Every summer, my sister Emily and I travel to Cincinnati, Ohio, and northern Kentucky to visit with our dad (“Daddy”), Aunt Dee, Uncle Jimmy, and various cousins. We call it our annual Redneck Road Trip — a title that is a little misleading these days as Daddy, Aunt Dee, and Uncle Jimmy are all pushing some serious seniority these days, and driving with them is mildly terrifying (Aunt Dee: “I’m probably not gonna get my driver’s license renewed next year. Heck, I shouldn’t have gotten it renewed last time. You know I have macular degeneration and can’t see anything, but that girl at the DMV was just so sweet — she went on ahead and gave it to me anyway!”). Daddy hasn’t been able to move his neck since he “lost his sex drive” (a direct quote) and relies on “God sightings” to tell him if there’s a cop around, while Uncle Jim, well, he doesn’t like to discriminate between lanes. As in, he will drive down both of them at the same time, no matter if it’s a four-lane highway or two.
So, we’ve had to modulate our trips. Where once we took off for the Red River Gorge, Dollywood, or Mammoth Caves without a second thought, we now have to get creative and stick a little closer to home.
And because we have so much fun — even if we can’t drive so much anymore — I bring you the Rules of a Redneck Road Trip:
1. Always have someone pick you up at the airport in a uniform.
Daddy is partial to picking us up at the airport — and, due to his excitement, he will sometimes wait for over an hour at the top of the escalator by the baggage claim section at CVG airport just to make sure he gets the first glimpse of Emily and me coming off our planes. He always wears his summer “uniform” of either a golf shirt or a short-sleeved button-down with a pen in the second buttonhole, pleated khaki shorts belted right at his bellybutton (no matter that it shows off his belly), mid-calf white socks pulled all the way up, and a nice sturdy pair of ecru Rockport Walkers. (Note: His winter “uniform” is basically the same; just add long pants and a jacket.)
2. Enjoy the scenery.
This house in northern Kentucky is one of my favorites — I mean, come on: It has a race car over the front porch and traffic cones in the yard! We pass it every time on the way home from the airport and it just starts the trip off right.
3. Pick your car carefully.
The street where Uncle Jim and Aunt Dee live is full of split-level ranch houses with American flags hanging and two cars in the driveway: a pickup truck and a minivan. Due to the size of our day trips, we can no longer fit into a pickup truck, so we all cram into the minivan.
4. Get on the water!
Anyone who knows anything about us middle states knows we love our rivers, lakes, and creeks. Luckily, I have the Ohio River, and there is no better place to go boating, waterskiing, or kayaking than on the old Ohio.
5. Get some barbecue. Stat!
I love me some barbecue, and I don’t care what anyone says, you just can’t find good barbecue in New York City. But you can in Ohio and Kentucky! My favorites? Eli’s BBQ in Cincinnati and Nick’s American Cafe in Cleves, Ohio.
6. Go hear some pretty awesome live country music.
Luckily, the Buckle Up Festival was in town that weekend, where local guys performed (above) as well as big names like Jamey Johnson, Kristian Bush, Willie Nelson, Allison Krauss, Miranda Lambert, Jason Aldean, Alabama and the Band Perry.
But even if there’s nothing live, we all are just as happy to sit on Aunt Dee and Uncle Jimmy’s porch listening to George Jones. Which always makes Aunt Dee cry … in a good way.
7. Get to gambling.
Aunt Dee got a little camera shy while playing her favorite penny slot, Golden Goddess (“The lady is just so pretty!”). Daddy was fine watching with his cigar.
Cincinnati now has a fancy casino of its own, the Horseshoe Casino, but our family has always preferred the Hollywood Casino in Lawrenceburg, Indiana. It allows us to actually road-trip somewhere, and with the penny slots, the $5 blackjack tables, and the $5 beers, it’s just our speed. Not to mention, Indiana sells fireworks on the roadside, which we always appreciate. Especially after a couple of beers.
8. Have one fancy night out … or two.
Nothing says fancy like Friday dinner at TGI Friday’s!
But seriously — the entire family got together for the dinner that Daddy arranged at the Precinct, which has always made him nervous, as it is a steakhouse in an old police precinct.
9. Get to grilling in the backyard.
Daddy had to have a cigar and a beer while he waited for his meat.
10. Relax on a front porch together.
Emily, Dad, and Karl, the Yahoo Travel mascot, doing some serious porch bonding.
Because at the end of the day, the point of a Redneck Road Trip, whether you’re on the road or not, is family. To spend as much time as possible together, dancing, laughing, swapping stories, and connecting.