Long Live The Family Road Trip

I grew up with the term vacation meaning packing all of our things into the car and heading out on a road trip. These trips were often to Walt Disney World in Florida but we also visited many other parts of the country, at least as far as we could reasonably drive from New Jersey and get back in less than two weeks.

In the early years, we towed a rented Coleman pop-top camper towed behind our car. The three of us spent many years sleeping in a camper smaller than the size of my current bathroom.

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I did enjoy these trips. Once I was old enough, I was put in charge of the music (because the AM/FM radio stations available when driving through the Carolinas and Georgia didn’t cut it for us northern folk) (Sorry, southern folks!). I spent hours picking out which cassette tapes I would bring to keep the ride going.

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Since we weren’t rich enough to have a cassette player in the car, I brought my boom box with me and set it up on the ledge of the back seat, ’cause we were classy like that.

This was also when I learned the skill of eating while in a car. There’s a certain elegance to balancing a paper towel with food on it on one leg while holding a soda between your legs. Remember, this was way before they invented cup holders for cars. Anyway, we had many meals of cold Shake ‘n Bake chicken and Jewish Pound Cake. Before anyone asks, I have no idea what makes this cake Jewish or why us Catholics felt it was necessary to bring it with us to eat on road trips. I also don’t have any idea of how it got that particular name. But if you’re wondering what this cake is like, here’s the recipe from my mother’s memorial site, where my dad typed all her recipes (some of which I never remember her ever making).

Jewish Pound Cake
2 cups sugar
3 cups flour
3 eggs
3 teaspoons vanilla
¾ cup oil
¾ cup walnuts
Mix Together

Boil – 1 cup of raisins with 1 cup water.  Remove from heat.  Add 1 ½ teaspoon of baking soda.  Add other ingredients.  Bake at 325 degrees for 1 – 1 ½ hours.  Check with toothpick to see if done.  If baked too long, it gets very hard.

Trust me, after sitting in the summer heat on the back ledge of the car for several days it tasted even better. I think I need to bake this cake again soon.

So why am I telling you all about my childhood trips? Because I still remember these things that happened on trips from thirty years ago. We didn’t stay in fancy hotels or fly first class airlines back then. We drove in our Oldsmobile Cutlass or Chrysler Fifth Avenue, stayed in KOA campgrounds and played Putt-Putt Golf in a parking lot of the Piggly Wiggly. These trips are a part of my life. They’re what made me love travel and drive me to search out places different from my home town.

Here are just a few of the most memorable trips from my childhood (and thanks for indulging my trip down memory lane.

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TCB in Graceland outside Elvis’ plane at Graceland in Memphis
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Quality time with Abraham Lincoln in Gettysburg (who’s more lifelike, me or Honest Abe?)
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Spending time in St. Louis
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I think this was taken on Discovery Island (for those of you who don’t know, this is what a Polaroid picture looks like)
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When you’re a kid, it pays to have a relative who’s a commercial airline mechanic. (Check out that vintage 1982 World’s Fair hat!)
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My mom and I in Chicago. This was the first trip where they let me drive and I don’t know who was more terrified about that. We drove straight home from Chicago to New Jersey.

Eventually I grew up. I graduated college. Got a job. Made my own friends and eventually got a serious girlfriend. So what did we do? We went on a road trip to Ohio.

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Sharon and I eventually moved to Central Florida and became more fliers than drivers. Mainly because it takes five hours just for us to leave the state, not to mention get anywhere else from there. We still take the occasional car trip for a long weekend but that’s usually just to Key West or even to Tampa.

Casa Marina Beach

We think about taking a car trip every now and then, like when we were going to Dollywood, but we’d rather spend more time at the destination than on the trip. That’s a luxury that miles and points has afforded us. I’m glad for that but a small part of me misses the long car drives and family bonding time.

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