It happened as I was driving on I-40 across northern Arizona, making good time. I was taking my young family to Thanksgiving at their grandparents’ house in Cottonwood and was on track to break the land speed record for the trip.
We had just zipped past beautiful Winslow Arizona (insert SarcMark) when Debra turned to me and made the comment that would forever change our family dynamics.
“Just like your father, huh?”
Marthon Road Trips
I’d shared with Debra my feelings (mistake, I know) about how my parents didn’t know how to vacation. I don’t know if it was a money thing, if they were just boring, or if they were still living through the Great Depression, but traveling with my parents was rough.
Their idea of a vacation was a marathon road trip to visit family in California or Ohio. And when I say marathon, I mean driving directly there, stopping only for gas, food and the bathroom (and the bathroom had better darn synchronize with one of the other two).
Okay, I exaggerate. On the trips back east, we did stop to sleep every 16-18 hours. And occasionally the accommodations were luxurious, like a room with two beds and a working ice machine in the hall.
But the rest of it is all true.
Coping as a Hyperactive Kid
To make matters worse, I took most of these trips alone with my parents, which made it even less of a vacation. Too soon, they had an ADHD kid in the back seat that had worked through all the coloring, puzzles and comic books a couple of times. I was actually pretty good once I learned a few traveling distractions.
I learned to read a road map really well and would advise Dad on the best route to take.
I learned to calculate the gas mileage and would advise Dad when he needed to stop for gas.
I learned to read speed limit signs, along with our speedometer and would advise Dad when he was speeding.
I learned to read billboards and advised Dad on every, single possible attraction along the way. We never visited them, but I made sure he knew what we were missing.
Needless to say, Dad loved my help (insert SarcMark).
To be fair, I need to disclose that, over they years, we visited Nauvoo and Carthage Jail, spent a day at Cedar Point amusement park on Lake Erie and ate lunch in Las Vegas. Oh yeah, we drove past Disneyland once. But most of our trips were getting there, visiting with the relatives and getting home.
Breaking the Cycle
So on that fateful day crossing Arizona, I had just told one of my kids to “hold it” because we’d be stopping for gas at Flagstaff. Debra became frustrated and blurted out that I was acting just like my father.
I knew she was right. Our family trips had all been long hauls from our house to grandparents’ homes and back – no unnecessary stops, no site seeing, no fun. I resolved that it was going to change immediately.
I looked up and saw an exit sign for Meteor Crater and took the detour. I paid too much for admission, my kids ran to the bathroom and we took the tour.
Meteor Craters is a big hole in the ground. Some people think it’s a cool because it’s a remnant of a 50,000-year-old asteroid strike, well preserved in the arid desert. I think it’s cool because it was the first time my kids actually had some fun on a road trip.
Fortunately, it was not the last.