The Wagon and the Road

by Frederick Egan Castleberry

At the time I dreaded it. I had better things to do with my summers, like pump my best friend to the comic book shop, watch CHiPs, and build forts in the creek behind my backyard. It was the early 90s and my parents were very much into road trips. The more states the better. The combination of economy travel for five, around-the-clock sightseeing, and an ‘87 Mercedes-Benz diesel wagon made it the sensible choice to satisfy what wanderlust my parents needed to pacify.

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There is something very American about the road trip. Given our love affair with cars, it's no wonder. The 47,000+ miles of interstate highway, National Monuments, and roadside eats have made it about the journey, not simply the destination. Castleberry family road trips were no exception. Our destination was always home…with one caveat: never return the way you came. To drive in a huge loop was completely normal. In the summer of 1993 we circled the American Southwest...Sequoia National Park, the Grand Canyon, Delicate Arch in Utah—we hit it all in a week.

The trips never came at a convenient break in the summers though. Occasionally, I would enlist a friend from the neighborhood to join the circus come along. They never knew it but they were the buffer and served a very specific purpose. After all, I couldn’t think of anything worse than being cooped up with my younger brother and sister for nine hour stretches while dad threatened to pull the car over every other rest stop. My one reprieve was throwing my feet out the window and watching the world fly by.

Today, I actually find myself pining for those road trips. Nostalgia seems to do that—romanticize our memories. My brother and sister now live overseas, sadly, and I rarely see them. Over the weekend, I found my way into the backseat again as spring hesitantly stepped out from behind winter's shadow. I just laid there. In the relative quiet, I propped my feet out the window, closed my eyes, and let the warmth of the sun take me back to that summer in ’93.