My recent column prompted some e-mail dialogue with readers about how families handle long trips by car. Here are irrefutable truths, in no particular order, learned from our summer’s 5,000 miles (no exaggeration) of travel in the United States and Canada.
> If you’ve got the stamina, here’s a way to make long trips seem shorter, particularly for the children. You, the driver, sleep in the evening while the family stays awake packing, then depart at midnight. You’ll get to skip the packing chore and, armed with a full thermos of coffee, you’ll chew up 500 miles while the children snooze. Make quiet stops to fill the tank and, er, drain the coffee, and you’ll get eight hours of a recorded book or your favorite music, all without back-seat bickering.
> If you require a car top carrier, you’re bringing too much stuff. By the way, whose brilliant idea was it to replace vans with minivans?
> Two children can share one soda as easily as two Dobermans can take turns with a sirloin. Asking a child not to “stack your books on top of the bread and chips” is as pointless as asking him to share his soda.
> A 3-year-old reporting from the back seat he feels “thick in my thummick” shouldn’t be treated like a tornado watch but rather a tornado warning. Immediately seek the safety of a highway exit.
> America’s problem with garbage topping our landfills began with five children in the back seat of a Honda Odyssey.
> An unattended border collie can successfully open the zip-locked top of a jumbo bag of peppered beef jerky.
> Use rest areas. It’s safer to unload little ones straight to the sidewalk instead of having them navigate a congested gas station parking lot. Plus, on the way to the restroom, they won’t be passing 10,000 junk food items.
> When you mandate at a rest area, “everybody must go because we’re not stopping again until Des Moines,” a teenager’s glare might contain a thousand daggers. Be firm, or you’ll be stopping at Waterloo, and you won’t find the irony of the city’s name humorous.
> When crossing the border at a Canadian town with a paper mill, a 6-year-old shouting, “this place stinks” from the back seat dramatically increases your likelihood of having your belongings searched.
> The fact that the GPS constantly displays both hours and miles from a destination dramatically increases the number of times a child asks “how long ’til we get there?”
> A dog sick from having consumed 16 ounces of peppered beef jerky will not warn you with enough time to seek the safety of a highway exit.
> Beware of highway delirium. If a Steven King recorded book combined with the Tom and Jerry theme music from the back seat feels like an acid trip, it’s time to change drivers.
> When traveling with a GPS unit, it’s essential to bring a printed road atlas to periodically convince yourself that the GPS was right all along. The GPS contains the most advanced high-speed computing technology on the planet, but it cannot shorten the distance between Omaha and Cheyenne.