Don't Make Me Pull Over!: An Informal History of the Family Road Tripby Published 03 Jul 2018
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“A lighthearted, entertaining trip down Memory Lane” (Kirkus Reviews), Don’t Make Me Pull Over! offers a nostalgic look at the golden age of family road trips—before portable DVD players, smartphones, and Google Maps.
The birth of America’s first interstate highways in the 1950s hit the gas pedal on the road trip phenomenon and families were soon streaming—sans seatbelts!—to a range of sometimes stirring, sometimes wacky locations. In the days before cheap air travel, families didn’t so much take vacations as survive them. Between home and destination lay thousands of miles and dozens of annoyances, and with his family Richard Ratay experienced all of them—from being crowded into the backseat with noogie-happy older brothers, to picking out a souvenir only to find that a better one might have been had at the next attraction, to dealing with a dad who didn’t believe in bathroom breaks.
Now, decades later, Ratay offers “an amiable guide…fun and informative” (New York Newsday) that “goes down like a cold lemonade on a hot summer’s day” (The Wall Street Journal). In hundreds of amusing ways, he reminds us of what once made the Great American Family Road Trip so great, including twenty-foot “land yachts,” oasis-like Holiday Inn “Holidomes,” “Smokey”-spotting Fuzzbusters, twenty-eight glorious flavors of Howard Johnson’s ice cream, and the thrill of finding a “good buddy” on the CB radio.
An “informative, often hilarious family narrative [that] perfectly captures the love-hate relationship many have with road trips” (Publishers Weekly), Don’t Make Me Pull Over! reveals how the family road trip came to be, how its evolution mirrored the country’s, and why those magical journeys that once brought families together—for better and worse—have largely disappeared.
"Don't Make Me Pull Over!: An Informal History of the Family Road Trip" Reviews
Don’t Make Me Pull Over is a tribute to the American family road trip, but the book encompasses a whole host of topics – 1960’s and 1970’s pop culture, the history of roads in the U.S. including the creation of interstate highways, a short look at airline regulation and eventually deregulation, the development of motels, the creation of the drive-through, and so much more. Much like Rocket Men by Robert Kurson, Ratay effectively weaves in fascinating factual detail fluidly providing information on whichever topic he has introduced. He manages to briefly and efficiently address many side items that add depth and fullness to the story without bogging the reader down with too much information. The result is a compulsive and highly-entertaining read that kept me turning pages late into the night to finish it.
My family moved some while I was growing up, and we lived abroad part of the time. As a result, we didn’t road trip much except the 6-7 hours it took to go see my grandparents because most of the places we went required flying to get there. However, my husband grew up taking long road trips and loves driving long distances even now. Thankfully, he has imparted that love to our family, and we drive every summer to Colorado and have taken other fun road trips to Arizona and South Carolina, always stopping to see all sorts of fabulous National Park sites as we go. Some of my kids’ favorite trips (and memories) involve road trips we have taken. While I am unfamiliar with some of the roadside attractions Ratay highlights, I have been to Wall Drug in South Dakota, and his mention of it caused me to fondly recall one of our best road trips through the length of South Dakota stopping to see Wind and Jewel National Parks, Mount Rushmore, the Badlands (one of my kids’ all-time favorite things to see), and Custer State Park, home to hundreds of buffalo. While Wall Drug was a hoot to see (it goes on and on and on now), the Corn Palace would be the side attraction I would highlight for anyone heading through South Dakota. To me, that is the beauty of this book: I learned about a myriad of topics, but the book also sent me back in time helping me recall both events from my childhood and fun trips my husband and I took with our children.
A while back, I read Sting-Ray Afternoons by Steve Rushin, and I marveled at how little I recollected about many of the things Rushin mentioned from the 1970’s; as I read that book, I almost wondered if we had lived through the same decade. Don’t Make Me Pull Over was the exact opposite – I felt like I was taking a trip down memory lane, and I loved every second of it. He references the handheld Madden football game, Pop Rocks (and the rumor that Mikey’s stomach had exploded when he ate them with Coke), Atari’s PONG, Mad Libs, riding in the back window of a car, MTV (and the Buggles), and tons of other things I vividly remember from my childhood.
My one quibble with the book is that Ratay reaches the conclusion that the family road trip is a thing of the past, and for those few who still drive long distances, it is no longer the same experience. I completely disagree. When we travel by car, the kids do watch their iPads and listen to music some, but they frequently do it together. We still play the license tag game and the alphabet game (we choose a category and work our way through the alphabet naming things in that category, each time starting from A – I am terrible at it when it gets very far at all), and we have Fam Jam where we listen to whatever is a family favorite that particular summer- one year it was a new Taylor Swift album and another it was the Hamilton soundtrack. I also find it is the one time that my husband and I are able to talk uninterrupted (usually) for hours – there are no chores to be done, errands to run, etc. We have discovered countless gems that we would have never seen if we had flown. I believe that for some families the road trip is still alive and well; it may not be the only way we travel, but when we do drive some place far away, the trip is always an experience that we will treasure for years to come.
Don’t Make Me Pull Over is a fabulous read, and I highly recommend it. I felt the book started slow but am so glad I kept reading. I received this book to read and review; all opinions are my own.
If the cover and the title make you curious about the book, chances are, you will enjoy it. The design evokes nostalgia and humor, and Richard Ratay delivers both. In between reminiscences of family road trips from his own childhood in the 1970s, Ratay explores some of the aspects of road tripping, such as the interstate highway system, rest stops, and drive-thru restaurants. He looks at the rise of automobile travel, paved roads, camping, and motels. Some detours include thoughts on video games, candy cigarettes, and the CB radio fad. He calls it an "informal history," and that becomes especially clear when he injects a fair amount of attitude when describing the "strangling effects" of government regulation -- on airline routes and fares, on highway speed limits, on the use of seat belts. A mostly fun and light hearted look at the fading era of the family road trip.
(Thanks to Edelweiss and Scribner for a digital review copy.)
Wonderful history of American travel, not just family road trips. As one reads, memories good and bad will come to every reader. Even though long road trips have gone out of fashion, we continued to take them with our kids, even today as they are adults. They are a special bonding for families and never fail to give a good travel story or adventure, that faster plane travel cannot provide. Part non fiction and part memoir. Recommend to those who enjoy travelouges and fond memories.
Nostalgic . . . Historical . . . Entertaining . . . Fun Reading!
Richard Ratay had me laughing at his family vacation anecdotes AND fascinated by the history elements too - along with America's obsession with automobiles and expansion, family dynamic travel nuances, and the hunt for quirky entertainment.
A delightful read, for the most part. Had the line editing been tighter and some of the language a bit less colorful, this would a have garnered four stars from me. Still though, easily recommendable.
THREE *** Entertaining and Enlightening, Nostalgically Fun *** STARS
Part history, part memoir, this book was a fun and nostalgic read.