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‘No, we’re not almost there’

How to survive a road trip, sanity intact



"The journey is more important than the destination," or so wise sages will inform us. But I'll bet they never had to spend all day driving to the beach with screaming kids in the backseat and a douchebag riding your bumper because there's a pokey little hybrid in front of you, and your spouse is complaining about inadequate lumbar support, and even though your bladder's at capacity you crack open another Cherry Coke because that was the only thing left at the rest stop vending machine, and you can't listen to your music, no, you have to listen to something that everyone likes, even though you're the one who's driving, and your restless leg syndrome's about to kick in ... .

Nope, experience tells us that getting there is way less than half the fun – like, maybe a tenth of the fun, tops. Here are some suggestions to keep your sanity and make good time while on the road.

1) First, consider using particleboard and a wrestling mat to jerry-rig one of those soundproof partitions between front and backseat, like limousines have.

2) If the children don't already know that the "let's play the Quiet Game" routine is just a ploy to shut them up, they'll get wise within five minutes. Instead, suggest "let's play the Hold Our Breath Game." If they pass out, don't worry – they'll just start breathing again automatically.

3) Kids also recognize "I'm coming back there!" as a hollow threat. Get creative by adjusting a cell phone ring tone to a series of ominous grunts and hoots and hiding it beneath one of their car seats. When they act up, call the number and tell them there's an angry ape in the trunk that'll reach through the seat and grab anyone making provocative noises.

4) If you have a portable DVD player on board, apply a carrot-or-the-stick philosophy that rewards kids with Pixar flicks and punishes them with the likes of Berlin Alexanderplatz or The Sorrow and the Pity.

5) If you want to make a long drive in a straight shot, without bathroom breaks, consider wearing adult diapers like that crazy astronaut wore. If you're riding with a group, convince everyone to wear them. It'll make for great conversation.

6) Research exercises that you can do while sitting behind the wheel: deep breaths, arm curls, glute clenches, etc. You should be able to crack walnuts by the time you get home.

7) Bring bags of snacks to save on fast food purchases. You can make games out of them, like "Find the spicy Wasabi pea in the jelly beans," or "Trail Mix Surprise."

8) Prank other drivers on the road by wearing turbans, fake beards and/or burkas while holding up bundles of road flares with alarm clocks attached. You and the state troopers will enjoy a hearty laugh. Cops have good senses of humor about that kind of prank, right?

9) Remember the words of Steve Martin: "Always keep a litter bag in your car. It doesn't take up much room, and when it gets full, you can just toss it out the window."

10) If you're driving a lonely all-nighter by yourself, remember that Hot Pockets or those fast food apple pies get very hot, so let them cool for at least 15 minutes before having sex with them.

11) Listen to the 15-disc, unabridged book-on-tape of Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything. I don't have a joke here – it's just really good.

12) Finally, if you're tormented by middle-of-nowhere traffic jams and rhythmic chanting from the backseat, focus on that beer you'll have when the drive is finally over. But if you hallucinate that the car's a Venetian gondola cruising along golden, frothy canals of lager, you might want to pull over for a few minutes.

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