Summer on the road

The summer is winding down. Ten more days until the new school year begins. It has been nearly three months now since I sat watching my little boy “graduate” from kindergarten back in May. That’s one quarter of a year ago. It’s amazing how fast it has gone.

I was thinking about what summer was like when I was Sean’s age. A typical summer would usually include an annual drive to visit my grandparents. This might not sound like anything out of the ordinary but going to visit my grandparents meant packing up our station wagon and driving over 2200 miles from southern Arizona to Detroit, MI. I can recall doing this at least three times as a young child.

When I was about ten years old, my grandparents moved to Arizona and we no longer had to make the long drive to Michigan for the summer. Nope…that long trip to Michigan came to an end. Instead, we started making annual drives from Arizona over to the east coast of Florida to visit close family friends and the ocean. If recently occurred to me that had we gotten in the car and turned left we actually could have reached the ocean quicker by going to the neighboring state of California. But, we never did that.

Summer in my family would not have been summer unless we were in the car and driving somewhere. My dad loved to drive. He still does. He was never much into sightseeing though. Five minute bathroom breaks at a rest area every couple hundred miles was my dad’s equivalent to “stopping and smelling the roses”. The up side to this kind of sightseeing was that our road trips across the good ol’ USA never took more than three days.

My most memorable car ride to Michigan was the year my parents decided to not only pack me and my two older brothers in the car but also our two big dogs and my brother’s gerbil, Sherlock Holmes. The dogs rode in the station wagon behind the back seat, the only place they would fit. Both dogs would situate themselves so they could rest their panting mouths on the back of our seat. I can still picture and practically feel the drips of doggy slobber as it slowly rolled down the seat and came to rest on the back of my shoulder.

It amazes me that my parents survived these long summer trips with their sanity still somewhat intact. And they accomplished it without the use of electronic devices to entertain us kids. Except for the CB radio my dad had that I was occasionally allowed to sing into, (I can recall one rendition of Don’t it Make My Brown Eyes Blue by Crystal Gayle) we had no portal DVD players, no Ninetendo DS, and no I-Pods. Instead, we played things like “let’s count all the red cars as they go by” or “let’s see if we can find all the letters in the alphabet on the billboards”. I remember my siblings and I taking our socks off and putting on a puppet show in the rear window of our station wagon, entertaining the travelers behind us. Apparently, from what I’ve been told, I even learned to walk one summer in the back of our station wagon as we crossed the country. Yes, we spent many hours in a car on our vacations and it was before the mandatory seat belt law.

Time after time, mile after mile, year after year, my family managed to survive and even enjoy these long trips across the country. The only member of our family that had a hard time adjusting was Sherlock Holmes. Sherlock’s first trip to Michigan ended up being his only trip to Michigan. Shortly after arriving at my grandparent’s house, the stress of being locked in a car for three days with five humans and two canines proved to be a little too much for our little detective.

R.I.P. Sherlock

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