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Philip Maramba: It takes drive to turn kids into travelers

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Training your children to become road warriors is not for the faint of heart.

Ever since my brother in Florida got married and started a family, the rest of us here in the Mountain State have made a trek each year to West Palm Beach for Thanksgiving, one of the few times all year that we can all get together.

By this point, the idea of long road trips for short stays wasn't a big deal for us because we kids were well trained in the rigors of interstate travel.

Fuel stops doubled as rest stops; potential drivers slept when they weren't behind the wheel; everyone carried mix tapes/CDs good for at least three hours of drive time. (Control of the music was driver's choice in our family.)

We were well suited to marathon travel, as all-nighters to Myrtle Beach, Orlando and Fort Sill, Okla., will attest. (In case you're wondering, Tennessee is a long, long state.)

My wife, Kris, knew what she was getting into when she married me, having fretted for my safety with regular text messages to check on me before she joined our traveling circus.

She has missed only two holiday trips — both times when she was with child and under doctor's orders.

Our firstborn was not yet a year old when he made his inaugural Thanksgiving pilgrimage to the Sunshine State. As a baby on a drive along a dark Interstate 95, he mostly just slept.

Upon our return home early on a Saturday morning, I sat in the Beckley IHOP looking at my boy and thought, "He made it; he's a made man." I was proud of him.

His sister, on the other hand, remains a fussy traveler.

Once she enters the twilight zone of sleep, it doesn't take much jostling to elicit whimpers that require more than a few minutes of comforting. And it seems the moment I marvel at how long she's been asleep, she soon follows with an inconsolable crying jag.

Come to think of it, while her brother is a much more sound sleeper, his slumber these days can be punctuated with fairly ticked-off cries for milk or demands to be let out of his car seat. These moments, luckily, are fleeting and he usually falls back asleep.

In advance of this year's 15-hour odyssey, Kris and I planned fanciful strategies to keep the children occupied and comfortable for the trip.

She brought books and activities. I brought action figures. And my mom had new toys at the ready.

Dad? He had the big SUV. More to the point, he had the big SUV with a DVD player in it. This was good to while away about three or four waking hours on a journey where every minute of quiet contentment mattered.

And while we thought the weak link in our plans was going to be potty breaks, pre-emptive restroom visits at each food and fuel stop helped keep these single-purpose interruptions to a surprising minimum.

(I will add that I've reached a point in my life where I consider a "progressive" establishment to be one with a baby-changing table in the men's room. Hard to find outside of interstate rest areas.)

But like most grand schemes, ours began falling apart not long after its implementation — this time, at the capricious hands of toddlerhood.

I should have known we'd be in for a fun ride when we hit the on-ramp to I-64/77 as we left Charleston.

That was when my son asked the timeless question: "How much longer?"

Contact writer Philip Maramba at or 304-348-1703. Follow him on Twitter @DailyMailPhilip.


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