Unlike author Richard Ratay’s father, my dad was the quiet type. When my brother and I fought in the car, my dad would slam on the brakes and bring the car very quickly to a full stop no matter what kind of road we were on (often it was Route 66; since we never were rear-ended, I assume he checked the rear-view mirror first). Other than that, Ratay’s memories of his childhood vacations in large, lumbering automobiles align very closely with mine. If you traveled in cars for days, even weeks at a time with your family when you were young, this book is bound to bring back fond, funny, frustrating, and maybe even fearful-in-hindsight memories - it certainly did for me.— Kay Wosewick
Part pop history and part whimsical memoir in the spirit of National Lampoon's Vacation—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 portable DVD players, iPods, and Google Maps.
In the days before cheap air travel, families didn’t so much take vacations as survive them. Between home and destination lay thousands of miles and dozens of annoyances, and with his family Richard Ratay experienced all of them—from being crowded into the backseat with noogie-happy older brothers, to picking out a souvenir only to find that a better one might have been had at the next attraction, to dealing with a dad who didn’t believe in bathroom breaks.
The birth of America's first interstate highways in the 1950s hit the gas pedal on the road trip phenomenon and families were soon streaming—sans seatbelts!—to a range of sometimes stirring, sometimes wacky locations. Frequently, what was remembered the longest wasn’t Mount Rushmore, Yellowstone, or Disney World, but such roadside attractions as “The Thing” in Texas Canyon, Arizona, or “The Mystery Spot” in Santa Cruz, California. In this road tourism-crazy era that stretched through the 1970’s, 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 fought in the battle.
Now, decades later, Ratay offers a paean to what was lost, showing how family togetherness was eventually sacrificed to electronic distractions and the urge to "get there now." In hundreds of amusing ways, he reminds us of what once made the Great American Family Road Trip so great, including twenty-foot “land yachts,” oasis-like Holiday Inn “Holidomes,” “Smokey"-spotting Fuzzbusters, 28 glorious flavors of Howard Johnson’s ice cream, and the thrill of finding a “good buddy” on the CB radio.
A rousing Ratay family ride-along, Don’t Make Me Pull Over! reveals how the family road trip came to be, how its evolution mirrored the country’s, and why those magical journeys that once brought families together—for better and worse—have largely disappeared.
About the Author
Richard Ratay was the last of four kids raised by two mostly attentive parents in Elm Grove, Wisconsin. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin with a degree in journalism and has worked as an award-winning advertising copywriter for twenty-five years. Ratay lives in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin, with his wife, Terri, their two sons, and two very excitable rescue dogs.
“With smartphones and rear-seat entertainment systems, the family road-trip experience has changed dramatically, writes Ratay in this enjoyable reminiscence on what they used to be . . . [His] informative, often hilarious family narrative perfectly captures the love-hate relationship many have with road trips.”
“Richard Ratay’s long-distance childhood adventures in his family’s giant land cruisers are at the center of Don’t Make Me Pull Over!, a breezy and warm-hearted ‘informal history’ of the great American family road trip…It all goes down like a cold lemonade on a hot summer’s day. Mr. Ratay is a charming raconteur who always seems to know just when it’s time to get us all back into the car with his big, quintessentially middle-class family.”
—Wall Street Journal
“As someone who missed the golden age of the family road trip, I found Don’t Make Me Pull Over! a wonderful revelation, filled with unexpected—and frequently amusing—insights into how so much of our culture was built.”
—Rob Erwin, author of Lost with Directions: Ambling Around America
“If only this book were available to Clark Griswold, he and his family might well have stayed home. Don’t Make Me Pull Over! is an encyclopedia of road trip adventures. I can’t wait to read it.”
—Chevy Chase, star of National Lampoon’s Vacation and “Saturday Night Live”
"A book with a title as good as Don’t Make Me Pull Over! has a lot to live up to, and somehow Richard Ratay manages to deliver. It’s a memoir, a work of popular history, and a love letter all in one. Books this wise are seldom so funny; books this funny are rarely so wise."
—Andrew Ferguson, author of Land of Lincoln and Crazy U
“Captures all the adventure, bonding, desperate conflict, and existential self-interrogation that is only made possible by hours (and hours) on the road with your family. Read it, but probably don’t read it while also driving your family around.”
—John Hodgman, author of More Information than You Require and Vacationland
"Ratay's impressively researched book isn't just a road trip across America—it's a trip back in time. Suddenly I was eight years old again and bouncing around seatbelt-free in the back of a Ford Country Squire station wagon."
—Ken Jennings, record-breaking "Jeopardy!" champion, and author of Maphead
“Ratay has perfectly captured the essence of what it was like to embark on a road trip in the golden days of family vacations. Combining spot-on history and a great sense of humor Don't Make Me Pull Over! feels so authentic I got carsick reading it.”
—Jane Stern, co-author of Roadfood
“I was laughing the whole way. As an expert on the 1970’s (I was there) I encourage you to climb in, wait for that sweet Toronado engine to purr, and let Rich Ratay take you on his wonderful ride through the great American pastime known as the family road trip.”
—Tom Shillue, author of Mean Dads for a Better America
“Entertaining social history spiced with funny family memories. The characters include the first man to drive a car around the world, in 1906 (before fast food!). And America's first highway czar, who served under seven presidents until Eisenhower fired him. And then there's Ratay himself, as a 10-year-old, on the CB radio: ‘Blue Thunder here, gobbling up the zipper dashes like PacMan rollin' for a power pill.’ Great stuff.”
—Paul Ingrassia, author of Engines of Change
“Takes us back to the once popular family road trips of vacationing Americans in the 1970's. Stuffed into a station wagon filled with luggage and provisions, backseat-bound Rich typically set off on adventures that possessed all the idiosyncratic melodrama of family life but played out in a confined space.”
—Anthony Sammarco, author of Lost Boston and The History of Howard Johnson’s
"Smooth prose that entertains and enlightens . . . For anyone who has ever been on a road trip, or is planning to take one, this book is a must read."
—Michael Wallis, Route 66: The Mother Road and The Lincoln Highway: Coast to Coast from Times Square to the Golden Gate