In 1972, when I was four, my parents custom ordered the largest metallic blue Buick station wagon in the history of the world. It had its own gravitational field. It did not have air conditioning or seat belts. To this day, that vehicle is the stuff of legend in our family.
Our family always took non-specific road trips; the kind where you see 12 states in 7 days unless you are too busy sleeping or throwing up. We went to old cemeteries so Dad could clear off ancestors’ headstones while my brother, sister and I had conversations with statues of Jesus. That’s where my brother taught me never to walk across a grave, lest the resident snatch me down with them. We ate proper meals in sit-down restaurants. We visited relatives whose houses smelled funny. We visited historic sites for the requisite family photo. We listened to Dad’s bluegrass 8-track tapes over and over (and over).
On the day our vacations began, we left so early the neighbors hadn’t even fallen asleep yet. We kids spread out in the back of the Buick among coolers, suitcases and enough wet wash cloths in plastic baggies to wipe our faces for a week. Unfortunately, Dad always wanted to go the back way to get to the Interstate. If anyone ever tells you they’re going to take you “the back way” in West Virginia, find another ride. It was always cool and foggy outside when we left. Since Old Blue didn’t have air conditioning, dad did what any good driver would do to clear the windshield. He cranked up the heat.
So there we were, going 90 mph around a state-long series of hairpin curves with the heat cranked up. Meanwhile, we kids were in a sauna a mile and a half away from any movable window in the back of the Buick, rolling around coolers and suitcases and wet wash cloths in plastic baggies to the soothing sounds of Bill Monroe. Good thing none of us got carsick. Oh wait...
The first stop of every trip was Princeton, where three green-faced kids crawled out of the back of the Station Wagon of Doom for some fresh air. Princeton was also where Dad informed us that we would have breakfast. Mom did a lot of cleaning in the back of that car.
We all still remember the Old Blue Buick fondly, now that the car sickness has finally worn off for good. Each of us grew up climbing from one end to the other of that old car, and eventually we all learned to drive in it. I even learned to like Bluegrass. My parents have bought and sold many vehicles since then, but somehow the Old Blue Buick is the only one any of us really remember. Maybe it was the ever-present aromas that permeated the carpeting that planted that car in our minds. Then again, maybe we just realize now how idyllic those old family vacations were, even in a car three states long.