My love of travel began at an early age. In the summer, my family took driving vacations, or road trips, of two to three weeks. We visited states from the East to West Coasts and the Gulf of Mexico to the Great Lakes. It was the boom days after World War II. Gas rationing was lifted and new cars began rolling off the assembly line. I expect my parents had pent up travel bug.
As an adult, my travel adventures have expanded to other Continents, but I am getting ahead of myself. In this next segment of Retirement is a Journey, I will blog about travel and how it has expanded my horizons and enriched my retirement. First, I will begin with how travel got in my DNA.
While I was growing up, it was in the summer months I learned about our country, both geographically and historically. While I didn’t think of it that way, travel was my best social and history lessons. Seeing where Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address had its impact. It probably means I’m an experiential learner.
It was the early 1950s, before Interstate highways crisscrossed the country and gave all major roadways the look of “sameness.” There were no McDonald’s, Dunkin Donuts or Holiday Inns. It was the heyday of Route 66s and California’s beautiful Pacific Coast Highway 101.
Each stop was an adventure. We were easily identified as tourists with our Texas twang. Ordering a hamburger for lunch was an experience. We’d ask for lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, onions, mustard and mayonnaise on the burger. The waitresses, always a girl or woman in those days, would stop what they were doing and watch us “put salad on our burgers.” We found out burgers in most places consisted of a thin meat pattie, ketchup, onion and pickles.
If we hadn’t reached a specific destination, we would drive until late afternoon. Around 5 p.m., we’d start looking for a motor inn, usually located on the highway. Back then, motor inns were not called motels. Most inns were one story buildings built in an L or wide U shape with parking in front of the rooms.
My brother and I would ask to stay where there was a swimming pool – easy to identify as we were driving. Pools were on grassy areas in the middle of the motor inn.
Mom always asked Dad to check the room to make sure it was clean. Once the room passed muster, we would unpack and change into bathing suits for a swim. Motor inns did not have restaurants in those days, so after a swim, we would dress and look for a restaurant that looked nice, but not too nice!
After dinner, it was time for bed…no television in those days. Plus, after a full day of driving with stops for whatever there was to see along the way, we were tired. And, my parents wanted to get an early start the next morning.
In the 1950s, cars were not air-conditioned. When we vacationed in California or other states in the West, we would drive over 500 miles the first day. We’d stay overnight in Las Cruz, New Mexico, just over the Texas border from El Paso.
I have groggy memories of being awoken the next morning while it was dark outside. We wanted to drive across the deserts of New Mexico and Arizona before it got too hot. My parents feared our car would overheat. Others must have had similar fears as we often saw cars with water bags hanging from the hood ornaments.
While driving was not as safe as it is today, those were more innocent days. Driving in the 1950s was a very freeing experience. No seat belts or safety carseats for kids, let alone laws requiring them.
There were no video games, iPods or other portable devices to amuse the kids. We had something called car games. These games were a group effort with the likes of I Spy, 20 Questions and license plate games. Remember those funny little red and white Burma shave signs that dotted the roadways.
In the 50s, for better or worse, many states allowed youngsters to get a driver’s license as a young teenager. In Texas, I got my license at age 14 — after taking a safe driving course and passing a written and driving test.
I was legal to drive, but not yet five feet tall. My parents had an Oldsmobile 98 and I could barely see over the stirring wheel. That year we vacationed in Florida. My parents gave me a turn at driving on the highway when a Florida state trooper started following us. He finally pulled me over. He couldn’t believe I was old enough to drive legally. I probably should not have been, but, those were more innocent days.
The Takeaway: What lesson or remembrances do you have from childhood – good, bad or indifferent? Share it and let’s start a conversation. Please include your name, email or phone number. I may need to contact you for clarification or with a question. I won’t publish your name. Contact me at [email protected].