Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Don't Make Me Pull Over!

Don't Make Me Pull Over! An Informal History of the Family Road Trip  by Richard Ratay

     How many times have you heard that as a kid??  While an age contemporary of the author, my family never took a road trip anywhere but I had friends who did and my husband did and I lived them through their stories.  
     This book is so much more than reminiscing about being packed into a car the size of a boat and barely being let out for food or bladder relief until the destination was reached. What is it about dads anyway? I may not have taken road trips when I was a kid, but once married with kids of our own, my husband introduced the concept to me and our kids and he, too, wouldn’t stop for anything.  I remember one trip where they kids had nothing but saltine crackers for a whole day because we were headed for someplace by nightfall. 
     What makes this book fascinating, really fascinating, is the back story of road travel itself. We all know that before the interstates travel was on those two lane roads that crawled through towns and with any luck the car you were in was behind a truck hauling felled trees. No, the author takes us all the way back, all the way to when roads themselves were invented. I mean, if you’re going to go somewhere you really benefitted if there was a path.
     Once you had a path you needed somewhere to go.   And you needed somewhere to “go” when you were on your way.  A rest area.  How surprised was I to find that the very first ‘rest area’ was a place to stop and sit at a picnic table and have your lunch.  And that first invented area to rest is not 10 miles from my front door!
     The author takes us everywhere, tells us everything about tripping, tells us how it all came about into one package that became everything we needed. Cars, roads, maps, gas stations, restaurants, campgrounds, picnics, rest areas, amusement destinations, and then how all these things evolved and then devolved with the coming of air travel and ultimately the loss of locking a family into a tiny space but which was really a monstrously huge car and forcing them to interact with each other without electronic means.  This is the stuff of our memories, the stories we tell to our children (and wives), the life that we used to live and will never know again.  If you are of the age that this was your life, you do NOT want to miss this book.  Even though my family never took a road trip, I could still feel the wind in my face.

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