I’ve touched on this briefly in previous blog entries, but tonight’s topic is the cross-country road trip I took with my father and brothers in 1980.
Dad was a school teacher so he had the summers off. That year, he hatched a plan. Rather than sending me and my brothers to camp that year, he would drive us cross country – going out across the northern states and back across the southern states. We had a brand new Pontiac Bonneville that was just itching for a road trip and Dad was happy to oblige.
Dad was 46. My brothers and I were aged 12, 14, and 16 that summer. Not adults but no longer children. None of us were old enough yet to take turns with the driving, but certainly old enough to help with the luggage, leave us alone in the pool, etc. Like most same-sex siblings so close in age, my brothers and I bickered a lot. And like most teenagers, we thought we were wiser than our years. Unlike my own children at the same ages, my brothers and I hadn’t traveled extensively. The world was still very small to us. The bickering was standard operating procedure at that point. Dad was used to it and he could handle it. He saw the opportunity to broaden our horizons and decided to take it.
I recall many nights he would sit there preparing for the trip with a map, piles of AAA books and a hand-drawn calendar of where we would go on each day of our journey. By the time we hit the road, he had re-drawn that calendar many times.
I think the magic of that trip was all of the continuous hours spent together. We talked about everything and nothing. We sang along to the radio, and we got comfortable just driving in silence. What made it unique was that for the vast majority of the trip, it was just my Dad and his 3 sons. My mother only had 2 weeks of vacation from her job so she flew out and met us in San Francisco and traveled down the west coast with us until we got to Las Vegas where she flew home.
We were on the road for 44 days and stayed in 27 different places. I estimate we crossed 25 states, visited 4-5 National Parks and/or monuments, and countless cities. Without my Mom along for most of that trip, Dad was free to be one of the guys – burping and telling dirty jokes. We learned a lot of things on that trip, but the biggest impact the journey had on us was in the way we viewed our father. It was that experience that forever changed us and our relationship with him. At the time, we would never have guessed Dad would die 10 years later from cancer. There are a million reasons why I wish I had more time with him, but I’m really thankful for the time I had, and especially that road trip together.
Dad would have been 81 today. Happy Birthday, Dad!
And happy trails!