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

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A hilarious blend of highway misadventures and the history of the road trip, from just after WWII to the late 1970s, when the whole family piled into the car with only their imaginations and license plate bingo to keep them occupied.

In the days before cheap air travel, families didn’t so much take vacations as survive them. Between home and one’s destination lay thousands of miles and endless annoyances, like being crowded into the backseat with a gassy older brother or being sentenced to a cross-country trek with a dad who thought nothing of a four hundred mile “detour” to see a giant wheel of cheese.

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 Google Maps, Snapchat, and Candy Crush. The destination might be Mt. Rushmore, Yellowstone, or Disneyland—or the goal might be a little more offbeat: for example, seeing “The Thing” in Texas Canyon, Arizona, or the Mystery Spot in Santa Cruz, California. During this heyday of road tripping, 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 died in the battle.

Richard Ratay reveals how the American family road trip came to be, how its evolution has mirrored the country’s, and why those “forced to talk to each other” family bonding journeys have largely disappeared. Along the way he shares fascinating trivia and lets us know where to find the absolute largest ball of twine, which state issues the most traffic tickets, and whether the Fuzzbuster or a CB radio is best for evading cops. Combining laugh-out-loud personal recollections with countless factual anecdotes, Don’t Make Me Pull Over! is part pop history, part National Lampoon’s Vacation, and completely riveting.

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