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Road Trips Are More than Just a Means to Get from Point A to Point B

I am a road trip junkie.

My mother, Mirta, never got a driver’s license and neither did her mother. In my grandmother’s time that wasn’t so unusual. Meme was of a generation where the man of the family did all the driving, but an automobile was always more than a mere mode of transportation. The first thing my grandfather did when he came to America to work for the Perón administration at the Argentine Embassy in Washington, D.C. was to buy a big black Buick. Today, more than half the photos in our old family albums show a beaming group in front of a gleaming automobile.

Two girls in frilly dresses with their father in front of a big, black Buick in the early 1950s.

My grandfather, Eduardo D’auf der Maur, with my mother (center) and her sister in front of the black Buick. Meme’s pride and joy can be seen in the frilly hand-sewn dresses.

Meme and Tata, and their two daughters, moved back to Argentina when Juan Perón was ousted in 1955. And they stayed there until Mirta followed older sister Elsa to Washington, D.C. In 1964, Mirta married a young Fuller Brush salesman and thus begun an ongoing cycle of serial entrepreneurship and frequent moves–mainly in the USA, Argentina, and the Caribbean–that characterized my childhood.

Grandfather holds up toddler Sandra Foyt on Lincoln Continental in Washington DC sometime in the early 1960s.

Tata and I with the infamous Lincoln Continental somewhere in Washington DC in the early 1960s.

Born in Washington, D.C., my first pilgrimage to Luján, site of Argentina’s patron saint, was as a nine month old in Meme’s arms. When I was three years old, we moved permanently to Buenos Aires so my parents could start a wig importing business. In the late 1960s, wigs were huge and they managed to turn this into a major fashion house. Now my father did what any newly rich gringo might do, he imported a big silver Lincoln Continental, thus placing a billboard on his head that said, “Kidnap me.” The story is a bit murky at this point. Separately, both parents were kidnapped by police later responsible for many Desaparecidos; they were extremely lucky not to end up numbered among them.

Teenage Sandra Foyt hawking silver chains and pick-your-own pearls in the family story.

Visitors to Charlotte Amalie might have heard me hawking, “Silver chains, 3 for $10, and pick your own pearls!” at our family store, then called Beuchert’s Hand Made Products, in Riise’s Alley.

Long before I could fly independently, I began traveling for the family businesses (this long list includes a Philippine puka shell factory, a San Juan art gallery and restaurant, a Colombian leather factory, multiple retail stores and import/export companies, and now a Virgin Islands beer garden and a Puerto Rican coffee plantation.) But the most memorable solo business trip was when I was fifteen years old and responsible for carrying the payroll–$8000 in cash—to our leather factory in an extremely poor Bogota neighborhood where children begged on street corners for spare change.

Sandra Foyt and her grandfather sitting in a Brown BMW.

You had to sit carefully in my first, and last, luxury car. It had brittle leather seats with metals springs that poked the unwary.

The contrast to my privileged adolescence couldn’t have been more obvious. That same year, my grandfather gave me a used brown BMW. It didn’t have air conditioning or power anything, and it was hell to drive on the steep and winding St. Thomian roads, but I could go anywhere I wanted when I wanted. Anywhere, that is, within a 31-square-mile island with a top speed limit of 35 miles per hour.

I was proud of that rust bucket and the freedom it represented. Until then, my mother and I, and my siblings, were dependent on my father (if he was around) or taxis to get where we needed to go. Most mornings, I hitched a ride down the hill to school. Return rides were less easily available, and I often ended up walking uphill in sweltering tropical heat.

David and Sandra Foyt posing with toddler Kayla and their two retrievers, Mowgli and Spock, in front of their fully loaded Toyata 4Runner.

Serendipitous cross-country tours in the days before cell phones and social media were tricky. While Dave did most of the driving, I poured through AAA guides to find motels that would accept dogs. Then, we actually had to go into reception to enquire about room availability.

That Brown Beemer was left behind when I moved to the States to go to college, and because I ended up in New York City for the next ten years, the only driving I did was in borrowed cars. But when my husband accepted a surgical fellowship in Los Angeles, we each got a car. He picked up a used Miata (the first of a beloved series,) and I got the family car. That indomitable Toyota 4Runner carried baby Kayla, two oversized retrievers, and assorted guests on all kinds of off-road excursions on the West Coast. Dave and I even lived out of the SUV for two months, with the toddler and two dogs, the summer that we drove back to New York across Canada.

Suburban parked by red painted desert

Some of the most beautiful places I found on that first cross-country drive solo with the kids were in-between spots by the side of the road.

When we added a son to the mix and I started driving groups of kids, I bought my Beloved Suburban. It was a behemoth, but I absolutely adored that car. I felt safe enough to go anywhere, and empowered to go everywhere. Gradually, I graduated from local day trips to temporarily leaving my husband behind to take our children on summer-long road trips across the USA.

Abandoned rust bucket found by the side of the road.

In 2009, we found this rust bucket by the side of the road somewhere in a Western desert, and Kayla decided to take it out for a spin.

For me, driving represents a higher level of independence. It allows me to go where I want to go, when I want to go. I get to see all those in between places that exist beyond airports and train stations. I’ve followed the pony express trail with my son, and parked the Honda CRV at the trailhead of Havasu Canyon with my daughter. I’ve downed my fair share of honey-drizzled fry bread with both kids and stood in awe of sunsets thats enveloped us in fiery bursts of red and gold.

Hiker beaming after hiking Havasu Canyon.

By 2014, when Kayla and I drove from New York to California to drop her off at CalPoly San Luis Obispo, we were both fully smitten by the road trip bug. Kayla positively beams after a backpacking trip to Havasu Falls–an out of the way Shangri-La impossible to reach without a car to carry you to the trailhead.

Nowadays, you can find me starring in my own version of “Where’s Waldo?” A veteran of six cross-country road trips, I’ve driven Route 66, the Lincoln Highway, the fossil freeway, Nevada’s Extraterrestrial Highway, and even the “loneliest road in America.” Always in pursuit of sweet treats and grand adventures.

{ 10 comments… add one }

  • Shelly Rivoli December 6, 2015, 7:40 pm

    Love this, Sandra! Now I can see that the adventure to Dry Tortugas was a very straightforward proposition for you! 😉
    Shelly Rivoli recently posted…The 411 on Atlanta with KidsMy Profile

  • Jennifer December 7, 2015, 11:07 am

    What FANTASTIC photos – that rusted out old bucket of an auto is a winner!! One trend I really hope to see evolve in terms of road trips in the future is charging stations across the US for electric vehicles. All that gas…
    Jennifer recently posted…Onboard Royal Caribbean’s New Ship, Anthem of the SeasMy Profile

  • Wandering Educators December 7, 2015, 12:32 pm

    Oh, I love this so! What a fantastic life of driving – so many adventures! I love road trips, too.
    Wandering Educators recently posted…Made in Quebec: A Savory Stroll of the Marché Jean TalonMy Profile

  • Betsi Hill December 9, 2015, 7:40 pm

    Well done Sandra! I love the way you wove everything into this post ~ growing up, travel, cars, living in luxury….fabulous job! I look forward to reading more from you.

  • Meg Jerrard December 12, 2015, 7:03 pm

    I love a fantastic road trip – driving instead of flying is also about all those in between places that exist beyond airports and train stations for me too. You have a chance to truly experience the soul of a city or town, to interact with it’s local people and discover gems that tourists don’t regularly find.

    If you’re loving the US roadtrips, we’ve just completed a drive from San Diego to Alaska along the coastal route and OMG it was the best!! Highly recommend that drive 🙂
    Meg Jerrard recently posted…A Relaxed Apartment Hotel in Wollongong to Explore Australia’s South East CoastMy Profile

  • Mary @ Green Global Travel December 13, 2015, 10:52 am

    What an interesting life you’ve had so far! Great post. I too have an affinity for road trips. For me, it is hours of uninterrupted time with people I love. The destination is a bonus.
    Mary @ Green Global Travel recently posted…Treme, New Orleans: Birthplace of American CultureMy Profile

  • Penny Sadler December 13, 2015, 1:45 pm

    Wow who knew?! Being a hairdresser (my first career) I love the part about the wig shop. My family made many road trips across the desert from Texas to California in the 70s. Since it was basically always the same route and there was no adventure involved (my dad wanted to get us from point A to point B as quickly as possible) I don’t have any really fond memories. Now however, I take road trips on my own and have a great time. Thanks for a fun read.
    Penny Sadler recently posted…Why Go To Barolo – Piedmont, ItalyMy Profile

  • Lillie December 14, 2015, 9:57 pm

    A passionate and insightful dive into the world of road trips! Thanks for taking the time to put it together. And such neat photos!
    Lillie recently posted…Travel With a Toddler: 11 Tips To Make it Less InsaneMy Profile

  • dariece December 15, 2015, 12:21 pm

    A lot of memories in those cars! Wow. Thanks for sharing your experiences with us. We too think that road trips make for some lasting memories and are a great way to see the “in-between” bits.
    dariece recently posted…Our First Impressions Of BarbadosMy Profile

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