o you’ve always wanted to bungy jump off the Kawarau suspension bridge in New Zealand, kayak down the Royal Gorge in Colorado, or bike nude across the USA. Well what if I told you there is a way to capture those same adrenaline thumping sensations without actually having to go through the expense of traveling to New Zealand, or the
agony of applying a salve to the blisters on your plush bottom? Prepare to stand in awe my friends, because I have found a way to enjoy the essence of adventure travel within only a two-hour drive of your own home.
Whether you live in Pitipski, Iowa or El Nappo, Mexico, adventure travel lurks. Unfortunately, like most great deals, there is a small snag in the nylon…you must have kid(s), the more in number and younger in age, the more adventurous your travel. Here’s the secret I unlocked. Throw the kids in the car, drive to your local slagheap, and enjoy. En route you’ll experience the thrill of plunging fifty meters, the icy splash of class V rapids, and the pain of torturous third degree burns on your bits and pieces.
On the way to Tauranga Bay, New Zealand (a five hour drive from our home in Auckland) for a sea kayaking adventure my daughter Emma opened my eyes. There is a definite cycle a nine-month-old baby goes through in a long car trip. The first thirty minutes are characterized by joyful play, then a slug of milk, and if you timed your
departure right, a blissful two-hour nap. A wakeful period follows, where she stares out the window and wonders where in the hell we’re taking her. Her musings are interrupted by a pang a hunger. A squawk, a bottle, and for the moment, all is well again. It’s when the bottle thuds to the floor that my adrenaline gland stirs. A small whimper is uttered and a toy is flopped onto her lap. She regards it for a count of five and unceremoniously bats it to the floor. A fuss, another toy, and in seconds it joins its brethren under the drivers seat, perhaps never to be seen again.
In a chance discovery one day long ago, I found that non-toys held a child captive for much longer than bright yellow giraffes or fuzzy colorful balls. An empty beer bottle becomes the eighth wonder. I also uncovered an unsettling parallel, the more dangerous an item, the longer the interest in it. If I could trust her with a bag of glass or a bottle of boric acid, I’ve no doubt her fascination would be boundless.
As I drive, my wife Denise attends to the baby. She’s run though all her toys, so an empty plastic Coke bottle is next. Emma snatches it and begins the interrogation process where she examines and orally samples it from every angle as if it were an alien communicator made of a lollipop material.
Fifteen minutes later, she’s either figured out everything she needs to know about the communicator, or realized it’s just a stupid Coke bottle, in either case, it ends up on the floor. A plastic grocery bag is next at bat, a watchful eye to make sure she doesn’t fit it over her head. That holds her for ten, and then we start rummaging around the floor at our feet for the next enticing bit of garbage-cum-toy. A road map must resemble a T-bone to her, because she greedily stuffs it into her mouth, my wife quickly retrieves it and now a dribbly tooth mark is our destination. Cup holders, floor mats, eyeglass cases, wallets, “Hey that’s mine!” banana peels, and books each go back in succession and are increasingly cast aside with more vehemence. Until finally the front of the car is cleaner then it’s ever been and the back seat looks like hurricane Emma spared no mercy. Denise finds a clump of lint and hair and considers throwing it back into the maelstrom, but we know the end is close. No more widgets, snidgets, or gidgets. Oh, what I would give for an ice scraper, comb, or waterproof road atlas, name your price. Slowly, like a small nuclear leak run amok, meltdown occurs.
You can’t stop the wind or turn off the sun, nor can you stop a bored nine-month-old baby, strapped in the back seat like Hannibal Lector, from crying. Back when I was a kid, my brothers and I were free to roam and leap from seat to seat like a bunch of chimpanzees, but today’s world takes no chances. We never entertain for a second the idea of taking her out and holding her. I’d crash into a phone pole straight away, and if we survived, Emma would be scuttled off to a foster home.
There are two ways to deal with a meltdown of this proportion. The first is to drive like the Devil himself. Don’t stop for lights, ignore signage, and assume any flashing red lights behind you are Demon Dogs on the chase. It ends the torture faster, but legal fees and representation can be expensive. The other option is to jam on the brakes, preferably in front of a Dairy Queen. Air the kid out, and let her burn some fuel by romping around on the pristine floors of the DQ while you stuff your gob with a Peanut Buster Parfait. No guarantees on containment, reactor leakage may continue when you put the plutonium back in the isolation chamber.
I chose to gun it. We were close. I forgot where we were going, why we were going, and what prompted us to leave the safety of our house. I slipped into a coma with my hands clutching the steering wheel and a brick on the gas pedal, Denise tried to read the same page of her book for thirty minutes, and Emma screamed from the Bay of Islands to Tauranga Bay. Her banshee keen rouses cemeteries we pass. We arrive and you’ve never seen a child taken out of a car seat faster. When I pull her out the scream stops in mid-screech, she looks around calmly, and if she could talk I swear she would have said, ‘Oh, are we here?’
The next day we ditched Emma and went sea kayaking. We fended off sharks with our paddles, lost a few people in the treacherous sea caves, one guy next to me was stung by a box jellyfish and paralyzed, blah, blah, blah… all I could think about the whole time was what Emma had in store for us on the drive home.
About the Author:
Douglas Sassaman is a freelance writer, aspiring novelist, and self-
described humorist (who some think should be self-committed). He is best known for his former bi-weekly humor column, 'Life In The Cosmic-Burp,' dedicated to exploring the world of the obscure and mundane.