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Thursday, March 1, 2012

DRIVING CROSS COUNTRY

DRIVING CROSS COUNTRY


In the many blogs I read daily, a common thread is the difficulty of raising children.  Moms are tired, moms are stressed, and everything is so difficult.  Raising children is indeed difficult.  It is something I have whined about as well.  As difficult as it is to deal with kids today, It used to be so much harder. 

I think back to when I was a child.

In 1951, my dad’s job required his transfer from Long Island, New York to Pasadena, California.  Dad decided to make the trip to California a family vacation.  It became an eight day vacation spent primarily in a four door Buick.  The Buick was a top of the line touring car for its day.  Still, there was no air conditioning and it sat three across on the front bench seat.

Dad drove most of the way.  Mom rode shotgun.  The five year old, me, sat in the middle.  I had to sit up front all the way to California because one of my brothers, either nine year old Chris or Eleven year old Jim was always “TOUCHING ME!!”  (Yes, even in 1951 there was the touching, or the even more ominous “fake touching” sibling torture.)

The Buick had no air, and dad, like almost every adult of the time smoked, so there was always a window open.  The radio was AM only, and stations went in and out constantly.  Most of the music was awful so the radio offered no entertainment.  The in-car DVD was not yet invented, so entertainment was “car games.”

The favorite games were “Woody” and “Snake.”  If you were the first one to spot a station wagon with wood panels, you would yell “Woody” and get one point.  If you saw a foreign car, you yelled “Snake.”  If you could identify the make of the foreign car you got a point.  The winner was the one who accumulated the most points by the time dad went nuts and erupted from all the yelling of “Snake” and “Woody” and all the fights about who yelled it first.

Either of these games would be very difficult today.  “Woodies” no longer exist except in antique car shows, and “Snakes” make up 75% of every car on the road.

The roads from New York to California were all Rt. 1, and Rt. 66; still directions were an issue.  Finding points of interest, and getting fuel, food, or lodging often took us off the main highways.  We had no GPS for directions, we had maps.  Mom was responsible for reading the maps while dad drove.  Dad drove, mom read, and the three of us all cringed.

Mom could never give dad the proper directions.  “I think….it looks like….there might be….I don’t see….”  Finally, invariably, dad would pull the car over to the side and snatch the map from mom.  Dad could read  maps as easily as if they were comic books.  After he determined where we were and where we needed to go there was five minutes of mom/dad bickering and we were off again.

At night we stayed at the nearest Bates Motel.  There were no “Holiday/Ramada/Howard Johnson/Days Inns or Motel 6’s, only little attached bungalows with Anthony Perkins as the proprietor.

Meals were all at whatever greasy spoon served the most truck drivers.  (Truck drivers do not in fact know the best places to eat.)

Through all this we had a wonderful trip.  We gained memories that have lasted a lifetime.  Memories that were all captured on an old Eastman Kodak that required light meters, f-stops, different film speeds and film loading which when attempted by mom rivaled the tension of the daily map reading.

I cannot imagine spending eight days with all my children in an un-air conditioned smoke filled, no radio, no DVD, no GPS car, driving on highways which were often only two lanes in opposite directions, eating at questionable establishments and lodging in crappy motels with inadequate beds and zero TV.

My parents did it.  They did it twice when dad was transferred back to New York.  They did it and they enjoyed it.  We all enjoyed it.  They did it because they didn’t know any better. 

They did it because they were tough.          

6 comments:

  1. You got that right Cranky. There is no way today we could "hang". I have an upcoming trip planned with my two year old and I am freakin out just thinking about all the shit I am going to have to cart with me in order to keep her quite so the passengers won't want to kill me. I am doing a post about traveling with toddler on Monday

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  2. Hey, I saw the English version of a woody last weekend (although they are Morris travellers rather than station waggons) - I remember travelling from Scotland to Devon when I was young primarilly because one of my sisters threw up in the hood of the coat another sister was wearing just as we were leaving and although it was cleaned up the smell of puke stayed with us the whole way!

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  3. You have brought back some memories here for sure! Although it was one of my father's dream to drive us all (4 children) from New England to California it never did happen. But we did have rather tortuous trips from northern Vermont to New Jersey down a very windy old road -- no 4 lane highways till we got to Connecticut. And lots of car sickness too. Many years later, in the 80's, my parents did make that drive -- no kids, air conditioning made it far more enjoyable, I am sure!

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  4. Your parents did it and you all enjoyed it because there were no other options. Things were a lot different then and even in the past 5-10 years. I would love to drive across country in the coupe with my kids. Finances and bills simply don't allow for that.

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  5. We drove 3 hours to MD. Pretty often. I remember the one hand on the wheel and one hand reaching back to smack us. You never landed a smack, probably intentional. However, my other 2 siblings did deserve a good smack. MB was torture. Touching you, Im Not touching you, farting, sprawling all over the back. Wet willies, taunting faces. OMG she was torture. You saying don't make me pull this car over.

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  6. You have just raised a whole lotta memories of travelling across Canada many times.
    Dad always had to 'make good time'. The trip from Vancouver to Ontario could be done in 3 days straight. Good thing Dad was a coffee addict or he would never stop the car.

    Luckily I grew up pretty much an only child with my siblings being so much older, so bickering was never a problem. I don't ever remember playing games like I Spy with my parents, so whatever did I do to keep myself amused? I think I slept a lot and Mom always had the music going.

    Thanks for linking up!

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