The Halfburger Trip | My Family Travels
Author, Father and Brother

Author, Father and Brother
Author, Father and Brother

When it comes to our annual family trip from Texas to Colorado, my dad doesn’t believe in modern technology. No Ipods, no airplanes. No TV in the car. Cell phone for emergencies only.

I’m surprised we actually even use an automobile, given that I’m sure somewhere ’round these here parts we could rent us a fine team of horses and a conestoga wagon.

“We drive,” Dad says, “so we can talk.”

Boy, do we. Every summer for the Fourth of July, we throw a couple of pillows in the backseat, make sure Tony goes to the bathroom twice, load up a cooler with juice and apples and granola bars (the resolution on these trips is always to eat healthy; it’s like we experience the exhilaration and disappointment of New Year’s Day twice an annum!) and hit the road for a 13-hour gabfest.

We drive. And we talk.

It’s a chance for two teenage boys to be heard above the din of school hallways and TV commercials. We talk about everything. Girls. School. Friends. Ambitions. Dreams. Dad’s a smart guy; an Elton John song, a Hispanic billboard, everything is fodder for discussion. When we stop for gas, and he’s nice to the forlorn slacker working the cash register, he makes sure we notice — his niceness, and the slacker’s forlornness. “That’s what can happen to a guy if he doesn’t go to college,” Dad will say.

We drive. And we talk.

North on I-35 from Dallas. Through Oklahoma City. And then Dad’s system really kicks in. With our own technological tools, how easy would it be for three guys to simply retreat into their own shells, into their own caves, into their own dark worlds? Two headphones and seven Will Ferrell movies and we’d cut through America’s Breadbasket without even knowing it was there!

So, we drive. And we talk.

My parents got divorced nine years ago, and it was exactly nine years ago when we started the tradition of this trip to go see Dad’s family. I now understand that the reason we go is because we’re divorced. Dad’s giving us roots. Once we get there, he gives us his family. On the drive, he gives us himself.

Ask my little brother to name  one notable thing that’s happened to us on our annual road trip, the answer is the same: The Story of The Halfburgers. We break that eat-healthy vow soon enough, the temptation of the red-and-yellow-and-brown -and-orange restaurant signs magnetically tugging us up the exits ramp.

“Fast-food restaurants are always those colors,” Dad says, even trying to transform a milkshake pang into an educational experience. ‘There was a study that showed that warm colors make you feel hungry.”

Author, Nate Fisher
Author, Nate Fisher

“A hundred hamburgers, please!” says my brother, who is more hungry than he is funny. Dad modifies the order by 94, and we’re served. Fast food! Hot burgers! Big square patties! Delicio…

“Hey! What the *@#%!”

Dad doesn’t swear. Unless he really means it.

“Hey! What the *@#%!”

Tony doesn’t swear, either. Unless Dad gives him an opening.

I unwrap my hamburger to discover the horror: The fast-food-hot-burgers-big-square -patties-deliciousness had been cut in half. Amputated by 50 percent.

“We gotta go back!” I wail. “That’s a ripoff! These things aren’t hamburgers! They’re… they’re… halfburgers!”

But Dad keeps driving. And we get to talking about “rip-offs.” And expectations. And disappointments. Love. Divorce. Parenthood. Life.

And we listen. Laugh. Offer our ideas. Share stuff. We drive. We talk. And somehow, we get full on halfburgers.

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