We traveled recently with a few of our kids to the wedding of our middle daughter. The distance was long and arduous. 1600 miles in two days which translates to twenty – two hours in the car plus bathroom breaks. On the way, we split into two different vehicles because the oldest son was still home from Christmas break at his university. We caravanned to the wedding and this gave us a smidge of additional room. In addition to hauling all of the kids, suitcases, and entertainment devices, we also hauled the late Christmas and wedding presents. Needless to say both vehicles were stuffed to the rafters.
Along the way, the kids played on their electronic devices and we, the driver and navigator, listened to scratchy radio stations, made lists, sang songs, and watched the road. I started the trip trying to point out landmarks and interesting geographical formations to the children. My words fell on deaf ears. They did not care one little whit about rocks, streams, hills, or winter wheat. Only when their little bladder indicators started binging did they talk to us. As in, “Hey! When is the next stop? I gotta go!”
I grew up in a large family and the few trips we took revolved around visiting, reading our favorite books, playing games with road signs and license plates, and working on each other’s hair. Sometimes we sang all the songs we knew in a screeching soprano that often caused daddy to swerve or say the words momma got upset over. We laughed and fought as well. We had an old station wagon and my favorite place was in the rear-facing seat in the back. I made up a million stories while watching the road roll along behind us.
Things have certainly changed for large family travel these days. First of all, my only requirement for entry into the vehicle is that each child have a charged device with a pair of earphones or earbuds. My mother’s entry requirement was that we had used the bathroom within the last fifteen seconds before boarding. Now, we go to the grocery store and purchase favorite snacks to eat along the way, pack a small cooler with a variety of drinks, and insure that every individual is comfortable and well stocked. My mom threw in some peanut butter and jelly along with a loaf of bread and a few apples. WE stop when asked and at times purchase car chargers at outrageous prices so that the devices can remain charged. My dad’s stopping limit was right about eight hours. You pretty much had to be on an overnight trip to get two stops on the same trip! I cannot fathom asking him to stop and purchase a new car charger with two ports. Scenery was free!
Now, I navigate from my cell phone and order hotel rooms about an hour before arriving at our destination. I read the Trivia Crack questions out loud to the driver and update him on all the Yahoo news. Because our vehicle can get so quiet with all the earphones/earbuds, the navigator has a major responsibility to keep the driver entertained so that he stays on the road. So, when I see the driver begin to nod, I call a “screen free” hour to restore common vehicle noise. They rant and rave about the unfairness of having to put their screens away. Dad’s nerves come alive and then he is wide awake for a while.
At twilight, the kids have fallen into a travel stupor so I begin to sing. I sing church songs and camp songs and silly songs and more church songs. Mainly old hymns. Dad joins in and we sing to our children for about an hour. It is my favorite part of all trips. Sometimes the kids join in or give suggestions. Their devices slowly blink off as we sing and remember certain events triggered by the songs. It is a slow, peaceful time.
Travel can be difficult with a large family, but travel worries have changed over time. With cell phones and public restrooms available, we don’t worry so much about overheating cars, being stranded or needing a restroom in the middle of nowhere. We can call and get help almost instantly. The more I travel, the more I am amazed that my parents thought nothing of throwing us all in the car and heading out to camp whenever the notion struck them.
My biggest travel worry is not that bears will eat us at a campground or that we will be stranded in the middle of Death Valley, but my biggest worry is that there won’t be enough electrical outlets in the hotel rooms to re-charge all of the devices before we hit the road again the next morning!