Road trips are a rite of passage for any family. It may not be the most time efficient but it is certainly the most cost efficient way for a family to get from point A to point B to spend time in another location, be it for a vacation or to spend some time with distant relatives over a holiday season. Road trips can be long and tedious but with a little planning and following some simple guidelines your road trips can be fun(ish) and accomplish your goal of making it through alive.
Rizzo and I have very different philosophies when it comes to packing for a road trip. If at all possible, I would have everything packed and in the vehicle the night before. In a perfect world all I would have to do is wake up, take a shower, eat some breakfast, and then get in the car to start the drive. On the other hand, I believe that Rizzo would pack everything the morning of the trip.
I understand that my descriptions of each of us are slightly exaggerated extremes (at least for Rizzo) but they give you an idea of my thought processes the night before a road trip. I spend the evening packing, checking to make sure everything is done, packing some more, then rechecking. Since Rizzo and Cece don’t have duplicates of every toiletry we can’t actually load up the car into the next day (yes, I do have duplicates of everything so I can pack 100% the night before). Instead of packing up the car I load up the dining room with everything so I can start packing as soon as possible the next day. Here is a semi-factual conversation between Rizzo and me the night before we left for our Christmas time roadtrip.
W: (while washing up Cece’s bottles) We need to make sure to pack up a bag of toys and books for Cece.
R: (frustrated because I’ve already asked her if she is done packing) I know. Does it need to be done tonight?
W: (frazzled because I can’t fathom why we would want to wait until tomorrow) It doesn’t have to be done tonight.
R: (frustrated because she can’t fathom why we have to do it tonight) You want me to pack it up tonight, don’t you?
W: (frazzled because of course I want her to do it tonight but don’t want to sound like a jerk by saying I want her to do it tonight because I know that I have an issue about needing to have everything packed and it isn’t her problem that I’m a neurotic psychopath when it comes to packing for a road trip) No, of course not. I just wanted to say it out loud so we don’t forget to do it.
R: (frustrated because she can hear in my voice that I want her to do it now but I would never say it because I don’t want to sound like a jerk) Ok. I think we are ready for tomorrow so I’m going to make popcorn. Do you want any?
W: (frazzled because I don’t think we are ready for tomorrow but I still don’t want to sound like a jerk but I do anyway when the passive aggressiveness starts pouring from my words) No thanks. I still have to get Ellie’s crate, feed pig, cut up snacks for the trip, iron my dress shirt, wash the car, mow the grass, paint the guest room, replace the toilet seat covers, open a 529 plan to save for Cece to go to college, and build a new deck out back.
R: (frustrated because none of these things have to be done tonight since she knows I’ll be awake at 5:00am anyway with nothing to do but get ready for the trip since I don’t have to go to work) Ok. Well I’m going to have some popcorn.
W: (frazzled but finally giving up) Ok. I’ll have some popcorn too.
Even if I am slightly (just slightly) compulsive about packing the night before, Rizzo cannot deny my superior ability to pack a vehicle with efficiency and effectiveness. This is something I learned from the best, the Honorable David Earl Clark. The life of constantly moving that he and my mom lived due to his active military service taught them to pack efficiently. My Dad could pack an entire three bedroom house into the trunk of a 1982 Oldsmobile and still have room for a few bottles of water. He passed this gift onto his son (Me) which allowed me to be able to back two grown adults, a baby, and a dog with all the various stuff into just the back of a van allowing Cece to have an entire row to herself and Ellie to have her own seat.
It’s a gift.
Making the Drive
While you are actually on the road you have to be prepared with snacks, music, toys, books, and road games. Snacks are of the utmost importance. Forget about the fact that food is the ultimate distraction for a 19-month old baby that is stuck riding backwards for 6+ hours. Food is fuel to keep you awake and motivated while you are behind the wheel.
Our road trips tend to start with a sack full of healthy choices that have been entirely consumed within 10 to 15 minutes of leaving the driveway. A bag of grapes hardly meets the requirements of the road trip appetite. Inevitably we stop at a gas station to fill up on our favorite road trip delicacies: Peanut Butter Twix and Chocolate Covered Pretzels. Much like time spent at an airport (read all about that in the blog Fly like an Eagle) food consumed while on a road trip is 100% fat, cholesterol, and calorie free. So we dig in like the Tasmanian Devil.
Along with snacks it is important to keep yourself entertained as long trips can become boring. Some families enjoy road games like "Spot license plates from as many states as possible" or "See who can cry the most to help get Daddy out of a speeding ticket". The Clizzo Clan's primary source of entertainment is music. We all have turns deciding what to listen to, however, most of the time we are listening to Pearl Jam radio (my choice, of course) or Cece's music class CD. The music class CD is not only Cece's favorite but has quickly become Rizzo's favorite.
While on the road you are essentially forced to dine out for meals. This can lead to some weight gain but that is all part of the business. It is also an important part of the road trip because you get out and stretch your legs. If you don't get out and move about every few hours you could end up with a charlie horse that could end your ability to walk (or just be really annoying).
You have two options when dining out on a road trip; fast food or non-fast food. I love them both and in our family the decision hinges upon one very important traveler, Ellie Bellie Rizzo. If we are traveling with Ellie, it is a nice day outside, and we can find a place that allows dogs, we always go with the option to take Ellie to some outdoor seating for a relaxed lunch.
However, it if it raining or we can't find a place with outdoor seating, we make our stop at a fast food establishment. Personally, I enjoy either option. A sit-down establishment that allows pets gives us the opportunity to check out some of the local color (wherever we happen to be) and eat at a nice, leisurely pace. This is certainly Rizzo's preference. Fast food gives us (me) the opportunity to enjoy (love) some rarely consumed fast food. I love fast food and whenever I get the chance I'll make sure to take it. Nothing beats a spicy chicken sandwich with fries and a soda pop from Wendy's while on the road. MMMMMM MMMMMMM good.
So get out there and explore this fine country of ours using your four rubber passports.
P.S. Here is an extra bonus clip as an inside joke for some of my closest friends. You know who you are.