Monday, September 01, 2008
When the transmission went out on my car, the mechanic was reluctant to install a new one since the value of my car was a mere $6500. I assured him that I was okay with my car being worth more dead than alive. With just 3000 miles to go before hitting the big 200,000 mark, I feel a certain obligation to keep the car running so it can achieve its milestone. That, and I can't afford car payments on a new car.
I would estimate that 70% of those miles are soccer-related, which means 140,000 miles in five years. That's the equivalent of five and half trips around the world. I've always thought that soccer was a way to see the world; I just didn't realize that it would be the same few 1000 miles of the world over and over and over and over again. Nevertheless each trip offers its own adventure and memories. If my car could talk . . . then I would have a T.V. series and be able to afford a new car.
With fall soccer season revving up, it's probably time to reiterate a few travel tips that can help make the trips less stressful and a bit more fun. First and foremost I encourage every family to keep a soccer survival box in the trunk. That way you have most of the necessary items at hand all the time. In my box I have paper towels, toilet paper, stocking caps, stretchy gloves, extra socks, extra shin guards, an old pair of cleats, garbage bags, gallon size storage bags, first aid kit, sunscreen, travel umbrellas, and "astronaut" blankets (large Mylar sheets you can get at camping stores). The garbage bags I can lay on the floor of my car to keep mud and grime from hitting the carpets. I personally can't live without my soccer chair, but I don't suppose it's a true necessity.
For really long trips I swear by audio books. You can rent these from the library or at Cracker Barrel restaurants. You can also download books from several different websites directly onto your MP3 player or burn a CD. Some require a membership and some are actually free, although be careful of shareware sites that can hide viruses. DVDs and video games can obviously while away the hours as well, although the driver is left out of that bit of fun.
If you want to avoid electronics, any number of "car trip" games can offer entertainment. Our favorite is the alphabet game whereby contestants look for and shout out the letters of the alphabet in order from the various roadside signs. Our rule is that letters have to be the first letter of words except for X, but to make it harder X can't come from the word "Exit." For younger kids you can do partners since their reading skills might not be up to quick letter identification. We also play "barrel of monkeys" where someone locates something on the roadside, say a cow, and then the next person has to find something starting with the last letter of that object, so maybe a wagon, and so on. Another variety has each person repeating the objects in order before adding their own. Another game is movie or book trivia. To narrow it down we select categories such as plot, setting, and characters. Then somebody has to provide clues one at a time towards an answer in that category. So if the category was characters, someone might give clues like "glasses," then "scarred," then "orphan" for Harry Potter, trying to stump us. We usually limit the clues to ten. We also do movie titles by providing just the initials of the title, i.e. OHAOD for One Hundred and One Dalmatians. To simplify the game we can give genres such as cartoon, action film, comedy, etc. We tried song titles, but it quickly became apparent that our circles of knowledge didn't intersect at all.
I recommend plenty of fluids and power snacks. The boys love chips, but they end up being messy and not very healthy, so I try to supplement with fresh fruit, trail mix, and protein. Hard boiled eggs travel very well as long as they are kept cool. I also have found packets of cheddar cheese cubes, string cheese, and I love "Gogurts." We often have to leave early in the morning when no one is awake enough for breakfast, so I try to find snacks that satisfy the breakfast palette. I haven't tried them, but I saw advertised a new treat called "Bagelfuls" which are individual packets of bagel wrapped around cream cheese.
Don't forget pillows. Naps help make the miles float by. We also try to mix things up in the car by changing places whenever we stop. Highway rest stops provide quick access to clean toilets, maps, and vending machines without the enticement and time waster of fast food. On toll roads, service oases replace rest stops. This means you get one stop convenience for refueling, bathrooms, and food. We also always stop for a sit down meal on the road to give everyone 30 to 45 minutes to unwind and hopefully eat from all four food groups. But you can also achieve the same results with a packed picnic shared at a rest stop. Occasionally we are in a real rush, so we grab food on the way and eat in the car, though I don't like those trips as much.
With the popularity of navigation systems travelers can rely on instant directions. I haven't bought a system for my car, so I still rely on maps. On the other hand, having an electronic Sacagawea in my dashboard telling me where the nearest Starbucks or Pizza Hut is located would be nice. I love Google maps because I can get a satellite map with a street map overlay. The satellite map offers visual cues which have proven very helpful in locating fields off the beaten track. Although don't rely too much on the house photos from an address. When incorrect those photos can prove embarrassing picking up a kid at 5 AM – trust me!
Robbie had his first soccer game Tuesday of his last high school season. So as autumn leaves change so do our lives. Sorry, but if I can't have a talking car maybe I can make a living coming up with hackneyed images. Enjoy the ride, wherever you are going this season.