The Imperfectly Perfect Road Trip

three teens in Florida

Photo by 3boyz1princess

A big boat of a car.

Florida bound.

My mom and dad in the front seat, my brother and grandmother and I all crammed in the back.

Every year when I was around 9, our family would drive from New England to Tampa to visit my grandmother's sister. It was a looong trip, especially with zero legroom. My dad insisted on putting his 24-quart hard plastic cooler with enough sodas for a week on the floor behind the driver's seat. That just so happened to be the side of the car I was assigned.

My parents decided my brother needed the rear right passenger seat because he was younger and needed the floor space to play with his Army men (no car seats or seat belt rules back then). My grandmother got the middle seat to separate the two of us, and that left me with scrunched up legs the whole trip.


Sometimes I think  I can still feel the leg cramps. But there is no such thing as a "perfect" road trip. It's those annoying mishaps and moments of angst -- the flat tire in the middle of nowhere, forgetting your suitcase back at the motel, mom and dad arguing over directions -- that help to make these journeys so memorable years later.

JulyBabies remembers a recent trip down south ...

"My father-in-law, husband, myself and 8 month old daughter at the time leaving Brooklyn, New York, at 9 p.m. on a whim and driving down to Savannah, Georgia in a little car. I remember nodding off in the backseat and waking up, probably around 3 or 4 in the morning somewhere in darkness on I-95, to the sound of the tires rumbling (the sound when the car is veering on and off road) and seeing that my father-in-law, whom I love, was driving. He wasn't a great driver to begin with and probably should not have been behind the wheel in those conditions. But I will never forget the entire trip, it was great."

Despite my discomfort, I, too, think of all the fun we had and the weird and wonderful places we stopped along the way -- an awesome wavy beach in North Carolina, a firecracker stand, numerous Howard Johnsons for lunch and dinner, Gator Land. I couldn't tell you what I ate for lunch yesterday, but I can still recall with strange clarity the photograph of me standing in the doorway of Gator Land, which was a replica of a big aligator mouth.

Now I gotta go ask Mom what she did with that picture ...

Is there such a thing as a perfect road trip in your family? What mishaps and misadventures do you remember having when  traveling as a kid -- or today with your own kids?

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