Tips from the backseat |

Tips from the backseat

Keely Brown

Now that June is in full swing, a lot of us are planning to take that one last big summer road trip before gas hits $10 a gallon. I still have vivid memories of the annual, month-long road trips my family took from Atlanta to Canada during the formative years of my childhood. Because of this, in my role as a humanitarian I’d like to offer a few tips for traveling with children.1) Leave your gun at home.

Whenever we went on one of our road trips without my dad, he insisted that my mother carry the single, miniature family firearm (which was never loaded) for protection. Being a true Southern lady, our pistol-packin’ mama didn’t want anyone to see that she had a gun, so she hid it under the front seat, while Grandmother hid the bullets in her brassiere.Somewhere along the way, Mom got the idea that, if we got in an accident, my Grandmother’s chest full of explosives would cause a bloody massacre, evoking newspaper headlines like “Elderly woman shoots daughter and both grandchildren during family vacation!”The two of them spent most of the trip in gales of hysterical laughter over this, while my brother and I sat dismally in the backseat and thought they were crazy. 2) Teach your children that yes, they will come home again.

For some reason, Kevin and I got the idea we would never see our home again, so we filled the back of our 1967 Chrysler station wagon with our favorite toys. My life-size Lassie alone took up the length of two suitcases. We also insisted on hauling our toys into the motel every night, making early morning packing an adventure in profanity for my Dad, who spent hours fitting Thingmakers and Rudy the Robot around suitcases containing the entire contents of our bathroom medicine chest, courtesy of my mother, who I think also envisioned our not returning home again. 4) Homegrown roadside attractions are often the best.Make those off-the-road pit stops. Your children will never forgive you if you don’t. Besides, they’d much rather see a three-tailed raccoon than take the historic museum tour of Niagara Falls. And it’s probably cheaper. 5) Be prepared to fork out vast sums for souvenirs

For a child, the memories will fade, but the souvenirs will remain. And if you happen to be lucky enough to pass by a real, surviving Stuckey’s roadside shop, for heaven’s sake stop. It’s not worth the lamentations of insurmountable grief you’ll get from the back seat (lasting for days) if you don’t.Kevin still cherishes a miniature red wooden toilet seat he purchased from Stuckey’s when he was 10. When you lift the lid, a photograph of Fidel Castro beams up at you. We had no idea who Fidel Castro was, but his black beard made him look like Evil Santa. Besides, we liked the toilet seat.Shortly after this came the summer of the Mexican jumping beans. These little horrors, also courtesy of Stuckey’s, consisted of moth cocoons trying to hatch, encased in a little plastic box. (A year or so ago, I saw these monstrosities on sale in Mexico, and suddenly I was 8 years old and back at Stuckey’s getting grossed out all over again).Here’s hoping these tips will ensure that your vacation is at least partially free of whining, complaining and backseat brawling. Next week: Traveling with dogs!

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