Archived Story

Road trips aren’t the same for grown-ups

Published 3:37pm Saturday, June 8, 2013

Column: Pass the Hot Dish, by Alexandra Kloster

I spent the evening with my husband, Graham, discussing plans and expectations for our trip to Michigan next week.

“How long should it take us to get there?” he asked.

“When I was on my own it took me about 10 1/2 hours,” I told him.

“Factor in kids and the dog,” he said.

“Three days.”

After nearly two hours of staring at each other we called it a night. We had neither a plan nor expectation.

No matter what road you take, family travel has changed. My dad tells me of the days when his 10 brothers and sisters piled into a truck, “Grapes of Wrath” style, and took off with their dog running alongside. I remember my sister and I lounging in the backseat of a Cadillac the size of a small planet sipping Orange Crush and reading Archie comics all the way to Disney World.

Now we’ve got car seats you couldn’t damage if you bounced them off the side of a cliff. Our GPS ensures that no one ever has to struggle to refold a map, and the dog rides in air-conditioned style. Undoubtedly, we’re safer, but we’re far less relaxed.

I’ve been in training for a month. I’ve made lists, amended lists, revised the amended lists and wiped sweat from my weary brow with the list of modified, adjusted, amended revisions. I’ve calculated the number of diapers we’ll require, taking into account the likelihood for intestinal episodes of an unexpected nature.

I have emergency Cheerios strategically placed throughout the vehicle and spare sippy cups holstered to my waist. I’ve located the best rest stops for dog walking, baby walking and parent pacing. I’ve attached a tracking device to Graham should he try to flee.

To demonstrate commitment to the mission, I cut off all my hair because long locks are for cocktails at 30,000 feet. I was heading into a van with two almost-toddlers and a dog. Friends, there are no ponytails in foxholes.

Who am I kidding?

There is no way to prepare for a long car ride with kids. We did this at Thanksgiving, but, honestly, they were just drinking, sleeping, blinking little blob people at that point. Now they want to be entertained, and my repertoire isn’t that big. It might get us to Wisconsin.

I can only sing the ladybug picnic song so many times before I start to really hate ladybugs and I want to say, “Do you know what happens to ladybugs at picnics, girls? Somebody flicks them off the food, and they land on their backs in the sand with their stupid ladybug arms and legs wriggling in the air as they die a slow death, which is how I feel right now.”

There. That took care of 10 miles. Only 580 more to go with two traumatized little girls crying and praying for all the ladybugs in the cold cruel world.

But who’s crying for the ladyperson with Cheerios in her ears and no hair? Who’s crying for the sad sack who’s not sure whether the sippy cup in her lap leaked or if she wet her pants when that deer ran past the car and she recognized herself in its scared, vacant eyes? Who’s crying for the buzz cut in the backseat who would do just about anything, even refold a map, to get an Orange Crush and her long hair back? Who’s crying for her?

Perhaps I’m being dramatic.

The truth is, I’m nervous about this trip. Not only are we trekking across the Midwest, but we are taking the girls to their first wedding. I’m singing as the bride, my niece, Annie, walks down the aisle, and every time I rehearse the babies openly wail. So there’s that. There is also Father’s Day, my dad’s 88th birthday, my other niece’s birthday, my sister’s birthday and the twins’ first birthday.

It’s going to be wonderful or it’s going to be celebration Armageddon. Either way, I plan to eat a lot of cake and breathe into a paper bag when necessary, possibly both at the same time.

I’ll let you know how it goes. Until then, wish me luck, drive safely and please, be kind to ladybugs. What did they ever do to you?


Woodbury resident Alexandra Kloster appears each Sunday. She may be reached at, and her blog is at