The Open Road

After spending a ridiculous amount of time in the car the last two weekends covering multiple states, I have the following observations …

Our parents are heroes. Straight up, people. We struggled to make our way in unfamiliar territory with a navigation system built into the car in addition to three or four iPhones with Google Maps and Waze. Even with snacks and satellite radio (more on those later), it was tense. How in the world did people function before we had all this guidance? I remember the ginormous map that you had to keep turning every time you switched directions and the AAA trip-tics that supposedly mapped it all out for you in advance. But as far as plan B, there was none. You were on your own praying for a gas station and some directions or just idling in traffic with the rest of the pioneers on the highway with you.

Billboards are the best entertainment going … seriously. Between lawyers, Jesus and fast food there is enough fodder to distract you as the miles tick away. I would, however, like some statistics on the number of lawyers who see an increase in business from billboards. Has anyone ever been driving down the road and thought, “There’s my guy right there with his no-nonsense face hanging over I-95. That’s who I am calling if I am experiencing injury/divorce/wrongful death?” I guess it could happen, but I am skeptical. Our unofficial best advertising award goes to Steven Singer Jewelers in Philadelphia. Their mysterious “IHateStevenSinger.com” billboards made me curious enough to Google it. This ingenious campaign was born when a man complained that the jeweler made his wife so grateful, she ended up pregnant ensuring he was paying for that jewel for the next 18 years. So much for every kiss beginning with Kay.

How do we remember all the words to all the songs? Even after five states, existing largely on rest stops and snack food and not sleeping in my own bed, I still belted out ‘80s tunes—some complete with dance moves—word for word. I was punch drunk and unsure of my own name as we rolled back into the garage but stayed in the car to finish out a Journey tune. I am sure that all these random lyrics are keeping me from being a true deep thinker, but there might be a stint on “Beat Shazam” in my future.

There is a reason Whole Foods is not located right off highway exit ramps. No one wants healthy food on a road trip. Dehydrated banana chips are no match for a Wawa stop complete with Peanut Chews and a smoothie. Chocolate, caffeine and sugar are the fuel that propels us down the road, it’s that simple. One night we were so tired, my husband and I actually opted for a sit-down dinner at a Royal Farms located in the parking lot of our hotel outside Philly. We picked a table by the window and ate really bad food while we watched everyone pump gas and presumably head out for a real meal at a real restaurant. #thefriedchickendidnotkillus #dontstareweareonadate

I want to meet and personally thank the genius who created the flip-turn waffle maker available at the complimentary hotel breakfast. When the eggs are inedible and the gravy looks like fresh cement, the waffle maker never disappoints. I think this gadget deserves its own listing in the hotel amenities list. I will take a slow elevator and a small bathroom if you let me pour that little cup of batter into the four quadrants and whip up some tasty vittles.

I have to give mad props to all the parents still hitting the road this summer with younger kids. We are in the teenage phase where no one wants to interact with us at all. When I think back to all the time I spent planning trips around naps and wishing that little people would just please-for-the-love-of-all-things-holy nod off in their car seat, I never thought we would see this day. The day when earbuds go in and everyone is asleep with no prompting whatsoever, and when going to the bathroom is not a Def-Con situation with no warning and we don’t have to make sure we have a fresh supply of videos on hand to entertain.

And most importantly, I observed that my kids get that these miles are memories. They see that these times in the car as a family are fewer and far between. Much like being on the open road, the years whiz by. Sometimes the scenery is rugged,  mountain terrain and other times it is flat and vast, but whatever the journey throws at us, we are traveling it together.

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