It’s dark-thirty on a bitter-cold, Chicago morning in 1976. The Ratay family is headed for Florida in their 1975 Lincoln Town Car, packed the day before. No one wears seatbelts. There are no smartphones, no DVD players. Pillows, blankets, stuffed animals, eight-track cartridges and Styrofoam coffee cups litter the fuzzy tan fabric of the family car’s interior. Young Richard, who’d prefer to stretch out on the rear-window ledge to stargaze, occupies the back seat with his two older brothers; his sister sits between his Mom and Dad in the front. “Off in a cloud of leaded gas fumes,” Dad drives, Mom navigates, and Richard Ratay treats readers to a nostalgic, informative, and frankly hilarious, salute to the 1970’s Family Road Trip in Don’t Make Me Pull Over! An Informal History of the Family Road Trip (published in 2019 by Scriber).
What you didn’t know about the history and development of U.S. interstate and modern highway systems, you’ll learn in this book. For example, by the time the Ratays hit the road for Florida in the 1970s, most superhighways were less than 10 years old. Police radar guns, Ratay notes, have been around longer than interstates. And the Fuzzbuster – designed by a guy named Dale Smith, who got caught in what he felt was an unfair speed trap in Dayton, Ohio – was manufactured in 1973 and made Time magazine’s 2010 “All-TIME 100 Gadgets” list. Who knew?!
You’ll feel like the seventh passenger in this entertaining memoir of the Ratay family’s road trips, and you’ll laugh out loud along the way. The Ratays logged “approximately one trillion miles” in “land yachts” that stopped at the motels, restaurants, rest stops, gas stations and tourist attractions that catered to road trippers in the ‘70s. If it had been up to destination-minded Dad – defier of the gas gauge – they would have skipped those stops altogether. Sound familiar? Make time for this loving tribute to the Family Road Trip. It’s a truly great, cover-to-cover read.