In the summer of 1976, my parents decided it would be a great idea to load themselves and five kids into a Volkswagen bus and visit some relatives in Paris. No, not that Paris – that would have been quite a trick driving across the Atlantic Ocean – Paris, Texas.
It didn’t matter to me. When you’re 14 years old, live in Michigan and hear the words “road trip to Texas,” you don’t care if you get to see the Eiffel Tower, the Sears Tower or Devils Tower. Whatever, let’s go.
I still have vivid, happy memories of that 2,500-mile adventure, which included crossing the Mississippi River, seeing the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, camping in Arkansas, scoring Dallas Cowboys and Texas Rangers pennants at a blue-roofed Stuckey’s, spending a day at the Six Flags Over Texas amusement park, playing “Road-sign ABCs” for hours and rediscovering just how much I enjoyed hanging with my family.
Lucky enough to experience many road trips as a kid (mostly shorter ones), that journey to Texas and back jumped immediately to mind when we asked our Hagerty Facebook audience, “What’s your best childhood road trip memory?” It wasn’t long before many of you took mental road trips of your own, back to youthful excursions you enjoyed or simply survived.
Some of your posts were short and sweet. John Thomas remembers traveling “up north with my grandparents in their double-black 1963 Pontiac Grand Prix.” Leo Sprague recalls a trip on “Skyline Drive (Scenic Highway) in Virginia with my dad back in the ’60s.” Patrick Dunlop’s best memory hit close to home at Hagerty: “With friends and cousins to Sleeping Bear Dunes in the back of the station wagon.” The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is only a half-hour drive from our headquarters in northwest Michigan.
Steve Lamontagne’s No. 1 childhood road trip memory is actually more than one: “Trips to my Uncle Ken’s in Vermont in a ’57 AMC Rambler wagon.” Chuck Sperry’s best memory is also plural: “Many trips in a ‘58 Rambler Wagon.” Louis Flege couldn’t limit himself to one, either: “Too many to pull from. A ’59 Pontiac was involved though.”
Many of you were inspired to share more.
Ed Arango: “Every road trip we took was in our station wagon, and I always got stuck in the third row seat facing backwards, so I had no idea where we were going. I think that sitting in that rear seat facing backwards contributed to my inability to know driving directions as an adult.”
Ross Bickerton: “In 1960, when I was nine years old, our family drove from Toronto to Edmonton and back in my dad’s ’57 Ford. Quite the adventure in those days!”
Drew Dunn: “In 1972 when I was 10, we drove from Boise, Idaho, to Mazatlán, Mexico, in a 1971 Ford F250 pickup with an 8-foot camper. My sister and I rode in the cabover bed until we got to Nogales, Ariz., where it was 105 degrees at 9 at night. Then we got to ride in the cab with the folks in the blessed air conditioning!”
Yoav Gilad: “In the mid ’80s my family drove from Albuquerque, N.M., through Arizona to Los Angeles and then up to San Francisco with many national parks in between. The highlight for me was the Chrysler rental car’s Electronic Voice Alert. “A door is ajar,” its Speak-and-Spell innards would intone. I’d reply, “No, it isn’t – it’s a door!” This was comedy’s pinnacle for my nine-year-old self.”
Dan Howard: “In a 1964 Mustang with my parents and two older – and bigger – brothers. Being younger I got to ride the hump, right behind the automatic shift, 1,400 miles from Texas to northern Wisconsin...and then back 1,400 miles. I went on to buy and sell five Mustangs, all fastbacks: a ’68, two ’69s and two ’70s. I still love them – just not the hump!”
Rob Kizer: “We would travel from Connecticut to Pennsylvania in the 1970s in a 1966 Plymouth Barracuda. It was before the main highway opened, so it took eight hours. Mom, Dad, me, my brother and two sisters… two full-size boxers. We would just fold the back seat down, lay a blanket down, sit the dogs on the floor behind the front seats and pile in. And there was no A/C, just the vent windows turned all the way in. All of our baggage was on a roof rack or in a small trailer.”
Lance Norton: “In early summer 1975 we went on a vacation in a four-door 1973 Buick Century down the coast from Washington to Southern California. We stopped at every theme park along the way and spent time in various State Parks.”
We just hope that Steven Hollifield was only yanking our chain when he proclaimed that his “best” childhood road trip memory is the time his father pulled over so that he could throw up. Steven, that’s just … well … sick.