Bringing Back the Summer Road Trip
New variations on classic in-car games offer fun and humorous ways to help pass the time
One way to avoid the impending hysteria this summer over the long airport lines at TSA security is to road trip it. I’m not suggesting you can do this for all your summer holiday plans, but for distances you can reach within 12 hours or less, I say skip the airfare, get behind the wheel, and go for it. Gas is pretty cheap and you might spend the same amount of time in the car as you would in line at the airport before you even get to the gate for your flight. And you can keep your shoes on.
Growing up, my family did a lot of summer vacations by station wagon, and we played the predictable license plate games — what states, colors, numbers — creating point systems and teams to appeal to my ultra-competitive siblings. On car trips with my own sons, we sang along to Raffi — more like I sang along and they rolled their eyes. We played the “I Spy”game sometimes, but mostly they each played with their Power Ranger figures and I kept them separated by luggage and seats so they wouldn’t fight.
But I have a road trip with friends planned again this summer — last year we drove from New Orleans to Gulf Shores, Alabama — and because we exhausted all pertinent topics last summer, I am planning to have these surefire gems on hand to break the monotony and increase the hilarity.
Nickname That Friend or Relative. Brainstorm on best attributes (curly hair, big smile); talents or hobbies (cooking, biking); secret aspirations (singer, athlete, inventor); or favorite celebrity (actor, rock star, author). Now combine them into one name. You can go G-rated or R-rated, depending on who is playing and whether it’s a moniker you might repeat in public. For instance, your talkative aunt Catherine can be Chatty Cathy — alliteration is always good. You can also assign a name based on a particularly notable story about that person, as when your friend set the tablecloth on fire with a candle. She is now Pyrotechnic.
#Hashtag This. Anyone who is a Twitter follower or Twitter lover might want to observe something and immediately assign what could become a viral hashtag for the scene. For instance, you see a family coming out of a fast food restaurant with several bags of food, you might declare #largefries. A young woman driving near you on the highway and singing along with her car radio can be #TheVoice. You don’t have to ever tweet your hashtags, just coming up with them can be enough to make you smile.
What’s Your Story? Zero in on someone in the next lane visually. Now get to work on creating a narrative for that person. You can go around to each passenger in the car and have each person add a piece of the puzzle. What is his or her name? Where are they driving to? What does the person do for work? For hobbies? Where did this person go to school? You can be as wild as you like. For instance, name the driver on the right Poindexter Jones, who got his Toyota Camry from his grandmother. He is on his way to a job interview as a clown in a traveling circus, having dropped out of Princeton because he didn’t like the food. You get the gist.
Crazy Eights. Any place on a truck, car, motorcycle or van where there is a number, count the times you see the number eight. It could be a phone number on the side of a truck, a license plate, or an address or name of a company on a van. You have to be the first person to spot the 8 in order for you to be able to count it. And your sighting has to be confirmed.
Of course, you can also always rely on an old stand-by game like “Six Degrees of Separation.” Pick a famous person, then try to come up with six paths to someone in the car. For instance, someone says, “Katie Couric,” another person says “Today Show,” and then someone says the name of a person who worked as a producer on that show. Someone else says that producer lived across the hall from him in college. It’s always fun to see how you can all align your connections.
More people may be taking to the highways this summer to avoid airport lines. But if you can keep your spirits up with a few laughs and a handful of games, you may arrive at your summer vacation destination in a sunny mood. And that wins every time.Edit Module