My Story


Photo Galleries

Body for Life

Ideas &


Contact Me

Please Sign Our Guestbook

Design & Graphics by

Investigative Solutions

Are We There Yet?????
By Bill E. Branscum   ©2004
Click on Pics to See Full Size

As long as I have had children to take trips with, I have tried to do it differently than I believe most families do. I think a family trip represents a number of extraordinary opportunities that parents may overlook, and fail to take advantage of. Rather than travel with children intently focused on their environment, reading road signs and looking at everything passing by, I suspect that many family road trips are little more than an incessant chorus of, "Are we there yet?"

To me, that's a tragedy - I invite you to join us on this trip and offer you some suggestions that may help.

When I think back on the road trips of my youth, I have a memory I am particularly fond of. We were a military family and, while I do recall that we travelled home to Kentucky from coastal Virginia and other places on a regular basis, and I remember having a wonderful time at home, there is one memory that stands out in my mind regarding the trips themselves.

Traveling across what must have been Hwy 58 thru western Virginia and on thru Bristol, TN, we saw a little mountain creek with a small waterfall and my father stopped. It wasn't as if we had never seen a creek before, and there was nothing special about that one - we just wanted to stop and he did.

I remember the creek, I remember that we were allowed to wade in the creek and get wet, I remember the "crawdads" and the turtle we saw, and I remember my fascination that water flowed out of what appeared to be solid rocks. It was probably thirty minutes, maybe an hour, but forty years later, I remember it like it was yesterday.

I have no pictures from those years, but it looked a lot like this.
(Click Any Picture to See Them Full Size)

It wasn't anything spectacular, I have no doubt that people passed by every day without giving it a second look, but it was the scene of something remarkable. How many times have you ever done anything completely spontaneously that your kids vividly remembered forty years later . . . have you ever done anything spontaneous at all?

Sometimes, it makes perfect sense to do things that do not seem sensible. For example, we enjoy trips and if you are going to enjoy trips, you need to be comfortable and nothing is as comfortable to travel in as a Suburban. Huge, safe, stable in wind and rain, reasonably fuel efficient, plenty of cargo space, and each of the three we have had has been inimitably reliable. Truly the traveler's practical, sensible solution.

Children, on the other hand, see things differently. What could be more "adventurous" than a two week expedition in our Jeeps? Like I said, sometimes it makes perfect sense to do things that do not seem sensible and even if it makes no sense, a parent has that prerogative.

Why did we take the Jeeps?

It wasn't for the gas mileage - my Suburban gets better gas mileage at highway speeds than either Jeep, let alone two Jeeps.

It wasn't for the creature comforts - although these new Jeeps with their coil spring suspensions are really very comfortable to drive, traveling in my Suburban is like touring the Country in my livingroom couch.

It wasn't for four-wheel drive capability - while these Jeeps will go places that no Suburban could go (four wheel drive or not), we could have gone almost everywhere we intended to go, and most of the places we actually went, in the Suburban.

It wasn't for the benefit of redundant systems - it is true that driving two vehicles makes it twice as likely that at least one will keep running, it also makes it twice as likely that at least one will not.

The bottom line is, we took the Jeeps because my kids thought it would be cool, and I am their Dad, blessed by God with the discretionary authority to do pretty much whatever we want.

Mr. Mom's Corollary # 523: Start with children's dreams, make your best effort to be flexible, try and share their enthusiasm and apply good judgment to the extent that safety and reality require.

If you can be flexible, if you can share their enthusiasm, and if there is no legitimate safety/reality concern, go for it - you might just manage to carry your tired old jaded butt back to a better time and place; you might just create a memory that will last YOU forty years.

Be flexible, impractical and fun, but that's not how to start. The first thing we did was obtain maps and literature related to the various sites of interest and tourist attractions along the way. Then, we read thru the literature and plotted potential scenic routes.

Do you know which direction I-93 goes without looking? I don't even know if there is an I-93, but having spent hours and hours over the years answering kid's questions about maps (which forces me to look up the answers), I know all kinds of things about maps and road conventions I would never have otherwise known - including the fact that if there is an I-93, it runs north and south.

If you don't know that Interstate Highways are two digit numbers, and odd ones go north/south, perhaps you should spend more time teaching things to your kids. You'll learn about the three digit numbers too.

In all seriousness, if you have never spent time planning a trip with your children, you have missed an opportunity to teach them more about spatial concepts in a matter of hours (over an entire trip) than their school teachers will be able to impart to them in months.

When have you ever seen three kids under ten seriously studying a map? My money says it's more common to have them completely unaware of what state they are in most of the time - and who can blame them?

Imagine driving across country, paying attention, seeing things that capture your imagination, allowing your young mind to be intrigued as only a child's mind can be - for nothing. It's not like you're going to stop now is it?

Suppose you adopt a new policy. Suppose you tell the kids that you are going to give them the discretionary authorty to stop the trip, once a day, to see anything that interests them? You are the boss, you can do that . . . trust me on this one. It is truly cool to have kids watching and paying attention and it beats, "He's touching me, he's touching me . . . Daaaaaad!"

It also motivates them to seriously participate in trip planning which is a great exercise in distance, direction, speed and time calculation and spatial conceptualization that you really shouldn't miss.

It's hard to know or care how long it will take to get from A to B at velocity Z where the distance is D, but trying to figure out what time you need to leave in the morning to be at Sgt. York's birthplace before dark is an entirely different thing.

There is nothing like watching a child grapple with complex concepts and seeing that light of understanding flash across their face - you can make it happen.

Any fool can climb into a machine and push pedals - "C'mon Dad, be bold, be brave . . . assert yourself and remember, you get to play too."

Picture cruising down a state highway, passing thru small town USA, as you drive by one of those ice cream parlours that oughta be franchised but aren't. Hit the brakes dude - be dramatic, bring that ride to a screeching stop, and tell your kids how long it's been since you had a genuine root beer float, or malted made with real ice cream.

Carpe Diem and control it.

This was a long trip; it will take me weeks to get it all written up and all the pictures processed, but I think it might be better to post this a piece at a time anyway.

This was fun, and we really had a great time, but I suspect that even my Mom would find it tedious and overwhelming to read this all at once. I'll post the segments as I get them finished, and I may not do them in order.

The underlined links are functional.

  • Part One:Family Day on the Farm

  • Part Two: Cromer's Ridge & Short Creek

  • Part Three: Cumberland Falls

  • Part Four: Yahoo Falls & Natural Arch

  • Part Five: Eastern KY & Black Mountain

  • Part Six: The Old Mill

  • Part Seven: Sergeant York

  • Part Eight: Tellico Plains and the Tellico River

  • Part Nine: Braston Bald & Helen, GA

  • Part Ten: The Lost Sea

  • Part Eleven: Koreshians, Sanibel & Captiva

  • Part Twelve: Canoeing in Estero

Tim Suggs
From One Father to Another
God Bless You and Yours


Where to start

Your Finances

Wayfarer Chronicles


Other Resources