June 23, 2008 in City

Seeking one’s own adventure on the road

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Photo courtesy of Gerard Fischer photo

Gerard Fischer drives as he plays left-right-straight with his children, Max and Marlee. At each crossroads they take turns picking which direction to go.Photo courtesy of Gerard Fischer
(Full-size photo)

Left-right-straight

“ Draw straws, flip a coin or do “rock, paper, scissors” to determine who gets to go first.

“ The kids get to decide the direction – the grown-ups must comply.

“ Everyone gets to bring music and play it for 30 minutes at a time.

“ Put a map or two in the trunk just in case you really get lost.

“ If an overnight stay isn’t in your budget, decide on a “point of no return” – for instance when the gas tank is half-full. Or you can decide to go out for six hours, then turn around and head home.

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When it comes to road trips, some people like to plan every detail. The maps come out weeks in advance, and the Internet is scanned for good deals and hotel coupons. Estimated arrival and departure times are set, itineraries are published on the fridge and the pressure to have a “fun vacation” is wearing on everyone’s nerves long before anyone leaves the house.

So here’s another way: It’s called a “right-left-straight adventure.” All you need is a car, some food and a vague idea as to when you’d like to return home.

“It was a friend who came up with the idea,” said Gerard Fischer, who took his two children, Max, 15, and Marlee, 12, on just such a trip last year. “The kids kept asking where we were going and I kept saying ‘I don’t know.’ They just didn’t know what to make of that.”

Their adventure began on a Friday morning in November. Prior to leaving Spokane, some rules were established: at every intersection Max or Marlee would take turns deciding whether they should go left, right or straight. If anyone wanted to see something along the way, they would stop – no arguing. Fischer had compiled a list of conversation-starter questions such as “What’s your favorite sport?” and “Who is the best teacher you have ever had?” to ask along the way. The cue to ask a question was whenever the trio spotted a person walking along the road. They also counted cows and hunted for hawks and clouds that looked like bunnies.

“I’m not a very creative person; I would not be able to think up all this on my own. I had a lot of help from my friends,” said Fischer, a vice president at Sacred Heart Medical Center. “But it was fun from the beginning. Nobody fussed, nobody had a sharp comment to anybody in the two days we spent in the car.” Marlee was the “scribe” keeping track of how many cows were counted and which route they followed.

There were plenty of snacks in the trunk. One snack-related activity was to suck the filling out of Twinkies with a straw. It didn’t quite work out.

“They were pretty frozen from being in the trunk,” Fischer said. “We put them on the heater for a couple of miles and it worked a little better as they got hot.”

Over two days, the Fischers drove more than 400 miles. They began by driving north through Springdale – a couple of times – then made it to Chewelah, and on to Usk and Newport, then found themselves in Priest River, Idaho. Sure, they hit a few dead ends and at one point turned around on a mountain pass as the road got worse and worse.

“Use your good judgment,” said Fischer.

A bit past dinner time, they hit Sandpoint and found a place to spend the night.

After a morning tour of Schweitzer Mountain they headed back toward Spokane.

“I’d say this kind of trip is out of character for me, but it was fun,” Fischer said. “We’ll definitely do it again.”


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