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Distant Lands

Thursday, 15 May 2008

The World's Greatest Travel Game

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When I was a kid, my family used to drive 18 hours straight from our home in Maryland to our summer cabin in Hilton Beach, Ontario.

Let me state that a little more clearly: 4 kids, 18 hours, 1 car.  Okay, so it was a full-sized van, but still.  Oh, and a dog.  You get the idea.

This was long before the era of the PSP, the iPod, and the in-car DVD player.  Heck, this was before CDs - when we got bored of the radio, we had to pull out a cassette tape!  Uphill! In the snow! Both ways!

But what we did have was the World's Greatest Travel Game.

TWGTG is a bingo-type game with a 5x5 grid. Inside each square is a cube with 5 pictures and one [X] side to flip to when you complete a cube. Each picture is valued from 1 to 5 in order of difficulty. You can either set all the squares to one value and play only that level (bo-ring!), or you can set them all at 1 and play from 1 to 5 (aw, yeah!). You can either try to get 5 [X]'s in a row (bo-ring!) or you can try to fill up the entire board (now we're talking!)

A picture is scored when you see that thing outside the window of your car. See a snake, turn the "snake" cube over to the next level.  Rules vary as to whether images of that thing count - since we now live in the era of interstate highways, it's nearly impossible not to count images, since the game assumes you will be driving through lots of small towns and therefore will value, say, "mailbox" at a level-1 even though your chances of seeing a mailbox on the Pennsylvania Turnpike are pretty slim.

(You may not, however, score points off of things you see at a rest stop unless they are clearly visible while you are still in the car.  Also, no fair counting anything inside the car itself.  You can't turn over "dog" until you see someone else's dog out the window. One must have some standards, after all.)

My mom and I still talk about the time when we wound up behind a car with a poster on the back showing a hammock hung between two palm trees, allowing us to score 2 nearly impossible level-5 cubes at once. This was nearly 20 years ago.

When I think of long-distance car travel, I think of TWGTG.  When I moved out of my parents' house, got married, and started contemplating the drive up to Canada with my own new family, I was heartbroken to discover that (a) my Dad wouldn't part with his copy, and (b) the game was discontinued over a decade ago. Fortunately, we now live in the era of eBay, and I was able to procure a battered used copy with two cubes missing for only about twice what it was originally sold for in the mid-1980s.  Then I stole 2 cubes from my parents' game the next time I was home for Thanksgiving. 

And now, many years later, I am finally in the real planning stages of taking my own 11-month old son up to Canada for the first time this summer.  He'll be 13.5 months old by the time we take the trip, and will probably be more interested in scattering the cubes all over the floor than in actually playing the game, but it's okay, I can wait.  He'll grow into it.

Posted in All Ages : Americas by Jessica A at 8:53 AMPermalink

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