National LampVroom’s Vacation
Forget about “I Spy”. Now that you’re old enough to be in the driver’s seat, car games can be way more fun.
By Janis Hirsch
Vacation, all I ever wanted
I wanted to kayak, my son wanted to jet ski and my husband wanted us both to shut up so off we went on an Oregon vacation. Four of us flew into Portland, the fourth being my son’s girlfriend who came along because we love her and because her superpower is making Charlie happy even when there’s no WiFi.
There were two routes that could get us to our destination. My husband chose the one that consisted of two straight lines. Never mind that the straight lines took us way out of the way; he declared that the curvy way looked suspicious. My son said “If by suspicious you mean an hour shorter, then yes, it’s suspicious.” All my husband heard was the word “yes” and we were off.
And after a few minutes we were all so excited and enthralled by the beautiful surroundings we didn’t mind taking the long-cut. But even majestic snow-capped mountains get a tad O-L-D after the first three hours. I know, I know, we’re Philistines. And by the way, I went to Hebrew School with a girl named Phyllis Steen. It’s rare that I get to share that so thanks for the opportunity.
Anyway, when the car drive gets boring, the car games get more inventive. After a few rounds of the license plate game (“Oregon” “Oregon” “Oregon” “Oregon”), we had to be more resourceful. Here are a few of the new car games we came up with on our long straight drive to Suttle Lake.
Find Road Food Mom’ll Eat: (all ages)
The mom in this game (and in my own family’s car) won’t eat anywhere sporting signage depicting its specialty in live form. Yes, we know where chicken dinners come from, but we don’t need to be reminded with a neon sign of Foghorn Leghorn carrying a tray of what could be his deep-fried immediate family, no matter how crispy the skin is. You also get extra points for staying away from restaurants where one or more players sees a patron vomiting, urinating or extracting their own teeth in the parking lot.
What’s The Scenery Remind You Of? (ages 12 and up)
Rather than be content taking breathtaking scenery at face value, this game challenges you to filter them through your own limited and at least in my case banal travel experiences. For instance, when we passed a rushing stream swollen with snow-melt, instead of appreciating the Circle of Life, we shouted phrases like “That looks like the road from the Reno airport,” “My father had a koi pond” and “It’s like a less sinister version of the place in that weird ‘Mary May Marlene’ movie where that non-Olson twin Olson sister’s movie-sister lived.” You lose points if you say: “Salem sure is pretty.” You automatically forfeit the game if you’re too humble to speak in the presence of such natural majesty.
Find A Bathroom For Mom: (ages 8 and up)
This is a lot harder than it sounds. The mom playing piece tends to balk at Port-a-Potties stuck in mud of a dubious nature, gas station ladies rooms with no locks (or for that matter doors) and any establishment catering to “all your beer, bait and hunting knife needs.” In Central Oregon’s favor, there were no fast food joints. But come on, who hasn’t sprung for a McCafe just to use the McToilet?
Let’s Talk About Subway Restaurants: 3 Games in 1!
This is the offshoot of the first two games and is as endless and mind-numbing as the card game “War” or that last hour of The Today Show. Any number can play or you can just hit yourself in the face with a rake. Potato, Potahto.
Since When Do Subways Have Restrooms? Fun for the Whole Family!
When we played it, it really threw our contestants for a loop. My husband and son played a lightening round of “There’s no bathroom in the Subway on _______ Street back home” for a good twenty minutes while I was just happy there was toilet paper.
Oh My God, They Put Their Avocado On the Subway Sandwich With an Ice Cream Scoop Instead of By The Slice: Boys only!
Like video games featuring grenade launchers and being able to watch James Bond movies over and over even with that icky James Bond, this is a game that male players will find endlessly entertaining. Which is okay because the gals can play a few rounds of my favorite — Are you going to eat the rest of that pickle/your crust/those pieces of shredded lettuce you ordered but then took off?
Once creature comforts are addressed, your car games can become more brain-teaser-ish. To wit:
Find A Car Not Pulling Sporting Goods: (ages 8 to 88!)
In LA, this game can even be enjoyed by the youngest of children because in LA, people don’t participate in sports–they go to gyms and simulate sports only with a full face of make-up and a push-up bra. In Oregon’s Willamette Valley, it takes a more practiced eye. We spotted cars pulling bicycles, dirt bikes, motorbikes, motorcycles, jet skis, kayaks, motorboats, golf carts, NASCAR entrants, and a llama which we counted as sporting goods because how cool would llama races be?
Find the Clean SUV: (ages 1-4)
Again, in Los Angeles this isn’t even a game because every SUV is spotless but in Oregon, they’re caked with grime. This is not because people in Southern California care more about their cars than people in Central Oregon. It’s because people in Central Oregon use their SUVs for actual SUV-ing purposes, like driving up and down mountains and rescuing livestock. In LA, SUVs are exclusively used for driving to the hairdresser with your Teacup Schnauzer on your lap.
What Year is That Chevy? (unrated, but skews male)
I tried to play but after two minutes of “Look at the depth of that wheel-well . That Impala’s got to be a ’68,” I wanted to ram chopsticks into my eardrums.
How Rich and/or Gorgeous Do You Have To Be to Carry Off the First Name of Apple? (for girls but guys can play it too!)
In this game, you draw cards with the names celebrities gave their children and make snap judgments based on nothing more than the limits of your own cattiness and decency. In our car, we decided that Blue Ivy was going to be fine but we’re less hopeful for Pilot Inspektor, Moxie Crimefighter Jillette and the sisters Fifi Trixibelle and Peaches Honeyblossom Geldof.
Let’s Misread Road Signs! (Rated R)
Wait till the kiddies are asleep before you play this adults-only game. All you need is bad eyesight and the emotional maturity of a 7 year-old boy. Here’s how to play: say you’re driving through northeastern Pennsylvania and you see the sign for “Scott Run.” The first person who says: “Did that sign just say ‘Scrotum’?” wins the round. The same goes for “Oh good, we just crossed into West Vagina” and “Let’s stop and get coffee in Tampax, New Mexico.” This was easy to play in Oregon because so many place names end in “Butte” which when said with a short u makes everything more fun including Black Butte, Crested Butte and Elephant Butte.
On the way home, we took the curvy route. We didn’t have time for Car Games because we got there so fast.