Cars and Road Trips


We were discussing writing about what cars are best for road trips and it got me to thinking about the cars that I have driven on the road trips I have taken. I think the car you might choose to take on a road trip would have to take in a lot of different factors. The first I suppose would have to be money. What we drive often depends on our financial situation. Other factors include the age of the drivers and the size of the family. I guess there is no ultimate best car that fits everyone’s situation.

We write a good bit about road trips that we have taken over the years. I have talked about my 1970 AMC Gremlin and the fact that it was my road trip car as a young driver. My Gremlin did not have air conditioning, so it saw a lot of night time mileage on road trips. Despite a lot of negative comments about its appearance, the Gremlin was a pretty good road car. It was heavy enough and sturdy enough so the wind did not bother it. It got pretty decent gas mileage and its six-cylinder engine provided nice power. It was definitely a two person car though. I would not have wanted to ride very far sitting in the back seat.

Gremlin by Th3t1nm4n via wikimedia commons

I took a couple of pretty long road trips in that Gremlin. I drove out to Denver and back, which included a drive up to the top of Pike’s Peak. Next up was a trip to Mont Tremblant, Quebec, that began with a trip first to Chicago, then into Canada via Detroit.

Over the years, we have had a number of different cars that have taken us on many road trips. Some of these trips were one time only trips for that car.  I remember a trip we took to Florida in our Chevette. Our oldest son was a baby at the time and we discovered a new diaper in Orlando that had designs which would disappear if the diaper was wet. We decided we needed to load up on these, since they were not available at the time in the Atlanta area. All the way back to Atlanta, we discussed the fact that we needed a larger car as soon we got home. It seemed there was not enough room for two adults, a baby, his supplies and a large number of packages of disposable diapers.

Chevrolet Chevette by Chamelfo Ropat via wikimedia commons

I look back fondly on a drive down to Panama City Beach in my Fiat Spider. I drove all the way with the top down. I do not fondly remember the sunburn on the top of my head since I was not smart enough to wear a cap. Still a sports car is ideal for a road trip when you are between the ages of 18 and 30. After that it may not be as much fun.

There was a time when the automobile for a family was the minivan. As a family, we too went the minivan route. First off we purchased a Mitsubishi that Chrysler was selling as a Colt. This vehicle was shaped like the Caravan, but was much smaller. I have been looking at websites to find the name of the vehicle (it was a Vista), but it looks like it has disappeared from automotive history. It was a one trip road trip car for us though since we could hardly climb one of the mountains on a trip to Virginia with the car loaded for the trip. I think it was shortly after this trip that we finally jumped aboard the Dodge Caravan band wagon.

Dodge Caravan by Bull-Doser via wikimedia commons

A lot of people for a lot of years got good service from their Dodge Caravans. Like any make of automobile, you are going to find a few horror stories for any vehicle. We have such a story for the Dodge Caravan.

First off, our Caravan lost its transmission just after leaving its warranty period. We had a local repair shop repair the transmission rather than replace it. Sometime after this on a trip from Atlanta to St. Charles, Missouri our transmission died in Clarkesville, Tennessee. We left the car at a dealership hoping that they could repair it, rented a car and went on our way. We ended up having our friend who owned the repair shop come up to Clarkesville to pick up the van and take it back home where a new transmission was installed.

Assuming we now had a car with no more problems, we took a trip in July to south Texas where our transmission failed us as we approached the city of Beaumont. We had the van towed to a local dealer where we were told the transmission and the radiator would need to be replaced. The transmission was covered by the Chrysler warranty, but we needed to pay for the radiator. After a week of being told the parts weren’t in yet, we finally got our van back on Friday afternoon. We were to head home the next day. For some reason, we decided to drive through Houston before heading east. Remember this is July in Texas and the weather is hot and the traffic through Houston was heavy. After leaving Houston and heading back toward Beaumont, the transmission went out again. We had it towed to the same dealer where we left the van and a lot of the gear we had packed for our vacation. We took a cab into Houston where we caught a flight back to Atlanta. Needless to say, that van never took another road trip with us. We had it hauled back home and never put it on an expressway again until we were able to trade it a year later.

Mercury Mountaineer by Bull-Doser via wikimedia commons

I could go on and on about cars and road trips. I don’t even want to mention the Mercury Mountaineer that hit a large water puddle during a downpour in Miami and cost us around $1500 in repairs. I certainly don’t want to mention the Mercury Grand Marquis that hit a piece of truck tire on a trip home from St. Charles and developed a “whistle” anytime you passed 60 MPH when driving.

It is fun to look back on cars and trips that you have taken. Even the ones that had some bad moments are ones that we learned and grew from. I wonder what memories road trips and cars have for you. Think about it and let us know some of your good and bad times on the road.

Next: A Road Trip Along Florida Highway A1A

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