The 2016 summer holiday season is long over so a new crop of kids will have hit the road with their parents (or maybe one parent in our new world of here today-gone tomorrow marriages) and gone on a summer vacation.
‘Today’s car vacations are a little different than summer trips from my childhood days in the Sixties. 21st century cars are smarter and wired with many distractions for the young human cargo on board.’
Kids today can play video games, watch movies, or simply use their I-pad or phone to avoid reality on a road trip.
The new age kids are buckled into vehicles with climate control, sound-proof interiors, complex sound systems, crash aversion sensory systems, and little connection to the real world outside of the car as it zips by at 75 mph.
We had a different game plan for summer road trips back in the Sixties. My parents (two of them were a common occurrence back then) stuffed as many kids as possible into a base model four-door sedan and hit the road.
Climate control in our car was two open vent windows in the front and a couple of slightly cracked rear windows in the back. Older and potentially violent siblings had the window seats in the back, while younger siblings tried to figure out how to balance their feet on either side of the transmission hump on the floor in the middle of the passenger compartment.
It was a system that worked well in the car passenger jungle in the 60s where older alpha siblings controlled the turf in the back seat with a merciless and unforgiving set of rules.
Very young kids rode in the front seat between parents and none were buckled into a child seat because there was no room for a child seat, plus there were no seatbelts in our cars. In fact, seatbelts were an option in many cars until well into the Sixties and frugal car buyers spent very little on extras in a car during that era.
An AM radio with one front speaker was one of the few options in most cars during those years and the station on the car radio was dialed into easy listening stations during the entire trip. Any intrusion of rock and roll on the car radio was accidental and temporary because our parents were not aware of the local stations’ format on a road trip.
Herman’s Hermits was quickly replaced by Perry Como by a frantic twist of the radio dial as soon as our parents twigged onto the local radio playlist on a summer holiday road trip.
We had comics as a source of entertainment and sometimes they were the root cause of a sudden bout of car sickness. The motion of the hot airless car combined with the print of the comic to produce horrific moments of projectile vomiting from one or more of us kids in the car.
We would test the boundaries of the comic reading/vomit connection in cars and started to develop a false sense of security where we were cocky enough to believe we would not get sick while reading comics in the car this time. Except that we did-every time-and sometimes only a few miles into the road trip.
We used to watch the world pass by us on a Sixties-era road trip. Some of us were already car guys who would play a car-spotting game from the back seat. The first kid who blurted out the correct car model and year scored a point in the game.
The game required good eyes, a good memory, and many hours of confinement in a family sedan with few diversions on the road.
Occasionally we would spot a tourist trap with kid attractions that would really grab our attention in a big way. First we would see it in the front windshield and then we would quickly see it through the back window of the car-at about 65 mph through the entire brief encounter with the tourist trap.
The basic rule of thumb was no unplanned stops along the way-except for vomit stops.
Sometimes our family road trips included night driving and one of the big ticket items was the multitude of drive in theaters along the highway near every town along the way. We could literally see the drive ins miles away and we desperately wanted to stop, see the movie, and enjoy all that dancing food on the screen. The chances of an impromptu roadside dinner and a movie scenario at a drive in were not good in an “it-will-never-happen kind of way”-and it never did for many of us.
It was a different world on summer vacations when we were kids.
‘We connected with the road and not the internet in that bygone era and it turned many of us into car guys who miss that simpler time when cars were not merely a docking station for computer equipment.’
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