|My mom brushing out my unruly hair.|
I remember feeling trapped and bored on those trips, spending countless hours just staring at the globe compass on the dashboard and willing its dial to stop wobbling. Because if the compass was still, that meant the van had stopped and I could finally go outside again.
But all that time we spent crammed together in that van also created some of my favorite memories with my family. Like when my sister and I put on shows for the other cars on the highway.
That was cool.
Since this was the 1970s and we didn't all carry interactive screens everywhere, my sister and I entertained ourselves by reading, drawing or playing with toys in the van. Until my father caught us and exclaimed, "Look out the window! Who knows if you'll ever be driving by here again."
So I looked out at the landscape, but not for long. Soon I was watching the other cars, with all the other bored people inside, and decided to entertain us all.
|Photo of me with Legos, taken by my cousin*|
I love imagining what these people thought, watching these girls waving at them from the back windows of their van, especially the one with the panties on her wild blond hair.
But my absolute favorite memories of that van were the times I got to crawl on top of it, into the wooden box my father built on its roof for extra storage space.
The box ran the length of the van and was several inches in height, so it could easily fit our whole family, let alone kid me. I was constantly begging my mother to let me ride up top, but she always said it was too dangerous for me to be up there unless the van was parked. Except for one trip to Yosemite, when she finally relented and said when my father was driving slowly inside the park near a famous redwood grove, I could ride up top.
I still remember how it felt to be lying there, looking up at the sky full of redwood trees and thinking I had the coolest dad in the world, who was always building cool things and letting us do fun things in the van.
(Another cool memory: My father and I listened to "The Catch" together on the radio while in his van.)
Even when we weren't on road trips, he made the van our playground. He'd drive off with the sliding door open, forcing us to chase after it and jump in if we didn't want to be left behind. Once inside, he let us lie on our bellies above the holes in the floor so we could watch the road fly by underneath. Even though I saw mostly just a blur of asphalt, I found it fascinating, and never considered that I could easily lose an eye if a big enough rock came flying up to hit it.
Because I always felt safe in that van. Even when we were driving in the middle of the night and I woke up in my sleeping bag with no idea where we were. But I didn't need to know, because my parents did. So I would just watch the trees and telephone poles flying overhead until I fell asleep again, knowing that it didn't matter where we were going, just that we were together.
And to this day, nearly 50 years later, my favorite vacations are in cars, especially the long road trips my husband and I take with the dog. Just me and my family on the road, creating new favorite memories.
Another cool tidbit: I recently learned that my mother's love for camping and road trips was nurtured by her own childhood, as my grandmother took her on many such adventures, including one epic journey to three national parks for my grandmother's 40th birthday.
*A little more on the photos in this post: They were taken by my 11-year-old cousin Kirsten, who was visiting the United States from Denmark for the first time with our grandfather in 1975, whom we called fa-fa, which means "father's father." Their trip is what inspired my father to build the box on the van's roof, as he knew we would need more room for suitcases and such. I had never seen her pictures from that trip until she sent them to me this week, and I am so grateful that she took them, and saved them all these years. That was very cool!