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Family Road Trips

I can still remember our road trips as if they happened yesterday. I remember the crickets chirping outside my window, the sweet smell of honeysuckle, being carried through my bedroom by a cool midsummer night’s breeze, and my dad’s voice, at 2 a.m., shouting, “Get up! It’s time! Get uppppppp!” In the middle of the pitch black night he would find the light switch and start crowing like a rooster. At least once every summer my dad would go into these violent fits of excitement.

Each time my dad took to fits, it meant my entire family was about to embark on the infamous “summer road trip”. Since a very young age I have been embarking on these summertime family festivals of fun and as a result I have learned the essentials or basic necessities of having an exciting but safe and practical road trip. Here are a few essentials for making your next road trip an enjoyable one:

1. The first thing that is essential to ensure a successful safe road trip is to give your automobile a thorough inspection before leaving. Properly maintaining your automobile might save you time and a hefty repair bill on the road. Not to mention there are a few places in this great overdeveloped country of ours that remains underdeveloped. Good luck finding a tow truck in Central Wyoming when you have a blowout. After driving for hours and passing nothing but sagebrush and antelope mixed with a little cattle dust my dad’s Country Squire station wagon decided to blow out a few whitewalls. Because his tires were new he didn’t check them before we left home and as a result he ended up walking toward the next town to call for a tow. He walked (in his estimation) about 10 miles before he was able to hitch a ride. By the time he got to town he figured out what else Wyoming had a lot of; mosquitoes. Having a car repaired while on the road can be quite expensive and time consuming.

2. Traveling with kids on a road trip today is easier than it was in the 70’s. If a family road trip is in your future make sure that everyone in your family, especially the children, brings gadgets, toys, books, etc to keep themselves occupied. The road gets long and boring at times and after a few days of seeing nothing but cornfields everyone starts working on one another’s nerves.

Today my dad never fails to inform me how lucky my husband and I are that we have such gadgets as portable DVD players and MP3 players to keep our sons busy in the car. He swears that the portable DVD player was invented by an overly frustrated father who just returned from a family road trip. My dad’s only option for a peaceful road trip was to bring a roll of duct tape and use it to divide the backseat in half and threaten my brother and me with our lives if we crossed the center line.

3. Being on the road longer than absolutely necessary for reasons such as getting lost, road construction, and other unforeseen stops is not only frustrating but it can be costly resulting in extra fuel, lodging and food expenses. A family who is planning a road trip should have a route planned well ahead of time. Each member will undoubtedly have things that he or she will want to see. I think as Americans it is in our nature to crave those tacky, grotesque, weird roadside attractions that have become known as classic Americana. While I can be just as tacky as the next guy I am not sure that wanting to see the world’s largest corncob castle is worth spending an extra night in a roach infested motel or driving an extra 50 miles to escape road construction. Today a GPS can be your best friend on a road trip and for those unforeseen delays most states have highway construction schedules posted to their websites.

4. One last thing that I have learned from my own experience is that traveling with children will cause other delays if you aren’t properly prepared. It used to scare me as a young child to ask my dad to stop the car at a rest area so I could use the restroom more than once an hour. I never knew if the duct tape he carried in the glove box was going to be used to cover my mouth or if he was just going to tie me to the roof as he often threatened to do. Every year my dad was in a race with himself to get to my uncle’s house faster than the year before. He must have felt like he was playing a video game and his family was doing everything they could do to stop him from winning the game.

Today, with two sons of my own, I understand his frustration. It seems as if we spend more time stopping to “potty” than we do passing mile markers. Last road trip my husband and I added a portable potty to the back of our SUV. We thought we had our “stop and go” problem solved until 10 miles into our trip we heard, “I’mmmm hungryyyyy!”

In life, experience is the best teacher. Through my experiences I have learned that yes, mosquitoes do live in the desert. The portable DVD player is the FIRST thing to go in the car before a road trip. The portable potty is the second and we never leave the house without snacks. You can take my advice and the advice of other road trip veterans but there are still situations that will arise. You will get frustrated a time or two. You will get bored and you’ll probably feel like driving your car off of a cliff at some point in time. Your car will be trashed and the smell from the backseat will be enough to drive you insane. You’ll return from your road trip and probably kiss your lawn and swear you won’t get back in the car for at least two weeks. But I guarantee that you will indeed have a lifetime of memories.