Monday, March 28, 2011

Whatever Happened to the Road Trip?

"Mom," our youngest came to me just before Spring Break. "Everyone at school keeps asking me if we're flying." Friends and teachers alike just couldn't believe that we would actually get in the car for the 15 hour trip to our Spring Break destination.

The same thing happened at Christmas when my husband's co-workers were incredulous that we would actually attempt to drive 900 miles to get to Dallas where our family lives. He said that more than once people asked him, "You're flying, right?"


This family drives most places, and I think we've become somewhat of a rarity. Don't get me wrong--we're not opposed to airplanes. They come in handy sometimes. In fact, I've been on a plane six times already this year for various reasons.

But when you have a family of five, airplane travel becomes very expensive. And we figure, if we can make the trip in a day (or sometimes a day-and-a-half), we might as well drive. It's better than staying home! So from the time our girls were very young, we just got used to packing up our car and hitting the road . . . Jack. *tee hee*

And you know what? We've had a great time doing it. All three of our girls seem to like a good old-fashioned road trip. And B and I love it too.

We've made some really happy memories along the way. Who could forget packing up our car in a driving rainstorm at the end of a vacation? Some great bonding there! Or the time (it may have even been the same trip) one daughter sat quietly in the back seat of the van eating the entire contents of her Easter basket, only to have us pull over just in the nick of time? Good times!

Seriously, though, we have more jokes, more memories, more family lore from road trips than from anything else we've done together as a family. Road trips bond you together like nothing else.

We've seen some amazing parts of the country. If we had flown on this trip, we never would have enjoyed the beauty of the Smoky Mountains in their twisty-turny loveliness. We also would never have enjoyed the beauty of Yellowstone if we had just flown over it. And who could forget the Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota which we stopped to see on our way out West one year? You just don't get to see that . . . interesting sight . . . from an airplane!

Our country is huge and wide and diverse and beautiful. You just can't get a sense of its grandeur unless you travel its roads.

Even the hard times bring you closer. I'm not gonna lie . . . not every moment of a road trip is spectacular family bonding time. We fight. We yell. We cry. We forget about it. And then there was the Great Vomiting Incident of 2005 that I've already mentioned--more than once did that happen! Sure, there are tense moments, but in the end, even those moments become part of the fabric of our family. A patchwork quilt that has sewn us together in some rich and wonderful ways.

Even now, we will often sit around the table and reminisce, laughing mostly, about various events that our family has experienced--and usually these events have something to do with a road trip. I have a feeling that even when our girls are older and have families of their own, we'll still be laughing about Ted, the bison, who very nearly got into our car out at Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota. It just wouldn't have been the same in a rented car.

And best of all, if we didn't take road trips, we'd never get great pictures like this!

So tell me, are you a road trip family or a flying family? Why or why not?


  1. We're a road trip family from way back. I think it started out that way because the places we wanted to go were within driving distance. And now that we are also a family of five the cost of airfare is pretty prohibitive.

    And besides, I love that I know just what you're talking about when you mention the Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD. And do you remember the view as you came over the hill into Chamberlain, SD? Unreal. We never would have seen that from a plane. Or the rams on the cliff sides in the Black Hills.

    For us, the time and the energy road trips take are worth it every time.

  2. Hmmmm. I don't think I remember coming over the hill in Chamberlain, Jen. I was probably passing some kind of food to the back of the van at that point. :)

  3. What about all those road trips up and down to Dallas with little ones? Potty stops. A speeding ticket. Throwed rolls. Those are memories for me. BTW, how did Jenn and Jo miss all the fun?

  4. We've always been a road trip family until we got to the point where all of our cars had well over 100,000 miles on them. Right now our vehicles have 198,000; 200,000, and 160,000 miles on them. So, because we tend to go far away to visit family and see the sights, we've resorted to flying somewhere, renting a vehicle and then doing lots of driving. To go see our families we would put 2,000 and 4,000 miles on our vehicles alone, never mind any driving around we'd do once we got there. So our van won't be going to Georgia again probably.

    But still, we consider ourselves road-tripping folks. I love, love, love to ride in the car and go places and see things. I guess I'm like a dog with its head hanging out the window and its tongue hanging out of its mouth that way. Just LOVE to travel by car! And even when we take a plane or a train to get where we're going and then rent a car, we still do the pack-the-cooler thing and eat on the road at least one meal a day. That's where some of our best memories are made!

  5. We fly a lot, but we also go on some amazing road trips. Last summer, our daughter, a friend of hers from her childhood in So. America, and I drove across country to Texas A&M by way of the Redwoods, San Francisco, the Mojave Desert - do it at night, especially during the month of August - the Grand Canyon, and many other places. Someday I would love to follow the old Route 66 all the way from CA to Chicago.

    Road trips are my favorite way to travel. We've done road trips in So. America, Mexico, Canada, and many places in the US. Train trips are the next best thing.

    Thank you, Shelly, for stirring up good memories by writing about road trips. I needed that. I'm looking forward to heading back down to College Station to help our daughter drive home after school is out in May.

  6. Mom and I have some awesome road trips for this summer. We're driving up to Door County at the end of August and July-ish we're driving to Maine and Boston. I <3 cruising with my Mama! ;)

  7. You know, Ellen, I think I need to take a road trip with your mama. She would be a BLAST! And so would you!! ;)

  8. I grew up in a road tripping family. Multiple trips to Colorado, Washington D.C., Disney, Kiawah, etc. My favorite family trip ever was our drive along Lke Michigan to Traverse City, up through Mackinaw Is. and down the WI side. Stops at dunes, state parks, golf courses (thanks, dad) and ice cream shops will be forever ingrained in my memory. I will say that we have done multiple trips to Kiawah with the kids, but a roto-virus trip to Disney last spring break did me in for awhile. I have not been inclined to drive 14+ hours since....we'll see how the trip to Charlotte this June is handled with 3. I think the "family memories" benefit will come as the kids get older - so I might beg to fly for our ski trip in December!

  9. That last comment was from me, not my sweet husband. He doesn't know about the ski trip yet! :)

  10. Well put Shelly! I love road trips, to me it's a much more relaxing way to travel.

  11. ROAD TRIP!!!!!!!
    We always drive from Arkansas to South Carolina (where my husband's family lives). Flying has never even crossed our minds (12 hours now...14 when they were babies!)
    I love all the memories you shared. We have some VERY funny stories as well!

  12. We are both. Which could become a whole blog post that I would love to write. I'm going to write it in my head while I make the meatloaf for dinner. LOL

  13. My family drove a lot, and so did my husband's. We both have lots of memories from those trips, and I'm sure we'll do our best to make the same sort of memories for our own family! (We've already started, actually. Case in point, 15 hours to Virginia last fall!)

  14. I would drive rather than fly any day. We lived 1500 miles away from family for 8 years. When we visited, we mostly drove. We did fly a few times, but it's such a pain with kids. Plus, it's terribly expensive...and you have to rent a car at your destination which adds to the expense.

    I much prefer to move on our own schedule. I like to pull over when we want to stretch our legs. I like to see the country. I like holding my huband hostage for hours on end of uninterrupted conversation in the front seat.