Us: Road Trip!

When I was child, our vacations consisted of driving to two different places. One was my grandparent's house in Oklahoma and the other was to my grandparent's house in Mississippi. It didn't matter if we lived in Florida, Georgia or Texas, those were our two destinations. Traveling conditions were rudimentary, but, since my siblings and I didn't know any better, they were accepted as fact and we made the most of it. This included unwritten rules for sleeping space: smallest kid in the back window, next in line on the floorboard, attempting to adjust to the axle bump with the oldest and largest granted the entirety of the back seat. This worked well for me because, being the oldest and biggest, it gave me room to stretch out while passed out from half a Dramamine which I had to take in order to be able to read in a moving car.

My mom always packed food for us in a Styrofoam cooler, which meant that all of our lunches were eaten at a rest stop. It also meant that one of us kids was always having to adjust the lid when it skewed enough to start squeaking and driving everyone crazy. We passed the time by playing “I spy,” the billboard alphabet game and the always exciting search to find all 50 states represented by license plates. And when the whining and poking in the back seat reached a crescendo, my dad always insisted on at least three rounds of the quiet game. When we were all still very young, we carried a small, blue porcelain pot to pee in. This served two purposes: it kept us from having to stop every 30 minutes and it also shamed you enough that we learned self control in order to not have to use it. Sandwiched between all of this fun was hours of staring out the window.

I contrast that with all of the tricked out SUV's and minivans today and I can only wonder what it would have been like to watch a movie or play a video game while traveling to grandmothers. And it reminds me of the time Hope and I rigged a VCR and a mini television in our van in an attempt to entertain our kids on a long drive to Washington, D.C. To keep the two separate devices from sliding around we used an elaborate weave of bungee chords and duct tape and hoped the kids wouldn't notice that Barney was not very purple when viewed on a black and white television. And that wasn't the only method we tried to make traveling a little more palatable. Our favorite, and most successful, plan was leaving in the middle of the night. This allowed us to get a few hours of driving in while the kids slept all over the back of the van and it shortened their day because we were always several hours into the trip before they woke up. The games we played were a little more sophisticated, but not much. We went through a Mancala phase and, when they could convince Hope to climb in the back with them, they all enjoyed playing card games as well.

Although we lacked the sophistication of today's traveling families, we did incorporate some changes from my days in the car. With more and cheaper food options, we tended to eat our lunches at fast food restaurants, although we still packed a cooler with snacks. We also took advantage of the taxpayer-funded rest stops and allowed our children to use a proper toilet. But we also busted out the billboard alphabet game and “I Spy.” Some things are sacred.

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