Gary Numan – Cars

We were going out for a department holiday lunch today and a co-worker popped into my office to see who could drive. I said I could but my car is loud and uncomfortable and you’d feel like you were sitting in your mom’s station wagon. He said, “have I told you about my mom’s station wagon?” which launched us into a discussion about family road trips. I said we’d had some pretty legendary road trips when I was a kid. He countered that there was no way mine could rival his family’s car trips. He’s one of five kids and I’m one of six so we’re pretty well-matched.

I am so sure that in a face off of family car trips, I would win. We always only had one car and six kids in the pre-minivan days. You do the math. Squish that many people in a car together for seven or eight hours at a stretch in sweltering summer heat with cars in varying states of disrepair and you have a recipe for some eventful and memorable road stories.

This Gary Numan song always reminds me of one summer when my brother, two of my sisters and I went out to California to visit my dad for two weeks. My parents were recently divorced and he had moved out to Los Angeles for his job. My oldest sisters were already in college and had summer jobs so just the four of us flew out. My dad couldn’t be off the whole time we were there so he had planned this great camping trip for the week that he could take off. He had rented two tents and planned a route that took us up the coast to San Francisco, then inland to Yosemite and back down to LA.

What he’d forgotten to do was reserve any spots at any of the campgrounds he had mapped out along the way. Without fail, we’d pull in to the campground in the late afternoon or early evening and there wouldn’t be any available plots so we’d have to stay at a motel. We did take one of the tents out at one beach so we could change into and out of our bathing suits. It was embarrassing enough to be setting up the tent on the beach but when my younger sister went in to change, she dumped all the sand from her sneaker inside the tent. My dad refused to fold the tent up with the sand in it and made us carry it, fully popped up, back to the parking lot. We protested about it but he said that we would never see any of these people again in our lives and to just get over it. Sure enough, whatever restaurant we went to for dinner that night (because we wound up at a motel again), someone pointed at us and said to their friends, “look, it’s the people with the tent from the beach!”

The soundtrack for this west coast adventure was three tapes that my brother had brought along. No one had a Walkman yet so there didn’t seem much call to have a shoebox full of tapes with you at all times. One tape was the Ramones, one David Bowie, and one must have been a mix that had this song on it. I don’t remember all the other songs but when I hear this song, I see the four of us carrying the tent on the beach. I see the one night we did camp, in Yosemite, in a clearing not a campsite (missed the open spots again!), because my dad was fed up with having paid for camping gear we were never using. I see the 22 mosquito bites I got on my forehead alone during the ten minutes we sat around the campfire eating our dinner. I see the four of us banging our heads in unison to the Ramones while stuck in LA traffic – and in doing so, paying our father back the embarrassment he inflicted upon us with the tent incident.

There are a few more paragraphs I could write just about that trip, and that’s not even one of the bad ones. It was just long and boring with some amusing (now) stories to liven it up here and there. Hell, that trip didn’t even involve any car trouble, pets, or Shriners! Yup, I’ve got this family car trip smack down covered.