Travel games can make things interesting

Spring has almost sprung. The calendar tells us (and apparently the weather agrees) that we must wait until March 20 for it to be officially spring. Until then, enjoy your winter. That being said, Spring Break is in full swing. And, like most things, it doesn’t seem to mean quite what it used to.

When I was just a whippersnapper back in the Stone Age, all Spring Break meant was that you got time off from school to do chores around the house. Most of the said chores involved the heavy application of cleaning fluids and elbow grease. As I grew older in the Bronze Age, I became aware that some high school classmates of mine typically went to the mountains on THEIR Spring Breaks. While there, they threw themselves down the sides of mountains with sticks strapped to their feet. Lucky me, I thought. At least my cleaning supplies didn’t outright threaten to kill me, at least not when I kept the windows wide open. Still later (the Iron Age, those were the good old days), I discovered that fellow college students liked to go to beaches and do things that would make their parents wonder what on Earth had happened to their offspring. By then, I had ditched the cleaning products but lacked the means to make my parents wonder in exotic locations.

These days, with kids of my own, I tend to content myself with the fact that I travel much more now than I ever did back then. Granted, most of it is within a few hours’ drive of home, but still. I spend a lot of time in my car, usually with one or more kids on the way to or back from sporting events. Now, they’re likely to have their noses buried in their phones and earbuds in, but occasionally I can persuade them to play road trip games with me. Just to be completely honest, persuasion usually consists of “hey kids, you need to keep me awake or we’ll crash and die a horrible death,” but still. They agree. I’ve taken the liberty of describing some of our favorite “stay awake and not crash” games.

License Plate States is an oldie but a goodie, at least on longer drives. Try to spot a tag from each state. Bonus points are given if plates are from states other than Colorado, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Missouri, or Texas, and extra bonus points if the kiddos can name the region the state is in or its capital.

Road Sign Alphabet is a lot of fun. Each kid has to “say” the alphabet as they find the letters, in order, on road signs. As you find yourself driving the same routes often, preemptive spotting is not allowed (you don’t get to say it until you actually see it, and no, you can’t use the Z from Zenda unless you’re going past it). Variations include Caps Only, Numbers to 100, and Brown Signs Only for more advanced players.

Ninety-Nine Bottles Of Beer On The Wall violate the Geneva Convention and is not allowed in my car.

Pump Your Fist And Get The Trucker To Honk will give the driver a heart attack and should be avoided. Signs in the back window reading Please Help or Sibling For Sale will result in the indefinite confiscation of all electronic accessories.

Who Took Off Their Shoes/Who Farted are more high-stakes interrogations than games and should be avoided, along with Guess The Age Of The French Fry I Just Found On The Floor, and What Sauce Was This?

One favorite game had to be restricted in our family. It all started out as Punch Buggy/Slug Bug. Since the kids are both keen on Dodge Challengers, Dodge Clobber was added. In the interest of looking out for motorcycles, Bike Spike was considered. Needless to say, this game soon bordered on excessive domestic violence and has since been limited to voice only.

A new invention has become a regular activity. Have you ever noticed the birds as you’re driving down the road, minding your own business? Some of them soar far up in the sky, seemingly oblivious to the presence of your car, the road, indeed, the ground in general. Still others will peck around or perch beside the road, to take flight as your vehicle draws near. Then there are the daredevil birds who will swoop directly into your car’s path, seemingly defying certain death for the birdy equivalent of an adrenaline rush. And, have you noticed, that you never (or, at least, I never) slow down, but secretly root for the bird to make it to safety? There. Now you understand the game Go Bird. Sometimes the bird does not, indeed, go, as one friend learned when he did not say “Go Bird,” and a hawk flew into the front of his sports car. We have not yet found a connection between how loudly one says “Go Bird” and the velocity of said bird, but research continues.

I hope you’re all having a great Spring Break, whether it involves cleaning products, mountains and sticks, or beaches. May all the birds in front of your cars be swift!

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