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Don't Make Me Pull Over!: An Informal History of the Family Road Trip

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Part pop history and part whimsical memoir in the spirit of National Lampoon's Vacation—Don’t Make Me Pull Over! is a nostalgic look at the golden age of family road trips—a halcyon era that culminated in the latter part of the twentieth century, before portable DVD players, iPods, and Google Maps. In the days before cheap air travel, families didn’t so much take vacations Part pop history and part whimsical memoir in the spirit of National Lampoon's Vacation—Don’t Make Me Pull Over! is a nostalgic look at the golden age of family road trips—a halcyon era that culminated in the latter part of the twentieth century, before portable DVD players, iPods, and Google Maps. 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. 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. Frequently, what was remembered the longest wasn’t Mount Rushmore, Yellowstone, or Disney World, but such roadside attractions as “The Thing” in Texas Canyon, Arizona, or “The Mystery Spot” in Santa Cruz, California. In this road tourism-crazy era that stretched through the 1970’s, national parks attendance swelled to 165 million, and a whopping 2.2 million people visited Gettysburg each year, thirteen times the number of soldiers who fought in the battle. Now, decades later, Ratay offers a paean to what was lost, showing how family togetherness was eventually sacrificed to electronic distractions and the urge to "get there now." 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, 28 glorious flavors of Howard Johnson’s ice cream, and the thrill of finding a “good buddy” on the CB radio. A rousing Ratay family ride-along, 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.


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Part pop history and part whimsical memoir in the spirit of National Lampoon's Vacation—Don’t Make Me Pull Over! is a nostalgic look at the golden age of family road trips—a halcyon era that culminated in the latter part of the twentieth century, before portable DVD players, iPods, and Google Maps. In the days before cheap air travel, families didn’t so much take vacations Part pop history and part whimsical memoir in the spirit of National Lampoon's Vacation—Don’t Make Me Pull Over! is a nostalgic look at the golden age of family road trips—a halcyon era that culminated in the latter part of the twentieth century, before portable DVD players, iPods, and Google Maps. 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. 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. Frequently, what was remembered the longest wasn’t Mount Rushmore, Yellowstone, or Disney World, but such roadside attractions as “The Thing” in Texas Canyon, Arizona, or “The Mystery Spot” in Santa Cruz, California. In this road tourism-crazy era that stretched through the 1970’s, national parks attendance swelled to 165 million, and a whopping 2.2 million people visited Gettysburg each year, thirteen times the number of soldiers who fought in the battle. Now, decades later, Ratay offers a paean to what was lost, showing how family togetherness was eventually sacrificed to electronic distractions and the urge to "get there now." 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, 28 glorious flavors of Howard Johnson’s ice cream, and the thrill of finding a “good buddy” on the CB radio. A rousing Ratay family ride-along, 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.

30 review for Don't Make Me Pull Over!: An Informal History of the Family Road Trip

  1. 3 out of 5

    Diane S ☔

    Pure nostalgia, both entertaining and informative. As a young boy, the last of three boys and one sister, the author was baby of the family. As he recounts the road trips he took with his family he used to love riding in the back window of the family car. Of course cars were much larger then, and gasp! Seatbelts were not required. The book opens with a doozy of a beginning, and a near disaster at the beginning of one trip, but as is often the case when something goes wrong, that is the thing or Pure nostalgia, both entertaining and informative. As a young boy, the last of three boys and one sister, the author was baby of the family. As he recounts the road trips he took with his family he used to love riding in the back window of the family car. Of course cars were much larger then, and gasp! Seatbelts were not required. The book opens with a doozy of a beginning, and a near disaster at the beginning of one trip, but as is often the case when something goes wrong, that is the thing or trip that is remembered. No screens, just game bags, treat bags, fighting, arguing, the title of the book announced again and again, along with I'm hungry, need to go potty, and are we there yet. Oh, sweet remembrances. It is also chock full of history, the first roads built, road side attractions, amusement parks, cruise control, rest areas, car games, cb radios so cops could be spotted and relayed to all. Remember these days fondly, the good and bad, not so much with my parents, but with my hubby and I with are seven kids in a conversion van. Reading maps, no gpr devices yet, finding our way was half the battle, but somehow or another we made it. The days when families took vacations together without faces buried in individual screens. Yes, the good old days. As I'm sure you can tell I enjoyed this book immensely, in fact I'm buying it for my hubby who won't read anything unless it is in book form. ARC from Edelweiss.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Kelly (and the Book Boar)

    Find all of my reviews at: http://52bookminimum.blogspot.com/ I knew I was going to have to get my hands on a copy of Don’t Make Me Pull Over as soon as I saw the cover. I mean, who could really resist the siren song which is that of the family truckster . . . . Being that I am of a certain age, my fondness doesn’t lie courtesy of film alone. No no, I was a willing victim passenger of the “way back seat” as a child. Much like the author, some of my best memories spurred from the place where only Find all of my reviews at: http://52bookminimum.blogspot.com/ I knew I was going to have to get my hands on a copy of Don’t Make Me Pull Over as soon as I saw the cover. I mean, who could really resist the siren song which is that of the family truckster . . . . Being that I am of a certain age, my fondness doesn’t lie courtesy of film alone. No no, I was a willing victim passenger of the “way back seat” as a child. Much like the author, some of my best memories spurred from the place where only the youngest member(s) of the family were forced to ride. If you’re looking for a bit of nostalgia, Richard Ratay’s take on family trips might be for you . . . “It wasn’t that we enjoyed spending endless hours imprisoned together in a velour-upholstered cell, squabbling over radio stations and inhaling each other’s farts. It was that we had no other choice.” Funny how the timing worked out such that I was reading this right when my family is set to embark on a weekend road trip. Of course, their “must see” item on the road is where Last Chance U is filmed while mine would be something more traditional . . . . Luckily Ratay was of like mind with me. You might find yourself a little bogged down with the history of not only how the automobile came to be mass produced, but also how roads themselves were developed/designed/funded. But right when you think it has gone off the rails, Ratay swings you back in the direction of his personal history and tidbits that make you chuckle from nostalgia. Like dodging Ol’ Smokey courtesy of the fuzz buster and CB radio . . . . Or the holy grail of road trip time passers . . . . . If you had one of these, you know time spent was precious because not only did it suck batteries like a G.D. hoover, but it also had no volume control and its use was sure to be permitted only momentarily before the elders in the car went batshit and snatched it away. All in all, this served as a pretty decent trip down memory lane of all the fun that was had while trying to reach our destination . . . .

  3. 3 out of 5

    Cheri

    ”Camelot! Camelot! I know it sounds a bit bizarre, But in Camelot, Camelot That's how conditions are. The rain may never fall till after sundown. By eight, the morning fog must disappear. In short, there's simply not A more congenial spot For happily-ever-aftering than here In Camelot.” -- Camelot, Richard Burton, Songwriters: Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe Despite most of our family vacations being courtesy of the airline for which my father flew, we took a lot of road trips. For my father, as much a ”Camelot! Camelot! I know it sounds a bit bizarre, But in Camelot, Camelot That's how conditions are. The rain may never fall till after sundown. By eight, the morning fog must disappear. In short, there's simply not A more congenial spot For happily-ever-aftering than here In Camelot.” -- Camelot, Richard Burton, Songwriters: Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe Despite most of our family vacations being courtesy of the airline for which my father flew, we took a lot of road trips. For my father, as much as he loved flying, road trips were family bonding time. They were, for me, also a chance to bond with my cousins who lived a drivable distance in Virginia, but living on the east coast afforded us a lot of drives to places like Olde Mystick Village & the Seaport Museum, Gettysburg, Plimoth Plantation, Independence Hall, Mount Vernon, Williamsburg, and probably a hundred places where George Washington slept, it was often quipped by the tour guide that Washington slept around a lot (thereby setting a precedent for future Presidents). My favourite Sunday drive was to the Delaware Water Gap, where a fellow pilot friend of my father lived on a Christmas Tree Farm. Most of the early years I only recall the radio not working once we reached less populated areas, and singing replaced the static. But then came 8-Track tapes, and when it came time to replace my mother’s car, lovingly referred to as “Ol’ Bessie,” he had an 8-track player installed for her by the dealer and life changed. Instead of hours and hours of “us” singing the same songs over and over, we were blessed with Camelot, and now and then a break with an 8 track of Bill Cosby comedy. Mostly, the soundtrack of my childhood road trips, though, was Camelot, especially the song ’Camelot.’ Perhaps we all reach an age where we look back on the mellower, happier eras of our childhood, which is partially what Ratay covers in his ”Don’t Make Me Pull Over,” his fondness for the years of being forced into the family station wagon for long hours each day, with a father not likely to pull over for pit stops, no matter how little gas there was in the tank, or how long it had been since they’d visited a rest room along the way. There were long stretches of driving in between such places even in the 1970’s, and even fewer in the 1950’s, depending on how far outside civilization you were. When Ratay went from restless to annoying, his brothers would promptly deliver a “swift noogie,” which would promptly be followed by his father’s ”Don’t make me pull over.” My father’s refrain was a similar, but slightly heightened Don’t make me turn this car around, which I never doubted he would do, and neither did my brothers. There’s a simple, but tongue-in-cheek approach to much of this book that is reminiscent of some of other authors noted for their similar writing style, Bill Bryson comes easily to mind – his ability to weave facts into something amazingly entertaining is very similar to Ratay’s style. ”The practice of American companies testing employees for drug use didn’t become widespread until the mideighties at the prodding of the Reagan administration. I mention this in passing only as one possible explanation for automobile design in the seventies.” How else to explain the bizarre AMC Pacer, a car whose design appeared to be based on the Scrubbing Bubbles of TV ad fame?” My oldest son used to laugh as only a toddler can and point to those cars, referring to them as “Weeble cars” (as in “Weebles wobble but the don’t fall down…”) (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dFzhj...) Ratay touches on such topics as the advent of CB radios, the advent of seat belts along with several other changes made in the pursuit of safe driving, the eye-opening factor of trips made to, or even through, places unlike the one we call home, dining on the road, finding places to rest or sleep on the road in an era without GPS, the boon of chain hotels, the changing of America through these years. He even touches on airline regulation, and their family’s first trip by airline after deregulation. For those nostalgic for the items of your childhood he talks about such things as Pop Rocks, Atari, Pong, and a list of others. There is a lot of information in these pages, but at its heart, this is an entertaining, nostalgic read. John F. Kennedy was known to be a fan of both the musical Camelot as well as the song, and his favourite lines were in the final song, when Arthur knights a young boy and tells him to share the story of Camelot to future generations. ”Don't let it be forgot That once there was a spot, For one brief, shining moment That was known as Camelot.” Ratay’s story reads a bit like that, this era and its ties with his memories of days spent with his parents and siblings are also a part of what this generation has now, and future generations will have in the future.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Cindy Burnett

    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 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.

  5. 3 out of 5

    Karen

    Gee willikers this is a fun book and blast to the past honoring the great family road trips of days gone by. Ratay and I are close in age, both the youngest of four kids and I felt kinship as he chronicles his family’s car trips in simpler times before electronics, google maps and seat belts. Ratay has similar humor to one of my favorites, Bill Bryson. He intertwines personal experiences with interesting history of our highways and byways, beloved landmarks, and recognizes trailblazers and vision Gee willikers this is a fun book and blast to the past honoring the great family road trips of days gone by. Ratay and I are close in age, both the youngest of four kids and I felt kinship as he chronicles his family’s car trips in simpler times before electronics, google maps and seat belts. Ratay has similar humor to one of my favorites, Bill Bryson. He intertwines personal experiences with interesting history of our highways and byways, beloved landmarks, and recognizes trailblazers and visionaries who were involved in building up our highway infrastructure. One of the most compelling historical bits surrounds Carl Fisher, a man who was involved in the construction of numerous high-profile projects. His rags to riches to rags story is fascinating. Creative chapter titling like ‘Swerving through the Seventies’, ‘Packed in Like Sardines’, ‘Smokeys in the Bush’ made me chuckle. I engaged from the early pages and found myself nodding my head often in recognition of the author's experiences paralleling mine. Gosh, I appreciate those trips more now than I ever did at the time. Hopefully, Ratay’s words will propel his readers to give it a go (but don’t forget to put on your seatbelt!). Comfort and humor for the soul.

  6. 3 out of 5

    Biblio Files (takingadayoff)

    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 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.)

  7. 3 out of 5

    Janette Mcmahon

    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.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Denice Barker

    How many times have you heard that as a kid?? While an age contemporary of the author, my family never took a road trip anywhere but I had friends who did and my husband did and I lived them through their stories. This book is so much more than reminiscing about being packed into a car the size of a boat and barely being let out for food or bladder relief until the destination was reached. What is it about dads anyway? I may not have taken road trips when I was a kid, but once married with kids How many times have you heard that as a kid?? While an age contemporary of the author, my family never took a road trip anywhere but I had friends who did and my husband did and I lived them through their stories. This book is so much more than reminiscing about being packed into a car the size of a boat and barely being let out for food or bladder relief until the destination was reached. What is it about dads anyway? I may not have taken road trips when I was a kid, but once married with kids of our own, my husband introduced the concept to me and our kids and he, too, wouldn’t stop for anything. I remember one trip where they kids had nothing but saltine crackers for a whole day because we were headed for someplace by nightfall. What makes this book fascinating, really fascinating, is the back story of road travel itself. We all know that before the interstates travel was on those two lane roads that crawled through towns and with any luck the car you were in was behind a truck hauling felled trees. No, the author takes us all the way back, all the way to when roads themselves were invented. I mean, if you’re going to go somewhere you really benefitted if there was a path. Once you had a path you needed somewhere to go. And you needed somewhere to “go” when you were on your way. A rest area. How surprised was I to find that the very first ‘rest area’ was a place to stop and sit at a picnic table and have your lunch. And that first invented area to rest is not 10 miles from my front door! The author takes us everywhere, tells us everything about tripping, tells us how it all came about into one package that became everything we needed. Cars, roads, maps, gas stations, restaurants, campgrounds, picnics, rest areas, amusement destinations, and then how all these things evolved and then devolved with the coming of air travel and ultimately the loss of locking a family into a tiny space but which was really a monstrously huge car and forcing them to interact with each other without electronic means. This is the stuff of our memories, the stories we tell to our children (and wives), the life that we used to live and will never know again. If you are of the age that this was your life, you do NOT want to miss this book. Even though my family never took a road trip, I could still feel the wind in my face.

  9. 3 out of 5

    Toni

    3.5 so I’ll round up to 4.0 traveling stars Listened to this great audiobook on an informal history of the car, our interstate road system and family car trips before the deregulation of the airline industry. The best part, of course, is the car trips many families took in their “land yachts” of cars back in the 50’s and 60’s before the minivan was invented. Families of six could fit comfortably with a food basket in the back and all their luggage in the spacious trunk. No one even thought about 3.5 so I’ll round up to 4.0 traveling stars Listened to this great audiobook on an informal history of the car, our interstate road system and family car trips before the deregulation of the airline industry. The best part, of course, is the car trips many families took in their “land yachts” of cars back in the 50’s and 60’s before the minivan was invented. Families of six could fit comfortably with a food basket in the back and all their luggage in the spacious trunk. No one even thought about gas or oil sources being depleted, especially at .25 a gallon. Unfortunately ignorance was bliss. Anyway, nostalgia runs rosy as we recall inexpensive motels, crammed with rollaway beds, one bathroom and wait for it, a pool!!! Our author’s family lived for these vacations and so did mine and most of my neighbors and friends. Getting there was half the fun; naturally we had no choice as kids, so we had no idea we were missing anything! The book does get into the 70’s and the oil embargo, gas lines and the eventual smaller car. Then the 80’s and the airline deregulation and cheaper airfares. Of course we fast forward to 9/11 and the family does go back to road trips for awhile, but this time everyone is armed with technology and earphones. A fun book, I recommend it, especially if you’re of a certain age. 😊

  10. 4 out of 5

    Paul Pessolano

    “Don’t Make Me Pull Over” by Richard Ratay, published by Scribner. Category – Travel/Comedy Publication Date – July 03, 2018. Remember the family vacation where the family was packed into the car and the fun began. This book tells the story that most of us have lived through, either as children or parents. Watch out for the noogie! This was a time before cell phones, hand computers, GPS, and in care movies. Mom kept everyone contained, well for the most part, by playing silly games. How about the li “Don’t Make Me Pull Over” by Richard Ratay, published by Scribner. Category – Travel/Comedy Publication Date – July 03, 2018. Remember the family vacation where the family was packed into the car and the fun began. This book tells the story that most of us have lived through, either as children or parents. Watch out for the noogie! This was a time before cell phones, hand computers, GPS, and in care movies. Mom kept everyone contained, well for the most part, by playing silly games. How about the license plate game or the Alphabet game, remember those. When gassing up the car meant potty break and you better be back in the car when Dad was ready to go. The stories go on and on and Richard Ratay will tell them all and you will remember everyone one of them. This is not only a story of the family vacation but also a story of transportation. How did maps come about? What was the evolution of the motel and Holidome? What was a fuzz buster and the explosion of the CB? Good Buddy! There is no way you are not going to enjoy this book, it is a nostalgic look at an era that will never be seen again, or should I say experienced again.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Diana

    Book received from Edelweiss Review to Come

  12. 4 out of 5

    Regan

    Fun read. Ratay brings up memories of my own growing up years and details the history of travel in the 70's and 80's told in a fun style.

  13. 3 out of 5

    Susan

    This is a great and entertaining book that provides a history of family road trips from the post-war era. It includes a history of the interstate highway system, drive through restaurants, amusement parks, motels, and even airline deregulation. The author was the youngest of four in a 1970s road tripping family, and his stories of driving in giant cars, through the night, with a dad more concerned about making time than stopping for food, bathroom or sleep breaks were hilarious and will resonate This is a great and entertaining book that provides a history of family road trips from the post-war era. It includes a history of the interstate highway system, drive through restaurants, amusement parks, motels, and even airline deregulation. The author was the youngest of four in a 1970s road tripping family, and his stories of driving in giant cars, through the night, with a dad more concerned about making time than stopping for food, bathroom or sleep breaks were hilarious and will resonate with anyone who lived through this era.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Turi

    If Ralphie, the narrator from A Christmas Story, grew up, had a family, and dragged them all over the country on road trips, and if his youngest son then wrote a history of the American road trip and interspersed it with delightful tales from his family's adventures, that would give you a pretty good idea of the feel of this book.

  15. 3 out of 5

    Lori L (She Treads Softly)

    Don't Make Me Pull Over!: An Informal History of the Family Road Trip by Richard Ratay is a highly recommended look at the historical and personal aspects of family vacation roadtrips. As late as 1975 four in five Americans had never traveled by plane, so how did families travel then (and earlier) for their vacations? By car, of course! Family vacation roads trips are legendary and most (large) families who experienced these treks have the stories and quotes to back up their claims. In Don't Make Don't Make Me Pull Over!: An Informal History of the Family Road Trip by Richard Ratay is a highly recommended look at the historical and personal aspects of family vacation roadtrips. As late as 1975 four in five Americans had never traveled by plane, so how did families travel then (and earlier) for their vacations? By car, of course! Family vacation roads trips are legendary and most (large) families who experienced these treks have the stories and quotes to back up their claims. In Don't Make Me Pull Over! Ratay, who focuses on his family's road trips in the seventies, and covers: the history of the development of interstate highways; the beginning of road trips and those who pioneered driving cross country; maps; speed limits; radar detectors; CB radios; diversions along the way; eating on the road and drive-ins; gas stations; camping and motels; car styles and station wagons; seat belts and safety - to name a few topics. Early family road trips, before portable DVD players, electronic games, etc, were an option, required a bit more work to entertain or keep the whole carload happy or at least content. My experience of family road trips started off earlier than Ratay's family trips. Of course many of us remember no ac or seat belts in cars and that it was the oil crisis of 1973 that started the 55 mph speed limit. And some of us had to learn to drive in a station wagon. This is an imminently readable and enjoyable mix of history and personal recollections. Ratay does a nice job mixing light hearted nostalgia with the history and developments that the love of car trips encouraged. I appreciated the historical context along with the footnotes. Readers who have experience the family road trip will appreciate the historical context of many of the topics Ratay covers. It will also bring back some memories of road trips in your past. After you, perhaps, learn a historical fact or two, you will want to call family members and laugh about vacations in the past. Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Scribner. http://www.shetreadssoftly.com/2018/0...

  16. 5 out of 5

    Stacie

    If you grew up taking family vacations, this book will encourage you to reminisce on those many vacations with family. I grew up taking long Sunday drives or weekend trips to visit family. Since I was the only child at home, I didn't have the crazy fights over food or games in the back seat. I just had myself and books and puzzle books to keep me busy during the long drives.  As a parent, we have taken our three children on a vacation every year since our first son was 6 months old. We have spent If you grew up taking family vacations, this book will encourage you to reminisce on those many vacations with family. I grew up taking long Sunday drives or weekend trips to visit family. Since I was the only child at home, I didn't have the crazy fights over food or games in the back seat. I just had myself and books and puzzle books to keep me busy during the long drives.  As a parent, we have taken our three children on a vacation every year since our first son was 6 months old. We have spent two weeks driving across the state of Pennsylvania and driven west to South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Yellowstone, and the Grand Tetons. So, we aren't afraid to drive anywhere and frankly, our kids have never been on a plane because we want to see the country. Ratay shares history including the creation of roads and highways, invention of cars, opening of rest areas, the very first drive-through restaurant, the men who started the Holiday Inn and the Holidome and the Howard Johnson hotel chains and so much more. Then Ratay shares personal stories of their own family vacations with his 3 other siblings. The cars they drove, the hotels they stayed at, the destinations they visited and all the fights over food, car games, and who got what seat or bed.  The narration was easy to listen to but, sometimes I wish I was reading it over listening so I could look back at something that I wanted to remember. I enjoyed the look at history, but the personal family stories were the best part.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Cheryl B

    An entertaining, nostalgic and educational read. I especially enjoyed the information about the Lincoln Highway and the seedling miles. I drive past a Lincoln Highway monument and over a marked seedling mile each time I leave home. It was interesting to read the history behind them. It is amazing to consider how all the conveniences we have today came about. How cars affected hotel and restaurant development and how seemingly ordinary people saw a need and created something new and exceptional to An entertaining, nostalgic and educational read. I especially enjoyed the information about the Lincoln Highway and the seedling miles. I drive past a Lincoln Highway monument and over a marked seedling mile each time I leave home. It was interesting to read the history behind them. It is amazing to consider how all the conveniences we have today came about. How cars affected hotel and restaurant development and how seemingly ordinary people saw a need and created something new and exceptional to meet that need. Although my family didn't take many long distance road trips we did take trips within the state. And yes, as residents of Iowa, we did visit Grotto of the Redemption in West Bend, IA. My husband and I used to drive around the Midwest attending dog shows. This was before we had access to GPS. We laugh now wondering how we found every show site using maps or Mapquest directions. Now that we are nearing retirement we are back in our Volvo wagon driving to all of our vacation destinations. No one to put us on a timetable or tell us how much luggage we can carry. As another reviewer commented it is about the journey as much as the destination.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Robert Parrett

    While this book really is a history book, every page drips with nostalgia. For anyone who grew up in the 70's and early 80's by loading in the station wagon for parts unknown, this book is a treasure. It brought back so many memories from the golden age of my chilhood, including my childhood love affair with Howard Johnson's. So much so that I must now visit the last one in Lake George. Being 42 now and my dad having passed, what I wouldn't give to climb into the station wagon for just one more While this book really is a history book, every page drips with nostalgia. For anyone who grew up in the 70's and early 80's by loading in the station wagon for parts unknown, this book is a treasure. It brought back so many memories from the golden age of my chilhood, including my childhood love affair with Howard Johnson's. So much so that I must now visit the last one in Lake George. Being 42 now and my dad having passed, what I wouldn't give to climb into the station wagon for just one more family trip. Great summer read, check it out.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    For people of a certain age, ahem, who took family vacations, this is a fun read I’d recommend. Although far from great literature, I really enjoyed this book as it brought up so many fond (or fond from a distance) memories of all our great family road trips in the 70s. The Golden Age of American road trips, apparently.

  20. 3 out of 5

    Art

    A quick, casual and often funny memoir mixed with histories of evolving roadside mainstays, such as motels, restaurants, cars and, of course, the highway system. Sixty percent of American families took road trips in the fifties, writes Richard Ratay. Dad took our family on terrific road trips around the country in the fifties and early sixties, about twenty years before Ratay’s family, when the experience apparently was more ad hoc. We used Duncan Hines guide books to find food and lodging befor A quick, casual and often funny memoir mixed with histories of evolving roadside mainstays, such as motels, restaurants, cars and, of course, the highway system. Sixty percent of American families took road trips in the fifties, writes Richard Ratay. Dad took our family on terrific road trips around the country in the fifties and early sixties, about twenty years before Ratay’s family, when the experience apparently was more ad hoc. We used Duncan Hines guide books to find food and lodging before switching to AAA at a time before motel and restaurant branding developed. The guide books knitted a de facto but quirky network. My family, neither picnickers or snackers, always pulled over at mealtime, relying on a mix of guidance, suggestions and intuition. One night we pulled into a hotel in Albuquerque. We could not tell from the outside that the backside opened onto an active rail yard. We left in the middle of the night, unable to rest, which was the whole point of pulling over. Many local attractions peppered the highway, each one teasing itself with crude signs. No guidebook of the day pointed to the good ones while pointing out the rip-offs. A family zoo in Tennessee drew us in with promises of getting close to lions and tigers. Well, we walked to the other side of the paywall and saw some animals. Then we came upon a cougar that roared and bared its fangs and looking at us, while pacing in its little holding pen. A mere chickenwire fence separated us. Dad, a beefy Scotsman, led the hasty retreat. With aunts, uncles and family friends flung from their homes in Chicago, we made frequent trips to Kansas City, Denver, Phoenix and Los Angeles. Closer trips to Dayton and Cincinnati hardly counted as a road trip for us. Grandpa and Grandma retired to Tampa/St Pete, so we made road trips to see them. On one of our summer road trips to Florida, my sister and I played with our coloring books. When lunchtime came we put our books and crayons on the back shelf. We enjoyed we leisurely lunch. When we returned to the car, we smelled that crayola aroma. During lunch, our crayons melted into a variegated pool on the back shelf. Laughing now, but not laughing then. That familiar fragrance permeated the car. And evidence of the colorful scraped soup remained. We took our newer car on trips. My sister and I inadvertently gave that one a good but premature breaking in. With many of our people west of here, we often took Route 66. One year, we started our trip at the beginning of Route 66, when the highway signs marked the start at The Art Institute, Adams at Michigan. We filmed our own bon voyage and drove from there to the end, in Santa Monica. On our first trip to LA, Dad fell in love with it. When we returned home, he put up the house for sale. His employer found out and made him a good offer to stay in Chicago, which he accepted. A few years ago on a Gallery Night, I chatted with a photographer who documented Route 66 several times during this period. As kids, my sister and I split our backseat territory down the middle. But we could play Bee with our fingers. Our Bees could come to the imaginary wall and say hello. Bees go bzzz. And our bees went bzzz for very long stretches. But adults, apparently, did not find it so endlessly amusing with twenty bees buzzing forever in the backseat. Dad, a patient soul, eventually said, “Don’t make me pull over!” Which gets us back to the book, a good read for the summer. So hurry up. Ratay made me laugh out loud with some of his stories about his own experiences in the backseat which often reminded me of my own road trips, as lived in the back seat. What are your stories? “I can’t wait to read it.” blurb, Clark Griswold aka Chevy Chase. Wait a minute. Shouldn’t a blurb introduce a book actually read by the blurber? With the days of yore gone, I prefer going to Chicago, Boston, St Louis, Twin Cities, Cleveland and similar cities these days as road trips, railroad trips. Fresh Air book review. https://www.npr.org/2018/06/21/622215...

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer Todden

    This book made me think of all the road trips we took growing up. Hilarious and nostalgic and a little educational, I really enjoyed this book.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Mike

    Clouded by all the nostalgia While I enjoyed this book, I have to say I think the author reaches a bit when he says the age of the family road trip is over. I read this book in the run-up to a 2,000 mile road trip with my two boys, an experience very similar to those the author relates. When we travel by car, we still play the license plate game, or the picnic game, or I spy to keep the kids occupied. We talk. We listen to music. Sometimes the kids whine or hit each other. We have more informatio Clouded by all the nostalgia While I enjoyed this book, I have to say I think the author reaches a bit when he says the age of the family road trip is over. I read this book in the run-up to a 2,000 mile road trip with my two boys, an experience very similar to those the author relates. When we travel by car, we still play the license plate game, or the picnic game, or I spy to keep the kids occupied. We talk. We listen to music. Sometimes the kids whine or hit each other. We have more information,so the drive isn't always mysterious to us as adults, but I'm not sure the kids see it that way. And yes, every so often, we'll let them watch a movie. But the core experience isn't that much different than it was 40 or 40 years ago. And I fully expect that my kids will look back as fondly to their days road tripping with Mom and Dad as the author does here. There's still plenty of wonder out there.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Sandy

    Loved, loved, loved this book! Finished it in mere hours! Going to buy my road-tripper dad a copy of it for Christmas this year :)

  24. 3 out of 5

    Charles

    This is a light-hearted look at the waning days of the long distance family automobile trip, set in the 1970s, before airline deregulation and cheap fares altered the way middle class American families traveled on vacation and for family reunions. My own memories of family vacations, taking place in the 1950s and 1960s, first in large American sedans and later in a Chevrolet station wagon, came rushing back. Author Richard Ratay wisely intersperses his own reminiscences with a bit of history of t This is a light-hearted look at the waning days of the long distance family automobile trip, set in the 1970s, before airline deregulation and cheap fares altered the way middle class American families traveled on vacation and for family reunions. My own memories of family vacations, taking place in the 1950s and 1960s, first in large American sedans and later in a Chevrolet station wagon, came rushing back. Author Richard Ratay wisely intersperses his own reminiscences with a bit of history of the decades that preceded the construction of the Interstate highway system, as America slowly began to pave stretches of road, then tried to construct long distance highways without much Federal government help, such as the Lincoln highway, conceived in 1912 as a crushed rock road from New York’s Times Square to San Francisco’s Lincoln Park. The promoter sold local communities on completing their share of the road as a matter of civic pride, an approach that worked better in the settled East than in the vast stretches of the West. We are also treated to the commercial history of enterprises that arose by the 1970s to meet the needs of traveling families and offered the reassurance of standardization of facilities. These include the Holiday Inn chain, Stuckey’s roadside stops (pecan candies, a restaurant, souvenirs, gasoline), McDonald’s, and Howard Johnson’s motels. We are also treated to the author’s reminiscences of being crammed in a car with his sister, who always sat in the front seat between her parents, and sitting in the back with two older brothers who waged war for space. “When you are six years old, a 20 hour car trip represents a significant portion of your lifetime,” observes the Ratay. “And if time begins to seem long for a young kid, that kid will make time seem long for everyone around them.” We also are regaled by descriptions of cramming a family of six into a motel room meant, at most, for four. Some of Retay’s reminiscences seem particular to his own family, such as a father that tried to judge how much farther the car could travel once the gauge sat on “Empty”. Nonetheless, I suspect that the concept of the father as the captain of the ship who made most of the decisions, even if occasionally amended by mother, was a stereotype that was pretty accurate. In using his own experiences from his childhood as the basis for a description of the family road trip, Ratay is handicapped by the fact that all his trips seem to be between Wisconsin, where he grew up, to Florida, where the family vacationed. As a result, he has to milk the experience of traveling on a regular route, such as learning where the speed traps of Georgia are located. My own experiences were of even longer trips, where by automobile my family explored the far corners of America (and are the reason I have visited 48 of the 50 states). This allowed for a wealth of experiences including being in Gallup, New Mexico, on a Saturday night, to running out of gas in the middle of Nevada, to learning the importance of locking the car when it was parked in a big city. Nevertheless, this is a fun book to read and captures a period where unforgettable family bonds were formed and when Americans got to see and appreciate first-hand so much of their country that is now “fly-over”.

  25. 3 out of 5

    Jonna Higgins-Freese

    Well, this was a perfectly adequate micro-history, and would have been a lot more interesting for readers who know less to start with about the history of the US road and interstate system, automobiles, the national parks & other tourist destinations, etc. A few takeaways -- it's always interesting to remember that the fifties and sixties really were a golden age, at least for white folks: "By 1960, the tyipial American made nearly one and a half times what he or she had in 1946. In real inco Well, this was a perfectly adequate micro-history, and would have been a lot more interesting for readers who know less to start with about the history of the US road and interstate system, automobiles, the national parks & other tourist destinations, etc. A few takeaways -- it's always interesting to remember that the fifties and sixties really were a golden age, at least for white folks: "By 1960, the tyipial American made nearly one and a half times what he or she had in 1946. In real income, a factory worker in 1960 made as much as a plant manager just a decade before. What's more, between 1930 and 1960, the number of Americans considered middle class doubled. Americans weren't just doing better; they were doing significantly better." (42) Besides that, much of their extra income was discretionary; they used it to buy cars; and they had more free time due to the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. Besides that, due to the war, many men (and women) had experience travelling, and they had children they wanted to take places. Air travel was regulated and prohibitively expensive -- as late at 1976, only 25% of Americans had ever travelled on an airplane. So they drove off in their cars. (And though I don't recall him mentioning this part, let us pause once again to thank FDR's administration and the New Deal, which in addition to the Fair Labor Standards Act (thank you, Frances Perkins!!) funded the CCC, which brought us many of the beautiful buildings, trails, and infrastructure that makes the national parks what they are today). I've always wondered why "rest areas" exist when it's so much easier just to stop at a gas station, but Ratay points out that it took decades before interstate exchanges were built up, so rest areas in the early years provided most of the available services. There's a brief nod to the quirky marketing used to attract visitors along Route 66 -- the Blue Whale of Catoosa, OK (originally built as a wedding present by Hugh Davis for his bride, Zelta), the Golden Driller in Tulsa, etc. (123) And he doesn't forget the importance of souvenirs, including the Mold-A-Rama figurines. That caught my attention because my son was ensnared by one at the Henry Ford two years ago, so the appeal has lasted since 1962 (128). The history of Howard Johnson's and other value restaurant/hotel chains was also interesting -- the notion of a clean, comfortable room suitable for families had its heyday -- one that may also have passed, as we sadly experienced in a couple of Motel 6's and Super 8's that have clearly become transient hotels rather than family venues as the economic trends of the 60s are reversed, and more Americans are downwardly mobile.

  26. 3 out of 5

    Marcella Wigg

    Don't Make Me Pull Over! is a decent nostalgic look back at the heyday of the family road trip in mid-twentieth century America. Ratay explores a variety of aspects of the experience of traveling American highways in the 1940s through 1970s, from the marked improvement of American roads throughout the twentieth century (particularly as a consequence of Eisenhower's highway construction program) to the advent of national chains of fast food restaurants and hotels to the ways in which riding in a Don't Make Me Pull Over! is a decent nostalgic look back at the heyday of the family road trip in mid-twentieth century America. Ratay explores a variety of aspects of the experience of traveling American highways in the 1940s through 1970s, from the marked improvement of American roads throughout the twentieth century (particularly as a consequence of Eisenhower's highway construction program) to the advent of national chains of fast food restaurants and hotels to the ways in which riding in a car has changed, such as increased safety measures decreasing the mobility of passengers. I wasn't expecting this book to be as autobiographical as it ended up being, and since I was expecting a more detailed and comprehensive history of the car trip as a pop culture concept and common practice, I was slightly let down by the informality of the history here. Certainly there is much trivia to learn from this book about disparate aspects of car travel, and as a native Wisconsinite, I can appreciate the appeal of such landmarks as the Mars Cheese Castle beckoning from I-94. But the integration of Ratay's childhood family trips with the history felt overly expansive to me; neither was I fully convinced by his claims that contemporary family road trips must necessarily lack the unifying togetherness in a car of car trips in the Seventies. All a family needs to do is to listen to a single audiobook, podcast, or radio station together instead of everyone popping in their earbuds, and that media can provide a source of conversation, education, and enjoyment! Perhaps someone who can remember the Seventies would find greater enjoyment here, because it might remind them of things they had forgotten about road travel in the Seventies. While I found the writing moderately engaging and the topic very interesting, I was slightly disappointed with the heavy doses of nostalgia and lack of surprises. On the bright side, Ratay does offer a variety of references to books with narrower historical scope than is provided here.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Beth

    I'm old enough to remember the family road trip, so this book was a pleasant, nostalgic reminder of our trips. Twice a year. A trip to my uncle's cabin in Minnesota in the summer and a trip to visit relatives in Florida in the winter. Like the author, I remember curling up on the floorboard of the backseat and reading until I fell asleep. I remember the roadside restaurants, the tourist stops like Rock City, stopping in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, hotels in Gatlinburg, and a visit t I'm old enough to remember the family road trip, so this book was a pleasant, nostalgic reminder of our trips. Twice a year. A trip to my uncle's cabin in Minnesota in the summer and a trip to visit relatives in Florida in the winter. Like the author, I remember curling up on the floorboard of the backseat and reading until I fell asleep. I remember the roadside restaurants, the tourist stops like Rock City, stopping in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, hotels in Gatlinburg, and a visit to the newly-opened Disney World. This book provides an interesting history of the creation of the interstate system and the deregulation of airlines, so it's not all anecdotal. While travel has definitely changed, I still appreciate a fun road trip. We spent over two weeks traveling Route 66, all the way from Chicago to Santa Monica. Along the way, we stayed in a Wigwam motel and several other iconic roadside motels, visited the Barbed Wire Museum, and had a blast finding local eateries and bars. It is a lost art in our hectic world, but this book might inspire you to try a road trip, with or without kids. Just remember to enjoy the journey, because it's not always just about the destination! See you on the road!

  28. 3 out of 5

    Stephanie Hatch

    Don't get me wrong - this book is really awesome and makes you want to hit the road for an adventure. History-wise it is mostly gloss and the lack of a bibliography was disappointing because it won't keep the fun rolling. The writing was witty and the anecdotes that wove the story together were very relatable. By far the biggest disappointment with the whole thing was the constant comments about road tripping being on its last legs. With well over a quarter of a century between the author's road Don't get me wrong - this book is really awesome and makes you want to hit the road for an adventure. History-wise it is mostly gloss and the lack of a bibliography was disappointing because it won't keep the fun rolling. The writing was witty and the anecdotes that wove the story together were very relatable. By far the biggest disappointment with the whole thing was the constant comments about road tripping being on its last legs. With well over a quarter of a century between the author's road tripping childhood and me there were very few differences. Between my friends, classmates and cousins, road trips are alive and well with all the corresponding anecdotes to prove it. Sure there are new elements involved (phones, longer lasting handheld games) but that ignores all the times when us kids were grounded from cell phone use, didn't have cell reception in the first place, didn't pack the batteries or charger for whatever tech, had a paper map teaching moment and got hellishly lost, pre-trip internet reservation problems, etc. Maybe some parents just don't try any more but those around me have kept up the tradition no problem.

  29. 3 out of 5

    Beth Donnelly

    A terrific, enjoyable read and a great trip down memory lane of my own childhood memories with family road trips! Being the youngest of 6 meant long-distance road trips were the norm. Lots of middle of the night departures, Triple A Triptiks, the on-going mission of making “good time”, squirmy, squished bodies, car games, listening to favorite songs until the static radio stations forced you to wait “foooorevvvvver” for the next best radio tower reception (warm smile) ... and lastly, the so call A terrific, enjoyable read and a great trip down memory lane of my own childhood memories with family road trips! Being the youngest of 6 meant long-distance road trips were the norm. Lots of middle of the night departures, Triple A Triptiks, the on-going mission of making “good time”, squirmy, squished bodies, car games, listening to favorite songs until the static radio stations forced you to wait “foooorevvvvver” for the next best radio tower reception (warm smile) ... and lastly, the so called “sharing” of mushy, yet awesome PBJ and Egg Salad sandwiches and snacks. This book brought back so many fond memories I hadn’t thought of for years and made me appreciate the special bonding time I had with my family over the years. I also especially enjoyed the fascinating historical tidbits about the formative years of how the Interstate Highways, Hotel, Restaurant and Travel Industries grew over the years to where it is today. It brought attention to facts and tidbits I never would’ve thought of before and makes me want to take another road trip soon. A clever, well-written book that you will appreciate having in your library to check back on the historical facts.

  30. 3 out of 5

    Carola

    As someone who has spent probably more than an average amount of time on the road, both as a child and as a parent, I could appreciate the author's interest in the subject of family road trips. Amidst Ratay's recounting of his family's travels are tucked facts on a variety of subjects; I was glad to take these in. However I grew a bit weary of the author's overly generous use of extended puns (if you've ever watched the Food Network show "Unwrapped," you'll know what I mean), and I felt the book As someone who has spent probably more than an average amount of time on the road, both as a child and as a parent, I could appreciate the author's interest in the subject of family road trips. Amidst Ratay's recounting of his family's travels are tucked facts on a variety of subjects; I was glad to take these in. However I grew a bit weary of the author's overly generous use of extended puns (if you've ever watched the Food Network show "Unwrapped," you'll know what I mean), and I felt the book would have benefited from having some of the family stories edited down a bit more: I think we get to hear almost ten times how much Ratay enjoyed basking in the sun on the rear deck during road trips. The annoyances are counterbalanced by a smorgasbord of information related to family travel: the history of the station wagon, development of the US interstate system, the rise and fall of various motel and dining chains, the political aspects of fuel pricing and airline regulation that altered how Americans travel, and more.

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