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Another column originally published in The Weekly Vista
July 2012

What’s a summer without a family road trip?
Some people might say a summer without a family road trip is a good summer, but not me. I’ve always loved loading the family up and driving somewhere with a cooler full of drinks, a bag of broken chips, some soggy sandwiches and a few car games.
This year I get to do it one more time.
I thought when the kids grew up and moved away, that was the end of family road trips, but I’ve managed to get two of my three children to agree to go with me this summer. So it’s not the entire family, only the female portion.
We’re on our way to a family reunion in Rhode Island, which I figure is about a 24-hour drive. Many people would choose to fly, including both my daughters, but I held out for the car trip.
Driving gives us hours to form close family bonds. It not only gives us a chance to see the country along the way, it also gives us space to bring a bicycle or two. You can’t take your bicycle along if you fly, so that makes driving worthwhile. At least that’s what I told my passengers. I think they might have been willing to sacrifice the bicycles and fly to Rhode Island, but none of us really wanted to spend the money.
Over the years, I’ve learned a few things about road trips. I know how to pack the cooler and ration out snacks. For example, you want to start out slow with the drinks, so that means limiting the salty snacks. It’s best to start with a couple of small pieces of fruit, like grapes. If the kids don’t want to eat them, they can use them as missiles and pass a few minutes with a food fight.
I’d like to think my daughters are too old for a good old-fashioned food fight, but I’m not so sure. I think putting them in a car together for a few hours may bring out the child in them. If I still had the minivan I used to drive when they were younger, they’d find extra ammunition in the seats. Those grapes must be raisins by now.
Later in the day, chips and soda will calm them down for a few minutes before a bathroom stop. I save the cookies in case I need to use them as a bribe.
When they were younger, we used to bring the old Fisher Price cassette player and listen to books on tape. Back then, the books were often the Berenstain Bears, but in recent years, I’ve discovered grownup books that come on CDs. No one ever wants to listen to my books, but if I put them in anyway, everyone in the family will get interested. There have been times when we actually sat outside the motel room to finish up the end of a chapter.
A portable DVD player has become another trip essential. Television series on DVD work out well. When I travel with my husband, we take turns watching and trade off our driving duties each time an episode ends. That gives us a lot of bathroom stops, which is always a good thing.
The car games have evolved as the years have gone by. I have happy memories of playing the state license plate game as a child. The entire family would be on the lookout for out-of-state plates. My kids were never interested in that. They liked to play the handheld LCD games, which eventually gave way to Game Boys and now smartphones. But even with all the electronics available, I might be able to get them interested in a family sing-along, if the right song comes on the radio or the MP3 player or the iPod.
With only the three of us, it should be easy to find an inexpensive motel room somewhere along the route. I remember when we would only consider a motel that had a pool.
After a day in the car throwing grapes at each other, the motel pool gave the kids a chance to burn off some energy and wash off some fruit juice. Now, a shower should be sufficient, and maybe some cable TV.
When we get to Rhode Island, we have a rented house and extended family waiting. For the first time, my kids won’t be the youngest. My nephew has thoughtfully provided a new generation to take on vacation. Now, he’s the one lugging around a portable crib and diaper bags. I can’t wait to hear his car trip stories!
 

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