22 Hours in the Car? Piece of Cake!

So last week, while you were all reading up on a week’s worth (more or less) of book recommendations, the five of us at World of Julie were packed into the car and driving down to Maryland and back, to visit Dave’s parents. I have a lot to tell about it, and will probably spend the whole week posting about this and that. I have to say, the kids were complete angels the whole time. Shockingly. They were clearly just holding it in because Eli got a cold the second we got back, and Henry had a World Class Tantrum at a birthday party the next day. But that’s ok.

So first: the car trip. Dave had the brilliant idea two days before we left that we should get a GPS. On Anne’s recommendation, I ran out and got a Garmin Nuvi (we got the 255). Um, how exactly did we live without a GPS? Seriously. We are total map people, so it was totally enthralling to have this map with a little car that showed us where we were, and also told us where to eat and sleep, and what fun activities to do. I never ever would have found the secret special unmarked bagel place in New Jersey on the morning of Day Two without the GPS (really: it was an awesome bagel place, with no sign saying what it was, more or less in the middle of a corn field). Though I am sure we are some kind of special breed of people who manage to get lost even with the GPS. One problem was that Dave didn’t totally trust it. Another problem was when we pulled off in New Jersey to find a place to stay for the night, and I made the mistake of calling the hotel on the way, only to find out it was sold out. So then we were in Newark. What is it about Newark? How many times have I inexplicably found myself pulled off the Turnpike and lost in Newark (well, ok: twice). Listen to me: if you have to stop for food or gas or sleep, drive past Newark and go to the next town. Our GPS was so upset with us for being lost in Newark. It kept trying to get us to just turn around. At one point it actually said, “Turn down this alley!” Which led us to fantasize about the various GPS voices having a little more personality. Or better accents, like a New York accent, or cockney. And saying things like, “What is wrong with you people? I said to TURN AROUND!” One oddity was the fact that the British man voice, Stewart, told us street names, while the American woman voice, Samantha, did not. But we couldn’t really understand Stewart because his deep rumbly voice was sort of at the same frequency as the highway noise. But still. I am in love with the GPS.

I got a few Road Trip Surprises (that is, things to keep the boys occupied) to make the ride bearable. As well as a ridiculous amount of food. First, we went to the art supply store and stocked up on pads of paper, colored pencils, crayons, and stickers. Those seriously lasted us about 3 hours. Eli got trains and trucks, Henry got circus and dalmations. The next Road Trip Surprise I unleashed were two Discovery Channel View-masters. It turns out View-masters have evolved significantly since 1976. These had amazing pictures and sound. And a voice telling you facts about what you are looking at, which unfortunately was exactly the same as the GPS voice we were using, and let me tell you how alarming it is to think your GPS is suddenly saying, “Tyrannosaurus Rex means Tyrant Lizard.”

So the next hour or so the boys looked like this:

So I was able to save my final Road Trip Surprise for the trip back: travel Doodle Pros. We have a full-size one at home, so I wasn’t sure how much they’d care about the travel ones, but Henry especially spent a lot of spirited time with his.

The other car ride lifesaver was the fact that I went to the library beforehand and got as many books on tape as I could carry. The ones that totally saved us were Runaway Ralph (a whole chapter book!), John Henry, Big Bad Bruce, and Duffy and the Devil. The last two especially were listened to again and again, and I would recommend then as regular (i.e., non-audio) books, especially Duffy and the Devil. I also got Pete Seeger’s Abiyoyo (And Other Songs and Stories for Children) which we played for the final four hours of the trip. The kids are already huge huge huge Pete Seeger fans, but I’m definitely going to have to get this on CD for at home. There’s a song about sweeping, one of Eli’s favorite pasttimes, and one called “Sam the Whaler” which now has Henry singing lonesome and beautiful whaling songs all the livelong day.

Comments (12)

  1. Emily February 24, 2009 at 11:12 am

    Newark. One of the interesting things about Newark is that it is HALF AN HOUR PAST my home in New York City. Which, while it is not large, can still easily accomodate a lively family of 5, on aerobeds strategically placed around the apt, which are easily more comforatble than sofabeds. Just saying.

    look at you, genius travel mother, doing it without resorting to those portable dvd players! love the viewmasters!

  2. Kate February 24, 2009 at 2:01 pm

    Yes, we tried to get you guys to stay here as well, but one of us (I think it was me) wound up being sick, so it was OK in the end. Glad the trip was a success!

    Big Bad Bruce is a neat book and we’re all fans of most every Bill Peet book. I think you can find a fair number of them on tape (or CD – whatever). Right now we’re reading Kenny and the Dragon by Tony DiTerlizzi and I’ve been amazed at how Hugh has been hanging in with each page – even when there are no illustrations. So far, so good in the brave new world of chapter books!

  3. Julie February 24, 2009 at 2:30 pm

    I came close to borrowing a portable DVD, and I’m so glad I didn’t. The boys were totally fine. Audio books equal DVDs in our world.

    And I have to say Newark did look a little nicer than the last time I got lost there.

    I’m so glad we didn’t descend upon you, Kate, when you were sick! We ended up staying in Cranbury, so we made it 45 minutes or so past you. We are also fans of most every Bill Peet book. I will check out Kenny and the Dragon! That is a big endorsement — staying into it without illustrations. Amazing.

  4. Kate February 24, 2009 at 2:38 pm

    Well, there ARE illustrations (and wonderful ones at that), just not as many of them as you think you might need for a 4 year old. He hangs in quite nicely until we get to each one, so it’s been a really great experience so far.

  5. Kate February 24, 2009 at 3:21 pm

    Regarding Bill Peet – I found a charming autobiography that’s definitely worth checking out. It was in the junior reader section at our library.

  6. Emily February 24, 2009 at 9:14 pm

    we often enjoy the airplane landings over a plate of meatballs and funny yellow carrots at Ikea, which has its own exit (13) in Newark.

    (sounds like the start of a novel translated from finnish, doesn’t it?)

  7. Julie February 24, 2009 at 9:21 pm

    Ha ha — novel translated from Finnish. Yes.

    We did make an Ikea stop, but in Maryland. More on that in a later post. We were too rushed. I could spend the whole day there.

    Kate, I will definitely check out the Bill Peet bio. Is he still alive? (she asked, nervously)

  8. Kate February 24, 2009 at 10:17 pm

    Unfortunately, no. He died a couple of years ago. He illustrated the autobiography and you’ll come to see how he’d drawn himself into some books as a background figure here and there. I’m a particular fan of Jennifer and Josephine. Also Cowardly Clyde.

  9. Patrick February 25, 2009 at 9:24 am

    We are weak,evil parents. The first thing we did when we decided that we were driving up to New Jersey was to buy portable DVD players.

  10. Julie February 25, 2009 at 11:00 am

    I did seriously think about getting a portable DVD player, but it was more the fact that my kids would have no idea how to work it, and I didn’t feel like crawling into the back and starting every little movie.

    What I’m interested in is that you got playerS. Plural. How was it not just a chaotic cacaphony of preschoolmania during the whole ride?

  11. Julie February 25, 2009 at 11:33 am

    And that’s a bummer about Bill Peet (though he could have been born in 1900 for all I know). Henry was going to write him with a book idea. At least I know James Stephenson is still alive, since he often does little drawings for the New York Times’ editorial page. I will definitely check out that biography. Henry would love searching for Bill Peet in every book. He likes looking for Pinkerton in Steven Kellogg books.

  12. Patrick February 25, 2009 at 12:12 pm

    Well, actually, what we bought was one player with two screens. They attach to the back of the front seats.Getting them to agree on things can be tough, but overall it has been helpful on those trips.

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