The Resurrection of the Long Road Trip?

Filed under:It's My Life,Mothering — posted by Anwyn on November 14, 2008 @ 12:45 pm

What, did it die? Well, yeah, at least in my family. When I was a kid we drove from Washington, the state, to North Carolina and Kentucky every summer to see my grandparents and aunts, uncles, and cousins. Five days in the car or else in our full-size Dodge cargo van. We also sometimes drove to Wyoming to see yet more aunts and uncles. That van was the It Vehicle for us kids. There was one bench seat in the back with no seatbelts, and that was it. We could and did spread out blankets, lie down at full length in the floor, play cards, play games, read, sleep as long as we liked, awaken to see one of our parents getting a speeding ticket, usually somewhere in the Plains.

It’s not just the affordability of air travel that has killed this tradition before my son ever participated in it; it’s also the carseat laws and even the seatbelt laws. I know this doesn’t stop other families with children The Bean’s age (five), but I simply haven’t been able bring myself to coop him up in his rigid plastic carseat for several days on end. While I still greatly enjoy the concept of the long road trip, it’s just too depressing to think about him trapped in that seat, unable even to lie down in the back seat should he want to sleep (and as he gets bigger, the carseat is a less and less comfortable place to sleep). So the long trip remains a pipe dream. We’ve done a few two-day stints (about six hours per day) and one experimental trip of sixteen hours in one day, with multiple 30-minute breaks. He broke down only once, at about six in the evening, but at midnight, 10 minutes from our destination, he thoughtfully remarked, “I like airplanes the best.” I can’t say I blame him. If you’re a) not driving and b) can hardly move, a road trip is not the fun I remember from my own childhood.

He just graduated to a backless booster that uses the “adult seatbelt,” a fact of which he’s very proud. We’ll see if this plus the advent of the portable DVD player encourages me to get back out on the road.


  1. You fail to mention the night on the road that you got me kicked out of the car.

    : )

    Comment by thelmajoy — November 14, 2008 @ 1:20 pm

  2. I didn’t fail. I didn’t set out to write a comprehensive history of Our Lives or even of Our Lives on the Road. :)

    And it takes two to get two kicked out.

    Comment by Anwyn — November 14, 2008 @ 1:50 pm

  3. Despite being an eyewitness, I cannot verify who got who kicked out. I was too busy throwing up. Ah, memories…

    How old do the laws say he has to be before he can just sit in the regular seat? No car seat, booster, etc?

    Comment by Bumble — November 15, 2008 @ 9:38 am

  4. We both were kicked out, as I said.

    The law appears to be booster until he’s 4’9″ or eight years old, whichever comes first.

    Comment by Anwyn — November 15, 2008 @ 9:44 am

  5. Hi Anwyn, OT post, I met you at the AoS meet up last night and just wanted to say Hello.

    Comment by jbarntt — November 16, 2008 @ 5:11 pm

  6. Hi J, nice to see you.

    Comment by Anwyn — November 16, 2008 @ 11:07 pm

  7. Here in Minnesota, kids are required to be in car seats/booster seats only till the age of four. Beyond that is up to the parent. The idea is that kids are to be taught good safety habits from an early age without being restrained.

    Comment by Miri's Dad — November 18, 2008 @ 7:55 am

  8. You still have to wear seatbelts. No blankets stretched out on the back seat, or even that wonderful view at night when you could take your place on the “shelf” behind the back seat and stare up at the stars, or watch the apparent movement of the telephone wires as they swooshed by.

    I think the traffic must have been kinder, but I wasn’t driving so how would I know. And there was much more of a sense of adventure about the trip. Wonder if we can make it across Death Valley? (My parents did this at night — no cell phones, old car. They later decided it had been a bad decision but all lived to tell the tale.)

    I guess even if we can’t recreate that world, we can recreate that attitude.

    Try not to get thrown out of the car this time.

    Good luck!

    Comment by lifepundit — November 18, 2008 @ 9:18 am

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image: detail of installation by Bronwyn Lace