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The Great American Road Trip

Jun 30, 2008 05:00PM, Published by Super Admin, Categories: In Print




I would hate to see something so simple as blind corporate greed cripple a tradition as grand as the Great American Road Trip. But according to a survey by Mapquest, 72 percent say they’re scaling back summer road trip plans or ditching them altogether because of the unprecedented price of fuel. And that’s a shame, especially now. With housing prices in the tank (it’s not a gas tank, is it?), the presidential campaign love-fest in full swing, and the slim chance of the Giants making the playoffs...well, if ever we needed a road trip, it’s now.

This piece wasn’t even going to be about the newly endangered road trip. It was going to discuss one of the most critical components of said trip…the tunes. But writing about rolling down the window and cranking up “Runnin’ down a Dream” seemed kind of, er, petty compared to what we’re facing now.  

But wait. Don’t start planning that “stay-cation” just yet. Maybe we just need a little inspiration. Maybe we just need a little Tao of Griswold.

Think back to National Lampoon’s Vacation. Despite all the obstacles, Clark Griswold never slowed down (as, sadly, Aunt Edna’s dog could attest). Unscrupulous mechanics, Cousin Eddie, Christy Brinkley in that convertible – none of them stopped him from delivering his family to the glorious gates of Wally World. And when they got there and found it closed? He still found a way inside. Granted it took a pellet gun and an incompetent security guard (God bless John Candy!) but still, the point is, nothing deterred Clark. Do you think a little thing like gas prices would have? Not on your 1983 Ford LTD Country Squire station wagon it wouldn’t. We need that same kind of blind determination now.

Folks, it’s not a road trip anymore. It’s more than that. It’s a necessary act of defiance. Who cares if the final fuel bill rivals one year’s college tuition…at Stanford. The road trip is an American birthright. What were 19th century immigrants if not the first tourists? The Oregon Trail was the first interstate. Calistoga wagons were the first SUVs. A more insensitive type might even suggest that the Donners were the first Griswolds…but I would never do that. 

Fact is, the road trip is our heritage and “are we there yet?” is the chorus of our anthem. Are we going to let some cigar smoking, pinky-ring wearing, triple-chinned oil executive take that away? It’s time that we look into our collective rear-view mirrors and in our most intimidating mom and dad voices, tell them all, “DON’T MAKE US TURN THIS CAR AROUND!”  

OK, sure, it may seem counter-intuitive to protest by, um, traveling long distances and paying exactly what those oil(y) men are charging us, but something as sensible as logic never deterred Clark. Why should it stop us?  

So let us summon our inner-Griswolds; get out the maps, stock up on snacks, load the kids in the car and hit the open road. And as we stop by the first gas station to fill up, find the right words to explain to the youngest why college might have to wait. Then save the Tom Petty, slip Jackson Browne’s “Runnin’ on Empty” into the CD player and hit the highway. Because somewhere beyond that horizon, our own personal Wally Worlds await, and it’s our duty to go. Just make sure you undo the dog’s leash from the back bumper first.

Catch Tom on the Pat and Tom Morning Show on New Country 105.1 KNCI.


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