The Writing Traveler: Planning to hit the road again by Maryann Miller
May 12, 2021
“Are you nuts!?” my husband asked me. “Do you really want to drive twelve hundred miles with five little kids in the car?”
My husband’s idea of a vacation is two weeks of puttering around the house and watching what daytime television he can stand. My idea of a vacation, however, is to go somewhere, preferably to Michigan, with stops along the way in Kentucky and West Virginia to see relatives.
My father was from West Virginia, and he felt a need to go home at least twice a year. So, when I was a kid we’d all pile into the back of an old station wagon and head south from Michigan. I loved it, even though I was usually car sick from Detroit to Pittsburgh. Some of my fondest memories are of those trips. Not the puking along the way, but the visits with relatives and playing on the hills.
I have always shared my father’s need to go home as often as possible, so one year I suggested to my husband that we take a road trip.
“Are you nuts!? You want to drive twelve hundred miles with five little kids?”
“We can do it. It’ll be fun.”
“Fun? We can’t even drive to the store without World War Three breaking out.”
“We can drive at night, while they’re asleep.”
Since he didn’t have a quick response to that, I knew he was weakening. He did offer one or two other feeble arguments, which I countered easily. Financing the trip wouldn’t be a problem. I had six whole months to scrimp, and I was a master at getting pennies out of the grocery budget.
I started saving right away, shaving the budget closer than I shaved my legs. No more brand-name cereal and we’d eat hot dogs twice a week for dinner. The kids didn’t mind the dinner menu so much but balked at the store-brand oats. When the balking got to be too much, I would dangle the vacation carrot and suddenly they loved Toasted O’s.
I told the kids not to take their shoes off in gym class so people wouldn’t see the holes in their socks. I was a fanatic about turning off lights and appliances to save a little on the electric bill. That worked well until the gym teacher sent a note home saying Anjanette absolutely had to change out of her Mary Janes before stepping a foot on the gym floor, and Carl walked into the doorjamb in the bathroom because I wouldn’t let him turn on the light. I didn’t know what the problem was. He always told me he could see in the dark.
By the time school was over for the summer, I’d saved up enough for gas – keep in mind that this was a long, long time ago and it didn’t cost a hundred dollars to fill the gas tank of a van. I even had enough money saved to pay for one or two nights in a motel if I couldn’t talk my husband into camping along the way.
Yeah. Like that was going to happen. Carl has never been an outdoorsman. His idea of roughing it is to drive a Winnebago from motel to motel, so it didn’t look promising for the camping idea. But I could talk him into picnics instead of restaurant meals. That way we could make sure we didn’t run out of funds too soon. I hated to think of what it would be like if we got stuck in the middle of Missouri on the way home with empty wallets. So, my fist was tighter than Mr. Potter’s as we finished planning the trip.
Maryann Miller is the author of A Dead Tomato Plant and a Paycheck. Please click HERE to find the book on Amazon.