Back in those days, we didn't have the same seatbelt regulations that we do now. My parents would take the middle two seats out of our minivan, leaving just the bench at the back. We would spread a quilt on the floor, and my two brothers and I would take turns sitting on the seat or playing on the floor. I even have a vague memory of lying behind the backseat during one trip. I think we were listening to my favorite cassette - Janet Jackson's Control album. Miss Jackson, if you're nasty.
My mom and dad planned our road trips so that we would get to see some interesting parts of the country as we traveled. I remember stopping at Mount Rushmore, Yellowstone National Park, the Rocky Mountains and Estes Park, Glacier National Park, the Grand Canyon, the Mormon Temple in Salt Lake City, and countless random roadside tourist places. We saw waterfalls, went on hikes, read books, played mini-golf, and always hoped that there would be a pool at the next hotel.
My mom says that we were all pretty good travelers, and I guess we were. It helped that Mom and Dad were patient and willing to help entertain us. The alphabet game remains a classic. And then there was the one where someone would count to three, and then each person in the car would start singing whatever song he/she wanted - all at the same time! The person who could last the longest without getting confused or singing the song wrong was the winner. We laughed a lot.
Mom loved to sing. She'll Be Comin' 'Round the Mountain still says "road trip" to me. Dad told corny jokes and sang silly songs. I Won't Go Huntin' With You, Jake, But I'll Go Chasin' Women was a favorite.
And now I have a family of my own, and we take road trips. We have an I-pad and I-pod and a Droid and laptops, so the kids are easily distracted. We limit them to a certain amount of time with electronic entertainment. At our most generous, we give them one hour with a device, and then an hour with no device. Let's keep those imaginations working, fellas.
We have driven to Mississippi from Chicago countless times, and now we're learning the route from Texas to Mississippi. Last year, we did a major trip from south Texas to Chicago (3491 miles. Over 60 hours in the car. Nine states. Seventeen days. Four hotel rooms. One jumpstart. One new car battery. One lost wallet. Two poop explosions in the carseat). This year, we made our way to Colorado, and then drove back by way of Albuquerque and Oklahoma City (3100 miles, five states, I think only one poop explosion this year, etc).
The kids love to sing, so we play musical games: the loud competition I mentioned, plus others where we pick a word and everybody has to think of a song with that word in it. Evan likes to trip everyone up by picking a word that is clearly from one particular song. Like "awesome." He'll pick "awesome" then sing "Awesome God." And the rest of us give up.
Ben fits right in. He loves the singing - he'll do motions or dance to any song that we sing or play. Whenever he fusses, Corrie breaks into a mournful rendition of "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star." And he faithfully twinkles and raises his hands up high. It's sweet to see their affection for each other.
And he has his own version of electronic entertainment. I think we brought four different toys that would light up or make noise when you pushed a button. As Ben got bored, we rotated between Alphabet Town, the Fisher Price Laugh & Learn puppy, a noisy play clock, and a ladybug shape -sorting toy. Not to mention the pile of books and toys that didn't make noise.
We eat. Favorite snacks include goldfish crackers and chocolate covered granola bars.
It's a good time. We generally get along, and we plan fun stops with friends or neat places to visit. For the first time in four years, my kids got to see snow. (Except Ben. He napped through our brief stop at the Continental Divide).
I loved seeing the country when I was a kid, and I think - I hope - that my children are enjoying it, too.