The annual road trip. Why I love it.
Neil Breen on the endless appeal of the summer road trip, complete with toast in a bag.
One of the great joys of my childhood was jumping into the back seat of Dad’s orange Ford Fairlane 500 and hitting the road.
The main reason for the excitement? The roadside motels. They all had a little compartment near the door into which breakfast was delivered at the requested time. As soon as that little door opened at the pre-prescribed time of say 6.30am on the dot, you knew the fish fingers, eggs, toast in a paper bag and orange juice for all was there.
Once, in about 1979, we stayed at the Fox Glenn Motor Inn in Gympie and the room had a vibrating bed. Throw in 20 cents and away it went. My brothers and I were 12, 11, 10 and 4 at the time, so we were completely puzzled by the concept of a vibrating bed in a run-of-the-mill roadside motel. Dad kept giving us 20 cent coins as an investment in peace and quiet.
Those road trips were long and there was nothing whatsoever to do in those old cars. And they weren’t air conditioned. Dad often had to talk his way out of a fine for resting his right elbow out the window.
Road trips now are a walk in the park. iPhones, iPads, video screens in back seats — kids have endless choices. And endless new reasons to squabble over who has the phone and who has the iPad. Plus there’s customised air-conditioned comfort and electric seats for that ultimate position.
And the highways now have service centres, with endless varieties of food. Most of it is still bad but at least you have choices. In the “old days” there was simply the servo, its hot box stocked with dried-out dim sims, kabanas, Chiko Rolls, large spring rolls, potato scallops and, if you were really lucky, a battered sav.
Dad would fill her up and come striding out in his stubbies and rubber thongs with the four lemonade popsicles we earned for not talking for the previous hour. Great deal. For us and for Mum and Dad.
My current family road trips consist of an annual migration to Noosa and back each Christmas.
Our old cattle dog and I did it on our own for years while my wife and the kids took the plane.
We’d normally go up the New England Highway and stay at the same Glen Innes caravan park where dogs were allowed. Dinner was a Domino’s pizza. Six slices for me and two for the dog. I loved those days with that lovely dog. Just us two and the road and Bruce Springsteen on full bore.
She’s gone now. These days we don’t have a cattle dog but a frussell: half French bulldog/half jack russell.
The kids are also old enough for the road trip so the five family members and said frussell now do the drive together. You have to plan well as pet rooms book out quickly around Christmas time. A neat stop off point is Coffs Harbour in the pet-friendly Toreador Motel. What will the breakfast options be?
I equally love the new road trips with the whole clan. There’s something about them that makes you feel good. Holidays, family, McMuffins, dried-out potato scallops, terrible fish fingers, vibrating beds ... there’s always something entirely predictable, yet something wacky and unexpected, about family days on the road.