I clearly remember our family station wagons. One was red and one was black. With a family of 7, we needed extra seating space in the back. In a bygone era without seatbelt and car seat requirements, my siblings and I were sitting all over the place in the car. Sometimes we would go to my grandparents’ house late at night about 100 miles away in our jammies with the back seats folded flat. The bumps of the road and hum of the tires would lull us to sleep until we arrived. Often times the car would break down and my dad who could literally fix anything would be working on the car with us hanging out on the side of the road. We knew that trip by heart and about 30 minutes on the road, we would start to ask if we could stop and get Dilly Bars. Vanilla ice cream on a stick coated in chocolate available at Dairy Queen. On most trips, we did stop and get a treat, sometimes the answer was “no”.
We had some favorite activities to keep us occupied. My mother had a beautiful soprano voice and sang in our church choir. We had words to songs in the glove box and sang for hours while driving. We fought for the opportunity to have our thoughts and ideas heard. When we got too loud, my dad would threaten to pull the car over. One look (you may know the warning look) in the rearview mirror was enough to settle us right down. We also played a game kind of like I Spy, except that we were only looking for animals and graveyards. The passengers were divided by sides of the car. We counted cows, goats, sheep, dogs, cats, chickens, ducks, deer and other wild life. I remember a fox was 50 points. If you passed a graveyard, you had to bury so many points. There was some double checking if those boulders were really buffalo or steer! Of course, those of us who didn’t get car sick would read, draw, or color. We were all quite the artists in our own way!
Fast forward 30 years, now a family of 4 on road trips from Texas to Pennsylvania to see grandparents. Singing was less, but drawing and reading kept pace. We also listened to books on tape. I remember one time we drove 1500+ miles to my sister’s house but had to sit in the car for a while until we finished a chapter of Harry Potter. Travel size games and cards were also popular in addition to maps of the road to located interesting places to stop and stretch our legs. Conversations were interesting and fantasy was alive with made up stories. We would just pull out of the driveway when the question would be, “Are we going to stop for snacks”. Even though we had a cooler and snacks in the car, there was nothing like getting beef jerky from a Texas ice house. And “the look” still had its effect.
Fast forward another 30 years. Things have changed a lot. Conversations are at a minimum because every minivan and car has movie watching capabilities. Hand-held electronics are the norm for every passenger. Adults and children alike are focused more on screens than the scenery outside the window or each other. Voices aren’t telling stories and singing songs, they are at most settling arguments on who gets to choose the movie, game, iPod or dvd player. Treats are in abundance. Do people even give “the warning look” to their children anymore? Does it work?
If you are planning a road trip this year, consider some of the baby boomers car activities:
- Sing along to a CD.
- Create your own words to the music from Frozen. (It isn’t such a bad song, really)
- Make up a game that requires passengers to look out of the window.
- Look for signs with the letters of the alphabet from A to Z and then backwards.
- Tell your children made up stories. Or do story starters and let each passenger add something to the story.
- Take breaks at points of interest.
- Teach your children how to read road maps – the paper kind, not GPS.
Try to go for a day without screen time – adults, too. Some of your family's fondest memories will be from your trip on the road. Keep on Truckin’!