Roadtrips With Four Brothers
While growing up, our family took a two week vacation each summer. Sounds like fun, you say. It would have been, but we traveled for three days to get to our destination in Southern Florida. For six days of that two weeks, we sat in a car.
We always began our trip early in the morning the first day. The goal was to drive as far as we could the first day before having to stop for the night. Our mode of travel was a huge station wagon with wood grain side paneling. You remember those, don't you? The back seat faced the rear. With five kids, my parents had to have a vehicle large enough to transport us all for long distances. Vans were available for transportation back in the sixties thus we rode in the family station wagon.
The top of our car boasted a large medal luggage carrier where our suitcases were placed and covered with a canvas tarp. The luggage carrier was full. For two weeks of vacation, we easily filled several large suitcases.
Many Miles on the Road
The seats in the back of the car laid flat and all five of us were able to stretch out and sleep for part of the trip. Sleep helped to pass the time. When the seats were up, I rode in the rear seat and waved at the truck drivers as we passed them.
Those driving days were extremely long. At the close of the day, we stopped at a motel and swam in the pool after dinner in a nearby restaurant. That was the best part of the day. The swim in the fresh air allowed us to make lots of noise and exercise. After swimming, sleep was welcome.
Passing the Time
To pass the time, my Mom initiated several games. With Dad at the wheel, it was her job to keep us occupied. Back in the sixties, the freeways ran through farmland areas. We gazed at the miles of fields planted with various vegetables sail by. There was very little to catch our eye along these fairly new roads. Dairy farms were scattered along our route from Rhode Island to Florida. Counting cows can be very exciting when there is nothing else to do. As you can imagine, it didn't take us long to grow tired of those four legged animals.
Another game we played involved reading the passing road signs. To play the game, we located each letter of the alphabet on the road signs in chronological order. Beginning with the letter A, we made our way through the alphabet, shouting out the letters as we saw them. Find them all and you became the winner. Those were the days of Burma Shave signs. Burma Shave placed road signs along the side of the road which had cute quips advertising their product. Rest stops included Stuckeys where we could wander in the gift shop.
He Looked At Me
Spending hours together in the car, we frequently bickered with one another. My poor parents were very patient with us and I am sure we tested their endurance. My brothers kicked, pinched and irritated each other by the hour. A mere look in the wrong direction at the wrong time could create an argument. I am amazed that we didn't do any permanent damage to each other during those rides.
With family located in parts of the state of Florida, the last leg of our road trip was broken into segments. We would spend a day or two with relatives in each town and then move on, finally reaching our final destination - the grandparents. Visiting our grandparents seemed to make the entire trip worth it all. Days included trips to the beach and lots of shopping where we all added several items to our wardrobes. I loved the bright and cheerful colors we found in the Southern stores. Our car luggage rack would bulge as we turned homeward.
Most of my travel memories are good ones. I still think of those trips when I see an old station wagon with wood side paneling. One of the highlights of our family trips were the various stops we made on the return trip. We visited many of the Eastern states over the years where we were able to see historic sites that I will long remember. Much of our U.S. history was learned through these fun historic treks.
I didn't have five children, so I have not replicated these memories in my own family. With just two children, we have had a mere taste of the sibling rivalry I experienced on our road trips. In summary, those road trips were priceless and I have memories to treasure forever.