Planes, Trains and Automobiles

Donna Seemann Reed ('76A)
September 12, 2022
Poster advertisement for the movie Planes, Trains and Automobiles with two characters and the three modes of transportation
Paramount Pictures, 1987

Is there anyone who hasn’t seen the 1987 movie with John Candy and Steve Martin, Planes, Trains and Automobiles? Where the best laid plans for travel turn into a series of mishaps that likely only these two comedians could make us believe are real?

Or… not? Maybe we, as Up with People alumni, have as many stories to share and tell as any movie writer could imagine.

After just spending a month in Europe again in my ‘Revenge Travel’ season, I got to thinking about modes of transportation and how there are so many options depending upon where you live! I flew in jets, smaller planes, took high speed trains, the metro, taxis, buses, river boats, and oh yes, my friend’s cars.

For some of you, this is your normal. You always use these modes of transportation. But for some of us, it is anything but normal. I laughed each time someone in Europe said something was ‘easy.’ It’s easy because you do it all the time. It isn’t easy the first time you do it.  When you can’t tell a Euro from a one pound coin and they are both in your wallet!

As I posed the question on our alumni Facebook group about your travel transportation adventures, the responses were amazing! Some were the transportation themselves, and others the experiences using the various modes.

How many of you pedaled your way around the cities where you performed? At least one alum commented that the roommates rode a bicycle built for two all over the city.

We often flew in planes, but cargo planes, sleeping amongst the luggage!? Wonder what the FAA would say about that today? And Air Force planes… wow what an experience!

I loved hearing from Karin Nyquist about the Swedish ‘spark’ –a sort of sled used on the snow and the ice that apparently was commonly used by PR teams in Sweden. (I live in Tucson, Arizona… this is not a thing here. )

How many people fit in a VW bug? How many suitcases? How many had host siblings and host parents who walked so you could ride?

The bus stories were amazing. The buses that were school buses. The buses that broke down and had to be pushed by cast members to the destination. The buses that cast members fixed so they could keep going. The buses that needed to be pushed so the driver could pop the clutch and get it going again. The Americans driving buses on the ‘other side of the road’ in Great Britain.

What about the trains? I found out that someone in my cast slept right through our stop in Mexico City! That some of you unfortunate souls took train rides in freezing weather and were in between the cars because there were no seats inside.

We took trucks to ferries that went to the wrong places, and we found our way back.

I say “WE” because WE all truly did it, right?

At some times we were like lemmings. Just getting in line and following the crowd. When something broke it had to be fixed. When someone told us to get somewhere, we had to get there. We were 18 to 25 years old and we had no fear. Okay, maybe we did, but think how much we learned. We learned that most people are kind and helpful. Mostly when confronted with challenges, we can and will succeed! That the memories we have are what brighten our lives as we age, and we can smile and tell our kids and grandkids that “yes, we DID do that!” We might also reflect and say, “Please don’t try this on your own…” as we send them out on their first adventure. We might suggest they don’t carry suitcases on bicycle handlebars, that they make sure everyone with them is sober, and that hanging out between the train cars isn’t the wisest.

And, then again, we might just close our eyes, smile, push those kids out of the nest and know that life is a great adventure, and they too will have amazing stories to share!

4 thoughts on “Planes, Trains and Automobiles”

  1. Traveling in Italy, Cast A, Apr-Jun 69, in smaller towns or back streets, more than once, our guys would have to jump off the bus, then pick up & move small cars over so our bus had room to drive through these narrow streets! It happened so many times!

  2. For the Cast 79A flight to Venezuela in February 1980, the sponsor (Venezuelan military) sent 2 planes, one passenger for the cast, and one cargo for the equipment. They also sent many wives to go shopping. The wives, the shopping, as well as the woman of the cast fit on the passenger plane, but there was no longer room for the men. So instead of 8 men flying on the cargo plane, over 30 men in the cast flew on the cargo plane. There were no seats. We sat on the equipment boxes or laid on the equipment boxes for the over 3-hour flight to Caracas. Did I mention there were no bathrooms on the cargo plane? We arrived in Caracas in the middle of the night, unloaded the cargo plane – SOMEHOW found our luggage and host families, only to be back with the cast to do a live TV show about 2 hours later. “We’ll sleep next year.”


Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.