Like many other families, we're stuck using what is practically the only widely-available mode of mass transit: the ubiquitous 15-passenger van. You know the type: a sliding door that requires Herculean strength to close, a rats nest of cell-phone chargers in the glove compartment, partially eaten granola bars between the seat cushions, enough doll clothes to stock an American Girl thrift store, looks as big as a football stadium inside, and smells like one too. Lesson one: this is your habitat. Get used to it.
On any trip of any considerable length, food is an important consideration. ("Any considerable length" may be taken to mean anything longer than 3 hours. Anything less is just tooling around.) Lunch in the car saves money, and it also saves that all-important traveling commodity: time. So, at random hours, whoever is in charge of the cooler will open shop and take orders. Before you know it, it's a regular meteor shower of cheese sticks, apples, granola bars, baby carrots, and cookies if you're lucky. On long trips, this menu becomes strangely repetitive, until even Cracker Barrel begins to sound good.
We Telians are somewhat famous for eating our apples core and all. My only explanation for this highly unusual practice is that eating the core is vastly preferable to holding the stupid thing, watching it oxidize, and feeling your hand growing stickier by the minute. Now you may ask: Why don't you throw it away? To which I reply: How feasible do you suppose it is to pass an apple core past four rows of disgusted siblings to the trash bag? Not very. Or you may ask: Why don't you throw it out the window? To which I reply: The windows don't open: this is a 15-passenger van, not a Mustang convertible. Or you may ask: Why don't you just put it in a bag? To which I reply, Do you have a Ziploc dispenser in your van? Because we don't.
So - we eat the core. (You can pocket the stem, or hide it somewhere.)
Next to food, the hottest issue in travel politics is music. It's basically a problem of mathematics: one stereo, twenty ears, and two-hundred CD's. Hmmmm.
If you're running for driver, you can try catering to special-interest groups. If you're not driving, you can bring earbuds and a music player, but this doesn't work too well if the main stereo is also playing. Derek Webb and Hide 'Em In Your Heart don't mix: trust me.
Most of us are agreed that Ford vans were designed to carry passengers comfortably - for about 15 minutes. For starters, the almost complete lack of headrests is a dead giveaway. You're left with two options: 1) slide yourself forward until your rear is falling off the seat and place your neck on top of the bench, or 2) tighten your shoulder belt and cradle your head in it. (The latter alternative only works on relatively straight roads. Otherwise, you will be rudely awakened in about 3-1/2 minutes by a resounding smack against the window that is both painful and embarrassing.)
The other engineering disaster is the ventilation system. For some reason, there are no overhead vents for the rear bench. (No one actually uses that bench, do they?) Keeping the temperature in a comfortable range is one thing, (most of us gave up on that a long time ago) but in the back, sometimes you just plain can't breathe. As I said, there's no vents, and of course, none of the windows open. So you close your eyes, and "think happy thoughts," and try to conserve oxygen.
Thankfully, no one in our family has any real problem with carsickness. This is fortunate, because we all have a real problem with vomit. One time, we were coming down a corkscrew road, returning from a family camping trip. Of course, Chloe had just been crammed full of oatmeal, and about halfway down, her little tummy just gave up. Dad pulled over, and everyone promptly exited out the nearest door or window, like a fire drill, only more compulsive than rehearsed.
There you have it: a crash course in Darwinian driving. All we need to do now is find somewhere to go!
Image courtesy of fusioncoedsoccer.com