Traveling has certainly improved since I was a kid. As a child in a military family, we did our fair share of crisscrossing the country.

I'll never forget the old yellow Chrysler station wagon with the wood-like paneling on the side. AM radio was the standard. And who could forget the back seat that faced out the rear window. As an adult I have to wonder why anybody would put a seat in a car that faces backwards. But as a child, that seat was great. For years it was my hideout, my fort. Just me and my friends Joe and Frank Hardy, and every once in a while Tom Swift would come along. That back seat was the perfect place to get lost in an adventure or mystery.

Those days, however, are long gone. The two-tone station wagon has been replaced by the SUVs and the mini vans. Who needs books anymore with satellite radio? On-board DVD players keep everybody but the driver entertained for hours.

I confess that I, too, have fallen victim to the innovations of travel. While we don't have a DVD player in the car, I did bite the bullet and purchase a small, portable VCR player so my daughter wouldn't have to do without Scooby Doo and the Power Puff Girls.

I downplayed the value of that piece of equipment until I went on a 350-mile trip with my daughter, who was then just four years old. I admit that I was a little nervous about being the only adult in the car for that distance. But the trip was great. In fact I bragged for weeks about how well she did during the drive. I remember that we only stopped once, and that was because I finally had to make a bathroom break.

In retrospect, I credit the TV, for any parent will tell you that children get bored easily and without it that day we might have driven each other crazy.

Fast forward to the present where we just returned from a another long vacation that involved several hundred miles of driving. This time mom was along and yes we took the TV. But for some reason it didn't work.

It turned out to be a blessing of sorts for instantly we were transported back in time. The only things different were the FM radio and no rear-facing back seat. We became my family, my wife's family and every other family that has ever gone on a trip and had to rely on their wiles to keep the children entertained.

We read to each other. We sang to each other. We played games. We studied the landscape. We talked. We laughed. My daughter is becoming a fan Mark Twain as we worked through most of "Tom Sawyer." Her continuous "why?" questions were both refreshing and challenging. There is no telling how much we all learned.

Now, I'm not saying that we'll never take another trip without the television. But it's nice to know that we can do without it.

Technology is great. But sometimes not having technology isn't so bad either.



Tom Mark is the sports editor of the Tifton Gazette. His column appears each Tuesday.

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