A Minivan Made Me Love the Family Road Trip Again

How do you take two rambunctious boys on a road trip? Start with the right vehicle.

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This article is a paid advertisement sponsored by Chrysler Pacifica.

When you have two rambunctious boys like I do, the allure of the open road is complicated by the near-certain struggle of setting out upon it. The first 30 minutes isn’t the problem, nor even the second 30. It’s the third 30 and up, to hours four or five, when the backseat has turned into a jungle, and, eyes glued to the road, you can do nothing but make vain threats and watch your spawn turn into feral interstate cats in the rearview mirror. Adventure awaits but perhaps the cost of getting there is too steep.

And then, one day, thanks to the divine providence of the automotive Gods, stood a shimmering jet black Chrysler Pacifica waiting for us in our driveway. Like some sort of sleek aerodynamic shuttle, it idled there and I gazed enraptured until our downstairs neighbor, a taxi driver, honked and told me it was in his space. That was my cue. “Okay, kids,” I said, calling upstairs, “load ’er up.”

Normally two car seats and the overenthusiastic packing of a neurotic father leads to a car as tightly packed as a sardine can. But the Pacifica is roomy. There are three rows of seats in the Chrysler Pacifica and up to 243 possible configurations of them (with available seating for eight on non-hybrid models). You can fold the back down like origami using the Stow ‘n Go® Seating and Storage System. It’s got space for the miles and miles we wanted to go.

Importantly, since my boys are fancy boys, there were fancy things aboard to delight them. Among these features is an available tri-pane panoramic power sunroof that turns the top of the car into an observatory; available automatic sliding doors that open with the press of a button on the key fob or the swipe of a foot by concealed sensors (some legit 007 tech); and as we’ll get to, available entertainment centers on the back of the front seats. This is manna for my tykes, and for me.

We live in Brooklyn and, like all those who live in Brooklyn, harbor fantasies of moving upstate. What’s more, it’s peak leaf-peeping season, when the Hudson Valley comes alive. So after a quick load-in onto 9A Northbound, we headed out. Or tried to head out. Ask any New Yorker lucky enough to have a house upstate, and they’ll warn that leaving the city on Friday afternoon is a recipe for a traffic jam. They are right. Like the amateur road-tripper I am, I made the mistake of going through Manhattan, pretty much dooming us to hours of stop-and-go traffic. Here, again, the Pacifica saved us.

Sometimes I think a road trip is like a ski run. The rhythm — and therefore the success — is determined in the first few moments. Everything flows from there. Thankfully, despite the innate stress of not moving, then moving a teensy-weensy bit, my children discovered that, if they flipped up the screens on the back of the front seats, a panoply of diversion awaited them in the form of dual touchscreen available Uconnect® Theater. While I could have, had I thought about it, downloaded movies to stream through my phone (not available on iPhones), instead I let the boys pick their favorite games from the pre-loaded options available. As we crawled through Midtown, they entertained themselves with Tic-Tac-Toe and Hanging Fruit, a spelling game. I, on the other hand, grew antsier by the minute, until I figured out I could cool my seat, with available ventilated front-row seats, which I did. One can only be so upset when one’s available Nappa leather seat is sending cooling vibes up your spine.

Night had fallen by the time we arrived at a Georgian mansion just outside Sleepy Hollow. A popular wedding venue, our resort was built in the mid-19th century and has sweeping views of the Hudson River. We, the tribe, had looked forward to a restful night for the next day was full of activity: pumpkin-gathering, sculpture-seeing, and a visit with real-live wolves. Yet the aforementioned popularity of the mansion for weddings intruded. As the nocturnal hours trudged on, my wife and I lay awake as the wedding party moved into the other side of our paper thin walls and grew louder and louder. 10:30 p.m. 11:30 p.m. 1:30 a.m. 2:30 a.m. At three in the morning, I trudged to the front desk in my sweatpants, demanding a new room. Shortly thereafter we made a bedraggled caravan, fleeing across vast expanses of carpet deeper into the bowels of the hotel, away from the blissful couple.

I fell asleep at 4:30 a.m. and awoke at 6:30 a.m. Two hours of sleep is more a cruel tease of REM than restful and into the van we clambered. Coffee, coffee and more coffee later, we zipped along on our way to a pumpkin patch and apple orchard, the Eastern equivalent of a Dude Ranch. Our handsome steed was feisty and responsive. With a muscular 287 horsepower V6 engine, she’s no namby-pamby cruiser. A touch of the gas — whilst obeying all traffic laws — got us to the farm an hour and a half later. Despite the power, the van’s low-slung frame ensures it doesn’t rock and sway like the many sea-sickness-inducing minivans of our childhood. Once unleashed, the boys made their way to the pre-picked pumpkin patch while I drank enough coffee to grow jittery and weird. After much deliberation followed by interfamilial haggling, the pumpkin selections were made. A more reasonable father might take advantage of the ample storage space in the back of our dark horse. Instead, I strapped them into the backseat and sallied forth.

A few hours away stood a massive outdoor sculpture park, the rolling landscape punctuated by monumental works by a wide variety of artists. We had attempted a visit before, sans entertainment system but the low-grade warfare of the backseat, so intense Romulus and Remus would have been proud, meant that by the time we arrived, the four of us were in no mood for art. This go-round, thanks largely to the available two screens on the back of the front seats, we eased into the parking lot in a merry mood. Across the hills my children scampered, and after them I ran. The sky was a brilliant blue, the leaves a fiery orange and the grass a dashing green. My kids posed under or near every work while I waited in line — like the other art lovers besotted by social media — to photograph them.

As we returned rosy-cheeked and art-filled to the warmth of the minivan, the boys sighed happily. Once again strapped in, my 5-year-old deftly maneuvered to the Hanging Fruit spelling game. “V-O-Y-A-G-E, what does that spell?” “Voyage” his brother replied. “What’s that?” asked the younger one.

From the available air-cooled front seat and zipping along the road, I said, “A voyage is what we’re on.”

He paused for a moment and then said, “Then, Daddy, I like voyages.”

And I said, “I do too, boy, I do too.”

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