So, one trip to Seattle and two trips to Indiana in-the-same-calendar-year later, I’ve come to the (obvious) conclusion that we’re a family who takes long car-trips. Mostly I’m okay with this. There are actually some benefits to being in the car for an extended amount of time with your spawn or spouse. Or both.
There’s not a whole lot to do in the car. So you can –could – talk. (Must use ‘could’ for things that have the potential to happen, but may not actually transpire.) You could read a book or a magazine. You could listen to music. You could watch a movie. You can eat snacks. You can take a catnap. You can try to do a crossword puzzle from the New York Times. But this might lead to arguments with your spouse and phrases like: ‘when did you get so dumb?…..when did YOU get so dumb?’ when neither party can proffer the solution to obscure clues like ‘founder of the Dada movement’ and ‘top-rated prime-time show for the past five years, in short.’
I don’t even know what’s on television, much less what’s GOOD on television. In short.
In the car, there are none of the daily chores and distractions from home. No laundry or dishes or errands or internet. (Clearly we don’t have iphones.) It’s a cocoon-like existence. In a nice way.
It’s this sort of thinking that gets me through the first hour of the interminably long drive from Calgary to Indiana. The remaining 34 or so are harder to get through. Because togetherness doesn’t always beget pleasantness.
There’s whining about snacks and drinks and movie choices. There’s the ever-present desire to bolt from the car. Parents are tired and cranky, especially when border crossings take two hours instead of twenty minutes. There’s a baby who likes to eat every 2 1/2 hours and have his diaper changed about as often.
There’s chafe marks on my neck from where the seat-belt hits me every time I turn my torso around in my seat to tend to someone’s request – for more cookies or crackers or another movie.
And there’s clutter. Scaling an obstacle course of coats and coolers and backpacks and trash in an attempt to get to the back of the van, while said van is moving at 70 miles per hour, is not conducive to my mental health. I’m pretty sure even Mother Theresa might have cursed a little if she had to do the same.
So every time we take a trip of epic proportions, I try to ‘learn’ from the things that ‘irk’ me; that drive me to bouts of intense grumpiness with my clan.
Like suitcases filled with clothes, that turn into huge piles of dirty laundry.
It’s quite ‘disheartening’ to return from a trip only to be confronted by a mound of laundry as large as a Smart car. Enter my much maligned ‘clothing limitation scheme’ where each family member gets to pack 3 outfits, socks, and underwear, and two pairs of pajamas. And one pair of shoes. Sure, it gets old wearing the same three outfits for two weeks. Sure we look rather unfashionable in the family pictures. But, having only one load of clothes to wash at the end of it all? Priceless.
In an attempt to combat the clutter problem, I put together a backpack for each of the boys. Complete with coloring books, toys and snacks. It was semi-effective, at best. The boys were eating fistfuls of candy before we’d even driven a mile. ‘They’ also didn’t quite get the concept that in order to properly contain ‘stuff’, a backpack must be zipped. If left unzipped, said stuff will fall to the floor, rendering the backpack useless.
Another problem I attempted to solve was snack delivery. Since the boys were sitting all the way in the back of the van, I knew I needed to figure out a way to get them food without having to get out of my seat and crawl-walk to the back each time they needed something.
Enter the Ziploc bag. Each time they requested a food item, I put the designated snack inside a little bag, zipped it shut and tossed it to the back row. I burned a few calories in the process and the Gort got the distinct ‘privilege’ of assisting his little brother in opening the bags.
Minor problem. Sometimes the thrown snacks ended up on the floor. Or in the cargo area. Leading to much weeping and gnashing of teeth when the snack requester didn’t get the desired snack.
(Post edit: The Professor ‘reminded’ me I also hit the Hen in the face when I tossed a snack in his direction.)
Next time I will practice a few days ahead of time – really work on my aim.
In addition to figuring out how to trim ‘rest-stop-times’ to less than twenty minutes. It may not be possible to get gas, food, restroom breaks/diapers for five people in less than twenty minutes.
But what’s the point of having realistic goals?
In a similar vein, I’ve designated 2010 as the year to figure out how to get five people up and in the van ready to hit the road in less than ninety eight minutes. It actually takes the Johnsons two hours. Without fail. But, after a ridiculous amount of planning and pre-organizing on the last leg of the trip, I was able to shave twenty two minutes off our ‘best’ time.
Family Olympics, here I come.