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Riding in Cars with Kids - By Diana M. Estill

How to survive a family road trip
Many soon will attempt to conquer the great American challenge—the family road trip. Oblivious to the pending dangers, these adventurers will set out to find the much sought after and ever illusive “family fun” activity only to discover there’s no such thing. This is a fantasy created by entertainment companies like Disney. You can have personal fun, dating fun, couple’s fun, but you can never, ever, reach the pinnacle of bliss—the point where every member of your extended entourage is equally happy.

If you are traveling with a teen, you will in all likelihood learn that, on the evening before your trip, he or she has broken up with a recent girlfriend or boyfriend. Unfortunately, you will only discover the reason for your youngster’s surly attitude after you’ve been home for a few weeks and have received your bill for 3,000 minutes of text messaging.

The discontentment begins within 200 miles of home, exactly where you can expect to run out of range for popular radio stations. After this, unless you have satellite radio or CDs on hand, your song choices will be limited to two types—country tunes and western music. This will cause the aforementioned puberty-afflicted to become irritable and to start thumping the back of his or her sibling’s head, which will then naturally produce the automated response, “M-o-o-m-m, make him stop hitting me!”

Smart parents will provide for a “no touch zone” between all underage passengers. Do not try to artificially create barricades for offspring by inserting cargo between them. This will only result in lost merchandise. And never give a child your pillow to use for a headrest because car trips have a hypnotic effect on small children, causing them to drool worse than a Saint Bernard.

Always be sure that the total headcount does not exceed the number of auto interior cup holders. Otherwise, you will most assuredly be left holding a soda can for 2,000 miles.

Expect to synchronize meals but never bladder functions. Everyone will want to eat at once, but you can bet each person will ask to “whiz” only when nobody else has to. By the time you’ve stopped for gas, disembarked for each urgent bodily function, and taken breaks for sustenance, you can expect your speed to average about 35 miles per hour and your gas mileage to hover around 10 miles per gallon. Oh, sure, the new car sticker might have suggested your vehicle would get 30 mpg on the highway. But that figure didn’t take into account the wind drag from the bike rack addition and the 600 extra pounds of beverages, sporting gear, and sneakers you loaded into the transport before leaving home.

Fatigued navigators will be further aggravated by the posterior assault visited upon them by any young ones situated behind the driver’s seat. And the opposite parent will either blatantly disregard his or her duties or simply be too weary to supply necessary travel directions. This will become obvious approximately 20 linear feet prior to a spaghetti-like interchange.

If you are prone to fairness, get over it. Now is not the time to be democratic about critical decisions such as where to stop for lunch. Ignore this piece of advice and you will find yourself dropping by a Starbucks right before visiting Randy’s Roadhouse Billiards & Brisket, followed by trips through the drive-thru lanes of both KFC and McDonald’s.

Remember, your goal, should you decide to accept the road trip challenge, is to simply create memories and return home with all parties speaking to each other. At the very least, by the second week.

Copyright 2006 Diana Estill  
BUSY ROAD (AFRICAN COMEDY)
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