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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

A tale of road trips then and now


By John Ross Hart


"Have we got everything?," asked my Dad.  My Mom nodded yes.My brother and I were anxious to go.The annual family summer vacation.One week away from home seeing another part of the world.

Going on the road used to be so simple.If you were going camping, you packed a tent, sleeping bags, air mattress, stove, lantern, and ice chest.You brought some clothes, you brought some food, maybe you brought a fishing pole.You definitely brought bug spray and Bactine.

If you were going a longer distance, you drove until you were tired, got a motel, then continued onward the next day, and so on.You picnicked alongside the road, or got a burger, fries, and Coke from the local "Greasy Spoon."Dinner was at a sit-down cafe or restaurant.

America was not yet a freeway society in the 1950's.In the 1960's, travel was subject to delay due to highway construction upgrades.Motel chains were establishing themselves.The flashing pointed Holiday Inn sign beckoned.Sleepy Bear suggested you follow him to a TraveLodge.

Camping was first-come, first served.There were no reservations.Some of the chain motels took reservations, but most of the time you looked for a "Vacancy" sign.If there was no vacancy, you moved on.

Driving up U.S. 99W, a two-lane highway up the Sacramento Valley, parallel to the Southern Pacific Railroad Shasta Route, and the poles of American Telephone and Telegraph.Rolling through Williams, Willows, and Red Bluff.

Twisting over the Coast Range and through the Redwoods on Highway 20, headed for the coast at Fort Bragg.

Crossing the Sierra Nevada over Donner Pass or Echo Summit on twisty two-laned roads, subject to closure during snow season.

It was a burger at Pick's.A bowl of soup at Lou Labonte's.Maybe you fell asleep to the sound of crashing waves at the Surf Motel.

What was once so personal, so simple, no longer exists.You need reservations to camp.For some people, "roughing it" is a fancy recreational vehicle with all the amenities.

You need a reservation to stay at a motel and must use a credit card as security.  Fortunately, there are "800" numbers and online services, not to mention plenty of competition.

The two-lane U.S. highway is now the four-or more limited access Interstate freeway.At selective exits are gas stations, quick stop shops, fast food outlets, and maybe even a Denny's.There could be a motel.At one freeway exit you can fill your tank, buy some snacks, have something to eat, and get a good night's sleep.

Even packing up for a road trip has changed.In addition to clothes and food, and first aid, you are bringing along confirmation numbers, documents, credit or debit cards, and hand-held devices with chargers.

If your kids can't hear you, it's probably because they are on their phones with earplugs.

It is still fun to go on the road but now it is more of a hassle.Check the car, make the reservations, have an alternate plan, make sure the neighbors are aware, pack the clothes, pack the snacks, pack the water, make sure you have all the documents, make sure the bills are paid, make sure you have wi-fi.Have I left anything out?

Nonetheless, seeing the country, going camping, staying in a motel, maybe have dinner in a nice restaurant, or simply having a hot shower, I can attest that despite what our world has become today, a road trip is something that deep down remains an enjoyable pleasure.


Submitted: November 20, 2020

© Copyright 2022 John Ross Hart. All rights reserved.

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