Travel lately?

Growing up, my family drove everywhere we went. My dad hated airports, airplanes, and the delays that came with it. We tried it twice. The first time, we ended up stranded in the Detroit airport while inch after inch of snow got dumped on the area, until finally, 30 hours later, we were able to rebook our flight and get home… to discover our luggage was nowhere to be found. The second time, my dad had every other member of the family sweating as we arrived at the airport less than 20 minutes before our flight was scheduled to leave. Pops has never been known for being on time, which added a ton of additional stress to catching that flight. Every other trip we took, we drove… Pennsylvania every Christmas, Kentucky for the annual Fourth of July get-together, and Wyoming and Montana for the occasional ski trip.

Driving wasn’t all bad. My parents sat in the front of the old “brown horse” – our 1985 Mercury Grand Marquis – with our torn and wrinkled atlas opened to the current state we were traveling through. The rest of us would squish into the back and try not to start up fights… or audible ones anyway. Older brother didn’t like to be touched. Younger brother had bad breath, and older sister constantly fell asleep on whoever’s shoulder she could lay her head on, with the exception of older brother, of course. Any ruckus and dad would threaten to “pull the car over.” I was never sure what was included in “pulling the car over,” other than extended travel time, but I assumed the worst. We didn’t want to be abandoned on the side of the highway to fend for ourselves, so we’d shut up and sit still until we couldn’t stand it any longer. The radio would fill the silence, blaring an ecstatic sports announcer yelling plays through the annoying static that AM stations continuously broadcast. Listening to music? Not an option, unless dad felt like popping in the ol’ Steely Dan tape. Bruce Springsteen if we were lucky.

Unfortunately, Dad wasn’t only tardy for things like catching a flight. He’d procrastinate on purchasing gas as well, leaving us stranded on a busy Ohio highway on one of the coldest days of the year. In another instance, our alternator took a turn for the worse leaving us stranded mid-Montana on a Sunday. New Year’s Day, in fact – when nobody, I mean nobody was working.

Okay, so it sounds pretty miserable, and it was, but we occasionally had some fun. We got to stay at some pretty cool hotels, laugh at the McDonald’s employee who didn’t understand why someone would order 16 hamburgers from the drive-thru, and watch dad try to lure in a fox he spotted on some back road into close proximity with fruit loops. If nothing else, the tolls always added a touch of excitement to the trip… did we have exactly 55 cents on board or not? The mystery was almost too much to handle sometimes!

Now that I’ve grown up, going on trips without my dad is an option. I’ve chosen to fly, which I’ve discovered doesn’t necessarily cure all problems. In fact, things have really gone downhill since airlines stopped handing out free pretzels and peanuts.

First of all, the new luggage rules cause enough stress to produce ulcers. The no-liquid-on-your-carry-on rule gets me every time. If you’re lucky, they’ll only confiscate half of your bathroom supplies.

You don’t want to place those items in your normal luggage though, considering there’s a 40% chance it will be sent to Egypt while you wait, bagless, in Orlando wondering why you paid $15 to check a bag that you won’t see your entire vacation. Devastated and desperate, you watch one poor soul’s suitcase spinning around the carousel. Tempted to steal the suitcase in efforts to make up for your loss, you fill out some information and try to convince yourself that you’re lucky you made it to your destination instead of just your luggage.

Second, security is an absolute pain. On one occasion, I was hurriedly removing my shoes, belt, coat, hat, and jewelry and neatly lining my belongings up in my assigned gray tub. Somehow, through all the hustle and bustle, I overlooked having my cell phone in my pocket, which set off the alarms. This absent-minded disaster lead to a thorough pat down given by a strange, angry lady. I’m not a huge fan of getting personal very quickly, so that moment in the airport became the lowest low-light of the entire vacation. I had more fun when our rental car had a flat tire, as at least the tow truck man gave us a parting gift. My “You Blow It, We Tow It” pen has been my favorite ever since.

There were other airport hang-ups we experienced. I had the pleasure of being assigned a seat in front of a little girl. She must have been some type of soccer or kickball player, ‘cause boy, she did work on the back of my seat. You know those massage chairs that everyone goes nuts over? It was similar to that, only instead of the bliss the chair provides, I was able to endure something that felt more like driving your car over a long series of potholes. I heard Kicky’s mom tell her to stop several times, but I continuously felt the jolt of her little Dora shoes pounding the back of my seat. By the end of the flight, I had to hold myself back from ripping those shoes off her cute little feet and throwing them at her clueless mother for being overly-patient at my expense.

On another occasion, I broke open a new box of granola bars the night before our flight home. In fact, my dinner that evening consisted of two bars. The next morning, the bars served as my breakfast and a mid-afternoon snack as well. Overjoyed with the taste of the bars, I failed to notice the bars had 20% of your daily fiber needs. Each. If you haven’t experienced it, too much fiber can leave you feeling a bit… crampy. Feeling fine, we stepped on the plane to make our eight hour flight home. Soon, it became apparent that I had OD’d on fiber and I wasn’t feeling well. Those were eight of the worst hours I’ve ever experienced. It didn’t help that this plane had a screen which featured a little graphic of the trip. At first (when feeling tip top), I thought this feature would be rather entertaining to keep an eye on. I soon discovered that a plane illustrating a several thousand mile jaunt on a screen less than a foot wide didn’t show much movement. I think planning out minor details of my own funeral would have been less depressing.

I suppose you could say there are good and bad points to each method of travel. Both means of transportation certainly provide interesting stories. In fact, the memories you make and the fun you have on the journey often comes to mean more than where you (or your bags) end up. Either way, the thrill of exploring an area you’ve never seen is worth any trouble you might go through on the way. So when your next opportunity arises to travel somewhere, I recommend you don’t miss the train!

Train!? Hmmm… I should try a train…

Shootin’ the Wit is a weekly column about everyday life and should never, ever be taken too seriously.