Taking vacation back to the open road: Ann Norman

Ann Norman is editor of the Sun Newspapers.

Can we get some love for the good old summer road trip?

In these days of less-than-relaxing air travel, and despite the cringe-inducing price of gasoline, I’m thinking a return to the open road – winding though it may be – is calling my name when it comes to vacation travel.

This spring, my husband, his brother and our sister-in-law flew the not-so-friendly skies to enjoy a week of spring training baseball in Arizona. The trip was great – except for the time spent in the airports.

What with canceled flights, delays, long lines to check in, malfunctioning check-in computers, the rush-rush-rush TSA rigamarole (my husband actually lost his driver’s license in the hectic juggling of shoes and carry-on bags and impatient business travelers behind us), paying extra for those carry-on bags, squishing my personal item into an ever-shrinking compartment under the airplane seat (and the ever-shrinking seats themselves), I was ready to turn around and go back home.

Everyone was grumpy, travelers and airline workers alike.

Compare that to our 12-hour road trip to Kansas City a few weeks ago. Aside from some road construction in St. Louis, it was an enjoyable time. My husband and I chatted about anything but work, listened to music and podcasts, stopped whenever we felt like it for a snack or to stretch our legs.

We could pack whatever we wanted – no running out of sunscreen on this vacation for us. The seats in our Honda HRV were plenty comfortable, and no one stepped on our toes or dropped their luggage on our heads at the end of our journey.

It of course brought back happy core memories of our family road trips as a child. My parents thought nothing of tossing the kids, the cat and the camping gear into the 1970s station wagon and heading out on the open road with no actual itinerary. We would get where we were going eventually, my dad figured.

One of my favorite road trips was when I was in college. My dad, my best friend and I hopped in our car in Columbus and headed to Ontario, with no clear plan except that we would go north until we ran through half our money, then turn around and head home.

It was a great week full of adventures, including stopping by the Shakespeare festival in Stratford, heading out on Lake Superior out of Tobermory on a tourist boat to check out the Georgian Bay islands and ending up renting a cabin in the woods in a resort frequented by the locals, who fed us dinner and entertained us around the campfire.

Our road trips with our daughters have always been fun, too, including my trek out West with just the free-spirited nature girl in tow, taking the longer Interstate 90 route from Cleveland to Fort Collins for her grad school years. In a little Honda Civic stuffed with all of her belongings.

We took our time, stopping frequently along the way to soak up the sights and stumble across delights such as a giant Jolly Green Giant in Blue Earth, Minn.

You can’t do that from the middle seat of an airplane.

Readers are invited to submit Opinion page essays on topics of regional or general interest. Send your 500-word essay for consideration to Ann Norman at [email protected]. Essays must include a brief bio and headshot of the writer. Essays rebutting today’s topics are also welcome.

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