Family Road Trips – Then & Now

As spring breaks begins and families hit the road all I can think about is how easy kids today have it in regards to traveling. Remember the days of yesteryear when there was no escaping your siblings and you were forced to listen to whatever your dad had turned up on the radio or (shudder) the John Denver 8 track your mom loved.

Today, my daughter gets in the car, immediately shoves her Apple AirPod’s into her ears and then proceeds to stare at her phone for the next 12 hours. It’s like she’s in her own private transport bubble.

In an attempt to scare 21st century kids into being extremely grateful for all their modern car conveniences I’ve compiled a list of the top 7 horrors I had to endure during my childhood road trips. Warning: This story contains frightening detail and may trigger a PTSD episode in anyone over 40.

1)You haven’t really lived until you’ve driven from Massachusetts to Florida in a 1970 Ford LTD Country Squire Station Wagon while riding backwards the entire 1,350 miles. Being the youngest my sister and I were always forced to sit in the 70’s version of the third row of seats which, for some reason, faced backwards. It was guaranteed to induce a vomiting episode at about mile maker 200. On the positive side, it was great training to be either a) A fighter pilot and/or b) A roller coaster enthusiast because five years of facing backwards while hauling down an interstate gives your crazy good motion sickness control skills.

2) Decades ago there was barely any freeway fast food so your mom packed every meal that you were going to eat in the car and while a tuna salad sandwich sounds good at noon eating one another one six hours later after it’s been steeped in the floor board juices is about as gross as it gets.

3) Who needs electronic devices when you can play license plate bingo for h-o-u-r-s? It’s an especially riveting game when it takes almost a full day to get out of the state of Texas and it’s an exotic sighting when you see a car with a license plate from Oklahoma.

4) Back in the day there wasn’t a QuikTrip on every corner and gas stations on the interstate weren’t as plentiful as they are now. This meant that potty breaks happened at “rest stops” which were part serial killer liar and breeding ground for Ebola. The worst were rest stops that didn’t have plumbing and instead used chemical toilets with signs on the front of the door that read “Beware of Bears.” This is why I learned to “hold it” for 20 hours and is probably also why I’m now susceptible to UTI infections.

5) I don’t know who invented the game Punch Buggy, but let’s call it what it really is – sanctioned abuse. Nothing says family bonding like siblings using seeing a Volkswagen on the highway as an excuse to throttle each other.

6) My dad in the 1970s was a man with plan. I believe one of his supreme pleasures in life was “making great time” while driving to a vacation location. This meant he hardly ever took his foot off the accelerator and if we had to make an “unscheduled” stop due to the call of nature, well his disappointment would permeate the vehicle like one of those bad tuna salad sandwiches.

7) The hands down worst road trip memory is doing all the above without air conditioning. Oh, yes, imagine hurling down Interstate 35 at 80 mph with the windows down, while riding backwards, eating a tuna sandwich, desperately needing to go the bathroom and getting punched in the arm by your brothers good times.

No really – good times.

The Road to Hell

d3f64f5b77695f1e5d199db2ace120c6If you ever feel like your family is in need of some special bonding time to reconnect and rejoice in togetherness than look no further than a 12-hour car ride to your spring break destination to eradicate those emotions. It starts out all good and then by hour ten you’re fantasizing about escaping to sweet, sweet, freedom by hitching a ride with the driver of the Frito Lay truck you “I spied” at your last bathroom break. There’s at least a 30% chance he could be a serial killer but at this point those odds don’t scare you.

 To be sure the long car ride of today is a massive upgrade from the road trip of yesteryear where as a child all I had to keep me busy was license plate Bingo and riveting games of I Spy with My Little Eyes. An added bonus in the excitement department was my father threatening, about every 125 miles or so, to pull the car over and “give us what for.” Which he never did but it certainly was a vacation cliffhanger. Would this be the time he finally stopped the car? What kid would be the first to get the “what for”? Would all of us be “what for”ed and what really was the “what for”? It was so riveting one year my oldest brother started a betting pool. The winner was the kid who correctly guessed the first and last city my dad would threaten us with the “what for”.

 Today, you would think there would be no need for a “what for” because when most families hit the road they’re basically driving a mobile Best Buy. iPhone, iPads, laptops and heck our car even has one of those thingamabobs so everyone can get the Internet 24/7 thus lulling me into believing that all this technology will ensure a peaceful 12-hour ride down the interstate punctuated by a few brief gas, bathroom, and food breaks.  Sadly, this is not how it goes down. The first couple of hours are a breeze but by hour four I see signs of a breakdown in communication and by hour six, the half way mark, I’m beginning to question the intelligence of my family.

 It begins when not one but both kids violate the prime directive and take off their shoes. The smell is overpowering and not even a two pack of Gain Febreze can power through the stench. I roll down all the windows for a fresh influx of clean air. My mom math tells me that a car driving down the interstate at 80 miles per hour for five minutes with the windows down should equal a vehicle that no longer smells like a high school locker room that time forget. Something must have been wrong with my addition because when I rolled the windows back up it still smelled to such an extent I felt woozy leaving me no choice but to pull over and seal both pairs of kids shoes in gallon size Ziploc bags.

 Just as my nasal passages are healing I’m greeted by a request to stop yet again for a bathroom break. This has me worried and ticked off. What in the hell is wrong with my kids’ bladders? Are they deformed and reduced to the size of cashews or is there some kind of blockage? I swear I can’t drive for more than an hour without one of them pleading for me to stop. Reluctantly, I exit off the interstate for another potty break and while both kids are taking care of business I discover what the problem is.  While reaching into the cooler in the back of my car for an icy cold beverage I come up empty-handed.  Nothing but ice chunks. My kids have consumed what amounts to a 12- pack of Vitamin Water.  No wonder I’ve had to stop so much. I guess the good news is they’re fully hydrated.

 One of the by products of hydration must be the need to freely and zealously express one thoughts because both of my children start fiercely complaining about the other one. It’s like the floodgates of “everything you ever did to annoy me” have been opened. When my daughter starts bringing up perceived injustices her brother committed during the Christmas of 2004 (which I’m dubious she can even remember) I’m forced to go full “what for” on the both of them. I sound so much like my dad I’m freaking myself out a little but I don’t stop. Oh no, I’m on a roll and then I get it. This is what the “what for” is all about. It’s a parental stress reliever. A vacation mantra. A chance to let it all out without ever taking your eyes off the road.

***For all things wonderfully Snarky go to www.snarkygear.com where you can find the new winter Snarky line of clothing and accessories. (Flannel Snarky P.J.’s anyone?) Plus, there’s my book – Snarky in the Suburbs Back to School. (Click here for purchase information.)
 Here’s a little ditty about it: The Spring Creek Elementary School PTA board (a coven of Mean Moms dressed in Uggs, yoga pants, and dermal filler) is up to no good.  Wynn Butler (middle-aged, uncool, and not bringing sexy back) is determined to find out what’s going on. With help from her two kids, a Roomba vacuum turned mobile surveillance drone, and a few good friends, Wynn launches a covert investigation that leads to the “mother of all revenge capers” at the school’s annual Fall Festival.  If you’ve ever fantasized about smoke bombing the idiot parent who has yet to master the fine art of the school drop-off lane, or standing up and shouting, “Liar, liar, Botox on fire” during a PTA meeting, then this delicious tale of payback is for you. To stay up-to-date on new posts and take part in my not so deep thoughts click on this Facebook link – http://is.gd/iEgnJ (That’s the abbreviated link to my FB page) or I twitter @snarkynsuburbs.