The heat is on onnnn.
The Glenn Fry 80s jam blares in my family’s blue Pontiac station wagon. We are on route to Virginia Beach for our annual summer road trip. “The Beverly Hills Cop” soundtrack is the latest tape in my dad’s driving music rotation, which includes the “Top Gun” soundtrack, Fleetwood Mac and Madonna.
The eclectic music mix powers us through the first few hours of the drive before we stop in Delaware for the night. The catchy songs keep my dad in good spirits and focused on the long drive. With three kids wedged together in the back, quibbling about hunger, the heat and boredom. I doubt my pre-teen self cared much for the The Pointer Sisters or Kenny Loggins. I just wanted to get to Virginia Beach — to Busch Gardens and Water Country U.S.A. The six-hour schlep was merely a means for getting us to the real fun.
I didn’t realize it then, but when I can look back on those journeys and recite every word to the “Beverly Hills Cop” song my dad played, despite having never seen the film, I knew the drive was special.
This summer thousands of American families will load up their vehicles and head out on the road. They will travel across cities, across states and across the country. And while doing so, they will be equipped with all the latest technology to make the the trip go faster and make kids in cars more tolerable.
We have GPS to navigate our routes, Waze to avoid traffic, outlets for our various devices and T.V.’s on seatbacks. We have everything we need to make the “getting there” as quick and painless as possible.
But, where’s the fun in that?
In a moving scene in Cars, the first of the three-movie Pixar franchise, a talking Porsche named Sally looks back fondly on the good ole days: “Cars didn’t drive on [the road] to make great time. They drove on it to have a great time.”
Unless, they have a great Yelp rating, those side-of-the road treasures go largely unnoticed. Games of I Spy and Punch Buggy are replaced with the latest DVD, tablets or other devices for entertaining our kids.
In a world which has become increasingly more isolating, thanks to social media, the car can still be a haven for connection.
I get it, kids and road trips are a rough combination. I understand the need to want to make the trip as bearable as possible. After all, the real fun is at the end of the drive, we tell ourselves.
But, when you think about your family trips, I imagine the drive was just as special. Maybe you remember riding in the back of your parents’ station wagon, making silly faces at the cars behind you. Maybe it was your dad, absolutely having to stop at every roadside attraction. Maybe car rides made you uncomfortable, but snuggling with your sibling helped you feel better.
I know we can’t go back to a time before technology took some of the mystery out of road trips. We can however, hold on to some of what makes it wonderful. We can keep our eyes peeled for hidden gems and pull off the road. GPS can always reroute. We can ask our kids to take out the headphones and talk to them. After all, how often are we all able to be together in one place? We can share stories of our own childhood road trips and teach them the games of our youth.We can make the journey magical.