The Giese Family Back Story about Road Trips

In "Lessons from Babe," my quirky mother-daughter memoir, I also write about family road trips.

Some good, most not so good.

When I was about 5, "travel" meant that Babe and Dad and my brother and I piled into my father's Blackhawk Studebaker and headed out from Seattle to somewhere modest--like Astoria, Seaside, or Portland.

I grew to hate those trips. Mile after mile my brother and I were stuck in the back seat, probably bored out of our little minds. One day my father must have asked us to behave, to stop quarreling. To cut it out! Apparently, we didn't stop, or I didn't. Because Dad pulled the car over to the shoulder of the road, and demanded that I get out. Get out? He was going to teach me a lesson. Some lesson. There I was, a 5-6 year old, probably in a white lacy pinafore, tight golden ringlets, dumped on the shoulder of the road, and my father sped away? Abandoned, I cried, screamed, shrieked, shouted, yelled for them to COME BACK! The black car grew smaller and smaller in the distance. As an adult I spent years in therapy trying to understand that incident. My therapist said it was probably the root of my anxiety attacks, and feelings of panic. No kidding.

No wonder I was never big on road trips, right? I successfully avoided them most of my life. A road trip was my idea of hell on earth. I took airplanes. I flew places. On the other hand, my brother and my mother loved road trips. As Babe got older, my brother would drive, and Babe would sit there happy as could be, the road whirling by at 60 mph. As my brother said, "Babe never complained."

Then I met Ed. Our first road trip was to Big Sur. We'd known each other only a few weeks, and I wanted to show my new love, who was new to the West Coast, the magnificence of Big Sur. (Hiking in Big Sur had been my salvation after my husband died.) Our second road trip was from my place in Southern California to his place in Montana. In December. Not the best time for propitious road conditions. We'd known each other only 3 months and it was still that glowy time in a love affair when everything is golden and sparkly and fresh. So I was game and it didn't matter that there was a road closure because of snow in Salt Lake City, or another total road closure in Idaho Falls. The snow drifts blowing across the freeway were exciting and dramatic. In Idaho Falls we detoured to a wine bar with a cozy fireplace. Eventually we made it to Bozeman in time to set up the Christmas tree before Ed's entire family arrived to check out his new girlfriend.

So when Ed requested this West Coast Road Trip for his birthday celebration, I had some serious reservations. Would it be too long to be stuck in a car? Or would it be just right? We don't quarrel, and we have GPS, and destination assist, but what if I just couldn't hack it? The mile-after-mile tedium of my childhood road trips?

Ed's argument was that we kept flying off to exotic places--Tanzania, Hanoi, Casablanca--yet he'd never driven up the West Coast past Big Sur. For my Kentucky, Chicago, Washington, D. C. husband the West Coast of the United States seemed as exotic and mysterious as any foreign destination I could suggest. And as air travel has become such a hassle the old-fashioned freedom of the open road seemed downright alluring and modern. It would be just us and where we wanted to go, when we wanted to go. No rude TSA people barking at us, no lines to board the car in order of our elite status.

So far, we've completed 5 days, we're sharing the driving, and as Ed says, "We're having fun!" We're seeing new places, everyone speaks English, more or less, and we're staying in exotic places like the Best Western in Arcata. The only thing that would make it better is if Babe were with us.