In the 80’s, entertainment in long car rides for me and my brothers consisted of looking outside at the scenery, listening to music on our tape deck Walkman radios, searching for license plates, and sleeping. Sleeping is the closest I ever got to owning my own personal time machine. Nothing makes a 3 hour car ride to Lexington, MI disappear faster than a good long nap. Today, my kids have a lot more options. Namely the portable gaming systems that allow them to play against each other. It’s a great way to kill time, and unfortunately a great way to miss out on the scenery… and those time machine naps. 12 song cassettes are traded for ipods with a 22 hour playlist spanning multiple musical genres. Artists like G. Love & Special Sauce, Abba, Lady Gaga, MC Lars, They Might Be Giants, Keith Urban, Jonas Brothers and Madonna. Naturally, we started each leg of the trip with Linday Buckingham’s Holiday Road. A song made famous from the National Lampoon movies. All five of us singing away… damn, I should of had the camera rolling longer on that for sure.
My personal favorite game to play on long trips is the license plate game. While the plates may have changed the game is still very much the same. License plates are embedded in our culture and history. Some are bold in design. Colorful, simple, and yes sometimes gaudy. It is not surprising to me that as an art director I am drawn to them (similar to the flags I talked about in an earlier blog post). For me license plates create an immediate and natural attraction. I am glad to say that during our 76+ hour drive to and from Disney we found many of them. Even the coveted Hawaii. We broke it up into two sections…cars (like us) and tractor trailers. Click on the maps to the left and take a look at just how many plates we found. We even found some of the Canadian provinces. The map with the cars reminds me of the electoral map during the 1984 landslide victory of Mondale vs Regan. The truck one seems like the AT&T coverage map… a little more sparse.
What my kids hopefully realized is that by looking outside for plates meant they were looking outside, and not at portable gaming systems. Because, if we were going to drive 3800 miles across this vast country, we should enjoy it.
And enjoy it we did.
The video link below is a cut down version of our ride from Rochester, NY to Orlando, FL posted to Vimeo. Many thanks to the music talents of Linsday Buckingham, The Travelling Wilburys, and The Foo Fighters, who music I use to help tell this story.