How to Ruin Your Family Road Trip

The real definition of road trip? An intentional lengthening of the worst part of vacation. It doesn’t make sense. Faster transportation is available. Groupie, limited-time, the-last-cruise-ship-sank-type deals make the savings insignificant. Yet, people embark on a road trip every day.

I will refer to these people as insane, but I mean it in the most reasonable sense. They are passive thrill seekers, betting on extra hours of 60 mph to bring adventure. Flying is guaranteed arrival, and planes travel 565 mph. By my calculations, driving is about…… slower.

And slower means increased chances of something going wrong. A thing that goes wrong is fun and spontaneous. And crazy.

I was crazy once. Or at least my family was crazy and road tripped to a national park, camp trailer in tow. On our way home, we stopped at a petrified forest. For fun.

As a kid, when you hear “forest”, the last thing you think of is rocks in the dirt. A few were interesting, but dad definitely talked the place up. On the way out, a glimmer of red caught my eye and I bent to pick up the only fantastic piece of petrified wood in the “forest”. Into my pocket it went.

bad luck petrified forest

Notices posted at the exit admonished people to un-steal any petrified wood; “Some say the wood is haunted and removing a piece brings the taker nothing but bad luck”. There were apologetic letters to prove it. Well, “some” also say park rangers are greedy rock-hoarders. The rock stayed in my pocket.

And not 5 miles from the park, our camper tire exploded.

That happens.

20 miles later, the car got a flat.


10 miles after that, the spare tire died.

We’re following a nail truck.

Our caravan limped to the nearest service station. Getting out of the car, my brother slammed his fingers in the door, was stung by a kamikaze bee, and the service station hose didn’t work… which wasn’t a big deal, until I stepped in our dog’s poo. Both shoes. And you can probably guess at this point that it was extra mushy.

In light of the fun we were having, my dad, bewildered, asked a question:

“Did anyone take the wood?”

And now, somewhere in a field next to a service station lies a stolen relocated piece of petrified forest.

Let my shoes, dangling from the trailer hitch like road trip war trophies, be a lesson to all you crazy people.

3 thoughts on “How to Ruin Your Family Road Trip

  1. shadowoperator says:

    Very funny, Peter. Nice to hear from you after so long a time. I’ll just bet, though, that you also ran out of jelly doughnuts and pie while you were there (if such treats as you have mentioned were even a part of your life back then). Try this on for size: once, on the sad occasion of an uncle’s death, my brother (a rockin’ bad-in-the-sense-of-really-good driver drove me, my mom, and my infant nephew on a 13 hour trip to the funeral and back again). On the way back, we hit major rainstorms at night, and the big tractor-trailers were whizzing past us and covering us up in water. But my brother, with his ear buds firmly in place listening to music only he could hear so as not to wake up the baby, powered through until we got to a good stopping place and stayed at a Red Roof Inn (where he was awake all night in his room with his infant son because having slept already, the baby was naturally wakeful). My brother continued to drive us the next day, and we got through it all without further incident–but boy, did he sleep once we got home!

    1. Peter Monaco says:

      I would bow to your brother if I met him. I’m a fantastic driver, but rain+darkness is my kryptonite; I can’t see the lanes and my windows fog up.

      Thanks for sticking with me shadowoperator, it’s encouraging to have blogger-friends/readers like you.

      1. shadowoperator says:

        Well, it’s just that like Pavlov’s salivating dogs, I not only heard confections being mentioned, but also saw many, many stick figures in front of me to amuse myself with and couldn’t extinguish my psychological response (you know, the dogs continue to salivate when the bell rings long after there’s any hope of food coming? Well, I have a strong memory too, and remember tales of jelly doughnuts and illustrative stick figures of you and others on your site–and this tale of a family vacation was more than worth my effort, though it was not on either of these topics). Hang in there, whatever you’re doing. The blogosphere is forgiving of absences, as long as there’s eventually more forthcoming.

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