On the Road... and on Minties.

I spent the weekend just gone on an epic road trip to attend a wedding, traversing the state from one corner to another. The 4.5hour trip actually took us more like 6.5 and had us travelling through some of the finest dirt clods and native grass this country has to look at.

The whole family was along for the ride; after they had got suspicious I was packing far too much stuff for a trip to the supermarket. With Kid #2 (that’s her codename, her hashtag and also her DJ/Producer moniker) ready for her maiden voyage, the whole family and the SUV was packed up like a pig intestine in a homemade sausage.

Sun shining, kid’s whingeing, we set off on a day’s worth of driving ourselves to the edge of the state and potentially our sanity. The trip, both there and back was great. Everyone was on their best behaviour and managed to refrain from soiling their pants, which I feel is always the hallmark of any successful commute

During the trip, myself and wifey were recalling the many car trips we took as kid’s with our families. She made the point of how closely they are tied to many family traditions, acting as almost the bookends. They can also be really formative, in a way being confined in 1m squared space with 4 other humans sharing oxygen and artificially flavoured sweets can only do.

So although it is a well travelled highway on the map of non-fiction, I thought I would put my comments into the visitor’s book of - Family Roadtrip Travel Tips.

Snacks- The choice of snacks on a roadtrip is like the family tartan was to ancient Scottish clans. It defines you to your very core. Growing up, we were a Minties family. Those sweet and fresh chewable bleach white squares would keep us going for hours as we deftly crafted a maze of micro thin paper from the wrapper, like crazed psychopaths. We would drive across the country on a minty high, much the same way truckers now use Speed. Occasionally you would pass a Clinkers family, or perhaps some of those weird packet popcorn kids, but we never got on those Fantales kids. The ones spending their lives mastering trivia relating to movies stars from the 50’s and 80’s. IMDB came along and ruined their identity and now a high percentage of them are on Meth.

Road kill- Family trips can be like a moving visit to the gothic native zoo. International visitors will often complain about not seeing all the animals Australia has to offer, but I think they just aren’t paying attention to the side of our highways. Driving between Melbourne and Canberra you can expect to see every animal ever featured on our coat of arms, currency or in children’s literature.

Small Towns- As a child, driving through regional Australia helps you understand what your parents were trying to tell you when they said there is always someone worse off than you. You may think your life is boring, but when you drive through Firra Firra Creek and see two generations of a family gathered around a bin pointing, things aren’t ever that dull again.

Entertainment- This can fall under many categories. Nowadays it’s important to make sure the kids have the back catalogue of Pixar films loaded onto the iPad. Adults need to have good enough data connection to ensure Spotify stops you for reaching for the dusty Total Hitz CD 2003 that you got for $10 with a Twix from the BP. If the threat of hearing Avril Lavigne’s SK8ER BOI or the radio edit of Bring Me to Life by Evanescence isn’t enough, there is always the classic Car Cricket/Punch Buggy game. The games are essentially the same, where each player selects a colour and every time a car of that same colour passes the player collects a point. In the punch buggy version, every time a nominated make of car (or ’buggy’) in their colour passes, all players can turn and punch said player in the arm whilst screaming, for example, “Punch Buggy Red”. I know one family of boys who played a “low-blow “version of Punch Buggy. Their mother is heartbroken that she can now trace her lack of grandchildren back to a family trip to Queensland.

R&R- stands for rest and relaxation. The important part is to plan ahead your rest and relax stops. This needs to factor in good coffee, which outside of a 200km radius of the city is just another name for frothy burnt milk served in a paper cup. It needs to account for quality public toilets, which are any that are clean, not used for any other purposes and don’t have any animals or humans living in them. The key though to the family trip is the side-stop. The side-stop may take the form of unusual regional delicacy like a deep fried cream lamington, or perhaps a novelty attraction like one of those Big Somethings that Australia prides itself on.” Hey Kids! Anyone want to stop at the Big Lack of Genuine History?”

It is my hope that next time you hop in the car you realise that it is not about the destination nor is it about the journey. It is about the car trip. The rides that feel like they’ll last a lifetime and often do.