Are We There Yet?

by Barbara Radcliffe Rogers

It comes from the back seat, in varying tones of voice. Sometimes it’s said with anticipation, as when we’re on the way to the White Mountains and Mary is primed for a day at Story Land -- or when it’s that ice cream time of the afternoon. Mary’s always primed for that. Sometimes it’s said with a yawn, when we’re headed home after a day’s skiing at Gunstock Mountain. In our car it’s never a whine, because everyone knows what happens to whiners – no one can hear anything they say.

photo courtesy Stillman Rogers PhotographyBetween the two of us, my husband and I have developed quite a repertoire of responses. Some are met with a few moments of puzzled silence as the layers of implication sink into an 8-year-old mind. Some are met with immediate protests of disbelief, others with a long series of giggles. We are heartened by the latter, because we can’t imagine traveling with anyone who doesn’t have a sense of humor.

This isn’t actually all 110 of the answers we have come up with, but enough to get you started. Once you get the hang of it, the possibilities are endless.

“Yes, that’s why I have stopped the car here by the side of the road under these pine trees next to a swamp, without a house in sight. Be sure to tell me when you want to go somewhere else.”

“Not quite yet. I expect it will be only 16 more hours, 26 minutes and 43 seconds. Too bad there’s no place to stop for food on the way.”

“I have no idea, because we aren’t actually aiming for any place.”

“I’m completely lost. I think we’re actually heading away from there right now.”

“Check the compass over the mirror and tell me if it stops saying SW. Tell me especially if it says NE, because then we’ll be going the wrong way and getting farther from there.”

“Were we going someplace?”

“No, but it’s very important that you keep your eyes open and not fall asleep, because if you do I might miss the sign that says “there.”

“Where is the there you had in mind and how do I get there?”

“I think if you close your eyes tight and count to 200 very slowly to yourself, then cross your fingers and wish to be there, we’ll be a lot closer.”

“We were almost there an hour ago, but I changed my mind and decided to go somewhere else, and we’re not there yet.”

“What did you say? I missed it because I was asleep.”

“I don’t think so, but I’m so lost that I have no idea where there is.”

“Do you mean the there that we started out for this morning or the there we changed our mind and decided to go to after we were halfway there, or the there we talked about going yesterday before we decided not to go to the there and to go to the we headed for before?”

“I’ll need help finding it. Can you check this map of New Hampshire and find Passaconaway, then tell me how to get there?”

There’s only one problem with all our answers: now she asks just to see if we can continue coming up with new ones. I’ve thought of keeping a notebook beside my bed, in case I wake up in the night with an idea.

But if I know Mary, it won’t be too long before she starts thinking up her own answers. She’s always been a kid who liked a challenge, and I can see a new player joining this road game soon – just in time for her little sister to begin asking “Are we there yet?”

Barbara Radcliffe Rogers is a travel writer and guidebook author from New Hampshire who covers destinations from Brazil to Newfoundland to Venice, riding everything from dogsleds and kayaks to bush planes. Look for her articles about Italy and Spain at She is co-author of the guidebook “New Hampshire Off the Beaten Path,” the latest edition of which was researched with a sometimes- impatient 8-year-old in the back seat.

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