Anyway, the lack in flow will be more than made up for by the wealth of knowledge I will share with you now. If you’re young, it will lift you to a higher level of enlightenment (lie). If you're old, like me, it will make you nod nostalgically in remembrance (no lie).
Anyway here it is.
The car ride? Boy, it was different than now. First of all, we had freedom. Seat belts had been in cars for years, but people didn’t use them often. That began in 1984, when states started passing seat belt laws. There also weren’t many car seats. Those came in the mid Eighties, too. Young kids used something similar to a booster seat. When we were babies, our parents put us in little beds that were held steady by a big prong that nestled into the back seam of the seat.
While travelling, kids held reign over the entire area behind the car’s front seat. In our family, we got half of the cargo area of our station wagon, so we made a 'fort' and took turns using it. There were three of us, so the remaining two had to share the large back seat. It looked like a couch. There were no bucket seats. Up front, the seat was the same. There weren’t two seats with a break in the middle -- no cup holders or storage compartments. In fact, there were no cup holders at all. There were ash trays that went unused. When cup holders replaced them the world rejoiced, at least the non-smokers did.
As for what we did in the car? We didn’t have Gameboys, Nintendo DS, etc. There were no IPods or portable DVD players, either. (Heck, we didn’t have regular DVD players!) In fact, few cars had anything more than a radio, maybe an 8-track tape player. Later cars had cassette players. How luxurious. For fun we would read, write or draw, or look for license plates from other states. We would also play the Alphabet Game, where we’d hunt for letters of the alphabet in order on billboards, road signs and other cars.
One thing we had more of was hitchhikers. The practice had not been outlawed. We never picked up one. Our car was full, plus a lot of them looked pretty scary. Still, there were a few that looked just fine. We hoped they made it to where they were going. I had a friend whose sister didn’t. That’s a story I’ll never forget.
One other thing I remember was all the trash alongside the road. People chucked their junk out the window. You’d even see garbage bags in the ditches. It was just plain gross. The Crying Indian changed all that. If you don’t know about this American icon, here is a commercial:
But let’s get back to technology. There were no ATMs, though credit cards had become fairly prevalent. People used cash and Traveller’s Checks, both of which you got at your bank.
As for cell phones? I wish! If you broke down, things looked grim. Instead, there were pay phones at every major business. Hotel reservations were made in advance. That is, unless you wanted to try you luck. Many people did. One year, while my family was travelling home from Colorado we drove home without a plan. On the west side of Kansas, we started looking for a hotel. All of them were booked. It took three hours later and many miles before we found a motel. The seedy place charged by the hour. We didn't touch anything. My mom refused to let us crawl under the sheets. We spread our coats on the bed and slept on top.
GPS devices didn’t exist, either. Everyone used maps. There was no internet, so there was no MapQuest or a quick way to find hotels. Mobil, AAA and Fodor all had guidebooks with listings of hotels and attractions for every region. Hotel chains also had books of their own. That's the way we got information. One thing we did have that you don't see much now was a ‘fuzz buster,’ or radar detector. It detected when cop cars were near by, so drivers could slow down and not get caught speeding. (Don’t get any ideas, punk. They’re illegal, you know.)
Well, that’s the extent to what I remember. I’m sure there’s more info out there. I’d love to hear your travelling stories, be you young, old or in between.