Published in The Ferndale Record, September 22, 2010
In the years before DVD players in automobiles, iPods and cell phones for each traveler, I rode 3,000 miles across the United States with four kids in a Volvo station wagon—twice. Our children each had their own books, blanket and pillow, one Sony Walkman between them, and a game of travel bingo. Yeah. It was like that.
If you’re at 35,000 feet you can’t pull off the road to see Mt. Rushmore or snag last minute tickets to see the Kansas City Royals. You don’t really cross the Mississippi River or get to ride around the oval at The Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Rather than stopping for a nosh at a local diner, air travel offers honey-roasted peanuts. You get a beverage in a small plastic cup, not a bountiful breakfast buffet at a Holiday Inn in Nashville, Tennessee. Plus, you can carry bottled water in a car without paying $4.50 for it after you go through security.
Sure, road trips take longer, can be less comfortable (although with modern amenities and standard airline seating, that’s debatable), and depending on the annoyance factor of whom you’re traveling with, car travel is occasionally dreadful. But I opt for it over air travel anytime I can.
Admittedly, part of my choice has to do with being an uneasy flier, but I like to think it’s more about everything you get to experience along the way.
This week, five of us are piling into another Volvo wagon and making the trip from Ferndale to Salt Lake City. We’ll attend a wedding and the festivities associated with it, load back into the car and return, all within just a few days. Flights were out of the question this time, and despite complaints from the teenage member of our group, it’s just the way it is.
This particular trip isn’t about stopping at every historical marker or cruising the scenic route. It’s about getting there, joining in the celebration, and getting home. We’ll be focused, and alternating three drivers to get us there on time.
We’ll travel through mountains and deserts with little or no cell phone service, and definitely no Wi-Fi. Chances are good we’ll play the Alphabet Game, the Geography Game, and of course, travel bingo.
We’ll have ample time to think, read, sleep, listen to favorite music on our iPods (foregoing the inordinate amount of Country-Western radio stations through southern Idaho) and see places that aren’t at all like Western Washington.
This time, the road trip is about the love we have for our family member who’s getting married. I’ll be in a car with four folks who are among my favorite people on the planet. I expect the usual conversation, the musing, and the family jokes.
But I also anticipate those moments of wonder when I’m hurtling along through relatively desolate places, and find myself engaged in meaningful, even unexpected talk with a fellow traveler—something often done quietly while others sleep. It’s intimate and bonding—and hard to do in a plane with 100 other passengers.
That drive is a long stretch, one that’s covered in only two hours by air. But this time, our road trip, is part of the wedding gift. And based on past experience, I suspect it could also be a gift for us, if we let it.