Road Trip Memories

This week, YA Highway’s Road Trip Wednesday asks the question, What’s the most dramatic road trip you’ve ever been on? What immediately pops into my mind might not have been a dramatic road trip, but it left wonderful, indelible memories. It was the summer my dad had to spend several weeks working on a satellite launch in Florida. He agreed to take us kids with us, so we drove from Los Angeles to Cocoa Beach in a 1957 Ford station wagon.

NPS Photo by Peter Jones

NPS Photo by Peter Jones

I was ten years old, and had just finished fifth grade. In fact, I missed the last few days of fifth grade because my dad had to be in Florida by a certain date, so I left school early. We departed on a Tuesday in early June, me, Dad, and my older sister, Debbie. The plan was that my oldest sister, Linda, and a friend named Cathy would fly out later and join us.

But the three of us drove. We started in Hawthorne, California and headed east. In those days, no one wore seat belts (the old Ford probably didn’t have any), so sometimes my sister and I would travel in the “way back” behind the middle seat. We also would sleep back there while my dad drove.

We made stops along the way. The first was at Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico. We arrived at the caverns Wednesday evening, just in time to watch the resident bats leave for their nightly flight. The next day, we descended into the cave on a tour, which ended in an enormous cavern set up as a cafeteria. They gave us box lunches and I still remember the taste of that cheese sandwich, and eating it hundreds of feet underground.

Years later, I wrote a romantic suspense novel based in a similar cavern underneath the Arizona desert (Dark Whispers). In the book I’m working on now, Revolution, the third book in the Tankborn trilogy, several important scenes also take place underground.

Tom Sawyer Cover1We left New Mexico on Thursday after the tour and headed into Texas. Because we were driving through the “fat” part of Texas, it seemed to take forever to get through the state (on our way home, my mom drove through the Texas panhandle in one night). At some point in Texas, we stopped at a truck stop and my dad bought me a copy of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. (I might be giving away my age here, but if you take a close look at the cover, you’ll see the book cost 65 cents.)

I devoured Tom Sawyer as we passed through the South, crossing through Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia. Tom Sawyer takes place in Missouri, but the flavor of the book’s setting fit the countryside we drove through, adding to the experience of reading the book.

We made it to Florida on Saturday of that week, five days of driving to cross the country. My dad had often driven through the night, only pulling over to sleep in the car when he got too tired. Not long after crossing the border into Florida, we stopped at a restaurant for breakfast where I had grits for the first time. To my Southern California eyes and palate, they looked and tasted pretty strange, but it certainly told me I was a long way from home. We spent that night in a hotel and the next day, moved into the apartment we stayed in for the summer.

There was more to the trip. I got to see three satellites launched from the beach outside our apartment. We spent every day in the pool or on the beach, or walking down to the Howard Johnson’s in the rain for ice cream. When my dad’s job was done, we all drove from Florida to Brooklyn (now it was Dad, Mom, me and my two older sisters and Cathy). Mom and Dad took turns driving so it was a fast trip. Then we visited our Brooklyn relatives a few days (which included a trip to the World’s Fair). Finally, we drove from New York back to Los Angeles, finishing the big triangle-shaped road trip.

We rode through or visited 25 of the 50 states that summer. It was a fabulous trip, one I’ll always remember.

About karensandler

Lover of chocolate. A couple felines short of full-fledged Cat Lady. Author of the YA Tankborn Trilogy (TANKBORN, AWAKENING, and REBELLION), from Tu Books. Founding team member of We Need Diverse Books. Opinions expressed here are my own.
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16 Responses to Road Trip Memories

  1. Tracy Klaus says:

    What great memories!

  2. Wow!Sounds like a great family memory. I remember going to Carlsbad when I was 11 or so — the sight of those bats will always stay with me. It’s truly incredible. But LA to Florida to New York back to LA? Whew. Must have been a very long road trip.

    • karensandler says:

      It’s funny, but I don’t remember it as being long. I guess that’s partly because I was a kid and everything was an adventure, and partly because it’s just the high points that stick out.

  3. rkhorserider says:

    Whoa that’s one long trip! Sounds like an amazing one, though. I definitely relate with the hiding out in the “way back” of a car during long trips. When I was really young, my family had a minivan and I would lay on the floor in the space between the two seats in the second row. I remember one time my grandpa was driving and he got pulled over and I had to hurry and buckle myself in the back.

  4. We moved cross-country four times when I was growing up, and we drove every time. I actually prefer driving to flying, because we got to see so many things that we would’ve missed if we’d been in a plane. Back then it was sort of boring, but looking back on it now, I think it was pretty cool!

  5. That’s a super long trip, but what an adventure to have!

  6. Miss Cole says:

    Whenever I see California plates in Florida, I always admire the distance travelled! What an amazing trip to take in your childhood🙂

  7. Samantha says:

    Wow! That sounds like a really incredible trip! Great memories to treasure for life

  8. That’s a long trip! But it sounds like you had lots of fun!!🙂

  9. stephscottil says:

    That’s so cool that you saw half the country through a road trip! I have never driven through Texas or the western states; the furthers I got was Colorado for a road trip (from Michigan at the time). I miss the days of being able to read in the car.

  10. Robin Clark says:

    My goodness Karen, I would have given my eye teeth to have experienced that, especially as a child. I guess it’ll have to happen as a wild and carefree retiree instead!

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