Iconic Road Trip of the 60’s

In the summer of 1969 I was introduced to the iconic road-trip of the 60’s. While today’s parents hold fast to Disney World with its Magic Kingdom, parade of Disney characters, and late night fireworks as the destination of choice, parents in the 60’s held to the trip “out west” where fierce independence reigned in a wildness that couldn’t be tamed – or so we all thought. The ultimate destinations in those days were the Petrified Forest and the Grand Canyon with motels or camping grounds in between.

A road-trip “American Style” was a new adventure for our family. We were familiar with road-trips “Pakistani style” in a large Landrover packed full of our belongings.  We would leave in the wee hours of the morning, when oxcarts had just begun their daily trip into the city with goods to sell or deliver. These road trips had no entertainment besides games like “I Spy” or “Twenty Questions” yet I don’t remember being bored. No matter where we were in Pakistan, my parents made sure that these trips were part of our life. In the North it was camping, and homemade marshmallows melting over fires. In the south it was curry and chapatis from road-side truck stops, delicious memories of spices and smells. And in both the North and the South, public rest areas or restrooms were nonexistent – nature worked well for picnics and potty breaks.

Pakistani road trips often took place on single-lane roads, one side rock and granite and the other a two hundred foot precipice that would end in certain death. As kids we were oblivious to the dangers on these roads and it was only in my teens, as I overheard a conversation between two adults talking about the driving skills of my dad, that I realized just how difficult they were to negotiate. The rule of the road in Pakistan was that the biggest vehicle always has the right of way. As massive trucks and buses, brightly painted and full of cargo or people, came our way my father always remembered this.

Road-trips in America were a complete contrast and luxury. Driving seemed worry-free as we rode in the back of a Ford Station Wagon with no air conditioning or seat belts, speeding down super highways that were a novelty for us. I remember screaming as my brothers teased me mercilessly. We would vigorously shake up plastic containers that promised to turn into pudding if you shook them long and hard enough – the amazing Shake-a-Pudd’n. We had bologna and cheese sandwiches at picnic stops and didn’t have to worry that we were third culture kids and would soon face public school and the realization that teenage boys don’t wear white ankle socks and carry lunch boxes. This was every kid’s road trip dream! As we pulled up to gas stations we watched the gas pump with excitement because if you were lucky enough to need ten dollars worth of gas at thirty-five cents a gallon,a “guaranteed to produce cavities Stuckey Pecan Roll” was the reward.We did see such sights as the Petrified Forest and the Grand Canyon, but that didn’t seem nearly as exciting as Shake-a-Pudd’n and Stuckey’s Pecan Rolls!

Funny that in my childhood there was only one trip like this, yet, it stands out in my memory as something completely different in my life. Pakistani road trips were to places like Swat and Kaghan valleys, Kabul and Karachi, apple orchards in Qualanderabad and rest houses in Peshawar. Those stories were about being home and traveling in places we knew and loved. The road trip of the 60’s warrants its unique spot in both memory and writing, because it was so different. This was the only long trip that was in my passport country and mirrored so many road trips of my American peers.

It is as an adult that I realize just how privileged I was, how privileged I am, to know these worlds both sides of the globe, these road trips between two worlds; one world that I called home and the other that I only visited.