It sounds ungrateful to say this, but there were many times throughout my youth where I was bored off my ass while on a family vacation. oh sure, we took trips to amusements parks and went to places like Washington, D.C. where there was plenty to do at museums, but I remember that for every ride at Disney World or every arcade
game at Weirs Beach, there was an antique shop or glass factory. Plus, there were car rides–long, mind-numbing car rides.
In fact, based on the amount of stuff geared towards keeping kids occupied in the car, I think it’s safe to say that a long, mind-numbing car ride was a rite of passage for much of my generation, possibly sitting in the seat that faced backward in someone’s station wagon. My parents didn’t have a station wagon, so my sister and I were sometimes forced to squeeze into the back seat of my mom’s 1987 Honda Prelude, which as an incredibly cramped fit when you were driving eight hours from Long Island to Williamsburg or to new Hampshire. But we definitely kept ourselves occupied with tapes in our Walkmen, comic books, novels, and travel board games.
These would keep our attention for at least a little while until we got bored enough to stare out the window and count the mile markers or keep an eye out for a Sunoco station because dad was low on gas.
There was one activity that I remember sticking with beyond an hour on I-95 in Connecticut, and that was a folder with stickers titled Road Sign Games. My sister and I first spotted this in a store in Lake Sunapee, New Hampshire during one of our many family outings. Being that it was one of those knick-knack gift shops that seemed to be everywhere in that area of New Hampshire, when we went in, we weren’t allowed to do anything and were instantly bored. Not that we would want to–after all, vases, dishes, scented candles, homemade soaps, and necklaces with runes on them weren’t exactly the type of things that set our world on fire, especially when I would spend most of my vacation each year reading Star Trek novels.
This particular place, though, had toys and games and Road Sign Games was not too expensive, so my parents went ahead and bought one for me and one for my sister. The game was simple, too–contained in a polybag was a folder containing pictures of commonly found road signs along with a sheet of stickers, which you would stick to the matching sign in the folder whenever you saw that particular sign. At a glance, it looks like the type of thing you’d have a little bit of fun with but eventually put away among the sticker books, word searches, and crossword puzzle books that were all bought at one time or another as boredom cures.
But when I was up in New Hampshire that year, completing the book became one of the most important things I had to get done when I was on vacation. My parents would often make us schlep halfway across the state or even into Vermont throughout the vacation and when I realized that I was seeing a number of road signs during these day trips, I knew that I had found my salvation. No longer was I going to spend my time int he back seat fighting with my sister or wondering why there weren’t any good songs on the radio, I had signs to see!
Some of the signs were pretty easy to spot. I didn’t have to go very far to see a stop sign, one way, do not enter, or a speed limit sign; and interstate shield and exit signs would about whenever we traveled long distances. But I had never seen a no passing zone or a pavement ends sign. And so began the quest. on the way to shopping, I noticed that whenever there was a solid yellow line on the side of the road, there would be a yellow triangular no passing zone sign; whenever we hit construction traffic, I saw orange signs; and I noticed how all of the signs around the parks were brown. In fact, I became so determined to finish the road sign game that I walked from our cabin over to Wadleigh State park, where I managed to fill more than a few of that section’;s stickers. I think i got as far as all but ten stickers before the road sign game was filed away and then either lost or thrown in the trash. (more…)