Along for the ride: Summer travel has changed a lot over the years

Picture this: A five-year-old girl standing up in the car between the front seat and the dashboard, starring out the window, perspiration dripping down her face, and asking, “Are we there yet?” “No,” say her parents, wondering how they will survive another hot summer of travel from Pensacola to Selma or Baton Rouge.

Fast-forward to an air-conditioned automobile, no gear from the floor, a dashboard with multiple buttons and pictures, and a now-grown lady slumped in the front seat, water bottle in hand, and ears covered with headphones. Time travel? No, just the passage of years and the difference in going from one place to the other in 2018. The change from hand-cranked cars to this era of cranky drivers is huge.

Decades have passed, as have the friendly gas-station attendants who rushed out to gas up the car, wipe the windshield, and check the tires. Directions? Yes, they smilingly offered to supply them, rather than the info coming from a bodiless dashboard voice promising to guide you to your destination. You and Alexa may breathe a sigh of easy relief, but the robot can’t even understand what a Stuckey’s was—though it does know where Joe Patti’s Seafood is.

Then, as the little girl grew older, the trip was oftentimes a solo one on the bus. That meant packing a lunch of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches plus a Thermos of hot cocoa. A cotton dress, brown and white oxfords, socks, a purse and a jacket were all “musts.” However, there were special occasions when summer vacations meant booking an airplane flight from here to there. That demanded smart attire such as a hat, gloves, hose with seams, heels and a handbag.

Of course there was also the train—two days from Pensacola to Los Angeles. An Orient Express it was not, but the prospect of the dining car and meeting new people seemed exciting until it happened. A fancy compartment and the promise of a shower were tempting—before you discovered you had to perch on the john before it would turn on.

So program the dashboard, fill up with gas, grab the lotion, pile into the SUV, and head off to the beaches. June is bustin’ out all over.

Or on second thought, how about a bicycle?

Taris Savell is a former Pensacola radio and TV journalist now residing in Baton Rouge.