June 25, 1969: Life on the Road

I’ve long held the belief that, if you want to really know someone, travel with them. Even more so: go on a roadtrip together. Such events led to more than one breakup back in the day.

Of course, as a car- and tent-confined Family, we Binders had to coexist. Here are a few of the rules and procedures we followed, along with a few ideas from the good people at AAA.

Quiet Hour

For every hour a child stayed completely quiet, the parents would bestow 25 cents. We could use it for anything, usually candy and arcade games at the next stop. Thing is: You had to be quiet for a full hour, not 55 minutes. So as the clock ticked down to the magic moment, the boys would begin trying to sabotage each others’ progress, making faces, tickling, general intimidation. But, like I said, they were Family, so we couldn’t leave them at the next rest stop and move on.

The Pee Jar

Yes, it is what it sounds like it is. I imagine it worked because we were three boys sans modesty. It was always there, on the floor of the backseat, and when nature called we would get low and take care of business. There was an incident explained in Mom’s July 28 recollection where something bad happened to the pee jar. Boys! Amirite?

Art & Diversions

I don’t recall for certain, but I’m pretty sure Mom loaded us up with pens and paper. All three of us were budding artists (but none of us followed our bliss), so I can imagine some competitive doodling and sketching along the way. Tim was the illustrator — faces, animals, fish. Mike visualized sci-fi scenarios and architecture. I worked in long form, mixing scrawl with sketch. Like so much of this trip, the evidence is lost to the ages.

I seem to remember some “I Spy” and license plate bingo. Mom recently described some other games that I don’t recall, but they do sound plausible! Something about points for seeing cows: white cows were low scoring, black/brown better, and spotted cows were prime point sources.

Mom recently recalled that Tim would read aloud from John Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley (in Search of America) and the last of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books. We also listened to the radio in the car, whatever AM stations we could find for as long as we could keep their signal.

Travel Tips 1969 vs 2019

Here’s what AAA suggested families do for traveling with kids back in 1969, before video games, tablets and seat-back video screens. And phones, internets, etc. etc.

In my entire childhood, I never heard of any of these activities.

I was surprised recently when I came across this story from Travel Channel; the diversions they suggest for roadtripping with kids includes quite a few non-tech activities. Bravo!

Had breakfast at the Cattleman’s Cafe. Had a “tail” picnic for lunch (that’s Doug-ese for “tailgate.” Camped at Bluewater State Park in New Mexico but it was miserable cold and windy so we slept in the car.

Marge Binder, June 25, 1969

Note Mom’s amusement (nay, astonishment!) at me coining terms like “tail” instead of tailgate. What a little marketer.

I’m seeing a pattern here: Every place we stopped seemed to have abundant fishing opportunities.

Here’s some more about Bluewater State Park.

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