Family Road Trip

By: Tanya Ward Goodman


Road trips were a major part of my childhood. My dad’s work as a carnival showpainter took him all around the country and often he’d pull me out of school to accompany him. We drove from Albuquerque to Dallas, Texas and Tulsa, Oklahoma and Little Rock, Arkansas and once all the way to Florida. On that trip, we made it a point to stop at every McDonalds we came across, certain that we’d collect enough of their “Monopoly” playing pieces to win a million dollars.

We didn’t win the cash, but we had a few amazing adventures and I saw a lot of the country glide past my window. These trips were fun and exciting and often dull as dirt. I was bored in the desert and in the prairie and through the piney woods. I didn’t have an iPad or a DS or even a decent Walkman. I had the music from my dad’s tape deck (Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Gene Autry) and the thoughts in my own head. Dad and I would talk and sometimes I’d read stories aloud, but on a trip of any length eventually everyone lapses into silence. It was in this silence that I explored the inside of my head. I daydreamed and made up conversations. I conjured stories for the people I’d seen at a rest area, created histories for the dilapidated houses and barns we passed and reimagined my own life a thousand times. I think it was some of the most valuable time I have ever spent and I still look forward to a long drive and this kind of uninterrupted thinking time.

I wanted my children to have this same experience and so last week, I piled them into the car and headed east toward New Mexico. I packed books and colored pencils and drawing paper. I downloaded Willie Nelson onto my iPod, but also Katy Perry for my daughter and Tom Petty for my son (he’s on a classic rock kick). I did not pack any sort of “screens.”

When I mentioned my plan to fellow parents, they were slightly horrified. They wondered if I was worried or scared or just plain nuts. I will admit, I packed the DVD player and a cache of kids’ movies in a secret bag in case they were right, but I thought I could prove them wrong.

And I did. We did. My kids looked out the window and read books and asked questions. My daughter found shapes of people and animals in the hills of the Mojave, my son was thrilled to see the Petrified Forest. We ate road food – Sarsparilla in Oatman, Arizona where wild burros roam the streets, Fig Newtons bought at a gas station outside Holbrook and gigantic ice cream sundaes at the Little America Hotel in Flagstaff. My kids were adventurous and eager and bored and cranky. They told stories, blew bubble gum bubbles, and sang songs. Of course they fought a little bit, but they were game for most everything. Our trip took two days on the way and two days on the way back. I never pulled out the DVD player.

My father gave me many gifts, but I think the one that has stayed with me the longest is the idea that a road trip is a little bit about seeing what’s outside the car and a little bit about seeing what’s inside your head. This is a gift I plan to share with my kids again and again.


Road Trip 2010: Tale #2 – In Which I Am Egregiously Maimed

July 13, 2010 by  
Filed under Ann Brown, Family

By: Ann Brown I was injured in Isla Vista and it was all Robin’s fault. That’s my version, of course, but this is my blog. Be advised that you are expected to side with me because I was your friend first. To fully understand my complaint we need to go back to the morning of The Incident. I was in deep despair, having awakened in our obscenely expensive luxury beachfront room in Pismo Beach to cloudy morning skies. As you can imagine, this turned the entire morning, day, trip, world, to  utter shit, and I had no ability to do anything other than rock and keen and moan about the tragedy of my life and to pick irrational fights with Robin. I am sure you can understand. We decided to leave Pismo and move on to sunnier southern climes. Well, “we” decided inasmuch as I stood on the misty beach like a lover waiting for her man to return from the sea, and told everyone around me about my life in this veil of tears while Robin packed the car and, most likely, wondered why people like me so damn much when, in reality, I am a pain in the ass. Keeping with my spring/summer policy to dress according to the calendar and not according to the thermometer, I wore a tank top and shorts. By the time we got to Isla Vista, my teeth were chattering and when we stopped for lunch, I went around to open the back of the car to get a jacket. (cue music from “Jaws”) My million pound suitcase came careening out of the back of the car like a fucking scud missile, tearing into my shin, crashing into my leg and knocking me down. I was very very very brave as I crawled, Lamaze-breathing, up to the sidewalk and found my way back into the car. Whimpering, I reclined the seat so I was flat on my back with my legs elevated on the dashboard and then I was very very very brave while I cried inconsolable, bitter tears of pain and injustice. And I was very very very brave when I started to feel all woozy and light-headed and wondered if I was going to die and I closed my eyes and wouldn’t answer Robin’s questions (“are you alright?” “Ann? Ann?”) because I needed to conserve my energy in case my organs shut down. I cried and fought death and refused to look at my leg, which now (according to Robin) has a “nice-sized goose egg” on its shin because I needed my strength to carry on. I dug deep into my being, as I learned from watching “Alaska Experiment” and “Dual Survival” on the Discovery Channel. I searched my soul for stoicism and calm. And it came to me. Through an epiphany that sent waves of velvety bliss spreading through my body as warming as a slow hit of Peppermint Schnapps on a winter afternoon, I found my strength. I was going to survive. I had a raison d’etre, my story needed to be told: This was Robin’s fault. I could actually feel the universe breathing life back into me, filling me with the mental acuity I would need to make my case. Robin had packed the car while I was on the beach that morning. Robin carelessly, haphazardly – negligently! – arranged the suitcases in such a way that an egregious injury was inevitable. Of course, Robin was to blame!  Negligence was the least of his transgressions, in fact; this might have been premeditated! Aha! Robin had been a little bit too solicitous of me that morning, come to think of it. His long-awaited plans for a beachfront room, Jacuzzi tub big enough for the both of us, porn on the cable, hotel sex and mini bar debauchery had been cut from the agenda due to the lack of sun sending me into the fetal position with the covers over my head, and yet, and yet, he never complained. He offered me spa services; I refused, due to the lack of sun, of course, and he just nodded. He offered room service breakfast on the private balcony and I refused, due to the lack of sun, of course, and he shrugged. He finally offered me the brass ring, the Door Number 3 of life’s best things – sex with him – and I snorted but he never got upset. Verrry suspicious, indeed. Clearly, instead of getting pissed off at my ridiculousness, he arranged to have my suitcase fly out at me three hours later in Isla Vista when I suggested we stop at this incredible restaurant we found last year that serves the most delicious salad Nicoise with fresh ahi tuna, and he arranged for the weather to turn nippy (or, as my friend Erika calls it, “tit-nipply”) so I would need to get a jacket from the back of the car. And his nefarious plan worked exactly according to plan. Except, except, I figured out that it was no accident. Other than the one alternate theory that this was yet again another recently discovered design flaw on Toyota Highlanders, it had to be Robin’s doing. Because of the not having sex in Pismo. I rest my case.