Avoiding the Road Trip to Hell

“Stop touching me!” she cried loudly when it was her spreading into my spot — driving me nuts!

I yet again fought the urge to use blunt force trauma to enforce the few inches of private space allotted me. Mom, after we turned the deck of cards intended for a simple card game into throw-able weapons, had given up trying to keep us silent and it seemed to me that there was a certain amount of vitriol and chaos hard wired into this equation of three children, all aged in the single digits and crammed into the family sedan back seat with our pillows and books and drawing pads and snacks for the 9-10 hour road trip from Petaluma to Anaheim, California for the much awaited visit to Disneyland and visit with family. Apparently, the science of young girls was such that you could release their noise in small bits or save it for later large explosions of screaming and scratching, but the same amount of net chaos will occur one way or the other. There seemed to be no path to peace.

It was hot and this was before cars had AC or anyone had smart phones to help mesmerize and sedate fidgety children. I don’t think we even had Benadryl in those days because if we had, mom would have spiked my sister’s snacks with it to help them sleep through as much of the trip as the recommended dosage would have allowed. I would have mowed lawns for weeks if needed to buy and so medicate both of the girls by the time we passed through San Jose.

Dad, could be a gregarious personality. Mom was more deliberate about the things that entertained her. Both were miserable and I could tell were rethinking this whole notion of driving so far with the three of us. I wanted to be on their side in this, but was old and wise enough to not mention the obvious solution of pulling over and leaving the girls somewhere while we drove off in serenity. My aunt in Anaheim would never let me get away with such a thing. My parents seemed to be so frustrated that they might entertain the idea. Hmmm.

So, the tensions and tempers rose, sweaty mile after mile,

I stewed and developed a principal that never again would I allow myself to be talked into such a road trip with my feral siblings — except I didn’t know either word yet.  I would plan ahead and do whatever job was needed to earn enough money to fly down and meet my family when and if they survived the drive down with the girls.  So I tried to close out the noise by looking out the window and visualize how nice it might be to be deaf.


Thus was my memory of road trips with kids when it was my wife and I with our children. Out of the gate we were blessed with the God-sent technologies of mini-vans, AC and strap-em-down car seats. Lord why didn’t I think of at least the car seat idea back when I was trapped with my crazy sisters?

It was on one such trip that we accidentally discovered the glorious side effect of Benadryl which began the temptation of not over-using it. Oh my! This stuff is golden!

So, when the time came for our annual drive from Colorado Springs back to Petaluma, my wife and I strategized and she worked miracles with our fidget-critters by pre-packing and timing the deployment of multiple amusements from fidget bags designed for each child. It was kind of a pain to set up and keep handy as we crossed through the desert wastelands of Utah and Nevada but I attribute our, or at least the children’s survival to those bags and the car seats which solved the whole ‘my-space’ problem. Do they make car seats for teenagers with padlocks?

But, one day, we accidentally stumbled on an idea that I wish we’d had all along that not only kept hostilities at bay but had us all laughing as the miles passed.  The kids loved this so much, we often used it even for shorter road trips.

If you still have young’ins, you might want to give this idea a try. It worked GREAT!

We called it ‘Sentence Snake’. The rules were simple.

Each round, one of them would chose a letter of the alphabet; like “T” and started the sentence, e.g. “Tired Tim tried.”

The next person needed to:

  1. repeat the existing sentence and
  2. add 1-2 words anywhere in the sentence, but all words had to start with the same letter.

The next person would add another, and another, etc. resulting in ridiculous alliterative sentences that you could not help but laugh at.  Soon, they were laughing about how, “Today ,Thursday, tired Tim tried two tainted, tart turkey Twinkies that tasted terribly twisted.” . . and so on.

Soon the sentence and the attempts to repeat grew to something you could not help but laugh at. Mom started facilitating by packing a tablet to try and record the existing sentences which greatly extended some of the delightful nonsense.

Our kids are much older now and we rarely get to have them all in one car with us. Man – I miss those road trips now and can brag that I never had to resort to leaving the kids off at some random street corner in Utah.

GW bio card 4

17 thoughts on “Avoiding the Road Trip to Hell

    1. Hi Sherry and thanks for these kind words. That you would care to read my essays means a lot to me – often because you know the smart alec behind the screen of each story and we share many of the same memories. I’m finding this to be a fun way to not lose them.


  1. Hi Gary,
    I’m one of 6 kids and my oldest sister every summer would take us younger kids on a road trip to give my Mom a much needed break. We all got along pretty well, enough, I’m sure we had our moments of complaints etc… Fun memories!! Great idea for entertainment too! We did a game looking for the alphabet from the license plates we saw. I think there were other games too! Have a great day! ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Without air conditioning too, it didn’t sound like a very good trip for y’all! Lol – 🤪
    On another note; I couldn’t help but notice in or around the second paragraph you use the word frigidity, but I think you meant fidgety. The only reason I mention it because the meaning of one is so different than the other and makes me giggle!! Hehe, so I thought I’d let you know in case you’d like to fix it!! Take care my friend!! ❤️🤠

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Diana. You are correct. I’m pretty sure I have the Murphy version of spell correct and that’s where that mistake came from. Oh the simple pleasures of blogging. . . It actually happened in a couple of places and you caught the last one I’d not fixed.
      I always appreciate your visits and this time you helped me finally get rid of that wrong word. Many more thanks, and yes, corrections like this are always welcome. They embarrass me, but I’d rather be right and embarrassed than wrong, unless it’s really funny, then I’m willing to let it ride.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. First time reader here. We never took long road trips when I was a kid, but I have managed a few exciting journeys as an adult. Look forward to reading more of your stories.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello and welcome. Glad you found me. I have 3 collections to chose from.
      1) I Recall: are autobiographical rowdy things that actually happened to me
      2) Fiction: divided by length
      3) Coffee Shares which are the ongoing weekend catch up with other bloggers.

      They each have menus at the top of my pages (unless you’re viewing by small phone, then there’s a Menu button which will let you scroll through everything.

      They are all described in more detail at:

      Thanks for stopping by. I hope to deliver some good laughs and thoughtful reading pleasure.
      Thanks too for the [Follow]. Please sit back, wander the stacks and enjoy.


  4. Road trips were never our strength. Our girls were terrible travelers which may have been my fault since road trips with my family (consisting of 5 kids with a 6 year range between the eldest to youngest) in a station wagon with the hump inthe middle and a muffler tied to a tail pipe, were always too long. Thsnks for the chuckle.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. We road tripped a ton when our son was little. He got a bag of books and toys, and when he was old enough, we started bringing Mad Libs along. Much giggling ensued, most of it from the alleged adults.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We live near the top of a small hill. When the kids made me nuts when driving, I would often pull over at the bottom of that hill – shoo the kids out of the van and tell them that they were to run home. Then I’d drive off – fast enough to make the point but slow enough to keep them in sight. They were bursting with energy so it proved to be a great way to preserve both our sanity’s.

      Liked by 1 person

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