Conversation usually runs dry by the time we approach the James Fenimore Cooper rest stop on the New Jersey Turnpike. We have probed each other's past, examined various world crises, analyzed our dreams and still have 85 miles left to New York City.
As frequent travelers from Washington to New York, my husband and I have dredged up and modified several childhood word games. A few rounds of Trivia or Garibaldi keep the driver from succumbing to road hypnosis and make the trip seem shorter.
Here are some games for long trips (or use them to pass the time in gas lines). Since the driver must watch the road, they require no pencils, paper or any other apparatus, and most can be played by a carload of people.
Notes: The children's section omits such raucous favorites as "See who can do the best imitation of a police siren." Adults are allowed to take away points from any child who asks "Are we there yet?"
Adults and Teens
Trivia: One player thinks of a trivia question, such as "What was the name of Jack Benny's car?" or "Name all Seven Dwarfs." You might limit all trivia questions to a single category, such as politics or movies. The older the players are, the more interesting and obscure the trivia usually gets. The person who answers correctly (Maxwell/Sleepy, Sneezy, Grumpy, Happy, Bashful, Dopey and Doc) gets to think up the next trivia question.
Theme Songs: Pick a TV show, preferably an old one like "Combat" or "Perry Mason," and try to sing the theme song. Or one player can sing the tune and make the others guess the show.
Inky-Pinky: If you can get past the name, it goes like this. The driver begins by thinking of an adjective and a noun that each have the same number of syllables and that rhyme. For example, blue zoo. That player signals the others that the words have one syllable by saying ink-pink, and might give as a clue "sad menagerie." The player who guesses correctly thinks up the next words. A two-syllable example might be "inky-pinky, happy fruit" (merry cherry) and a three syllable example could be "inkity-pinkity, monkey navy" (gorilla flotilla).
Memory: An advanced version of "I went to the store," memory begins with one player stating "I went to a party and saw . . ." That player then chooses several words that begin with the letter "a" to a describe something, such as "an acrobatic, addled alcoholic." The next person repeats "I went to a party and saw an acrobatic, addled alcoholic," then adds something beginning with the letter "b." Each subsequent player must recite correctly all the preceding statements in alphabetical order before tacking on a description beginning with the next leeter of the alphabet.
Garibaldi: One player thinks of a famous person, either living or dead. The other players ask questions, which can be answered with a yes or no, to try and guess the mystery person. If the questioners can't discover who the person is before they rack up 20 "no" answers, they are stumped. The same person may then think up another mystery person.
20 Questions - The player with the longest hair begins by thinking of an object. It can be anything from the Washington Monument to the picture of Grandma on the mantel, as long as it is a real object. The other players can ask 20 "yes-no" questions. Whoever guesses may be the next choose an object, and if no one guesses within 20 questions that player gets another turn.
Geography: The shortest player begins by naming a place, such as Nebraska. The next player must take the last letter in the place, "a" and name a different place beginning with that letter such as "Albany." The next player must then name a place beginning with "Y" such as "Yemen." No place may be named more than once, and whoever can't come up with a place loses. The same game can be played using a different category, such as Food, with the same rules.
Alphabet: Players look for a word beginning with the letter "a" in road, store and highway signs. When a child finds an appropriate word, the group can move on to find words beginning with b, c, d, and so on. Letters must be discovered in order. It's cheating to use the Quaker State Motor Oil sign before you've found a word beginning with "p." A variation on this game allows players to look for objects beginning with each letter like "airplane" then "bench," "church" and so on.
Beaver: Each child picks a color, then must find beavers (station wagons) of that color. The one who finds the most wins.
License Plates: Players look for cars with out-of-state plates and try to find as many cars from other areas as possible. Only count cars going in the same direction as you are.
Wave: Children wave at people in other cars, and count how many people they can get to wave back.
Silence: A favorite of adults, this game requires each child to remain absolutely silent for as long as possible. The one who make noise first loses, and the one who stays silent the longest gets to throw the change into the automatic toll booth.
Mental Monopoly: Each player must memorize the monopoly board before the trip. Rather than tossing dice, use the last digit on a car traveling in the opposite direction. If a player lands on Chance or Community Chest, he or she may recite whichever card they like, but the same card can't be used twice in one game. Players are responsible for keeping mental track of how much money, houses and hotels they have.
Symphony: Attempt to sing all nine of Beethoven's Symphonies. Then move on to the works of other great composers.
Losers: Name all the candidates who were defeated in their bids for the presidency. Masochists should attempt to remember the names of vice-presidential running mates, as well.
Agony: Recite the old prices of necessities or the services that used to be included with purchase, being as specific as possible. For example one player may begin "remember when McDonalds advertised 47 cents for a three-course meal, hamburger 15 cents, fries 12 cents and shake 20 cents?" The other player may counter with "remember when gas stations stayed open after dark, washed windows, checked oil and water, gave trading stamps and a free car wash with a fill-up?" The player who makes the others cry hardest wins. CAPTION: Picture, no caption