My family and I have moved six times in the last four-and-a-half years that Charis and I have been married. Between finishing up at Calvin, moving for my master’s program, and finally, after a long time waiting for a semi-stable residence in a doctoral program, residing where we are now in Indiana, we have ended up being within two hours of Grand Rapids (albeit driving a wee fast) and within four hours of our home base in Northern Michigan. We’ve finally been able to secure something that we feel comfortable calling “home.”

Along the way, however, we’ve had ample chances to experience the all-American road trip (that is, if you count the full experience of car sickness, emergency bathroom breaks, and an endless supply of gas station food self-justification). Here today I share some of the jewels of experience I’ve mined along the way.


  1. Asking if everyone’s gone to the bathroom even before loading up into the car is a very real thing.
  2. Road trips while potty training are very likely the dreaded four-hour experiences of expecting the ticking time bombs to go off.
  3. There is a definite limit to how many times someone can maintain his or her sanity while listening to a Veggie Tales CD.
  4. Same goes for Bob the Builder, Blues Clues, etc. ad nauseum.
  5. Books on tape are your very best friends.
  6. Bribes are more than okay. I’ve trained my kids to think that Tic-Tacs are the holiest of grails in terms of possible rewards for good behavior.
  7. When the usual family car is in the shop for a fix-up, you can never underestimate the value of having enough space between car seats.
  8. And, yes, that means you will treasure that arm’s reach distance between seats more than you ever thought possible.
  9. On the unlikely occasion that you experience even one of your road trip party’s ability to drift off to sleep, you will guard that particular calm with your life.
  10. Weaving in and out of traffic may very well reveal what bad habits you pick up from your mother or father.
  11. …To that end, I’ve been accused of talking to poor drivers as if they were mortal enemies.
  12. …Ooh, yeah, I never realized quite how prevalent this phenomenon was until a child started repeating the stock phrases and cadences of my intra-traffic conversationalism.
  13. And by the way, the shorthand excuse for roadkill that these woodland creatures are “just sleeping” is a totally valid way to get around explaining the precious nature of life and death for Bambi, Flower, Thumper, and their various friends.
  14. Nothing strikes the fear of God into you quite like the experience of flying down the highway when you pass a cop patrolling for speed.
  15. And on such occasions, you may find yourself wondering whether “I have two or more children in this car and I’m simply trying to get home” will be an acceptable excuse or not.
  16. All-night car rides are wonderful, terrible plans.
  17. Same goes for a gas-station diet of jerky, Combos, and Chex Mix.
  18. Drive thrus are a get-in-and-get-out situation.
  19. Heaven help anyone who specifies a custom order at McDonald’s.
  20. But when you reach your destination, you will thank your lucky stars and value the time that you can recuperate from the drive while vowing that you can beat your record time on the next trip.

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