we. will. win.
Well, we'll see come Hour #11. I may find myself voluntarily strapped to the luggage rack.