By Stacey Dougherty
July 21, 2009 – With summer in full swing and the country still mired in a recession, it’s hard for many to afford a fancy vacation. Airlines, in response to reduced demand, are cutting the number of flights. They’ve lowered fares to increase demand but to offset that they’re charging for things like luggage, and constantly inventing or increasing surcharges for stuff like overweight bags, unaccompanied minors and little things like food and water. And with all the time added for security lines and boarding requirements, flying in the 21st century has become fraught with an attitude of hurry up and wait.
At today’s gas prices the average family is probably better off heading for the open road to save some money and who knows, maybe bond a little during the ride. Growing up in Brooklyn, N.Y. my dad would get two weeks vacation every year and it would always be spent someplace a day or two away by car. Flying anywhere for the four of us was never an option, especially before deregulation. Every summer was the adventure I looked forward to all year. Well, at least until I became a teenager, at any rate.
I looked forward to it so much because while we always had a final destination, we never really stuck to a set itinerary. We hit the road, usually at o’dark thirty in the morning with the expectation of arriving sometime after sunset, but never ruled out stopping along the way to visit any odd roadside attraction or small town that piqued our interest. And we got to eat out during the trip – something we never did the rest of the year. For well over a dozen summers we got to know pretty much all that our home state had to offer, along with those between New York and Florida.
Our meanderings included the Finger Lakes district of N.Y. (watch for an expanded article coming soon), including the Corning Museum of Glass and the gorge at Watkins Glen State Park; the beauty of the St. Lawrence Seaway and the Thousand Islands near the Canadian border; the kitsch of the Catskills; the charming hippie town of Woodstock (after the Summer of Love) and a significant number of New York’s State Parks. We ate our way through Amish Country in Pennsylvania, saw the Okefenokee Swamp in Georgia, the Everglades and the Keys in Florida, historic sites in the Carolinas and Virginia and all without air-conditioning! Or a GPS. Or cell phone. Or back seat DVD player. Talk about roughing it!
I’ll never forget the time we decided to visit New York’s Howe Caverns on our way to some other place further upstate. For years we would see the billboards on the backroads and highways and one year we decided to go check it out. Well, about an hour and four billboards after we saw the first one we concluded that they’re all over the state, probably radiating out for 200-300 miles to attract as many tourists as possible. Back then gas was probably less than fifty cents a gallon so the expense wasn’t too great. But I will say that the payoff was pretty neat. The caves there are quite awesome.
To this day, road trips bring out the wanderlust in me that my husband cannot understand. I always want to take the scenic route, he always wants to take the interstate. I love to stop and check out the local crafts and festivals, he has little patience for detours. He thinks it’s border-line lunacy to take a road just to see where it goes. I confess that sometimes we have been known to ride separately, just to keep the peace.
Have you been or are you planning a summer road trip? Tell us about it and don’t forget to buckle-up!
Stacey Dougherty is the owner and editor of Where2NowMag.com. Her car has over 150,000 miles on it, the air-conditioning still works and she hasn’t decided whether to get a GPS.