We There Yet?????
Bill E. Branscum ©2004
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As long as I have had children
to take trips with, I have tried to do it differently than
I believe most families do. I think a family trip represents
a number of extraordinary opportunities that parents may
overlook, and fail to take advantage of. Rather than travel
with children intently focused on their environment, reading
road signs and looking at everything passing by, I suspect
that many family road trips are little more than an incessant
chorus of, "Are we there yet?"
To me, that's a tragedy - I invite you to join us on this
trip and offer you some suggestions that may help.
When I think back on the road trips of my youth, I have
a memory I am particularly fond of. We were a military family
and, while I do recall that we travelled home to Kentucky
from coastal Virginia and other places on a regular basis,
and I remember having a wonderful time at home, there is
one memory that stands out in my mind regarding the trips
Traveling across what must have been Hwy 58 thru western
Virginia and on thru Bristol, TN, we saw a little mountain
creek with a small waterfall and my father stopped. It wasn't
as if we had never seen a creek before, and there was nothing
special about that one - we just wanted to stop and he did.
I remember the creek, I remember that we were allowed to
wade in the creek and get wet, I remember the "crawdads"
and the turtle we saw, and I remember my fascination that
water flowed out of what appeared to be solid rocks. It
was probably thirty minutes, maybe an hour, but forty years
later, I remember it like it was yesterday.
I have no pictures from those years, but it looked a
lot like this.
(Click Any Picture to See Them Full Size)
It wasn't anything spectacular, I have no doubt that people
passed by every day without giving it a second look, but
it was the scene of something remarkable. How many times
have you ever done anything completely spontaneously that
your kids vividly remembered forty years later . . . have
you ever done anything spontaneous at all?
Sometimes, it makes perfect sense to do things that
do not seem sensible. For example, we enjoy trips and if
you are going to enjoy trips, you need to be comfortable
and nothing is as comfortable to travel in as a Suburban.
Huge, safe, stable in wind and rain, reasonably fuel efficient,
plenty of cargo space, and each of the three we have had
has been inimitably reliable. Truly the traveler's practical,
|Children, on the other hand, see
things differently. What could be more "adventurous"
than a two week expedition in our Jeeps? Like I said, sometimes
it makes perfect sense to do things that do not seem sensible
and even if it makes no sense, a parent has that prerogative.
Why did we take the Jeeps?
It wasn't for the gas mileage - my Suburban gets better
gas mileage at highway speeds than either Jeep, let alone
It wasn't for the creature comforts - although these new
Jeeps with their coil spring suspensions are really very
comfortable to drive, traveling in my Suburban is like touring
the Country in my livingroom couch.
It wasn't for four-wheel drive capability - while these
Jeeps will go places that no Suburban could go (four wheel
drive or not), we could have gone almost everywhere we intended
to go, and most of the places we actually went, in the Suburban.
It wasn't for the benefit of redundant systems - it is
true that driving two vehicles makes it twice as likely
that at least one will keep running, it also makes it twice
as likely that at least one will not.
The bottom line is, we took the Jeeps because my kids thought
it would be cool, and I am their Dad, blessed by God with
the discretionary authority to do pretty much whatever we
Mr. Mom's Corollary # 523: Start with
children's dreams, make your best effort to be flexible,
try and share their enthusiasm and apply good judgment to
the extent that safety and reality require.
If you can be flexible, if you can share their enthusiasm,
and if there is no legitimate safety/reality concern, go
for it - you might just manage to carry your tired old jaded
butt back to a better time and place; you might just create
a memory that will last YOU forty years.
Be flexible, impractical and fun, but that's not how
to start. The first thing we did was obtain maps and literature
related to the various sites of interest and tourist attractions
along the way. Then, we read thru the literature and plotted
potential scenic routes.
Do you know which direction
I-93 goes without looking? I don't even know if there is
an I-93, but having spent hours and hours over the years
answering kid's questions about maps (which forces me to
look up the answers), I know all kinds of things about maps
and road conventions I would never have otherwise known
- including the fact that if there is an I-93, it runs north
If you don't know that Interstate Highways are two digit
numbers, and odd ones go north/south, perhaps you should
spend more time teaching things to your kids. You'll learn
about the three digit numbers too.
In all seriousness, if you have never spent time planning
a trip with your children, you have missed an opportunity
to teach them more about spatial concepts in a matter of
hours (over an entire trip) than their school teachers will
be able to impart to them in months.
When have you ever seen three kids under ten seriously
studying a map? My money says it's more common to have them
completely unaware of what state they are in most of the
time - and who can blame them?
Imagine driving across country, paying attention, seeing
things that capture your imagination, allowing your young
mind to be intrigued as only a child's mind can be - for
nothing. It's not like you're going to stop
now is it?
Suppose you adopt a new policy. Suppose you tell the kids
that you are going to give them the discretionary authorty
to stop the trip, once a day, to see anything that interests
them? You are the boss, you can
do that . . . trust me on this one. It is truly cool to
have kids watching and paying attention and it beats, "He's
touching me, he's touching me . . . Daaaaaad!"
It also motivates them to seriously participate in trip
planning which is a great exercise in distance, direction,
speed and time calculation and spatial conceptualization
that you really shouldn't miss.
It's hard to know or care how long it will take to get
from A to B at velocity Z where the distance is D, but trying
to figure out what time you need to leave in the morning
to be at Sgt. York's birthplace before dark is an entirely
There is nothing like watching a child grapple with complex
concepts and seeing that light of understanding flash across
their face - you can make it happen.
Any fool can climb into a machine and push pedals - "C'mon
Dad, be bold, be brave . . . assert yourself and remember,
you get to play too."
Picture cruising down a state highway, passing thru small
town USA, as you drive by one of those ice cream parlours
that oughta be franchised but aren't. Hit the brakes dude
- be dramatic, bring that ride to a screeching stop, and
tell your kids how long it's been since you had a genuine
root beer float, or malted made with real ice cream.
Carpe Diem and control
This was a long trip; it will take me weeks to get
it all written up and all the pictures processed, but I
think it might be better to post this a piece at a time
This was fun, and we really had a great time, but I suspect
that even my Mom would find it tedious and overwhelming
to read this all at once. I'll post the segments as I get
them finished, and I may not do them in order.
The underlined links are functional.
One:Family Day on the Farm
Two: Cromer's Ridge & Short Creek
Three: Cumberland Falls
Four: Yahoo Falls & Natural Arch
KY & Black Mountain
Seven: Sergeant York
Eight: Tellico Plains and the Tellico River
Part Nine: Braston Bald & Helen, GA
Ten: The Lost Sea
Eleven: Koreshians, Sanibel & Captiva
Twelve: Canoeing in Estero
From One Father to Another
God Bless You and Yours