This trip had a few supporting actors that deserve some mention here.
Despite a plethora of computers in our home, we had been a tablet-less family prior to the trip. But, upon thinking through some of the logistics involved with spending 8 days in a car with three young boys, we concluded (1) we needed to buy a minivan and (2) some sort of game-playing device might well save our sanity. Especially since the Gort had threatened to pack his ‘newly acquired’, decade-old ibook G4, which weighs approximately 10 pounds.
So we purchased a Samsung Tablet and gave it to the boys on the first day of driving. It was an instant hit and, before long, the boys went from asking for ‘the tablet’ to asking for the i-tab.
And I chuckled to myself imagining them returning to school and updating their classmates on their summer experiences. ‘We got an i-tab!’ they might say. And their Apple-inundated classmates would wrinkle their noses suspiciously before saying ‘I-tab?! there’s no such thing as an i-tab.’
Kookoo and the ipad
Percy [very] occasionally has an invisible friend named Kookoo, pronounced with a slight southern twang rendering the ‘oo’ sound closer to an ‘ow’. Kookoo is a lazy friend, or perhaps it’s that his master is somewhat forgetful; failing to include him in most of our daily lives. But sometimes Kookoo shows up, including a couple of times during our trip. He appeared when Percy happened to be sharing the van’s backseat with one of his brothers, prompting him to demand that the unused middle seatbelt be buckled ‘because Kookoo is sitting there.’
This description makes it sound much more civilized than it actually was since these exchanges involved Percy yelling at his brothers about how they needed to buckle that middle seatbelt! And when they dared to state the obvious, he yelled that the reason they couldn’t see Kookoo was because he is invisible!!!!
As luck would have it, my mom won an ipad while we were there. Since she already has an ipad (and an ipod and an iphone…..) she kindly gave it to
me the boys. Which means we had not one, but two tablets for the return trip! Though of course it meant one boy had to wait, device-less, when the other two had their turn. Our problem-solving, system-loving Gort figured out a rotation system and could be heard announcing periodically ’it’s time to ro-TATE the device,’ which caused me to giggle on more than one occasion.
‘You can play on Kookoo’s ipad,’ Percy kindly offered to the Gort when he complained about being tablet-less. ‘Kookoo has an ipad?!’ the Gort replied, somewhat incredulously. ‘Actually,’ the three year old suddenly remembered, ‘he forgot it at home.’
Taking your family on the road for a month is not for the faint of heart or the fond of stuff. A few weeks before we left, I stumbled across a blog post detailing one woman’s strategy for packing clothes for her family. She used plastic shopping bags. I’m not a fan of plastic shopping bags, but I have a stash in my cupboard and as I thought about past trip pitfalls: not being able to find underwear for so-and-so, and losing so-and-so’s socks, I determined plastic bags might solve a host of ills.
So the night before we left, I set out everyone’s clothes for the four days of driving to Indiana: four outfits (including socks and underwear) per person, two pairs of pajamas, and swimwear. I grabbed a bunch of plastic bags and labelled them with black Sharpie marker: Boys Day 1, Boys Day 2, Pajamas Days 1 & 2, Pajamas Days 3 & 4, Swim Clothes, J/N Day 1, etcetera. And then I proceeded to put all the Day 1 and 2 stuff in one duffle bag and the Day 3 and 4 stuff in another duffle bug.
I know. Genius.
The system worked rather well. Other than the professor complaining that it was tacky, I didn’t have to listen to ‘I don’t know where my clothes are’ complaints, so-and-so’s underwear didn’t go missing, and there was no rummaging through bags looking for one person’s swim trunks, because they were all in a bag labelled SWIM CLOTHES.
That being said, a system is only as good as the person who devised the system. That person being me, who thought we were going to take 4 days to drive to Indiana. Except we took 5. And, on the morning of the 5th day, the system-loving Gort got up and searched for his white plastic bag before asking, innocently, ‘where are our Day 5 clothes?’ And I had to give him the bad news: ’There are no Day 5 clothes.’
If I could turn back time…….
And then there were the conversational gems; random sentences that amuse and provide insight into the boys’ understanding of their world.
Like the Hen asking innocently ‘why are we at the border again?’ when we stopped at the Utah Lake State Park to pay the $10 entry fee. Apparently our traumatized children think any time the car stops and we talk to someone in a little building, we must be ‘at the border.’
There’s no denying driving through the desert may not have been particularly enjoyable for
anyone everyone, but it was least enjoyable for our 9 year old son; who, courtesy of his age and personality, did not refrain from vocalizing his disdain for our natural surroundings. Repeatedly.
‘Dad, when are we getting to an actual city?’ [Day 2, ninety minutes outside Arches National Park.]
‘I can’t believe we spent three-quarters of the day in the desert!’ [Day 2, en route to Monticello, post-Arches]
The desert’s so hot…….I gotta wear shades
‘Mom I think we’re in Egypt ’cause these look like pyramids.’ [Day 3, Not sure if this was the Gort or the Hen, 30 minutes before Wilson's Arch.]
‘[This is] the desert that never ends.’ [Day 3, whilst eating brunch at the Jailhouse Cafe in Moab, Utah.]
‘You know what wasn’t a highlight? Driving through the desert.’ [Day 18, The Gort's answer to 'what's been the highlight of the trip so far'.]
‘I’d rather watch a turtle for five hours than go through the desert again’. [Day 25, driving through Wisconsin]
teen goat spirit
When he wasn’t ruing the day[s] he drove through the desert, the Gort also entertained with his quirky vocabulary and seemingly-out-of-nowhere observations.
‘I will always remember this trip because I have multiple souvenirs.’
‘Canada is slightly better than America because it has less natural disasters and venomous creatures.’
‘Look at all those American flags, are we in Texas or something?’ [Day 3, the Gort, upon driving through Moab or Monticello]
The five year old was also perplexed by the number of flags, particularly in middletown America: ‘why are there so many America flags? Everybody knows this is America………………or maybe not.’
The professor came up with a few gems too. Upon getting back in the car, after visiting the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, ‘I give this an L. For LAME’, he complained. ‘Note to self, don’t try to be fun.’
‘What if you made an album in the style of Mumford & Sons and The Lumineers…..about highway signs’ he wondered aloud on another occasion.
And possibly my favorite gem of the whole trip: ‘My pants are wet but I didn’t pee in them.’ [Percy, after peeing in his pants. In the car.]
Life is a highway