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Thursday, June 9, 2011

Taking the Long and Winding Holiday Road with the Family…

I have very fond memories of road trips with my family while growing up.

I remember the hour upon hour of sitting or lying in the back seat of my parents’ car with my younger brother. Sometimes we would start fighting because his leg or my leg would incidentally (or not so incidentally) touch the other’s body. However, I mostly remember us getting along and trying to entertain each other by playing games, or with toys, and celebrating every time we crossed a state line and got closer to our destination. It’s funny how it’s easier to remember good things when we reminisce.

At the time, we lived in Port Chester, NY, and would often drive to Miami for the summer or to Chicago to visit family for Christmas and New Year’s. Then again, even when we moved to Miami, we drove to Chicago several times.  

I also recall many shorter road trips to New Jersey to visit my dad’s aunt or Connecticut to a farmer’s market, which brings back memories of me riding behind the back seat of my dad’s Volkswagen Beetle; yes, the space directly above the vehicle’s engine and with no car seat or seat belt. Could you imagine that today?

As a matter of fact, when we lived in NY, just going to the beach was a road trip, since we would get up and leave early in the morning, spend the day in the rocky shores (not to mention, freezing water) and drive home in the afternoon.

The routine was usually the same regardless of where we were going. We would get up in the wee hours of the morning (usually around 4:00 or 5:00 AM). It made no sense to me to wake up while it was still dark outside but I was so excited to be going on the trip that I didn’t really mind (I’ve always been, what Cubans call a “callejero,” which loosely translates to someone that likes to be out and about.

I love being out. In fact, I spend most weekends out of our house with my family doing whatever; errands, shopping (Target is an Espinosa family favorite), breakfast, lunch, dinner, kiddy parties, or anything else. Don’t get me wrong. I could veg out at home too but I really love being out. Unfortunately, I think my kids inherited my out and about inclination.

Anyway, I don’t know how my parents felt about the road trips, but for my brother and me, they were amazing. Needless to say, even today, I still love road trips.

Two years ago, my wife, kids and I drove to a friend’s cabin in North Carolina, stopping in St. Augustine on the way up and in Ponte Vedra, near Jacksonville, on the way back, for what was our first trip as a family (just the Espinosa Five), that didn’t include Mickey Mouse. We had a spectacular time.

We went tubing down a river, hiking, touring the Biltmore Estate in Ashville, exploring small towns with old fashioned mom and pop country stores and, most of all, spent quality bonding time together as a family. We had so much fun, that on Friday morning, after our oldest daughter finishes her last day of school, which is before noon, we are going back.

Despite the long hours of riding mile after mile in our minivan, the kids behaved excellently (while having to be locked into their seats, unlike my brother and me). Moreover, except for an occasional, “Are we there yet?” they were little troopers. Then again, as I stated earlier, we usually only remember the good times when we search our minds for memories.

Every morning, as we rode off to our next stop, we would pray a Rosary together as a family (something we don't do often enough). And, since there was no rush, aside from the overnight stays each way, we stopped for food and bathroom breaks on a regular basis, making the trip very relaxing and pleasant.  In retrospect, knowing my kids, there was probably a fight or two along the way, but not anything significant.

The only drawback for me is the actual driving. Unlike my dad, who would often push himself to the limit to get to our destination faster, I have trouble staying awake behind the wheel.

I can’t help it. Mr. Sandman grabs a tight hold on me while driving. After the initial woo-hoo-here-we-go adrenaline wears off, I start getting drowsy. I don't mean on a long drive like North Carolina, which is about thirteen hours away. I get sleepy driving to Sanibel or Disney World, which are three or four hours away. In fact, if I were to leave at 5:00 AM like my father did when I was a kid, by 7:00 AM, I would be driving off the exit ramp fast asleep like Clark Griswold on his way to Walley World.

My wife has to stay alert and continuously ask me, “Are you falling asleep?”

At which time, after rubbing my eyes and yawing, I usually answer, “Nope” and then pull over at the next exit to get some fresh air and some coffee, which usually holds me over for another 100 miles or so.  Fortunately, God is listening to our morning prayers!  The funny thing is that if I swallow my male pride and let my wife drive for a while, I can’t fall asleep.

Sleepiness aside, we are all really looking forward to our long drive, which will start this morning shortly after loading the car, going to morning Mass with the students of my daughter's school and picking her up.  Hayesville, North Carolina, here we come.  "Road Trip!!"

As the National Lampoon's Vacation song goes, “I found out a long time ago.  It's a long way down the holiday road.  Holiday road, oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh. Holiday road oh oh oh oh oh oh”…

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