Friday, August 9, 2013

Thursday Travels: Gazing Out of A Car Window

Yes, I do realize it is not Thursday. But the urge to write is upon me, and the category fits, so...

Disclaimer: Please restrain children properly. :)
I have been busy lately planning our next trip. Just the finishing touches really. It is a fairly big trip, lots of arrangements to be favorite kind! I am sure we will have a wonderful time and head home with many   cherished memories...and a much lighter wallet! While filing documents away in my trusty travel binder, I began reminiscing about past travels, specifically childhood travels. Perhaps it is the fact that we are headed to the Northwest that brings these memories to the surface. As child my earliest travel memories were of the Northwest.

My maternal grandmother lived in Portland, Oregon. I also had an aunt and cousin living there. By the time I was an adult I had an additional aunt & uncle, and more cousins, living in the area. My grandmother came to visit relatives in Kansas and Oklahoma every other year. The years she did not come to the Midwest we went to visit her for a week or two. Occasionally, due to special circumstances, we actually went to visit 3 years in a row.

Now these trips were in the 60's and 70's, and my parents were frugal people. We did not fly the 1,775 miles to Oregon. Oh no. We drove it...often straight through...over 24 hours! According to today's trip planners this would be a 26 hour trip. That may be, but my earliest memories are of a longer trip, more like 30 hours. See, the wonderful interstate highway system we enjoy today was a work in progress in the 60's and even the early 70's. There were towns and cities you had to slow down for, and mile upon mile of road construction during the summer months. I learned a lot about patience gazing out of a car window.

My brothers were much older than myself and my memories of these trips are that of an only child. No siblings to help make the time go faster, or to distract me from the panorama unfolding outside my car window. And for that I am grateful. I had nothing to do but to gaze at the scenery and observe everything we encountered on the road. It was wonderful. Plains, mountains, buttes, mesas, sand dunes, lakes, and waterfalls. I learned a lot about the geology of the western United States by gazing out of a car window.

When we traveled at night I went to sleep staring up at the night stars. You could thousands of bright stars, and even the Milky Way itself. I remember having a chart of the stars and locating the different constellations. Watching comets and meteors flash across the sky. I learned a lot about our universe gazing out of a car window.

Truckers were a common sight. I learned to pump my arm to get them to honk for me and they would always wave back to the little blond girl madly waving at them as we passed them by. We stopped to eat at truck stops, because my dad insisted the truckers ate where the best food was. I recall my parents talking about what they were hauling and where it was going. We also raced along side trains hauling their goods. We talked about how much more of the interstate system was finished since our last trip, and watched road crews busy at work. I learned a lot about our transportation system gazing out of a car window.

While we stopped every morning for breakfast, my dad's favorite meal of the day, the rest of our meals were provided by the cooler that I shared the backseat with. Homemade ham sandwiches, boiled eggs, dill pickles, cheese, carrots, & tomatoes. All packed by mom and myself prior to the trip. The big treat was stopping for fresh fruit at the roadside stands that littered the old highways prior to the interstates. At night a thermos was filled with piping hot coffee that my parents drank as they took turns driving through the night. I learned a lot about preparation and frugality gazing out of a car window.

During the day I always had a map in my hand. I always said I learned to read a map before I learned to read a book. My favorite book on these trips was an atlas! I understood mile markers, highway signs, and map legends by the age of 5. I learned a lot about navigation gazing out of a car window.

We passed town after town on these trips. I discovered how important a source of water was to these western towns. I learned how a railroad could change the entire future of a town. I saw grain elevators, wheat fields, mining towns, orchards, and fish hatcheries. I even saw old trail ruts and signs for the Santa Fe, Chisholm, Mormon and Oregon trails, long before video games were available. I learned a lot about the history of the western United States gazing out of a car window.

Finally we would arrive, bone weary, but excited to see relatives that we only saw once a year, at the most. Hugs and kisses where exchanged, food and drinks offered, naps taken, and then good conversation and a week of family time. My parents made these trips with nary a complaint, scrimping to save the money needed to buy gas to make the trip. I learned a lot about sacrifice and the importance of family...all while gazing out of a car window.

Bon Voyage ~Marla


  1. Michelle LingofelterAugust 9, 2013 at 2:01 PM

    I remember being giddy with anticipation when I knew you guys were coming to visit. I would go outside every so often and look down my street expecting Grandad to come around the corner in whatever new Buick he recently bought.

    I'm suddenly missing Grandma & Grandad.

  2. I was the same way Michelle. I loved visiting family, and I loved it when family visited.

  3. You kno this is nice blog ...
    because it have some remembering moment.....