cover image Don’t Make Me Pull Over! The Informal History of the Family Road Trip

Don’t Make Me Pull Over! The Informal History of the Family Road Trip

Richard Ratay. Scribner, $27 (288p) ISBN 978-1-5011-8874-9

With smartphones and rear-seat entertainment systems, the family road-trip experience has changed dramatically, writes Ratay in this enjoyable reminiscence on what they used to be. Ratay, an advertising copywriter, begins his story in 1976, when, as a seven-year-old, he and his family crashed into a ditch during a blizzard while driving from Wisconsin to Florida; years later, everyone would deem that incident “the best start to family road trip ever.” Ratay recalls taking long car trips with his father, mother, sister, and two brothers, playing games in the backseat with his siblings while his parents engaged in the “Battle of E” (in which his mom continually asks his dad to get gas while dad waits for the last possible second before running out). Throughout, he also explores how America’s love affair with the automobile forced better safety requirements (e.g., enforced seat-belt regulations) and pushed lawmakers to develop an interstate road system. He explains how road trips influenced the concept of roadside diners (in the 1930s a Georgia pecan farmer started what would become the convenient road-stop restaurant, Stuckey’s), the creation of travel lodging (a road trip inspired Charles Wilson to open the Holiday Inn in 1951), and how cars were developed to accommodate entire families. Ratay’s informative, often hilarious family narrative perfectly captures the love-hate relationship many have with road trips. (July)