Maureen Pratt

It’s summertime. Are you ready for the road?

Some of my most memorable summer vacation moments were when we’d load up the car, crank down the windows and set off on the highway. The going was a lot rougher than it is for motorists today.

Our family car didn’t have air conditioning, GPS or built-in CD players. It guzzled regular, not premium, gasoline, and the radio had a way of fading out just when a great song started. But we lived through those inconveniences and more.

We bonded, stretched our horizons and really got a chance to not only see, but know other parts of the country that we wouldn’t have if we’d flown over them.

A good road trip is more than a starting point and destination. It’s very much a function of what happens in between. But if you’re too plugged in to portable devices, you might miss the chance to talk.

You may miss humorous talks and deep talks. That’s something we often don’t get to do during our busy lives when we’re not on vacation, but something that is important for building bonds that can help us survive life’s challenges.

Likewise, if you barrel down the highway, hardly stopping for gas, you risk missing out on precious memories.

If you see a sign for a unique, perhaps nearly forgotten, historic site, find out where it leads. If you pass by a mom-and-pop eatery that looks as if it’s a historic site, skip the processed fast food and try it out. Notice a local flea market in a town you’re just driving through? Double back and explore the items that this locality offers, and perhaps learn a bit about it from a fresh perspective.

In the car, invite your children to notice details. What crops are growing in the fields? What license plates are passing by? Where is the sun and what time is it? What kind of clouds are moving overhead?

We miss these details in urban settings, and even if we don’t live in a big city, we probably don’t pay much attention to them when we’re caught up in our daily routine. But these are part of a whole world and worth noting, however fleetingly.

On a road trip, take advantage of being able to explore big attractions and smaller ones. When we took road trips as a family, we were able to engage in conversation with locals, enjoying new turns of phrase and viewpoints that would have been unheard of and unknown had we had to move along during a fast-moving tour.

Faith in action and worship was always on the road with us. Once, on a very stormy morning near Niagara Falls, we witnessed a horrible accident. This was before cellphones and the ability to call 911. My father turned around and tried to render aid while my mother prayed in the car with me and my brother.

Every Sunday on the road, we sought out a Catholic church and attended Mass. This opened up new varieties of music, style and location that helped us see faith and worship in the universal church. It also enabled the “regulars” to welcome strangers — a wonderful way to enhance their Christian walk.

There’s a pleasant rhythm to a road easily unfolding. Mingled with this comfort (truly a hallmark of a good vacation), is also a sense of adventure. As the highway streams on, you never know what you will see, whom you will meet when you reach and pass the many horizons ahead.