Since Ordinary Driving Can Be Boring, Break It Up With Something
By Jeff Salter
I’ve covered various aspects of family vacations in at least three previous 4F1H blogs (see links below), but never this particular focus. Namely, how to keep the kids occupied when the travel part – those MANY hours before reaching each destination – is tedious.
As you’ll read (if you check those links), my own young family didn’t go on many of what might be considered “vacations.” When we traveled together, it was usually to my in-laws (first in Texas and then in Kentucky). I only recall two times we went anywhere else: once to Hot Springs for a couple of nights and once to Corpus Christi for a couple of nights. Our youngest was in elementary school for that AR trip and our oldest was in high school for that TX trip. In neither case, did we – the parents – exert too much energy on keeping them “occupied.” We didn’t have a radio in our vehicles in those early years and the kids didn’t have expensive gadgets back then (to play music or games) — so often, I’d relieve the boredom by singing to them.
Yes, you heard that correctly. And no, I don’t have a voice that would win any awards. I sang Beatles songs and others that I’d learned over the years. Why, you’re asking, would I sing to my children on a long trip? Because my dad sang to us, when we were kids, on long trips. He had a nice tenor voice and knew many cool ballads. I never tired of hearing them. I don’t know if either of my children sang to their own kids on long trips, but I wish they would… or could. These kids – our grandchildren – have access to DVD players and individual I-pads (or other electronics), of course, so it would practically be an intrusion to have them shut off those forms of entertainment just to hear their parent sing, “Rocky Raccoon.”
My Solo Travels
Over the years, I’ve done a lot of commuting: from Covington to Hammond (20-plus miles) to college and back, from Covington to Baton Rouge (75 miles) to grad school and back; from Covington to Biloxi (90-plus miles) to Air Force Reserve Unit Training twice a month. Many of those trips involved at least one leg at night (for the Keelser AFB run, both legs were at evening/night) and it was imperative for me to stay alert.
I didn’t usually feel like singing to myself, though I would sometimes “play” a song inside my noggin. What I did to stay alert was to watch the odometer and give myself a “reward” for every particular chunk of the travel. For example, I might eat a lifesaver every 10 miles — a pack would get me between Biloxi and Covington. Or, I might pour a few sips of hot coffee from my thermos every 20 miles.
In more recent years – driving between Shreveport and Memphis… or between Somerset and Memphis, I’d occupy my mind with arithmetic — checking my truck’s odometer and gas gauge to see if I could squeeze the first 100 miles out of the top quarter tank and the first 200 miles out of the top half tank. Why, you may ask. Why not, I may reply. It kept me alert… and the predictability gave me some degree of satisfaction. Do you know how many highway miles YOU get from a quarter tank? I do.
Finally, let me say that even though I haven’t traveled much at all since 2010 – when my stomach issues suddenly developed – I used to jump into my truck and go 400 miles whenever there was some reason (like grandparent day at a pre-school). Back then, I found solo travel relaxing. Oh, sure, it was tiring to drive 400 miles… but during those 8 hours, I was able to snack every 10 or 15 miles. And run a few old songs through my noggin. But mainly because I was able to THINK.
I can remember a few of those solo trips, where I’d spend the first 100 miles in almost constant prayer — praying for situations (personal and professional) and for people I cared about. You’d be surprised how many of those can use your prayers.
# # # # #
Some notes about why I haven’t taken all that many family vacations:
Our first family “vacation” in 1958:
A survey of some of the cool – and not-so-cool places – my family visited when I traveled as a kid:
What about YOU? Have you traveled a lot with your family? What helped keep people occupied during the dull parts of the trip?
[JLS # 480]