I love everything about summer. I especially love it when the temperatures reach sweltering. It's a dry heat, right? Anyone who's lived here long enough knows what a crock that statement is, but still I don't miss the humidity of the east.
Some of my fondest memories of growing up in southeastern Pennsylvania are summer drives. My dad was an auto-body mechanic so cars and driving were a big part of our lives. We always had different cars. There were the twin Chevy Corvairs, the VW Beatles, Mustangs, the Baracuda, Bentleys, Model Ts, Mercedes, and on and on. Sometimes on summer Saturday nights we'd hop into the car of the week and drive. We drove with all the windows down, radio blaring and my hair flying in my face. Sometimes we went to the country dairy for ice cream. Other times we just drove into the night until us kids fell asleep. It sure beat sitting around the fan in the living room.
The Lure of the Open Road
photo by Man in a bowler hat (Epzibah)...
Soaring gas prices have brought back one piece of this memory. Now I drive my kids around with the windows down and the radio blaring (see Edmunds.com re: the air conditioning vs. open widows debate). But we don't just drive for the fun of it. We think more about our driving now. Every trip in the car is planned to combine errands and reduce waste.
Mandatory stop for any road trip
photo by daveisnotmyname
So what about that other summer pastime: the road trip. Is it dead? Maybe not. Every society recognizes the importance of family vacations. Over the past 30 years air travel has taken preference and turned vacations into destinations. But airlines are suffering and their passing their misery on to consumers by instilling creative fees and rising ticket prices. Flying the family to anywhere can be a serious strain on the family budget.
A meandering road trip might still be affordable when you do the math. At AAA's website you can estimate the fuel costs for a road trip. You can even play around with car models to see which is more affordable. If you don't have a comfortable, affordable vehicle you may consider renting. For example if I wanted to drive back to this year's family reunion in Philadelphia I'd spend about $745 in gas for my family of 5. Of course you've got to add in food and a place to sleep.
But you can't put a price on the sites and moments along the way. Like when my I was a kid and we drove from PA to CA. Our vehicle kept breaking down and we met the most widely interesting people who helped us out. Or my husband's story of when they left his brother at the gas station (with 11 kids it's easy to miss one). Or when my own family went to Custer State Park and our car started to overheat while surrounded by buffalo. These are the things that make for great stories and build families.
Com'on kids, get in the car!