Oklahoma City family fun starts at home but doesn’t always stay there.
MetroFamily’s Exploring Oklahoma with Children series sponsored by Bob Moore Subaru is all about day trips on a tankful. Finding destinations just beyond central Oklahoma the focus of our Top Picks emails for the next remaining month of summer. This past Tuesday’s email covered northeast Oklahoma and the Tuesday before was northwest.
“Road trip” brings up a lot more imagery for me than creased road maps or rusty compasses.
We spent a lot of time in the car during the part of my childhood when the nearest metropolitan area with big-box stores and an orthodontist was a three-hour drive into another state. It was that rural, the last Wyoming town before Yellowstone, with better services and the promise of zero sales tax nearest available in Billings, Montana. Every other month meant a road trip of sorts.
My children aren’t familiar with the concept since Oklahoma City has everything we need right here.
It’s time to wake up early, take a day and go see what’s outside of our immediate area. State parks are beautiful and not too far of a drive, I’ve heard, but we haven’t visited any in Oklahoma yet. The experience will be new to my husband too, who is from a Costa Rica, a country approximately the size of West Virginia where you’re in another country after a five-hour drive.
What I have in mind is the kind of day trip where you take a cooler and a picnic basket, sandwiches wrapped in aluminum foil and a plastic easy-clean tablecloth. There are stops at gas stations where an array of candies and bottled sodas are waiting. I always chose the electric blue cream soda. No one worried about red lake #40 food dye or sitting in the front seat without a booster.
Sam and Isaac haven’t done any of that. Not yet, some of it maybe not ever.
I can’t advocate riding shotgun or guzzling soda but there was a kind of novelty then.
Do families still take road trips? I hope they do, because what I also remember from those hours in the car was more of the fun and less of the tedium, even when our goal was more utilitarian than sightseeing. The errand trips were a good chance to talk as a family, read a book until we were carsick, stare out the window, get along, not get along, lie down in the backseat, sit up in the front seat. A lot was said during those rides that might not have otherwise.
Now, there’s GPS and smart phones and a lot of families have TVs in the car. We don’t, though, and a day trip could be a way to reconnect and plug into something so much more than the wifi.
My kids have been on more flights than most their age but car trips have just been around town so far. We were coming back from Costa Rica this past May when our connection was delayed for six hours. Mario and I both had work meetings the next morning so we did what we felt was necessary: we rented a car at 11 p.m. with four hours to drive and three small children. Actually, it was a van, a Dodge Caravan just like my mom’s in 1998 but newer.
There were complications.
No one had slept the night before. There were still items to pack into our already too-full suitcases and the kids hadn’t rested well. We were all sad to be leaving grandparents and stressed about what it means to be far away from them, without any certain date of return because flights are expensive times five people with complicated schedules that rarely match up for vacation. It’s always like that the last day, nostalgia with tears and “what ifs.”
I woke up after two hours of sleep feeling sick. The day didn’t get improve from there.
After six hours on the tarmac, fifteen hours traveling already, the complete absence of car seats that forced an agency employee to drive to a corporate warehouse to deliver some and the nightmare of installing each in a dim parking garage at midnight, we were on our way. Thirty minutes outside of Dallas, road signs warned about flash flooding and high water. Gabriel, then four months, cried in the awful and urgent way that babies do. We pulled over on an unpaved road somewhere around Grapevine to see if something was hurting. Hungry? Time to change a diaper? It felt really, really bad – for the first hour-and-a-half.
Then, things got better. Gabriel settled down; Sam and Isaac slept.
Mario and I talked all the way to keep each other from falling asleep during the drive.
It gave us a chance to catch up after two weeks of seeing family, washing sandy kids and taking a break. The boys slept, the radio played “Stand By Me” and we remembered all that the vacation had been. Everything worked out in the end. We rolled in around 3 a.m. and both went to work at 8.
That unusual ending to a very long trip has inspired us to give road trips a try. The experience wasn’t perfect but it was memorable.
I hope your summer road trip will be fun and something you’ll remember for all the right reasons too.