One automobile experience that I recently enjoyed and shall remember forever is when my family traveled to Alabama this past Christmas vacation. We live in southwestern Pennsylvania and we were on our way to Gadsden, Alabama to visit my sister for the holidays the day after Christmas. We had our route planned out; one that would take us through five states and into a different time zone in addition to totaling over 700 miles and 11 hours. My parents had previously taken the trip, but my brother and I had never even been to three of the states that we were travelling in (Tennessee, Georgia, and Alabama). It was also the longest car trip we had ever undertaken in a single day. Starting off, no one was overly concerned about the length and breadth of the trip. We had our snacks, water bottles, maps, GPS device, cell phones, and a car load of suitcases and objects that my sister still hadn’t removed from our house. However, the most important asset with which we were traveling was the newest addition to our family, a 2010 sport blue Ford Fusion SEL. It won Motor Trend’s Car of the Year for a reason. It has black leather interior with a sun roof, driver-passenger climate control (a must for our perpetually cold mother), SYNC, ambient lighting, and a 12-speaker sound system. It is the first new car my mom has ever had and the first non-minivan vehicle for her in 20 years. To start the trip off, Mom was driving with Dad as copilot, with my brother and me in the back seats. There came the typical little problems. We had mistakenly left an important box for my sister behind because we were out of space. Unfortunately, when we realized this, we were already in West Virginia and it was too late to turn back. Next, we had a scare that my father’s work phone was left at home. I was able to find it after we stopped and I stuck my entire head under the seat, something which I am still surprised that I was able to accomplish.
As the hours passed, my mother and father switched driving duties back-and-forth, still not willing to trust my brother and I, both licensed drivers, with the reigns of the new car. My brother and I, knowing that we should pick our battles and instead petition for driving duties on the ride back, were content to watch the scenery. We even went over the New River Gorge Bridge. It was really astonishing to look at the valley below from such heights. We drove through the Appalachians throughout, with the Smoky Mountains being our favorite section. My brother and I spoke at length about how Chattanooga,TN looked like the perfect place to retire and how all the barricades that had signs on them indicating the highway was closed in heavy fog told us exactly how the Smoky Mountains got their name.
Another way to pass the time that my brother and I always enjoy is analyzing the other vehicles on the road. We were rather surprised to see a few vehicles from Alaska, leading to my brother and me to take into perspective how the trip we were on was mere child’s play in comparison. We also observed how the vehicles changed from region to region. In the cities, especially Chattanooga and Knoxville, there were a fair amount of luxury vehicles, such as the Mercedes, Lexus, and Porsche brands. Once we were in more rural areas however, it seemed that we were the only car on a roadway dominated by trucks and large SUVs, more appropriate when some side roads looked like they were unpaved. We also found it interesting to note the sports teams’ logos on the back of the vehicles. It was as if there needn’t be any state line markers. Once we got to Alabama, it came to a point where we were trying to find a vehicle without a license plate cover that didn’t say “Roll Tide Roll”. The last few hours were spent intently listening to the Pittsburgh Panthers’ football bowl game via our Sirius Satellite Radio. My parents are both lifelong Pittsburghers, alumni of the University of Pittsburgh, and met there during their undergrad studies, so Pitt holds a special place in all of our hearts. We all cheered on the Panthers and they were able to win the bowl, ending their season with their best record since my parents attended there. Listening to the game on the radio left the most lasting impression of the trip. It was all about cheering the good plays, yelling at the bad ones, and making fun of the color guy that had a handful of clichés that made absolutely no sense. It was all about the four of us high-fiving each other and being engaged with each other and enjoying each others’ company. Once we arrived at our destination, we went to my sister’s apartment door and knocked. The door opened up and my sister was there. The trip was complete and the goal was realized. Our family was together as it should be. That was the purpose of our trip and what made it so special.