I don’t know when the game playing during road trips began. I am highly doubtful we played any games in the car during my childhood. I can’t see Grandma and Grandpa encouraging this with five children, and I don’t know who would have been interested except me. Aunt El hates games, and I don’t believe this is a new feeling for her. I guess it must have begun with our family during our trips to Kiawah Island or possibly during the Memphis trip.
How many do you all remember? We worked our way through the alphabet trying to spot letters on billboards, license plates, the sides of trucks, and roadside signs. The winner was the one who made it from A-Z first, and no two people could use the same sign in gathering their letters.
Then there was twenty questions. One person was “It,” and the rest of us had to guess who they were by asking them a series of “yes” or “no” questions. (“Are you real or fictitious,” “dead or alive”, “in television” or “movies”… you get it.)
The “Name Game” was another oldie but goodie. We started with a name, such as Donald Duck. That name ends with a “K”, so the next person would have to come up with a name beginning with that letter, such as Kevin Bacon, which would lead to Nicholas Cage and then to someone like Eddie Munster. That particular game would go on for many miles, unless names ending in “Y” were cleverly chosen. There are just very few first names beginning with “Y” out there, particularly any known to kids. None of you could ever come up with Yvonne DiCarlo or Yves Montand. Dad and I would win if we were the ones presented with the “Y” ending names.
Now, of course, I have saved the best for last—my beloved License Plate Game, which is still going strong with me twenty years later. This game is so great that I have continued to play it with myself 365 days/year. As you know, I play two versions: The Classic LPG (find all 50 states, and the Alphabetical (Find them in order.) The latter is clearly more difficult, and my current all-time record in completing the Alphabetical LPG is twenty-three months.
When we moved to Chapel Hill and I realized I could find all 50 states within the confines of the Research Triangle, I was hooked. For the first few years, I had a notebook to keep track of the plates, but then I joyously discovered two APPS which I loaded on my phone to help me keep track of my two games.
On occasion, I have played the game during our own child-free road trips, and I even asked Dad for a pair of binoculars one birthday to help me with the game. I just want to point out, with great sadness and disappointment, that it nearly impossible to read the letters on an unfamiliar license plate (of which there are few for me now) when you are rocketing down a highway at seventy plus miles per hour.
So I happily play the game by myself. Columbia, as a university town with an army base nearby, makes it quite easy to do so. Incidentally, my challenges are not Alaska and Hawaii, but instead, Idaho, Montana, and the Dakotas. No matter where I live, Wyoming is always the most challenging state. I could not even find it in Arizona.
I am currently stuck on North Dakota in my alphabetical game and Idaho in my fifty state game. (Wendy, your job is to always know!) I think, perhaps, a trip out to the national parks this summer could help end my latest game.