Hitting the open road until it begs for mercy
It’s summer road trip season — a time when happy families hit the open road, breathing in the fresh air of freedom as they set off in pursuit of adventure, before turning around 20 minutes later and going back home because someone left the curling iron on.
Normally, the summer road trip vacation is either to a fun-filled destination where everyone enjoys themselves, or to a family reunion.
Which brings us to the first of several questions you must ask before heading out on a road trip, questions such as, “Did I leave the curling iron on?” (You did. Go back.)
■ Whose family to visit? Yours or your spouse’s?
Personally, we visit my family, because they live closer and because I don’t want my children exposed to a prison environment.
But for couples who argue over where to spend those precious vacation days, the solution is to pick the family who lives in the place that’s more fun. Granted, there are some trade-offs. You’ll end up seeing the relatives who live near the beach frequently; whereas your children may grow up never knowing they have relatives in Bismarck, North Dakota.
■ Leisure stops, or just get there?
Agree on a plan ahead of time. My experience is that men just want to drive straight through to get there as quickly as possible, while women insist on making unnecessary stops to visit places such as outlet malls, specialty stores or bathrooms.
My wife’s brain is like a mobile app for useless stops. On one trip, she made us stop at a cheese factory in Beaver, Utah. Its claim to fame (true story), is that its cheese squeaks.
After spending 16 straight hours (at least), in the gift shop, I felt the need to point out to her that while it would be hard to top the excitement factor of a Beaver, Utah, cheese factory, our intended destination, Las Vegas, also had some entertainment options.
■ Accommodations: Camping, hotel or a relative’s house?
I grew up in a camping family, where we’d sleep in a tent or even on dirt. The first time my parents decided to splurge and get us a hotel room was confusing for my brother and me. (“Mommy, is this bathroom ours to use or are we still supposed to find a tree away from the campsite?”)
The room only had one bed, so my brother and I slept on the floor in sleeping bags. So it was still sort of camping to us. Sleeping on the carpet in a Motel 6 is like sleeping out on the dirt, only not as clean.
So consider camping. The advantage of camping is that you will save money by not having a hotel room. The advantage of a hotel room is that your leg will not get gnawed off by a mountain lion.
A good compromise is to crash at a relative’s house, unless it’s a relative who likes to talk your ear off about politics, multi-level marketing products or their bunions. In which case, go with the mountain lion gnawing.
■ How to fight road boredom?
I used to be adamantly against in-car DVD players for kids. Then I went on our first family road trip, and experienced the joy of driving while trying to prevent a 2-year-old boy from assassinating his sister with a toy fire truck.
Now, to keep the peace and quiet, I’ve created a mobile movie theater for my kids. Our car has dual screens, surround sound, popcorn and everything you could expect to find in an actual movie theater, with the exception of an usher, who my wife made me fire around Green River.
No matter your destination, it’s always fun to escape out of town for a few days. Try to make the trip fun and relaxing — it makes coming back home a little easier.
Especially since the home was destroyed by the curling iron fire.