Summertime is when families cram into the minivan, SUV, midsize or – clutch the pearls – station wagon for the ultimate survival of will, the road trip vacation.
I’m an expert. My childhood was littered with driving trips to Ohio, Kentucky and Arkansas. As a mere infant-toddler, I was stowed in the backseat floorboard of the family’s station wagon and trucked from central Indiana to east Texas.
More significantly, the last two summers, The Wife, The Kid and I teamed up with friends – Blake and Misty and their two adorable children Brinley (age 5) and Brayden (age 4) – for a fun ol’ fashioned weeklong road trip to Florida. Last year was the exciting trip to DisneyWorld. This year was a beach vacation to the panhandle burg of Destin.
Got to admit, both trips went surprisingly well. The obstacles were few. The setbacks were relatively minor. No one was maimed or murdered. Tantrums from parents: 0. Major tantrums from kids: Few and far between. Or, at least, nothing that can’t be soothed with food or Nyquil.
With that, here are Mad Dad’s tips on a successful family road trip vacation.
It’s important to overwhelm children with adult numbers. You’ve got to be like the Mexicans surrounding the Alamo. Force the kids to draw a line in the sand and decide how this was going to go down. You’d think the 2:1 ratio of parents to kids was OK. It’s shocking what a 4:3 parent/kid ratio does to the dynamic. With just two adults, at least one will have to be on “duty” at all times. In theory, for a week, one person is on “duty” 50 percent of the time. With four, in theory, each parent is on “duty” for 25 percent of the time. The more kids, the better. They tend to distract each other. There were long stretches in Destin where the kids used their imagination and made up their own games for hours on end. Team up with family friends or – if worse comes to worse – invite in-laws and junk.
It was absolutely floored when The Wife supported an early-morning stop at a Waffle House just east of Monroe, La. Waffle Houses are for guys … or girls with neck tattoos. Guys are like dogs: We’ll eat, sleep and poop anywhere. The Wife’s abhorrence of WH is well documented. Misty had never been. All bets were off.
Misty upon returning from the bathroom, whispering, “There is (excrement) smeared all over the girls’ bathroom!” It was our last visit to a Waffle House this trip.
Why carbolic acid? Not to douse the Waffle House bathroom, but to instead wash out your eyes and nose before you go in.
A Little Patience, A Lot Of Alcohol
Upon arriving in Destin, we were toast. It was a long drive made longer by torrential downpours in Alabama and Florida and a route that had us singing Dixie through Stars-and-Bars Alabama … and every red light therein. It was early evening and we wanted food and rest. We decided on a highly-rated pizza join in Destin: Mellow Mushroom. “Hey Mad Dad, were there any low-hanging drug innuendos at this establishment?” Yes. Yes there were. Destin, for being the more conservative, family-driven beach town, is pretty free and easy with large breasts and weed. Go into a gift shop and you can purchase yourself a coffee mug in the shape a nipple. Try to explain that to the kid.
I don’t mind waiting for a table at a restaurant. Thankfully, despite being shoulder-deep in the dinner hour, we got a table within 15 minutes and were ready for chow. My alarm first went off when it took a good 10 minutes for our waitress to even greet us. From the time we sat down from the time drinks were put on the table, it was 20 minutes. Except me. No, my $1.50 PBR did not arrive. It was probably 30-40 minutes before I received my refreshment from the time I sat down.
Excuses were given. Our waitress was forced upon our table by a busy comrade. The bar was “backed up” (it was not). The kitchen was “backed up” (other tables of similar size were serviced before us). Done right, our waitress was in for a big tip. Two hours after sitting, she was not.
In fact, I wrote her a love note. It is pictured here. In my drunken handwriting, I eked out this:
“I pissed in a bathroom at a Waffle House in Monroe, La. that had (excrement) smeared on the wall, and yet this was the worst experience of my day. Congrats! (heart) Mark.”
I left no tip. I don’t care how much she makes. I don’t care if I’m a jerk. By the way, the food was really good.
The kids can get skin cancer when their older. For a happy vacation, slather on sun block. Use a paint roller or a gas-powered sprayer. Pretend you’re giving a delousing shower to a new inmate in prison. We teased Blake for using SPF 115. Looking back, grumpy lobster children would have no fun for anyone.
When In Doubt, Call The Police
Sitting at a soul-sucking red light in the sad-sack town of Slidell, La. our concentration on getting home was interrupted by a very noticeable, but generally slight bump on the minivan’s rear. “Well, I just got rear ended,” Blake said, matter of fact. An hour later, we were back on the road.
As it turns out, Slidell is magical. The elderly African American woman driving the rental with Minnesota plates didn’t remember letting her foot off the brake. One minute it didn’t happen. The next minute, it did. She was willing to provide insurance information … just insurance not associated with the rental. Maybe it wasn’t magic! Maybe Blake, in a fit of insanity, put the minivan in reverse and actually ran into the car behind us.
We called the cops. The lady didn’t understand why we were doing this to her. She was visiting ill family in Louisiana. Though smiling and calling us “handsome” and “darling,” you could tell she had little interest in righting the wrong.
As it turns out, Slidell is not magic, feet don’t slip off brake pedals by sorcery or black magic, Blake did not go in reverse. Thank you to the blue for sorting things out.