I’m going to find out if families really spend enough time together on the “Mother Road”– Route 66 – 3945 kilometres, in the back seat of my dad’s car, with my little brother.
This is the first in a series of articles that will chronicle our journey through Washington, Oregon, to Santa Monica, California, where this family road trip will really all begin.
Some people might balk at the thought of driving through the hottest parts of the United States in August with two kids, but not me. I love driving, I love the desert, but most of all, I love adventure.
As of Wednesday, we’ve covered three states. We’ve passed through pristine Washington forests, ridden a dune buggy on the breathtaking dunes of the Oregon coast, and now I’m in the ‘City of Angels’ – Los Angeles, California.
West of L.A. is Santa Monica: the end of the once iconic Route 66. We are tracing the route backwards.
When the Interstate highways by-passed the old route, entire towns died out, leaving only fragmented sun-bleached remnants of places that live in faded photos and broken bits of asphalt.
We hardly stopped in Washington, but shout-out to my favourite American city, Seattle, home of Pike Place Market and one of my favourite eclectic restaurants, The Five Spot.
A detour along the Oregon coast took us to the sand dunes. I’d read about them, how they used to march inland from the sea, until European sea grass was planted along the dunes to halt them.
There are ‘tree islands’ of forest in the middle of shifting dunes, like oasis in the Saharan desert.
After our foray on the dune buggyand a picnic beside a sand-locked lake, we had a long drive to get to Redding, Calf.
I went in to this trip thinking that technology would ruin the experience, but it hasn’t.I’ve kept my phone offline most of the time, simply using it as a camera, it’s been good having it so I can look things up.
“Where are we right now?” asked my brother.
I look up our location on my phone.
“The San Joaquín Valley.”
I am very interested in different bird species. When my trusty Audubon Guide fails me, there’s my cell phone.
Technology seems to have enriched the experience. So far.
Many parents might cringe at the prospect of driving for three weeks with their kids at each other’s throats in the back seat. My parents were no exception. My brother and I thought we had discovered a DIY solution.
“The Great Wall of Pillows.”
Our pillows, stacked one of top of the other, created a barrier between my brother and I. It has not worked.
Perhaps there’s a political lesson to be learned here: “building walls” doesn’t actually keep people apart.
On Friday, our car will have passed onto the ‘Mother Road’ and we will be in Gallup, New México. The route ends (or begins) in Chicago. There, we’ll be seeing the hit Broadway musical Hamilton.
From Chicago, we’ll be going home through some of Canada’s National Parks– Banff and Waterton.
As my brother and I screamed the words to 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall into the desert night while we followed the I5 toward the lights of L.A., I realized that the family road trip, perhaps like Route 66 itself, isn’t dead, it is just the road less travelled.
Marlowe Evans is a senior student at Thomas Haney secondary.