Road Trip Snapshot


Two weeks ago my older younger brother graduated from college--Moody Bible Institute in the heart of downtown Chicago. Being that the five of us (excluding my brother) now live in the southern region of the country, this event could only mean one thing: road trip!

A lot of people wince when they hear that word and wonder what sort of fool would ever want to drive sixteen hours in a car with five other people.

Well, that fool would be me.

Over the years, my family has taken no less than eight and a half million road trips. Okay, that might have been a slight exaggeration. But we've taken a lot, so we're all pretty familiar with the routine--the seating arrangements, the snack situation, the radio listening, the Uno playing, and the smell of my dad's and sister's farts. I wish I was kidding.

Yet still, there are surprises.

I remember once, I couldn't have been older than eight, when we were headed to Florida. This was back in the days when my parents would wake us (my brother and I) up when it was still dark and carry us to the car, where the backseat was folded down, and lay us on a pile of blankets. It was the best. I got carried to the car. Looking back, I know I didn't fully appreciate what I had. I remember feeling so warm and safe... until I caught sight of movement in the darkness. It was some sort of creature, and although my tired eyes weren't fully able to focus, I did see a flash of black-and-white strip between blinks.

My dad, being the manly man he is, immediately took charge of the situation and proceeded to back slowly away from the car. The last thing we needed was rotten skunk smell in our fully loaded station wagon. It was intense for a good couple of minutes, but to make a long story short, I'll just say that after some shooing and brilliant diversion tactics that I'm sure took place but don't fully remember, we made it in the car and off without an unfortunate incident at the hands of a scared, striped animal. But there have been times we haven't gotten so lucky. And let me tell you, there have been a lot of close calls.

Assuming I was eight when the skunk made its first and (thankfully) last appearance, it's been almost sixteen years worth of road trips since, and at twenty-three years old, I don't know how to feel about the fact that I still have to be told to "hold it" for almost two hours while my dad "forgets" to take thirteen exits in a row.

I'm not stupid, Dad. I know you just don't want to stop. But there's an empty pretzel bag back here. Don't think I won't, cuz I will.
(Don't worry, I really wouldn't.)

There have been other disasters too besides just the liquid kind. A flat tire halfway to New York. A broken transmission the night before leaving for Colorado. A horrible traffic jam on the way to Texas. And (gasp!) the worst of the worst: no Starbucks in the boonies of Tennessee.

The atmosphere inside the car isn't perfect either, and we have our fair share of arguments. Despite what it may sound like, my family doesn't always get along. I can't tell you how many times we've complained about my dad's crazy driving, only to have him remind us that he's never "technically" gotten pulled over.

But through all the car sickness, cramped legs, and stinky feet, I really wouldn't trade a family road trip for six first-class seats (unless maybe we were headed to Hawaii or Europe or something). We'd get there in a third of the time--and maybe with a third of the annoying "Are we there yet?" questions. But we would make eight and a half million times less memories.

My brothers in the middle seat...sleeping in a rather awkward position. My sister and I are folded into the back because those whiny boys claim their legs won't fit.

Our view of the Chicago skyline as we drove into the city. (The Sears Tower is the tall one in the middle.)