Memories of road trips came to mine yesterday when I heard the news that Oaxaca, Mexico had suffered a mudslide and many were feared dead. Oaxaca, Mexico was a stop on our trip to El Salvador that we made as a family. It was an intended stop on the way home but we took the wrong road so we never made it there on the way back but that’s another story.
When I was growing up in the 60’s almost every weekend we made a trip up north to my grandma’s home after Dad got off work. Mom and Dad would pack the car with the clothes for the weekend. Before we would leave Dad would put two empty beer cases on the back floor, one behind the driver’s seat and one behind Mom’s seat. Then they would put a wooden platform across the entire backseat and over the beer cases to make a bed for traveling. The four of us would have to put on our pajamas before we left and they would put blankets down on the platform. We would bring our pillows with to sleep on the almost three hour trip from the Twin Cities to Grandma’s. It was their version of a station wagon.
Fast forward to the 70’s. December 1977 to be exact. Dad had upgraded the car to an 8 passenger Chevy van that had been used for a shuttle bus for a local car dealership. Our family had increased by one to seven. The most memorable trip in that van was the year Dad decided that we should drive from Minnesota to San Salvador, El Salvador to visit Claudia, the exchange student that had lived at our home the previous year. Did I mention that we are not a Spanish speaking family. My dad could speak some and I had one year of high school Spanish that wasn’t that great. We left Minnesota the week before Christmas and started our trip south. It was fun to shed the winter clothes about the time we reached Oklahoma.
We had excitement along the way especially in Oaxaca, Mexico when we woke to my sister screaming that something was crawling on her. We were all in one hotel room, some sleeping on the floor. Dad turned on the light and what seemed like a thousand bugs scattered. We arrived in El Salvador on Christmas eve after traveling through Guatemala. The town was one big party with parades in the streets. We went with Claudia’s family to several friends homes that evening for parties. One of my favorite things I saw was at each home they had elaborate nativity scenes set up. Not just the manger scene but the entire town around it. Very cool. We spent Christmas day at the beach playing in the ocean and sampling different kinds of local foods.
So what does a person do on a long trip like that? I read Gone with the Wind. I was a junior in high school and needed to read the entire book and write a 18 page paper on the book when I returned from our trip. My sister slept most of the trip, my brothers made stupid faces at each other and fought most of the time. My youngest brother was only five at the time and he cried because he wanted water. Mom and Dad bought bottled water for us to drink and they made the mistake of buying carbonated water one time to drink and my brother cried and cried because that wasn’t water he wanted to go home for our water. One thing I remember from that trip was how sore my ribcage was after a day of driving in the mountains. The road kept turning back on itself, twisting and turning all day long. I think all my insides were sloshing about.
While we were in El Salvador we took a road trip to the top of a mountain near where we were staying. I wish I could remember the name of the place but I can’t. What I do remember is that whenever we wanted to go somewhere while we were there everyone would pile into our van. On the trip to the top we had 17 people in our van. It moaned and groaned to the top. I’m sure my Dad was praying that the transmission wouldn’t go out on the way up or down. This old van was a no frills van. No air conditioning and it had vinyl seats. It had some windows that would open but not many. There was sweat dripping off all of us in the van and it wasn’t sweet-smelling sweat as my brother claimed to have.
On our road trips back in Minnesota my mom used to pack a cooler with food for us to stop and eat along the way. There were always sandwiches, cookies, cheese and crackers for our lunch. We would stop and have a picnic somewhere along the way. El Salvador was no different. Claudia’s Mom packed food for all of us to eat when we arrived at the top. It was an amazing picnic among the flowers and mountains with the breath-taking scenery on all sides.
Just this week my husband and I took a road trip to the transportation lot to pick up a few cars with our truck. After we were loaded we stopped at McDonald’s to get our lunch. We put the tailgate down on the truck I was driving home and sat outside and ate our lunch. A Big Mac never tasted so good as outside in the sunshine on a beautiful fall day eating with my sweetheart. Every work day should have a picnic lunch in the middle. It does so much for the attitude.