TRAVEL BUG TALES: TRAVEL RESEARCH BEFORE THE INTERNET
Hard copy travel information is still very important to me. I print out all my reservations and tickets, not trusting my phone to deliver on demand. I read and mark up several travel guides before every vacation and tote them along on my trips. I will not head anywhere without a printed map, because you never know when your GPS is going to get confused. However, I do most of my actual research online. My mom didn’t have that luxury.
The Mobil Guide
The hardest thing for me to throw away when I cleaned out my parents’ house was my mom’s collection of old Mobil Guides. Though the information in them was totally outdated, the memories of our travels with them are ever fresh. I was trying to be practical, because I knew I couldn’t save everything. Now I wish I would have kept at least one.
These guides were her Bible for travel. She discovered them while we were still making those wild dashes between Georgia and Texas. My dad had a penchant for getting hungry or sleepy at places that scared my mom and her Mobil Guides were her defense against his whims.
Dad would say, “I’m taking the next exit to find a motel/restaurant/service station.” She’d say, “No you’re not. It’s not even listed in the guide. We’re about X miles from ______. You can exit there.” Then she would go on extol the virtues of the town she deemed appropriate. Occasionally she’d even beat him to the punch. “George, I think you should stop in _______ for lunch. After that we hit a stretch of road where there won’t be anything for at least a hundred miles. You can fill up the tank there, too.”
When we moved to Texas and didn’t need the Southeastern States edition anymore, Mom started her collection of other editions. Though I don’t specifically remember her using it on the way to Carlsbad NM or Houston TX, I am quite sure she did. Our next summer vacation was to Washington D.C. and I do remember her poring through the appropriate Mobil guides for months in preparation for the trip. Her elegant handwriting filled the margins and listings in the guide had circles, underlining, check marks, question marks and stars.
To Begin at the Beginning
By the time Mom purchased a Mobil Guide, she’d already decided where she was headed. When it came to choosing a travel destination Mom and I were a little bit alike. She wanted to go everywhere, so the only real problem was choosing where to go next. I’m fully convinced that, like me, Mom had 10-12 potential itineraries floating around in her head at any given time.
As to her sources of inspiration, forget the Travel Channel. All we had were ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS and in Dallas, one local independent channel. None of those channels had travel shows such as we think of them. There was Disney’s Wonderful World of Color, which sometimes featured a possible destination, and Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, which might mention a National Park, but that was pretty much it.
Print media was her travel source. The Dallas Morning News arrived daily on our front lawn and on Sundays it included a Travel Section. Whenever Mom saw something that interested her, she’d cut it out of the newspaper and file it away. By the time I was an adult, that collection of articles took up a four drawer file cabinet. The articles from the Dallas Morning News weren’t the only thing in there, because Mom and her scissors found a lot to snip.
For years the only magazine my mom took was Better Homes & Gardens, but once we moved back to Texas and she went to work, our selection of magazines grew. The first addition to the list was National Geographic, so Susan and I could “use the magazines for school reports.” (Uh huh, sure!) Then there was Texas Highways and eventually Southern Living. They rounded out their magazine collection with The Smithsonian Magazine.
I’ll tell you more about Mom and her travel plans for our trip to Washington D.C. in the coming weeks. Grab your Mobil Guides and join me!