The Road to the Middle of Nowhere

August 4, 2010 at 10:46 pm 4 comments

I was a child of the 1970s. It was a time of bell bottoms, shag carpeting, Skylab, Schoolhouse Rock, the least appealing shades of orange and green, and…long family car trips.

Now, that’s not to say the children in my family weren’t experienced flyers. My father had his pilot’s license, and for a while in the 70s, he had a little two-seater plane, so we had all flown at young ages. (And when I say “flown,” I mean it. Let’s just say that, very early on, we had an inkling of how bad of a driver my sister would turn out to be.)

me in front of my dad's plane

Marla as a young (and stylish) flyer

But the big family car trips are what I remember most, probably because they seemed to last forever.

There was a certain rhythm to every trip:

The sandwiches my mother carefully packed that we would tear into at a rest stop picnic table somewhere between here and there.

The fight between my brother, sister and me for dibs on the station wagon’s wayback.

The 3 little monsters

The 3 Little Monsters

The bickering about nothing between my brother and sister followed by furious silence when my mother, who could take it no longer, would finally lay down the law.

The same conversation over and over every 15 minutes, when one of us would ask:

“Where are we now?”

And every single time, my father would reply: “Out in the middle of nowhere.”

(Now looking back on it, I can’t believe we accepted that answer, but we did. Every single time.)

Dad and the kids

This photo was taken "out in the middle of nowhere." That's me on the left. My dad is serving as the buffer between my constantly bickering siblings.

The trip that will always stand out in my mind, though, is the one that finally put an end to our long family car trips: the trip to Santa Fe, or as we began to think of it, “the place that must be behind that seemingly unreachable mountain we’ve been seeing in the distance for three solid days.”

Driving from Louisiana to New Mexico means one thing: driving through Texas.

Driving through Texas with my Dad at the wheel (a steady 60 mph when he feels like opening it up a little on the highway), well, it’s possible we still haven’t gotten through the state.

To this day, I can’t even think of Santa Fe, turquoise jewelry or stucco buildings without thinking of that interminable trip and most of all, that mountain. By the third day, it was almost as if it was taunting us, daring us to finally get across Texas. We actually united as a family against that mountain. It was us against it! We would beat it!

I have no memory of the trip back home – with the mountain safely in the rearview mirror, I guess all the drama was literally behind us – but whenever the prospect of a long car trip came up again, my mom would remind my dad of Santa Fe and the mountain.

We’d been there and done that.

By the time the 1970s came to an end, so had our era of long family car trips.

This post was inspired by the prompt, “A long drive…” from Mama Kat’s Writer’s Workshop.


Entry filed under: Family, Mama Kat's Writer's Workshop, Travel.

Ship of Fools Taking Some Heat from the Mother of all Fact Checkers

4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Kelley  |  August 5, 2010 at 12:09 pm

    Great one,Mar! My fam also loaded up the station wagon every summer and going across Texas seemed like an eternity. It also reminds me of the eight track tapes that would be playing that always changed tracks mid song.

  • 2. marlainkontheside  |  August 5, 2010 at 12:13 pm

    My mother just called to inform me that she spent the entire Santa Fe drive embroidering denim shirts for my sister and me, and she can’t believe I forgot that important detail.

    She also wanted to correct the facts — apparently, our absolute worst road trip was the drive to DIsneyland through the desert in the summer. Mother’s guilt is strong… I’ll be blogging about that trip next.

  • 3. Regina  |  August 6, 2010 at 11:17 am

    LOVE it!! Now I remember why my dad could never get off work in time to drive to our destination – he would take a flight to wherever we were a few days later. Hmmmmm. Smart man! You really should’ve included a photo of your mom embroidering your shirts!

  • […] I recently wrote about our family road trip adventures and, in particular, the endless drive to Santa Fe. […]


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