Friday, June 20, 2008

Octamom's Rules of the Road

It was never my intention to become a Road Warrior. I didn't harbor childhood fantasies of driving a big rig, even though BJ and the Bear did have its attractions. I don't mind traveling, but I can be pretty happy in my own backyard, provided there are good running trails nearby. Voyages, destinations, estimated times of arrival, well, okay, but, to quote Mrs. Bird, "My nest is best."

Until four years ago. That marked the end of the nest season and began the season of Let's Move Often and With Great Challenge. M took a job many, many hundreds of miles away and I stayed behind to sell the house... which ended up taking a LONG time. We would travel frequently to see M and stay with him for a couple of weeks before packing up and going back to the original home turf, all in an effort to keep the house 'staged' and ready for showing. After many months and miles, we ditched the original plan, cleared out the house and moved into a lease house. We then learned the fun tradition of traveling on major holidays, trying to secret gifts in the same vehicle as small children without them gaining knowledge of said presents. We undertook another move five weeks before the twins were born and added more miles to our collective backsides.

An expert of small child travels I did not set out to be, and yet here I am. I've learned some things along the way, perhaps some nuggets of wisdom that could help you, Dear Reader, should you lose your mind and decide that you want to travel with your kids in a confined vehicle on $4 a gallon gas this summer. What follows are some bits of knowledge gleaned while behind the wheel of my non-eco-friendly SUV, driving the highways and byways of this great nation.

1. Determine what kind of traveler you are. There are two types of drivers in this world, the motivated and the mosey-ers (as in 'mosey on down the road'). I think there may be moral issues with being a mosey-er. You frustrate people. You don't care what your mph average is. You have no concept of beating the land speed record from your previous trip on this same path. Therefore, it is obvious--being a motivated road warrior is morally superior...with the exception of my precious in-laws. But only them--the rest of you need to get out of my way.....

2. Restrict fluids. If you give children a 64 ounce container of lemonade, they will need to relieve their bladders every 30 minutes for 400 miles. Yes, that is the official equation for determining bladder thresholds: 64 oz=400mph/1800sec (or something close to that). If allowed, I would have the children insert catheters prior to departure. That's how seriously this bathroom thing can cut into the best laid dossier.

3. Unsupervised Goldfish Cracker consumption is discouraged. I don't know what it is about the molecular structure of Goldfish Crackers, but they are reduced to their basic atomic structure and come to rest in a golden dust which covers every fiber of carpet on the floorboards. Goldfish are simply rendered incapable of holding their form when subjected to the high G-forces of an Octamom Road Trip. Use with caution.

4. Someone working in the 'roadside sign' department in the state of Missouri has a relative in a highly elected position. I am not making this up--there are mileage markers every 2/10ths of a mile in the state of Missouri, again, every 2/10ths of a mile. The roads have potholes the size of impact craters, but I can tell you to few feet exactly where they are....

5. Fast food is not fast if you are in a hurry. I have sat at numerous drive-thrus, drumming my fingers in irritated staccato, while my friendly fast food servers are apparently out in the pasture selecting a ripe cow for the picking of my burger. We have had fast food experiences which have involved a multi-minute search for ketchup packets. We have waited for new to-go bags to be extricated from the high security vault of fast-food paper products. When they see us coming, the gravitational forces around said fast food establishment morph and slow, rendering a time differential that is in direct inverse proportion to the amount of fatigue and patience I have in my mental storeroom.

6. If 4 of 8 says she needs to go to the bathroom, you can probably get another 100 miles out of her.

7. If 5 of 8 says he needs to go to the bathroom, he's not playing. Enough said.

8. We have not done enough to honor the makers of travel DVD players. They are the ambassadors of non-invasive kid distraction, preserving the sanity of traveling parents everywhere, and yet, where is the national holiday honoring these hero engineers? Where are the ticker tape parades? It's a travesty, I tell you....

9. When traveling as a large family, be prepared to be hassled. I've only been stopped a couple of times in all these travels, and once it was so the officer could make sure I wasn't 'trafficking solicitors'. Really? My 15 passenger van is now on the radar of law enforcement officials as the nouveau 'pimp mobile'? Wow. Makes me feel pretty edgy and urban....

10. The 'stuff' you packed in the back of your vehicle at the beginning of the trip will in no way fit back into your vehicle in the same way once you begin the process of repacking to go back home. This is a tried and tested truism that I can't seem to defeat. We are bringing back the same stuff in the same containers and yet, it just won't all go back in. The beautiful packing job I executed originally degrades to 'stuffing and shoving' as we disembark. I always feel a little bad that children have to sit atop their Barbie suitcases, but I do think a booster-seat/suitcase design is long overdue....

11. You get bonus points if you travel with all eight kids AND two incontinent dogs.


12. Car sickness will not be tolerated, except in the case of the driver, who has been a motion-sick sufferer from childhood and now must drive at all times to avoid...upheaval.

13. However, you do get more bonus points for each vomiter...but it's not car sickness--it must just be a tummy bug....

14. Getting home to your own bed feels better than any other spot in the world. Beach, mountains, museums...they got nothin' on my 800 thread count Egyptian cotton sheets and that cute guy I've been living with for almost 19 years....

Okay, you potential Road Warriors of '08, take out that second mortgage for gas money, load your bags, and hit the road. Wear your seat belt, drink your coffee and don't forget to mark where all the potholes are, down to a 2/10th of a mile accuracy. Godspeed! Pin It
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