Bizarre Travel: The Road-Trip episode!

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(SFX: Audio clip of Eugene Levy)

Road-trips are not a particularly complex form of travel. The recipe is pretty basic: vehicle, driver, asphalt, horizon. And, of course, snacks. 

For obvious reasons, the vehicle usually plays a significant role in great stories about road-trips: in “Thelma & Louise,” for instance, the characters played by Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon catch air in a Blue 1966 Thunderbird convertible; Jake and Elwood go on a mission in the “Blues Brothers” in a 1974 Dodge Monaco patrol car, dubbed the Bluesmobile; and in the novel “On the Road,” Jack Kerouac’s characters travel in a 1949 Hudson, which apparently didn’t have enough interior space to bring along an editor for the book.

Nowhere in road-trip history, however, does the vehicle itself play such a dominant role in the story as in the 1983 film “National Lampoon’s Vacation.” Before the family trip to Wally World even begins, Clark Griswold is suckered into buying the fictional 1983 Wagon Queen Family Truckster, a hideous metallic pea-green monument to 1970s “dad cars” with extra faux wood paneling and eight headlights. The car, which suffers all manner of maladies, mishaps and indignities, is responsible for much of the humor in the hit comedy. 

The Truckster, it turns out, must have resonated enough with fans  that more than 30 years later, its legend continues.

The studio made five Trucksters for the movie that were based on the 1979 Ford LTD Country Squire. One was put up for auction in 2013 and eventually sold for $40,000, according to, although the location of it and its four siblings is unknown. 

What is known is that in 2013, 30 years after the movie’s release, a real family of Griswolds — Steve and Lisa and their two daughters of Canton, Georgia — decided to embrace the constant kidding about their name and build their own Family Truckster to “take the kids on some awesome road trips.” The car and the vacations are the focus of a blog,, as well as Twitter and Instagram accounts. Videos on the site cover highlights of the trips in the Truckster, which tends to get a lot of attention on the road, as well as the mishaps, including when the engine caught fire in Santa Rosa, New Mexico.

The Griswolds’ Truckster replica also has attracted the attention of celebrities (Chevy Chase among others), as well as news networks and talk shows, including on CNN and the Disney Channel. In 2017 it was used for a 5-minute opening bit on the Tonight Show, carrying Jimmy Fallon and crew on a road-trip to Orlando.

Whether it’s the lingering nostalgia for the 1983 film, or the novelty of a replica of the most ridiculous station wagon since the AMC Pacer and the Ford Pinto Cruising Wagon, the Truckster’s popularity seems incapable of stalling (unlike the car itself). In April 2019, another custom replica, this time based on a 1981 Ford LTD Wagon that cost $8,588 when it was new, according to, sold at auction for more than $100,000. 

Only two things are for certain: First, the movie wouldn’t have been the same if Clark Griswold had driven the Antarctic Blue Super Sportswagon with the optional Rally Fun Pack that he originally wanted. 

And second, considering the longevity of the careers of the “National Lampoon’s Vacation” cast, maybe the Truckster should have had top billing.


(SFX: Renault navigation voice)

While technological improvements have made portable gadgets increasingly reliable, there is such a thing as having a little too much faith in GPS-based navigation systems. Rangers at Death Valley National Park even coined the term “death by GPS” for when strictly following GPS directions leads to potentially catastrophic situations. It’s a matter of letting technology supersede common sense. For instance, when the navigation device says the shortest route is an 1,800-mile detour, most drivers would double-check it.

But not Sabine Moreau of Belgium.

In 2013, the 67-year-old Moreau went to pick up a friend from the train station in Brussels, less than 40 miles away from her home in Solre-sur-Sambre (Solo-reh sur Sambra). Whether it was a glitch in the tech or user error, the TomTom GPS unit in her car took her on a route that lasted two days and ended in Zagreb, Croatia. About 900 miles away. 

Moreau told police: “I didn’t really notice anything was wrong until I suddenly arrived in Zagreb and realised that I was no longer in Belgium.” 

In her defense, 900 miles is about the same distance as from New York City to Nashville (which is in the same country but can feel like foreign travel), although she probably should have noticed when the signs and landmarks turned from Belgian to French — and then to German, Austrian and Slovenian. Other clues she was no longer in Belgium: She stopped several times for gas, and pulled over to sleep a couple of times, she told British newspaper The Daily Mail.

When Moreau realized she was in Croatia, she called her son at home — who promptly asked police to call off the manhunt they were about to launch for the missing woman. Then she drove home.

Moreau admitted she saw traffic and exit signs that didn’t make sense, but didn’t question why because of the GPS. “I was a bit absent-minded as I had a few things to think about, I suppose.”