In a fit of over-caffeinated ambition, My Love and I scheduled more family trips into eight weeks this summer than the Brady Bunch did in five years on television.
It didn't take a crazy old prospector to lock us in an abandoned jail for us to soon realize the pitfalls of all this family togetherness; however, I suspect the engine fire in our minivan may have something to do with an ancient tiki. It also may have had something to do with my speeding through a Lake Michigan sized puddle lined with dead leaves and pine needles in an effort to get away from the constant howls of "How much longerrrrrr?"
Nevertheless, it was an adventure-filled two months.
We experienced Fourth of July among the dehydrated waves of grain in the Great Plains.
We visited the birthplace of the women's suffrage movement in upstate New York where we spent most of our time visiting a museum dedicated to the movie "It's a Wonderful Life."
We rode a boat under Niagara Falls, boogie-boarded in the North Carolina surf and learned the art of heckling the opposing pitcher in near-empty minor league baseball stadiums.
Here are a handful of lessons and observations from our summer vacations:
The annoying mosquito to parental drivers' ears is no longer the backseat bellow of "Are we there yet?" It's the middle row of the minivan whine of "When will we start getting 3G again?"
According to my 12-year-old daughter, when going on a weeklong trip to the scalding flatlands of Nebraska where we'll spend most of our time in towns smaller than her middle school with her grandparents, who are farmers, and my wife's best friends, who are undertakers, the most absolutely necessary item to bring is a flat iron for her hair.
If you think the United States has cornered the market on gaudy tourist traps, you've never visited the Canadian side of Niagara Falls. It's as if downtown Las Vegas and Times Square birthed a circus geek.
The first question children ask when you arrive at your lodging destination has evolved from "Does it have a pool?" to "Does it have free Wi-Fi?"
Provident Bank Park, the Westchester County home of the Rockland Boulders baseball team of independent Can-Am League, is one of the nicest minor league ballparks you'll ever visit. Unfortunately, the quality of pitching embarrasses Little Leaguers.
Sonic Drive-Ins offer 54 types of milkshakes. I kid you not – 54. However, whenever we stop at one, all my daughter wants is a cup of their ice pellets.
Environmentally conscientious coastal communities, such as those on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, have banned supermarkets from using plastic grocery bags. This is good news unless you bring your dog with you on vacation. And he's prone to traveler's diarrhea. Like ours.
The people of Nebraska love shooting off fireworks, just not fireworks sold in Nebraska. Those are "church fireworks," in the words of my wife's brother. Instead, you need ones from neighboring Missouri, which contain enough liftoff and explosive power to qualify as military grade anti-ballistic missiles.
There are many reasons why you can always get a table for four at the Hard Rock Café at the height of the dinner hour. Not one is good.
A modern family of four now packs more electronic communications devices for an extended weekend trip than it does pairs of clean underwear.
The best beach time on the East Coast is after 5 p.m. when the shadows grow longer and the adult beverages have sufficiently numbed the burning scrapes caused by sand inside your bathing suit liner.