Road trip: Hell on wheels

In the past month, we’ve taken two road trips of no less than nine hours each way. If you’ve ever traveled with three boys under six, I apologize for any PTSD symptoms I may be awakening within your psyche. But you probably get the shakes whenever you see a minivan careening down the highway, so I’m not completely to blame for your tremors.

out for a drive

Hang on. It’s going to be one wild ride.

We tried driving through the night. The darkness did coax the children to sleep sometime during the third go-round of the Peppa Pig DVD, and we were not brought to a complete standstill by the many thousand construction zones we navigated. But these benefits were dampened by the parents’ exhaustion at daybreak, making the first day more hangover than vacation.

Driving during the day brings a spiritual brand of exhaustion. This weariness stems from whining children and repeated episodes of Sponge Bob. It doesn’t matter that you maxed out your library card renting movies for the trip; they will only watch two, and you will consider the second one a blessing.

Some parents eschew the practice of placating children with movies or electronics. They say such devices are figurative opiates that drug the children rather than engage them. They may have a point, which I would help them prove if I could get away with feeding the boys literal opiates on the trip. But until that enlightened day, their high-minded theories will have to remain untested.

ready for the road

“Everyone take a nice big sip of ‘sleepy tonic’ back there. Daddy needs to concentrate on the road.” (Image: Russell Lee/US Farm Security Administration)

There are many rest areas on the highways, conveniently located between the places where a kid needs to pee. I don’t mind him peeing into the woods alongside the road; it’s probably cleaner than the rest area bathroom, but that just means there will be different reason to pull off at the rest area.

Did I mention that long drives summon the Type A personality from the depths of my dark soul? I yearn to cut time off the trip. You don’t do that by stopping at, and in between, all the rest areas.

All the construction zones encountered on our highways would lead one to expect an improving quality of road. That is, until it becomes apparent that 10% of the zones have someone working in them. The other 90% are there to help us practice merging. We got lots of practice when our six lanes funneled down into a single lane. Standstill traffic has a magical effect on sleeping babies; it wakes them, in a wrong side of the bed kind of way. It makes older children ask questions that trapped parents can’t answer.

“Why are we stopping? What’s in front of the this long line of cars? Why is the road closed if nobody’s working on it?” And the ever ingratiating: “Why didn’t we take a different road if this one’s packed with cars?”

Being stuck in traffic with seven hours of road ahead of you is awesome and these questions just add to the fun.

So relax and enjoy the banter. You’ll get there . . . eventually.


14 comments on “Road trip: Hell on wheels

  1. tom w says:

    In the good old days (before electronic gadgits; color TV was cutting edge), my folks hit on the idea of a game for a long road trip. They told us the kid who could be quiet the longest would be declared the wiinner. After 10 seconds my brother declared “I lose”!

    The most effective child control techneque, of course, “If I have to stop this car you kids are gonna be sorry”!!!!

    • I read that the 2015 Toyota Sienna has a speaker that makes it easier for the driver to yell at the kids in the back. This is a step in the right direction, but what they really need is a device that makes it easier for the driver to swat the kids in the back. When will technology catch up to our needs?

  2. This makes me really look forward to our 11 hour each way Thanksgiving trip. In the good old days, you could just toss the kids in the back with a bunch of toys and they could climb around and play. This apparently endangered too many lives. Now we have to strap them in and they whine and complain. This still endangers their lives.

  3. When my brother and I would get too much to handle my parents would drop us off alongside the road, drive up about a mile, and then wait for us to walk up to the car. It’s sometimes hard to believe I made it to adulthood. The only reason people don’t like kids being kept quiet by watching DVDs is envy. I wish I had that for my kids.

  4. Oh my Lord with the Peppa Pig! The boys love that show! God bless you for taking three little ones like that. It’s gotta be rough my friend.

  5. pieterk515 says:

    Dude keels over and sleep as soon as the car moves, which reduces the anxiety caused by sibling rivalry in a confined space to almost nothing.

    But as Wife claims ANY road trip is always an half an hour too long as the kids will get into futile arguments of “don’t touch me” and “I sat here first.”

    And we drive an SUV where each has their own row…

    Spoiled brats…

  6. A. van Nerel says:

    I never would have pegged you as a Type A personality. Traffic was that bad, heah?
    I tend to be rather introverted and laidback, except when I’m in traffic. I turn into the alpha male whenever I’m driving:S

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