Our road trip history goes way back – so far back that even we don’t remember those first trips. During our formative years, in the Leave It to Beaver days, all of our trips and vacations were taken in a car. I took my first plane ride when I was 16, when for some unexplained reason, Mom and Dad allowed me to go to Mardi Gras by myself! Not completely alone, mind you, but I stayed with a girl I had met at Girl Scout camp the summer before and whose parents my parents had never met. I’ll never understand quite what happened, but I took my $100 in savings, booked a Delta ticket from Paducah to New Orleans, and had $33 left for spending money. And I lived to tell about it!
I’m pretty sure my next plane ride was a few years later when I took my grandmother to Boston for the Bicentennial. Once I became a full-fledged adult, flying became more common, but when I have the time, I’ll pick a road trip any day of the week. My sister Kim and I have fond memories of some of our longer family vacations – trips to Florida, a monumental trip out west (when we missed two weeks of middle school!), and the frequent journeys to see our grandparents – monthly trips to west Tennessee and twice a year (or more) trips to Knoxville. We can still recite the names of the little towns we passed along the way, the names of restaurants where we always stopped, and how many times we crossed the Caney Fork River.
Since I went to college in Knoxville and then spent most of my married life in North Carolina, that route became one I could almost drive in my sleep. Kim headed south to Memphis, so for her, those little towns in west Tennessee remained familiar friends. One year, when our kids were in middle school, Kim and I decided they needed a road trip like the one we loved and remembered, so we hatched a plan.
I drove my kids from Durham to Memphis, where we combined an Amtrak train/plane trip with a road trip in a 15 passenger club van. We boarded the City of New Orleans at midnight in Memphis and woke up in Chicago. We spent our six hour layover hitting the Magnificent Mile, Water Tower Place, and Navy Pier, then all six of us crammed into one taxi so we could make it back to Union Station on time. The Empire Builder took us from Chicago to Glacier National Park in only two days, and Rex met us at the train station in Glacier after he flew to Calgary and rented the giant club van.
What a grand time we had! We toured Glacier, Yellowstone, the Tetons, and places in between and then Rex flew home from Jackson. Katie bar the door! Kim and I took off, completely deviating from the plan as we criss-crossed Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana on our way to Alberta, Banff, Lake Louise, and Moraine Lake, and then we flew back to Memphis from Calgary (via San Francisco and Chicago – go figure!).
While that trip was fabulous, Kim and I didn’t take another road together until 2005, when we ventured from Knoxville to Gulfport, Mississippi, to do relief work with Presbyterian Disaster Assistance after Hurricane Katrina. When we survived that week – showering outdoors (or not showering at all), sleeping in a tent, on cots in a room with scores of snoring men and women, in sleeping bags in the back of a Suburban (in freezing weather), on the floor of a pantry, and in a prefab structure that we built – we knew we could road trip together and have fun doing it. And so began the saga of the Sassy Sisters road trips!
The page below was made years ago, but I love it and the story it tells: