Showing posts with label Route 66. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Route 66. Show all posts

Monday, May 23, 2022

Kool-Aid and Baloney Sandwiches: The Days of Cheap Road Trips Are Over

In Coat of Many Colors, Dolly Parton sang that you are only poor if you choose to be. That was my parents' philosophy when I was a kid. We ain't poor; we're middle class.

Perhaps to prove that we were climbing upward on America's economic ladder, my parents took us kids to Disney Land in 1958. My dad bought a Chevy station wagon without air conditioning, and we were on our way. 

We headed west on Highway 66--America's Mother Road. We stopped for lunch at rest stops along the way, where my mom would slap a slice of baloney between two pieces of Wonder Bread. That was lunch--along with Koolaid, which Mom mixed herself.

In those days, people couldn't book hotel rooms online like we can today. On the road west, my dad would drive the family from one motel to another every evening until we found one with the right price.  I imagine that was a little stressful for my parents.

As I said, our Chevy wasn't air-conditioned, but my dad borrowed a tube-shaped air conditioner that fitted on a passenger window.  Didn't work too well.  

Dad also borrowed a canvas waterbag that pictured a Native American in a war bonnet. He hung the bag on the car's front grille. Dad would turn the hose on the waterbag every time we stopped for gas. 

Of course, the water on the waterbag evaporated quickly under the hot Southwestern sun. Theoretically, this evaporation cooled the water inside the waterbag. Theoretically.

On the way home, our car broke down in Santa Rosa, New Mexico, and we had to spend a night there. The repair cost for fixing the transmission was astronomical--one hundred bucks!

Looking back, I now realize that it wasn't easy for my family to drive to California in 1958. Still, we saw everything a middle-class American family would want to see: the Grand Canyon, the Petrified Forest, Disney Land, Sea World, Knott's Berry Farm, and the friggin' Pacific Ocean.

Oh, those were the Good Old Days! 

Today most families would head for Disney World in Florida--not Disney Land in California. A middle-class family would drive to the resort by car and stay in a respectable chain hotel.  The family would likely eat their meals in restaurants rather than make their own sandwiches at roadside parks. 

But maybe not. Inflation has gone up so fast and so high that many people who consider themselves middle-class may be priced out of a trip to Disney World.

First, the cost of four-day theme-park tickets for a family of four is about two grand.  Five nights in one of Disney's moderate-priced hotels will cost $1600 for a standard room with two queen-size beds. Meals for six days will cost a family of four about $1600 (according to Urban Tastebuds).

So, we're talking five grand plus the cost of driving to the world's grandest theme park.  Gas is projected to hit $6.00 a gallon by summer's end.

And souvenirs--don't forget the cost of souvenirs. Mickey and Minnie don't come cheap.

Altogether, a one-week vacation to Disney World will cost a family of four about $6,000. 

You can't handle that? Don't worry. As Dolly Parton reminded us, we're only poor if we choose to be.  

So if you can't afford a summer vacation for your family this year, just tell yourself you're still in the middle class. And keep telling yourself that until you believe it. 

Who needs bottled water?

Friday, October 23, 2020

"We escaped Commie-fornia": Californians are leaving the Sunshine State in search of a better life

 Driving home from New Mexico a couple of weeks ago, I stopped for gas at the Love Truck Plaza in Tucumcari, New Mexico. A guy pulled up at the gas pump next to mine, driving a good-sized vehicle and pulling a large storage trailer.

As I walked behind his rig, I notice a sign on the back of the trailer: "We Did It!! We Escaped Commie-Fornia. We back the Blue!!"

I've got to meet this guy, I said to myself. So I chatted with him a bit while he was gassing up. He turned out to be a real nice guy with a big smile and a sunny disposition.  He said he and his wife were moving to Florida to be nearer their grandkids.

I didn't want to intrude on this man's privacy, so I broke off our conversation without asking him about his political views.  I don't think he was some right-wing zealot.  I read him as a guy with mild political views who just wants to move to a place where life is a little easier. 

And who can blame him? I'm not making a political statement when I say that California appears to be rolling downhill like a snowball headed for hell (to paraphrase Merle Haggard). The forest fires are out of control despite everything the Californians have done to manage their public lands.

I'm not saying these massive fires--4 million acres burned this year alone--are anyone's fault.  I agree with Governor Newsom that climate change is probably the biggest contributor to the state's forest fires.  Who's done more to combat climate change than the Californians?

Nevertheless, it must be terrifying to live in a neighborhood that could be engulfed at any time during the fire season by a holocaust fire.  That little fire extinguisher you bought at Home Depot won't do you much good when the big one comes roaring down the street at 20 miles an hour.

Then, there is the growing problem of homeless, which is out of control in San Francisco and a few other California cities.  I'm not blaming that on anyone either. I have thought a lot about the homeless crisis, and I've done some volunteer work at food banks.  

I don't know how to solve the homelessness problem--made almost intractable by the fact that so many homeless people suffer from mental illness. Nancy Pelosi doesn't want homeless people living in her neighborhood, and I can't really blame her.  The image of some bum peeing in her hot tub is too horrible to contemplate.

But something else is going down on the West Coast--beyond the forest fires and the homelessness. The California legislature appears to be dominated by lunatics who, unfortunately, are not homeless. The California university system is a mess and seems to have forgotten how to teach young people how to think and reason.  

Crime.  I read that Walgreen's closed its third store in San Francisco due to high levels of shoplifting. 

The state pension funds are underwater and will someday collapse.--when, nobody knows. Who is going to bail out the California pension funds--the taxpayers of Ohio?

I find it ironic that hundreds of thousands of Americans from the Midwest came to California as refugees during the Great Depression--the Okies and others who rolled down old Route 66 in beat-up cars and trucks.  And the Californians tried to keep them out.

Now, Californians are baling on the Sunshine State and are moving east to the Rocky Mountains states, Texas, and Florida. They can count their lucky stars that the people who live in these states are mostly decent and compassionate Americans who will greet them much more warmly than the Californians greeted my ancestors when they went west in the 1930s to escape the Dust Bowl.