Tips to making long drives fun
The Sportsmanís Report
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By Bill Hanson  February 7, 2014 12:00 am

Sportsmen’s Report

By Bill Hanson

Long haul camping is fun, so long as you work to keep your family entertained as you slog through the hours and hours on the road.

Coloring books, games, music and other worthwhile lap-size crafts will make the trip bearable for your family. As my son grew older, we provided him a map to follow our course. I taught him the basics of navigation and eventually timing the distance between towns with a compass and guide books so that he could check out the local attractions we passed.

One thing that will help save you from the dreaded plea of “Are we there yet? How much longer?” is to get the kids to focus on the clock. In the morning, pick a way point on your travel plan and tell them, “lunch is this number on the clock,” “the end of the day was such and such,” and always add an hour to your calculations.  When they become restless, they can check out the time and know how much longer it would take.

The extra hour helps them get out of the car with a glad heart, forgetting the fudged ETA. Another great travel aid is a small cooler of drinks and a few snack foods doled out by mom when they become restless. Packing lunch material and using rest stops is less about saving restaurant costs and more about stretching out their legs and getting their wind back for the trip ahead.

So what is the point of long-haul camping? Long haul for our family was anything more than four hours. Consider the destinations available. Yosemite is about six hours, Mounts Shasta and Lassen are six and eight hours, and the spectacular Redwoods of the north coast are four to six hours.

On longer trips, you can work up to the Oregon coast or visit the spectacular Olympic peninsula on the ocean side of Puget Sound, the beauty of Eastern Washington and Idaho or Yellowstone Park in Wyoming, the amazing scenery of Glacier National Park, the list goes on.

Long-haul camping is a plan-ahead journey. Plan ahead meaning you are a bit late right now for this summer, but not too late. The choice parks begin to fill as much as eight months before departure. Without plans you will be frustrated as you arrive at the end of the trip only to slog through to whatever is available to use as a campsite. Often, the choices will be what everyone else passed on.

On multi-day trips, a motel or hotel every other day allows a respite with a real bed, television and a pool. To begin planning a long-haul camping trip, first pick a final destination and plan to spend two or three days there before moving on to the next camp on your odyssey. Try to keep each travel day about eight hours, not like my dad that hated to stop for any reason, often driving late into the night and setting up in the dark. 

Fatigue and short tempers kick a hole in the fun part of your travels. After planning that long-haul trip, consider taking four- to six-hour weekenders as a way to condition your family to road trips. Your job is to make your journey fun and relaxed, the recipe for great memories.


Bill Hanson is a Sonoma County native and a lifelong sportsman. He is the former president of the Sonoma County Mycological Association. Look for his column in The Community Voice each week.

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