Monday, August 13, 2012

On the road again

Last Sunday we loaded up the van and the trailer and headed out of town on a trip we had been planning for a while.... we were driving to New Hampshire to visit J.'s brother and his family. (His wife, my sister-in-law, is the wonderfully talented designer who did my blog design.) They have four children, the newest being 9 months old now and we really wanted to meet him before he was all grown up.

We took two days to make the drive. The first day was really long and the second not too bad. (If we could have found a nice spot to eat lunch it would have been better, but that will come later.) Everyone is pretty good about travelling these days, so the actual travel part was (mostly) painless.

It helps to have a routine. Usually people stake out their spot in the van and it is theirs for the duration. This is helpful because it cuts down on bickering every time we have to stop, get out and reload. On this trip, the way the seating worked out was that H. was in the front bench between G. and L. (and their car seats), D. and B. shared the next bench, K. and P. had the third bench, and the 'Dramamine' trio, M., A., and TM, occupied, at least in body, the back bench. The motion sickness medicine affects them all a bit differently, though none of them are at the top of their form with it in their systems. We just don't expect scintillating conversation from them... or even consciousness.

Our main form of entertainment while driving on long trips is to listen to recorded books. (I actually still call them 'books on tape', which my children mock, but old habits die hard.) The books I chose for the ride out were a bust. The first one, which had a great premise and sounded really interesting, turned out to be not so well written and terribly didactic in spots. (Actually a lot of spots.) Plus, the narrator of the story is a 14 year old girls and the reader felt compelled to do a very trying caricature of a 14 year old girl that some of my daughters found highly annoying. You know it is bad when the last disk finally finishes and every single person's reaction is, "Thank goodness that's finally over!" Very disappointing. The second book, though, was even worse. It was read by the author (which I hadn't noticed when I picked it out) and that rarely turns out to be a good idea. It was a very bad idea in this case. The story, at least what we heard of it, was full of stereotypes and it was just very difficult to listen to. At one point we had to turn off the story while we were still on the first disk and we all agreed that we had no desire to continue with it. I can't think the last time this happened. It was really that bad.

Without a story to distract everyone (we wanted to save the last one for the ride home), it meant that we had some younger people who were left to their thoughts a bit more than usual. From now on, I will always bring more books to listen to than I think we can possibly get through, if only to give us more options. This is because some young people can't keep their thoughts to themselves and must ask things every 10 minutes or so. So across the last quarter of New York, all of Vermont, and half of New Hampshire we were treated to the alternating refrains of,

"Mommy!"
"Yes, K?"
Are we there yet?"
"Mommy, Daddy!"
"Yes, H.?"
"Where we going?"
"Mommy!"
"Yes, K?"
"I'm thirsty."
"Mommy, Daddy!"
"Yes, H.?"
"Where we going?"
"Mommy!"
"Yes, K?"
"Are we there yet?"
"Mommy, Daddy!"
"Yes, H?"
"Where we going?"
"Mommy!"
"Yes, K?"
"I'm hungry."
Repeat.
For five hours.

Because I'm cheap frugal, we always bring lunch stuff with us and have a picnic on the way to where ever we  are going. This way we can eat healthy, less expensive food, and our children don't have to sit down in a restaurant after having been in the car for several hours. This has always worked really well and we've always been able to find OK places to picnic. The first day of driving we just stopped at a rest stop on the toll way. There are always picnic benches to the side and the bathrooms are inside. It's not beautiful, but it works. On the second day, we put off having lunch until we reached Vermont. Our thinking was that we were sure to find a nice place to picnic there, and J.'s brother had even told us about a nice park they had been to. Well, we missed the park. I think we missed a turn and didn't realize it until it was too late.

We weren't terribly concerned, though, because there were several state parks listed on the map and it also indicated that they had picnic areas, so on we went. We arrive at the first park and the signage indicates we should check-in at the ranger's station. We did and I took my purse along with me because I figured there would be a small fee to drive in. We were OK with that... we've certainly visited enough state parks in a variety of states to know what to expect.

Perhaps that's why I was thrown for such a loop when I asked the ranger about stopping briefly to picnic. Evidently, Vermont has a day use fee which is PER PERSON, and not per vehicle. When I added up what they were going to charge us to come in, eat at a picnic table, use the toilets, and leave, it was going to be $28! There was not even a family cap to what they were going to charge. She did try to sell me a $20 multi-use pass which might have gotten us all in. You won't be surprised to hear I turned her down. So, along with my other non-large family friend institutions, I can now add the Vermont State Park system. I might have been a little appeased by the whole episode if she had acted even remotely sorry that it was going to cost so much. Instead, with her constant mentioning of having to maintain their facilities, it made it seem a bit as though she felt the wear and tear my family was going to cause justified the charges.

We got back in the van, threw a bunch of snacks at the hungry children and drove on. We eventually stopped at a gas station which had a lone picnic table next to it and ate there. A nice park would have been a lot more pleasant.

Difficulties aside, we arrived safely at the other Curry's house. Cousins started playing together almost immediately and J. and I were thrilled to be able to tell K. we were there and show H. where we were going.
____________
Part 2 / Part 3 / Part 4 / Part 5

2 comments:

LawMommy said...

$28 to use a picnic table and the bathroom seems absurd!

Re: books on tape - our public library has made some audio books (and a larger and ever growing selection) available for download to iPods, Zunes and other mp3 players. This has been so, so, so helpful to us on long trips. (The Harry Potter books I was able to download for our trip to Philadelphia this summer were especially great.) The upside of this is that I can download up to 10 books to one player (the downside being it is kind of a pain in the neck to remove them from my Zune, but I'm told it's less so if you can use iTunes effectively and put them on an Apple device. (I have a long running frustration with iTunes and cannot use it effectively.) The other downside is that you further need an audio input jack into your radio to plug the iPod, Zune or other mp3 player into your car audio system.

I do find that authors, generally, should not read their own books for the audio version. The only exception I've ever found is Stephen King's author read Bag of Bones, which is, of course, highly unsuitable for family listening. :-)

sandwichinwi said...

This was a hilarious post! You can substitute Sunshine for both K and H in that conversation and add 10 other repetitive phrases.

Do you listen to Adventures in Odyssey? Or Jonathon Park? I'm thinking the latter would be rather too contrived for your set. We also enjoy Your Story Hour. I'd be interested to know which bust books you brought along. The worst author-read series is Magic Treehouse (not that it's stellar as a book either). It makes me want to rip my hair out. But it beats having to read her poorly constructed sentences myself.

And as for state parks, Wisconsin has the very best! ;) And don't try to camp in Massachusetts. They were so DIRTY! Blech. I would have gone for the $20 multi-use and then stopped to use the bathroom at every single one! LOL

sounds like a fun trip!

Blessings,
Sandwich
(ps when is that camping trip to WI? Our grass is green again!)

Related Posts with Thumbnails
Pin It