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Pint-sized passenger on board

We're not ones to routinely take long car trips, but our niece's bridal shower in Philadelphia recently found us rolling down the highways for 14 hours, round trip.

With an 8-year-old.

I have good and bad childhood memories of traveling by automobile on family vacations. The good ones have to do with laughing my head off at my father's corny jokes. The bad ones have to do with motion sickness.

One year I recall traveling caravan-style to Florida with my family in one car, our cousins in the other. This was before cell phones, so we devised window signs that read things like "Food" to inform them we were hungry and "Rest" to say we needed to stretch our legs.

The drive down was fun. The drive home was terrible, for the simple reason that my brother's sunburn was peeling, which I found utterly disgusting.

So I approached our trip to Philly with mixed feelings. Our daughter thinks it is a long drive to Grand Island. How in the world would she handle seven hours in a car?

By having fun!, I decided. And eating.

We declined two invitations to borrow a portable DVD player.

We left hand-held electronic games at home since their annoying sounds would fry my nerves by Batavia.

I packed a cooler and came up with a plan. We brought along the audio version of "A Wrinkle in Time," a science fiction book for young readers by Madeleine L'Engle. We listened to three of the CDs on the way down, two on the way back. This 1963 Newbery Medal winner held our attention for five hours, 15 minutes.

Our daughter also looked for horses and cows on the farms we passed. This was very exciting to her -- at first. She lost interest in rural life somewhere in Pennsylvania.

"What's wrong with this state? I don't see any buildings. All I see are hills and trees. Hills and trees, hills and trees!," she groaned.

Then she called her grandmother on my cell phone to complain about it.

Rest areas, she enjoyed. One place had a booth in front with a woman selling sunglasses. It was a sunny day, and people were buying sunglasses left and right. We bought some, too. My husband had left his at home, and our daughter reminded us her old ones no longer fit.

On the way back, we played the license plate game -- we found 22 states! -- and another game our daughter calls "I Am Thinking About . . . "

Daughter: "I am thinking about . . . something gray. I mean white."

Us: "Well, which one is it?"

Daughter: "Forget it. Now I am thinking about . . . something pink."

When it was my turn, I was less vague but still had them stumped for miles.

I was thinking about an object that was two words -- the first beginning with P, the second B. You find it inside a house. It is made of paper. It is black, white and yellow -- sometimes with a little blue.

"A paper bag," my husband guessed.


"A pioneer basket!," our daughter hollered from the back seat.

No, no, no -- it's a phone book, I finally revealed, nearing the exit to take us home.

We survived. Even had fun. We have since added two more states to our list -- Utah and Oregon.

But there is other news: We are driving to Philadelphia again. Our niece's wedding is in October.

I am thinking about . . . hopping on a plane instead!

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