In an effort to get away from our daily routine and to make some priceless family memories, we loaded up the minivan a few weeks ago and headed to the beach. As much as I enjoy these annual trips, the worst part is always the drive.
We try to make the long car ride bearable. We bring pillows and blankets, pack snacks we don’t normally have at home—like Oreos and Pringles and Fruit Roll-Ups and juiceboxes promoted by Disney characters—and choose a bunch of DVDs (Thank you, Lord, for the car DVD player!) to bring with us on the 8 to 10-hour ride. But at some point, we all get a little punchy.
It doesn’t help that six people are hurtling down the interstate in what amount to a 6x7x17 foot box and there’s no escape. If someone pulls out nail polish and starts painting her nails, we all suffer. If someone brings a package of very pungent beef jerky in the car and begins to eat it with loud, smelly snapping sounds, one person’s snack becomes a shared (and unwelcome) experience. And if someone just can’t take another minute in the car so he begins to repeat the same phrase over and over again (“Why, Mama? Why, Mama? Why, Mama?”), then we all have to dig in and fight this steep descent into vehicular insanity.
I’ve learned a few things when it comes to making these epic voyages:
There are two types of people in this world—people who never want to stop for non-bathroom/gas station-related reasons and people who do. If you and your spouse are in two different categories, this may require some compromise. Like you may never get to buy any peaches from roadside vendors or shop at quaint, little antique stores or stop to see the place where a monk made 125 miniature replicas of the world’s most famous buildings. But we do always stop at a rest stop to eat the turkey sandwiches we packed for lunch and sit outside for a bit. If we can find a shady patch of grass, we might even kick a ball for a few minutes.
When we’re not playing movies on the DVD player, we enjoy listening to audiobooks, podcasts, and the Pandora music channel called “Family Road Trip.” There’s a lot of variety on this channel and most everything is fun to sing along with. Personally, a silent car would make the trip last twice as long.
We used a GPS app this year called “Waze.” It helped us get through the more traffic-prone areas of major cities or stretches of the interstate that always seem to be under construction every year. This app is user-informed. It takes the information from the many people using the app and devises a plan to get you around the worst traffic. It even tells you if there’s roadkill or stalled cars coming up. There are times when “Waze” sent us through small towns we would’ve never known existed otherwise. For instance, south of Birmingham we jumped off I-65 and went through Columbiana, Alabama where they had sectioned off their downtown for a BBQ cook-off. (Before you ask…no, we didn’t stop.) I enjoy imagining the lives of the people in these small towns, both in the past (some houses looked as old as the hills) and the present.
In the end, the best advice I can give you for any long car ride is actually something I learned from the song “Take it Easy” by The Eagles. “Don’t let the sound of your own wheels make you crazy,” because—believe me—they just might.
This is what happens when a five-year old has been in the car too long.