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The Scenic Route





We just got back from a family vacation. I knew before we left home that the phrase is an oxymoron. But with three kids, it’s family vacation or no vacation. Experts say that travel is good for children; it expands their horizons, provides perspective and can even raise their SAT scores. But only if they look out the window.


 


We flew to San Francisco, then drove scenic Highway 1 to San Diego. Along this route is some of the most stupendous scenery in America. The road winds and twists along the ragged coast, offering breathtaking panoramas at every turn, and with each curve, the real possibility that at least one kid will blow lunch. We pulled over to the side of the road a lot – but it wasn’t to admire the view. In fact, my children never even saw the beautiful coastline. They were too busy reading comic books.


 


“Look at the landscape!” I yelled to the back of the van as we approached Monterey. “This is some of the most incredible scenery in America.”


 


No one heard me. They were engrossed in the antics of the Fantastic Four, X-Men and Archie. They were on a completely different vacation.


 




yle="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Verdana">I tried again … louder: “You are missing some beautiful views!” I twisted around to see whether my words had any effect on the backseat gang. Nothing. That’s because in addition to being caught up in the comic books, each kid was wearing headphones. Weird Al Yankovic, Hillary Duff and Led Zeppelin were providing excellent audio immunity against me.


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yle="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; COLOR: black; FONT-FAMILY: Verdana">I found napkins in the glove compartment and, using my favorite Really Rose lipstick, fashioned a sign and hung it off the rearview mirror. “LOOK OUT THE WINDOW!”


yle="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; COLOR: black; FONT-FAMILY: Verdana"> 


yle="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; COLOR: black; FONT-FAMILY: Verdana">I lobbed empty juice boxes at their heads until they came to. The eldest read the note and briefly averted his eyes from the X-Men.


yle="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; COLOR: black; FONT-FAMILY: Verdana"> 


yle="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; COLOR: black; FONT-FAMILY: Verdana">“Cool,” he remarked before returning to the adventures of Wolverine.


yle="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; COLOR: black; FONT-FAMILY: Verdana">“Look! There are sea lions on the rocks!” I implored. “They’re diving for food.”


yle="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; COLOR: black; FONT-FAMILY: Verdana">“Food?” the 10-year-old asked. “Do you see a McDonald’s?”


yle="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; COLOR: black; FONT-FAMILY: Verdana">Scenery is wasted on my kids.


yle="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; COLOR: black; FONT-FAMILY: Verdana"> 


yle="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; COLOR: black; FONT-FAMILY: Verdana">I was warned. As soon as we boarded our plane, the kids fought over the window seat. After the flight attendant threatened to stuff them all in the overhead baggage compartment (where there are no windows), they worked out a compromise in which each would spend one hour in the coveted seat with a view. But, as soon as the plane took off, they pulled out their headphones, electronic games and comic books and forgot all about the allure of the window seat. During the in-flight movie, they closed the blinds completely. When the pilot announced that we were flying over the


yle="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; COLOR: black; FONT-FAMILY: Verdana">Grand Canyon, no one even took a peek.




 


Just south of Monterey, we pulled into a hotel with cable TV, a swimming pool and fantastic views.


 


“Look!” I exclaimed pulling back the drapes to reveal a pretty marina and lively pier. “Look where we are – let’s go out and explore.”


“Hold on,” my 10-year-old said, commanding the TV remote. “SpongeBob is coming on next.”


; FONT-FAMILY: Verdana">“YOU CAN WATCH TV AT HOME!!!” I shrieked. “We haven’t traveled thousands of miles so you can watch SpongeBob SquarePants.”


; FONT-FAMILY: Verdana">“SpongeBob doesn’t come on until 4:30 at home,” he argued.


 


Someday, we might take another family vacation. If we do, I’m going to save time, money and the stress generated by beautiful scenery. I’ll pick a destination – say, London, Paris or Hawaii – and tell the kids that’s where we’re going. Then, I’ll hand out the comic books and headphones and simply let the car idle in our driveway. No one will get carsick and no one will care. Maybe I’ll even rent a DVD player and watch some travel documentaries. That way I can nag my kids to put down the comic books and watch TV.


; FONT-FAMILY: Verdana"> 


; FONT-FAMILY: Verdana">Don’t like Paris? Slip in the disc of the Australian Outback. Tired of the kangaroos? Watch the ruins of Rome or the fishing villages of Nova Scotia. They can ignore whatever scenery they choose.


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At lunchtime, we’ll head to McDonald’s, then check in to a cheap hotel. We’ll take the room that overlooks the heating shaft, because my kids don’t give a darn about the view. I’ll tell them that we’re in France or Fargo and they’ll never know the difference. They’ll just be glad that SpongeBob is on cable and that I’m not making them look out the window.


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