Cowboy Motel, Amarillo, TX
Cowboy Motel on Route 66 in Amarillo, Texas

It’s hard to believe 55 years have passed since the first vacation I remember, as a child. The year was 1975. The Painted Desert and Petrified Forest…the Grand Canyon…and some Dairy Queen in Arizona, that had at least a thousand different bugs crawling all over the place, and a camper that my dad bought, that had to be hand-cranked to set up. Yup, those were the good old days.

Even the crappy motels with the Magic Fingers beds, and televisions with only 3 channels to choose from, and gas station bathrooms that smelled and looked nasty,are still fresh in my mind. I even vaguely remember my first Moon Pie….mmmmm mmmmm!

I had no idea what Route 66 was, at the time, all I knew was we were going somewhere. Most of the time, I had no clue where we were, but being a little kid, I didn’t care. It was fun and exciting. Not only that, but we got to eat in real restaurants. Not just fast food, but real food. From what I remember, I ate about $10 worth (1975 prices, and it seemed to be a lot of food) of shrimp cocktail at the San Jacinto Inn, a restaurant raised high above the water, that used to be near Houston. Let’s face it….restaurant food tasted a lot better than the stuff at home…especially as a kid.

Even in the early 1980s, family vacation was still fun…especially when the camper wouldn’t raise up (yup…it wound up breaking, too). Motel, hotels, Magic Fingers, and cheap, crappy fast food….but not all the time. Once in a while, dad would take us all to a decent restaurant. Times have changed, along with the lodging, and food. 28 degrees on a summer morning, in Yellowstone National Park….in a Starcraft pop-up camper, wasn’t fun…neither was 95 degrees, or hotter, in the middle of the night, in Lake Havasu City, Arizona.

It seems the whole definition of “road trip” has changed a little too much, over the years. I don’t think for the better, either. Nowadays, people are stuck on chain hotels and restaurants, along with Air BnB. A lot of the mom & pop places have come and go, over the years. So have the seedy motels that were scattered everywhere (Vagabond Inn).

Road culture has evolved well beyond what Fred Harvey started, with the railroad. Speaking of him, I think he is responsible for starting the whole travel and hospitality industries. Advertising in newspapers about traveling to the desert southwest, seeing Indians, watch them preform their native dances. The good old days are long gone.

Fortunately, there are still a lot of people helping keep the spirit of road trips alive. Route 66 associations all over the globe are introducing younger generations to the historical side of things, and they come by the thousands, every year. Starting in Chicago, getting their kicks all the way to the Santa Monica pier. There are countless stories and photos to share.

The spirit of the open road, is still alive.

Until next time,

yippee ki yay!!