Coming closer through the art of the road trip

Before this last week, I thought our family was pretty close. I mean, we share a major hobby, which we all enjoy to varying degrees depending on how sore we are after training. We communicate well with each other most of the time, at least unless the kids are hungry (which, let’s face it, is all the time). And we spend lots and lots of time together, especially in the car. We hadn’t taken a real vacation since the kids were pretty small. Ah, the glory days, when we could leave late at night, let them sleep as we drove, and we’d all take a nice long nap the next day. With the World Championships coming up, what better way to cement the family bond…a road trip!

Every road trip we took when I was a kid involved packing the family sedan and trying to cross the distance from home to our destination as quickly and directly as possible. Sandwiches were packed, bathroom breaks were frowned on, and it was a personal matter of pride for Dad to never stop for gas. It took too long.

My darling husband, on the other hand, likes to stop every few hours to take in the sights and stretch his legs. Granted, with teen and tween kids in the car, making frequent stops makes a certain kind of sense. Not only do the adults in the vehicle need a break from the crushing waves of simultaneous sibling rivalry, boredom, and starvation emanating from the back seats, but airing out the vehicle frequently is a necessity for continued life. The combination of road snacks, flatulation, and smelly sparring pads can be lethal under sustained exposure.

And what better time to engage in the national pastime of Googlin? Yes, folks, typing your destination into Google and trusting it to guide you there requires an amount of bravery not often seen these days. And when your destination requires that you know specifically what you’re looking for on the Roadside America site, you know you’re about to go Googlin. Little kids get a kick out of it. Bigger kids become amazingly knowledgeable skeptics in the art of cartography. And, word to the wise, the crawl through dinosaurs are really made for smaller kids. Your teenagers, should you be able to convince them to try, are likely to get stuck in the rear end of a stegosaurus. Definitely good entertainment, but don’t expect them to laugh about it for many years.

Stopping for meals is its own particular adventure. Sure, you may want to stop at that little local diner that, according to the magic app, is known for its fried chicken and cream pies (or was that creamed chicken and fried pies?). Good luck with that. One kid wants McDonald’s, the other one wants Arby’s. You finally compromise on Chick-Fil-A, only to arrive and realize that it’s Sunday. Under no circumstances should you get Taco Bell before you reach your destination. Just don’t. That cloud of stench in the car doesn’t need any help.

You will know you’ve been on the road plenty long when the occupants of your vehicle begin to engage in fart jokes, farting contests, or both. If you’re traveling with males of the species, it’s almost inevitable. Ladies, stock up on scented lotion and don’t forget your earbuds. And if, I repeat IF, you decide to join in, be sure that no recording devices are operating. You don’t need that kind of stain on your *ahem* reputation.

While selecting your roadside stops, be sure to take into consideration any particular specific needs your family may have. The Roadside America site can be an invaluable resource in planning your trip. For example, stopping at Big Brutus easily accommodated our family. We couldn’t, however, visit the Mounds near Parsons, because they don’t allow nuts (Almond Joy has nuts, Mounds don’t).

It’s been a pretty great trip anyway. I didn’t win World Champion, but I did have a great time competing with a few old friends and making some new ones. We saw so many new, old, and interesting things. We’ve laughed a lot and cheered each other on. I’m so blessed to be having so much fun with my family. Mind you, we’ve spent the entire week only rarely being more than about 20 feet from each other. We’re all ready for some personal space. But we’re looking forward to the next trip. I just need to stock up on air fresheners first.