Road Trip Memories

Childhood memories…

The song I’m posting today, Best of My Love by the Eagles, has a special place in my heart.

My father of all people loved this band. He was heavily invested in the 8-track cassette tape players. There was one in our house, one in our van, and one in our BOAT (didn’t last, but hey, brownie points for effort).

The 8-track tapes played round the clock at our place and if we were driving in the van for more than 1 hour we listened to one from start to finish. The glory and genius of the 8-track tape was that it was continuous: it didn’t have to be re-wound like a cassette tape. And my father took full advantage of that!

The family van!

A 1975 Ford Econoline Club Wagon was our family vehicle until 1980. My father took us on our 1-week summer vacation to Calabogie Lake, Ontario every year, towing an aluminum fishing boat.

This 7 and 1/2 hour journey was made on Hwy 7 from Peterborough to Perth, travelling through such quaint little places such as Havelock, Madoc and Kaladar.

Sidebar: Although I haven’t been up that way in over 15 years, a couple years ago a friend of mine told me that the town of Kaladar holds a huge country and folk music festival on a farm every summer, and that the attendees come in with their trailers and camp there all weekend. It’s so big and so well known that the legendary Tom Cochrane likes to drop in and jam with the bands. Go Kaladar!

Fishing buffs: Between Kaladar and Perth is Sharbot Lake. My dad used to make a day trip just to fish there and he said that lake has some of the biggest fish he’s ever seen – and we live on Lake Erie, so that’s saying something!!

Perth: the town you are looking for after traversing the countryside. This town has Canadian Tire, fast foods, Tim Horton’s, car repair shops, gas stations, bait shops, grocery store and Hospital. But wait! Exit Perth on the 511 North, and this takes you strait to Balderson, Ontario, home of the best cheese ever. Stock up on this before you get to the cottage to enjoy with the wine you picked up in Perth. Balderson Cheese was a mandatory destination stop. We even stopped there on the way home to pick up a year’s supply!

Just up the road from there is Lanark, and this is your last chance to get any bug-spray or firewood before you go into no-man’s land. Also, it’s hilly as hell from this point on. What’s that? You thought Hwy 7 was hilly? Nah. We’re talking rollercoaster level from here on until you get to Calabogie Lake. (The next lake over, Centennial, is probably better known for fishing and camping.) This will only be assuaged by the opportunity to pull over and buy quarts of blueberries along the way. Yum!

So that’s a snap-shot of my annual family road trip to the (multi-family shared) cottage. The best part about it was the endlessly playing 8-track tapes of: Kenny Rogers the Gambler, Olivia Newton-John’s Greatests Hits, and a country and easy-listening compilation of hits from the 70’s called The Green, Green, Grass of Home. But his absolute favourite was The Eagles Greatest Hits.

We made 3 road trips a year: Florida for March break, Calabogie Lake in July, Florida for Christmas break (2 weeks). I have told my husband Jeff about how just preparing for these trips is a cherished childhood memory. Before my Dad bought the brown Econoline van we had station wagons – actual woody’s! My parents were both teachers since I was 5 years old, so I have a distinct memory of sitting in the station wagon leaning over the back seat, looking though the open back door watching my parents load all our stuff. And this was on Friday after school because we needed to get on the road as soon as possible. The station wagon was backed into the garage, the door was open and the kitchen door was propped open. Then we’d haul ass to Windsor to cross the border into Detroit as the first leg of our journey to Florida. One year we had a tire blow-out on the Florida turnpike – I remember always seeing these signs for KISSIMEE – and my Mom turns around and yells at my older sister and me, “Hold on, girls!” – I’m lounging in the back, leaning over the top of the back seat and my sister is sitting propped against the door with her legs lengthwise along the back seat, and we’re playing cards or something like that – I think I was 8, and when my Mom yells out to us LOL we grab each other instead of holding on to something! The wagon is swishing back n forth and we’re in the fast lane on the right, and my dad has no choice but to pull over on the far right with fast traffic whizzing by us while he changes the tire, then, on the return trip we blow another tire somewhere in another state. Dad said that’s what made him decide to trade that wagon for a van, and he’s always had vans since then. And he never had another second-hand vehicle ever, after that!

Enter the two-tone brown Ford Econoline van in 1975, with it’s cool sliding side door, and two bi-fold back doors. A small ladder was mounted on the back door on the right and the big spare tire was mounted on the back door on the left. The front seats were two luxury captains chairs that could swivel around backwards. This seemed revolutionary and modern! Then a short bench seat, and then a long bench seat that spanned from one side to the other. I had the short one and my sister had the longer one. Here’s my next childhood road trip memory: while the van is in motion, driving down one of the American I’s, ON AUTO-CRUISE (also very cool and modern) – my parents switched drivers. I’ll never forget it. It was kinda like the game Twister, ha ha. I never saw them do it again, but they probably did. Owning this van also ended our over-nighting at motels: it influenced them to “drive straight through”. Since our destination in Florida was 22 hours from home, my parents gave in to the temptation. We would be on the road by 5 pm Friday after school, eating sandwiches for supper, stop once we got across the border for a pee break, then my mom would tuck me into my sleeping bag by wrapping the lap seat belt around the outside of it and clicking it in behind me, just so she knew I was secure and wouldn’t slide off the bench seat while I slept. And I would go to sleep, and wake up in the morning to the wonderful smell of coffee brewing. She had a little coffee maker that plugged in to a utility outlet in the front console, and this thing would make 1 cup of coffee at a time and she just loved that thing. I did too, I loved waking up to the smell of fresh brewed coffee. One time, my dad reached around behind him and nudged me awake. He was telling me to wake up and see the sun rise over the Smokey mountains with him. So I got out of my sleeping bag and climbed into the front passenger seat and got to enjoy that with him. Found out my mom had gone into the back of the van for a lie down amongst all our luggage and shoes!

During this time while my sister and I slept through the overnight drives, my father played his 8-track tapes and we would listen to those songs over and over again. I would drift off to sleep with Kenny Rogers and wake up with Olivia N-J. During the day it was the Eagles all the way. In 1980 my Dad traded in the two-tone brown Econoline for a brand new two-tone blue one. They were virtually identical except for the colour, and the new one had chrome running boards. Dad traded the blue Econoline for a red Ford Windstar in 1985, and they continued driving to Florida until 2018. So for 10 years we travelled in a Ford Econoline for our family vacations. Good call Dad, ’cause those road trips are some of my best childhood memories! I even learned to drive and got my license in the blue Ford Econoline!

I hope you enjoyed my road-trip childhood memories. We had many adventures on the road, like the time my mom left her purse behind in an IHOP in Cincinnati, Ohio, but a staffer called us on our mobile phone – my dad was so modern!!! – and told her about it LOL she didn’t even realize til that moment – and my dad was put out because he had to turn around and go back, costing precious time! Sometimes one of us had to go to the bathroom – urgently!! – only there was no exit for miles yet, so my parents pulled over and we were given a roll of toilet paper and told to go crouch behind a bush. One time, between two doors, back in the station wagon days. We travelled with our dog, without our dog, with coolers, with packed lunches, boxes of snacks and home-made bottled water from rinsed out orange juice containers. I read Nancy Drew mysteries and did books of word search puzzles. And all the while, the music was playing, over and over. My parents sang along, I sang along. And to this day, when any one of those songs comes over the radio or comes up at karaoke or ukulele jams, I know it in my heart because it is directly linked to my happiest childhood memories.

In honour of that last sentence here is Best of Love and Homeward Bound. I hope you enjoy playing them together.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s