On long family trips, before the distractions of TV screens in minivans, my chief entertainment on the road was torturing my little brother with dirty looks. I’d hover my finger just this close to Patrick’s arm, so I could truthfully say, “I wasn’t touching him!” when Mom swiveled around at his cries.
Patrick and I heard the “I’m going to turn this car around” cliche on more than one occasion. But once, along a dull stretch of interstate, we went too far with our bickering. Our parents’ patience was spent. “We’re never doing this again!” Mom threatened, voice trembling. But of course, we would. Again and again, we’d venture to Charleston, Orlando, or Atlanta. But never much farther than that.
I marveled, then, when executive editor Megan Fernandez told me about the Arnolds (“Freewheelin’ Across America” in print and “The Great American Road Trip” in web photos). Last June, the Indy family of five packed up their house in Irvington, piled into an RV, and began a yearlong journey on the highways and byways of America. Not only that, but they got along the whole time. Allegedly. (To make myself feel better about my own pre-adolescent mischief, I’ve imagined one of them storming back to the motor home’s one bedroom, slamming its tinny door, and yelling, “This rust bucket isn’t big enough for the five of us!”) In reality, it sounds like the Arnolds mastered something I never could as a child: behaving in tight spaces.
Thankfully, that has changed. I now embrace the journey along with the destination, stocking the car with goodies and magazines. When it’s my husband and me, we take turns driving, reading aloud and listening to baseball games, relishing stops at quaint roadside joints. When my oldest friend got married last summer in Key West, we even decided to fly to Miami instead and rent a car, just so we could drive the archipelago of tiny Keys to their terminus.
This month, though, we’re staying put in Indy. My parents, and Patrick and his wife, are braving the nine-hour trek from South Carolina to visit us in our new hometown. Inspired by the Arnolds’ pioneer spirit, I will point out sights along the route: Keeneland; the Louisville Slugger Museum; Columbus’s architecture.
Maybe I’ll text Patrick a picture of myself first, shooting him a dirty look—for old times’ sake.
Amanda Heckert is the editor of Indianapolis Monthly. See her bio here.
This column originally appeared in the June 2012 issue.