As I write this it’s difficult to think about anything but the heat — it’s sweltering, with local temperatures in the high 90’s. But although the blazing heat makes me think about Summer, I thought I’d try to ignore it and focus instead on another facet of the season — vacation trips, especially those by car.
I’m not talking about engaging the cruise control on your air-conditioned SUV and zooming down the interstate, oblivious to your surroundings. My thoughts turn instead to a time when folks would bounce along in the old family car, tracing their route on heavily creased service-station maps, while rolling down highways lined with everything from Burma Shave signs (remember those?) to fascinating roadside attractions.
Some of those attractions were impossible to resist, and included everything from alligator farms to trading posts and more. Sometimes we’d just look on in wonder, other times we’d stop and take pictures of ourselves next to them…or on them. They might even include a giant ball of twine — remember that fascinating object being mentioned in National Lampoon’s Vacation?
Most of us remember the classic Chevy Chase movie, which managed to capture some of that nostalgic feeling. It was made almost 25 years ago, and anyone who has ever vacationed by auto can find scenes in the film that they can relate to their own experiences.
I can identify with the film as a parent traveling with kids, and also as a young boy myself, years earlier. And I’m not admitting to anything, but I did greatly enjoy the movie scene I’m about to describe. If you know the movie, you’ll immediately remember it — the family car is cruising down the quiet highway late at night, and the camera slowly pans from face to face while the radio croons the smooth sound of The Fleetwoods’ “Mr. Blue”. We see the sleeping children, then the wife, then the driver – the husband – whose head is lolled back as he snores away.
It was a good movie and one that struck a lot of chords, but one thing definitely reminded me of when I was kid, traveling with my family. It was the montage of retro postcards shown at the beginning. I remember visiting some of the places portrayed, and I’m pretty sure I remember seeing some of the other cards too — maybe in a roadside trading post.
I found a video of them. If you’re in my generation – or even if you’re not – watch and enjoy. (Note: was later deleted at source.)