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Just the other day I was listening to some friends talking about taking road trips with their young children. They were comparing what movies their kids liked best while the parents were driving. I found this to be so amazing and, of course, I had a flash back to our road trips back in the ‘50s and ‘60s. We surely did not have movies to watch or head phones to wear to tune our parents out. My enjoyment was seeing a different landscape as we made our way to Richmond, Va., or Atlantic City or New York City. I would look for interesting things like barns and cows, and anything that I did not see in our neighborhood.

Once I got older, I would help my dad with directions and remind him which exit to take. I watched intently how he handled the car and how he safely passed cars. That observation from the back seat helped me learn a lot and I knew I wanted to be a safe driver when I grew up. Sometimes I would read one of my Nancy Drew Mysterys while I rode, but not often. I always wanted to keep my eyes on the road just in case my dad missed something.

I remember watching a movie when I was little; in the movie, these men played a game called “Chicken” on the highway, and they would drive towards each other in the same lane and the first to jump over into the other lane was considered the chicken. I must have watched this movie before movies were rated. This surely was not a movie for children. That movie made such an impression on me that I watched the road the whole time to make sure no one engaged us in a game of chicken. I also kept an eye on my Dad to make sure he did not nod off at the wheel. Back in the day, that eight-hour trip down south seemed so long. Now cars have DVD players built in to the back seat and everyone has a portable DVD player or some device to keep them occupied.

Road trips are a good time for the family to talk and laugh. Remember playing license plate bingo? You would have a bingo card and each time you saw a license plate from a different state you would mark it on your card. I can’t imagine watching movies the entire time I’m in the car. My research tells me that some of the best movies for kids on trips are “The Great Race,” “Cars” and “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.” I wonder what other movies are popular? If your head is down the entire trip or you are watching movies or playing a video game you miss so much. Because I watched each year on our trip to Richmond I knew the way just as well as my father.  In the next month people will be taking road trips to visit family, if kids are involved, turn it into a time to learn or bond.

(Email the columnist at debbienorrell@aol.com)


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