By Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3
When it comes to road trips, there are two types of travelers. The first is a laid-back wanderer who’s more than happy to make multiple stops along the way for bathroom breaks, snacks or a spontaneous visit to the world’s largest Spam museum where one can see “16,500 square feet of Spam artifacts, history and fun”.
The other kind of traveler sees the driving portion of the vacation as a necessary evil to be dealt with as quickly as possible. It’s like ripping off a Band-Aid. Better to just get it over with. More than anything, these travelers want to “make good time.” Tom and I are in that second group.
The only thing better than completing a safe road trip where you’ve “made good time” is the opportunity to brag about it, so here goes: We just drove to Minneapolis and back with three little kids in a minivan. And not only are we still sane, we only stopped ONCE going up there and ONCE coming back. (Here’s where you insert your gasp of disbelief.)
Keep in mind that this trip is 631 miles and should take about 9 hours and 40 minutes if you never stop. But when you’re in a minivan with three little kids, the adjusted drive time for this trip is about two weeks of interstate purgatory, give or take a few days.
But not for us! We made it in 10 hours and 12 minutes, a fact we proudly announced to friends and family once we made it to our destination. Of course, everybody wanted to know how we’d done it. Had we forced the poor children to pee in Mason jars along the way? Had we installed catheters before the trip? Did we purposefully dehydrate them to prevent pit stops at rest areas?
Nope. None of that was necessary because our kids are blessed with iron bladders, just like their mother. Of course, bladder control isn’t the only pre-requisite for making good time on a road trip. With kids in the car, you’ve got to have entertainment and motivation. So we loaded up on cheap movies for the kids to watch along with a few video games, puzzle books and plenty of snacks. And I splurged on a new DVD of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast for 3-year-old Kate, which turned out to be a brilliant idea because she requested back-to-back encore viewings for about 98 percent of our time on the road.
To motivate good behavior during the road trip, I resorted to plain old bribery – a method which may be scoffed at by parenting experts but is actually pretty effective when more than 600 miles are stretching out in front of you. I borrowed the idea from a fellow mom. Here’s how it works: You give each kid a roll of quarters at the beginning of the trip. The “Car Coins” are theirs to keep as long as they have good behavior in the car. If they whine, argue, fight, or otherwise mess up along the way, they must give you one or two quarters for each infraction, (depending on just how much it ticked you off). At the end of the trip, they keep the remaining quarters.
Was it worth it to us to pay the kids a collective $30 to have peace on this road trip? Oh, yes it was. And you can bet your Spam artifacts we’d do it again.
Some would argue that vacations should be as much about appreciating the journey as the destination. But most road trips today are an endless stretch of interstate that looks much the same. The only real landmarks between here and Minneapolis are a huge neon sign shaped like a cowboy that points down to a place called “Terrible’s Casino”. And then there are the towering windmills looming over fields in Iowa, and the aforementioned Spam museum in Austin, Minnesota. Other than that, there’s not a whole lot to see.
So we kept busy with movies, snacks and a lot of trivia questions which Adam read to us from the Family Feud app on the iPad. And, believe it or not, ripping off those 10 hours and 12 minutes didn’t hurt a bit.
We arrived home late last night and fell into our own beds. But as soon as the sun came up, so did the kids and they began devising ways to spend their hard-earned Car Coins. We just returned from a trip to Wal-Mart where two of the kids used their Car Coins to buy mechanical hamster toys called “Zhu Zhu Pets”, which are currently scurrying all over my kitchen floor and driving our new cat Percy crazier than a crate of catnip.
Oh, it’s good to be home.