I have seen the largest ball of string in America. I have camped under the stars in Fred Flintstone campground. I have visited the Musky Museum Hall of Fame. I have squinted at Buffalo Rock, a rock that supposedly looks like a buffalo though the graying land mass that I saw through the bars of it’s caged home appeared to look more like a, well, rock. True, I haven’t been privy to seeing the Great Wall of China or Australia’s outback, but I have seen more Americana, visited more historical sites than most can shake a pointed stick at. And leading me along from ball of string to tinfoil sculptures to corn palaces is my father, Clark Griswald.
Okay, he’s not really THE Clark Griswald of the campy eighties movie, Vacation, but he is most definitely a close relative. My father loves every side road, greasy spoon, historical marker (and I use the word historical loosely) attraction ever built. If there is a sign on the freeway informing one of an upcoming marker, he takes the next exit to find it. Never mind that it is usually an additional 2 hours out of the way. Never mind that there are people in the car with bladders the size of walnuts that needed to find a rest area yesterday. It’s a must for my father.
Though my dad’s ventures are a joke among that side of the family, I have to believe that some of his traveling spirit rubbed off on me. I love road trips. I like driving around and getting lost on purpose just to see what I can find.
I remember crossing the invisible line that my sister would draw in the car just to get her in trouble. The key was looking innocent when Mom turned around just in time to see my sister lunging toward me. How I miss those “I will pull this car over and you will get out and walk” pep talks.
It was fun to play the alphabet license plate game, or sing row row row your boat. I learned to count by singing 100 Bottles of Beer on the Wall. I became quite the artist at local restrooms from all the decorating I did of the toilet seats with toilet paper. My mom was adamant you either put down the toilet paper on the seat or squatted. I chose to release my inner artist.
But what I really loved the most was the feeling of togetherness. In a car, everyone had to communicate. Everyone had to learn to choose their battles. I loved the feeling of family, the lack of bickering, the way my dad’s arm would rest casually on the backseat of my mom’s headrest. Speeding down the road at night with the windows open, the smell of fresh air and the stars looking so big that for a minute I felt I could grab one, I knew where I belonged. It’s a feeling of coming home, a frozen moment in time when all is right with the world.
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