Fatigue is setting in and you’ve been motoring eastbound (or north-, south- or west-bound) all day on Interstate Whatever. Up ahead at Exit 134 is a major-brand motel and, even though you find the parking lot choked with Family Trucksters, the somewhat worn out desk clerk says they’ve got a room.
Sure, there are a few kids in the lobby and the pool is going strong, even though it’s 9 p.m. But, it’s a good, comfortable room at a fair price. And it’s either here, or you’re dozing off and making your own exit from the Interstate.
The next morning… waffles at the free breakfast bar are all that’s on your mind. You enter the dining room and suddenly feel like you’re a kitchen scene from the movie “Cheaper By the Dozen.” Kids everywhere. Looks like several moms and dads, grandmas and grandpas; generations all running around while you’re trying to get your first cup of coffee for the day.
You’ve stumbled upon one of the favorite summer activities… a family reunion. All over America, especially it seems in the Midwest, big families scattered all over pick a spot on the map, book a few (dozen) rooms at usually an all-suite hotel, and show up for a weekend of family bonding.
It can be rather confusing if you’re not part of the group. For a few years, my job plopped me in highway-side motels for weeks at a time during the summer and while the place was mostly quiet during the week, on Thursday night they’d start to arrive. Pretty soon, a hotel with mostly business travelers, truckers — a fairly subdued and serious group — was transformed into the Brady household on steroids.
With sometimes only one day off of a 12-hour schedule, my Sunday respit was generally disturbed by a crowd of folks having a great time. So, I decided to go with the flow and, within reason, join in the fun.
The family reunion crowds are generally about the happiest folks I ever encountered on the road. Adults are catching up with others in their generation, reconnecting with great-grandma and grandpa, meeting cousins. Spouses, girlfriends and boyfriends are the ones with the dazed looks and different features — it’s amazing how facial features and body types go across the family tree.
At a Residence Inn outside of Columbus, Oh., a few years ago, instead of dashing in the dining room for a bagel and running back to my room to avoid the crowd, I decided to chat up the folks in line for the waffle machine. Turns out the family did this about every five years, with family members coming from as far away as Chicago and Macon, Ga.
There were new babies and significant others to meet, old times to relive and connections to reestablish. There were also transitions to experience, as a couple of members of the older generation had passed on during the five years. Life goes on.
Folks were really overly friendly and in a mood to talk and share their stories. For someone with a really small family, seeing 50 people all in the same room (most with the same nose and eyes) was pretty amazing.
So, when you pull off of Interstate Whatever and see one of those full parking lots at the motel, don’t dread it. Join the family.