LIFE IS A HIGHWAY
"HIT THE ROAD TO SUMMER FUN"
When school is out and July’s vacation season rolls around it is time to load up the car and take off to see some of this lush continent we live on.
Whether it is a trip to Ottawa to see the Parliament buildings or a longer trek to the west coast to see California’s giant redwoods or to Alberta to see the Rocky Mountains, the summer road trip is a proud North American tradition.
We reflect on fond childhood memories of going to the library and checking out a stack of books to occupy the back seat occupants, of stuffing the cooler with lunch meat and cheese and tossing in usually forbidden sugary cake treats and chips, of strapping suitcases to the top of the family station wagon and trying to outmaneuver siblings for dibs on the favoured third seat at the back of the wagon.
We want to share these memories with children and grandchildren and build new ones with them. But it will involve making sure we have all the correct charging cords for their electronic devices and ensuring that we have ample room on the credit cards for stops at roadside eateries.
Road trips let us explore the world but also let us explore ourselves. Admit it; we learn so much about our family members when captive in a car for hours at a time and about our own tolerances. How do we make this a journey of discovery that pays off in good lessons all around? Choose great destinations that will be of interest to all participants that are drivable without feeling like a drudge and are as entertaining as they are educational.
Memphis, Tennessee is a good example. A long one-day drive (13 hours), it may be better to break this up with a stop in Chicago, which is a memorable destination on its own. Take a couple of days in the Windy City to explore The Museum of Science and Industry and its replica of a coal mine or a genuine German U-boat. Architecture nuts in the group will love exploring Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House, which is near the neighbourhood that the Obamas’ home is in. Or take a floating architecture tour on the Chicago River.
Get back on the road and head south to Memphis where the music lovers in the family can ‘walk with their feet 10 feet off of Beale’ and pay homage to the king of rock and roll. VIP tickets get you front-of-the line access to Graceland and all the accompanying exhibits: costumes, cars and memorabilia. Don’t miss seeing Elvis’ jungle room, his pink Cadillac or his white signature Vegas costume.
Walk along the Missisippi River and watch the paddle boats go by and then stroll up the hill to see the Orpheum Theatre and its walk of fame, featuring musical stars such as Duke Ellington, Gladys Knight and Lena Horne.
Listen to live blues and watch the goats play while sitting on Silky Sullivan’s patio when it’s time for a break. Handy Park also features live music in the band shell and space for picnicking if you brought the cooler.
Feel like one of the Million Dollar Quartet when you tour Sun Studios and get the story behind the story of that famous night that saw Elvis, Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins record together.
But what if all that driving daunts you and a road trip seems overwhelming. Michelle Whalen, of Uniglobe Travel, recommends signing on for a bus trip to explore Boston, New York, Montreal or popular destinations like Canada’s east coast or the Rocky Mountains. There are bus trips that suit any interest, even mystery tours for adventurous souls who want to leave the destination up to someone else.
Whalen says that two of the four companies that offer bus trips from this area depart from London and/or smaller surrounding cities, making this a more convenient option than driving to and parking in Toronto.
Experienced bus driver’s help with stowing luggage and knowledgeable guides provide information while on the tour and have great local knowledge when it’s time to strike out on your own.
“It’s usually a combination of guided tours and free time. Having all the luggage handling taken care of is a big boost,” she adds.
Other advantages: paying ahead of time in Canadian dollars; getting tickets to attractions, plays or concerts ahead of time as part of some packages; no surprises or difficulties to deal with; access to washrooms that travel with you on the road; being able to watch the scenery while on the roads instead of driving on busy roads or navigating unfamiliar territory; having hotels vetted by the bus companies.
Whalen adds that bus trips are traditionally popular with older travelers but many younger ones are booking to take their teenage children and grandchildren with them. She adds that it usually costs the same to reserve it yourself or to go through a travel agent. Doing the latter gives you access to a professional insight to book just the right tour to make your summer road trip truly special.