Episode 6.5 "Deep Fried UFOs," Feat. Strange Arrivals podcast creator and host Toby Ball.
Updated: Feb 17
My (illustrated) Road Trip Musings, part 5
Family road trips are very different from solo road trips. For example, “Are we there yet?”, “Can we stop? I need to pee!”, and “Why can’t we just go to McDonalds?” are typical questions you’ll hear coming from the back seat when your family is travelling with you (or if you picked up a self-important hitchhiker, but that's your own fault). The type of destinations you’ll seek are also quite different. For most of my Montreal-to-Texas conspiracy road trip (see episodes 6.1 to 6.4) for instance, I often drove off at dawn or rolled on through the evening, stopping at various historical landmarks, weird or morbid locations, or eating weird foods I normally wouldn’t or shouldn’t eat just because I was free to do so. I’d listen to books on tape, chat with total strangers, or sit alone in a pub reading the news or watching a game.
But not so when your family has different intentions than you. And that’s why when you’re out on a family trip (especially if you’re a jittery father like me or Chevy Chase’s Clark Griswold), your sense of freedom becomes inversely proportional to your traveler's anxiety concerning ETAs, ticket prices, hotel reservations, parking spaces, breakfast menues, and getting mad at the Google Maps lady who keeps sending you on crazy detours and wrong exits. Which is largely the reason we chose to go to Old Orchard Beach, Maine, for our family vacation this summer. It is familiar, contains a smattering of what everyone likes (cheap thrills for the kids, beaches and shops for the wife, and quiet places to read or sip a drink for the dysfunctional dad with the twitching eye and hemorraging wallet). And since grandma had already rented the beach house and taken care of buying the groceries, well, it was a no brainer.
What I hate about Old Orchard Beach, and every other small coastal carnival beach town like it, is legion. But at the same time, there’s something to be said about the kitchiness of small resort towns that can’t be experienced in big-box corporate money traps like Disney World, Six flags, Niagara Falls, or whatever that place with the big Noah's Ark is called. The food is greasy and filling. The other people on the beach are just as out of shape as you are (well, with some exceptions that I officially never took notice of!), and the rides are so rickety that it makes you appreciate the mundane safety of your daily existence just a bit more. It’s also a great place to meet people who don’t come across as fakes, posers, or entitled snoots. I think that’s one thing I appreciated from my previous rapid tour of the American South: the people there are unnaturally authentic, like those who live in small towns, only not just in small towns.
And if you don’t like the buzz, smells, and swarms of people on Main street or in the amusement park, you can always find a place to hide from it all by rolling yourself in a beach blanket, going kayaking on your own, or disappearing into a quiet pub or coffee shop while the others are tossing their cookies off the large spinning vehicles. And if you look up long enough, you might just spot a passing space ship.
M.J. Gagné, 2023
Documents related to this episode:*
1. IT: Chapter 2 (New Line Cineman, 2019). Directed by Andy Muschietti. Based on a novel by Stephen King. Featuring Andrew McAvoy, Jessica Chastain, and Bill Hader.
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14. Terry Matheson: Alien Abductions: Creating a Modern Phenomenon. Prometheus, 1998.
15. "Betty and Barney Hill: The UFO Case that Changed Everything, with Toby Ball," Stuff They Don't Want You to Know. April 29, 2020. iHeart podcasts.
16. Toby Ball: Strange Arrivals Podcast (2020-present). Grim & Mild/iHeart.
* All copyrighted video and audio clips are used for educational purposes only under "fair use" regulations.