My family likes to celebrate the end of summer with a road trip. Last year, we set the bar pretty high with a 10-day, 3,000-mile journey around Lake Michigan.
This year, we scaled back with a five-day, 1,500-mile trip that began with a reunion in the northwest corner of Tennessee and ended with jaunts to St. Louis and Cincinnati.
Our goals were simple: Spend time together, see something cool, visit a Major League ballpark, eat things that taste good, and, while on the road, read a book together and maintain the integrity of whatever Pandora station we happen to be listening to.
We definitely spent time together. If we averaged 65 miles per hour -- which is a good bet because Midwesterners tend to drive exactly the speed limit -- then we spent 25 hours together in our minivan.
We definitely saw something cool. In St. Louis, we spent most of the day in City Museum, a wacky old warehouse that features a 10-story indoor slide, an indoor treehouse, an outdoor jungle gym that stretches up to the top of the building, a "skateless" park with ramps and half pipes for running and sliding, a hamster wheel for humans, a large aquarium, a circus ring with performers, an exhibition of gargoyles, a stupendous collection of Legos, and the world's largest pair of underpants.
Something for everybody.
We also went to Forest Park, where my wife and daughter went to the art museum to see some classic paintings, and my boys and I went to the zoo to see the Somali Wild Asses.
Our last stop was the Gateway Arch, which required a long wait but provided nice views of the Mississippi River on one side and Busch Stadium on the other.
The Cardinals were out of town, so we drove to Cincinnati to see the Reds. I thought Great American Ball Park got its name because it's a great American ballpark, but it's actually sponsored by an insurance company.
It is pretty great though, and it's the most family-friendly park we've ever visited. (We've been to the home of the Rangers, Astros, Brewers, White Sox and of course the Braves.) The Reds couldn't hit worth a lick, but the only player the fans booed was Jay Bruce, who they boo when he's playing great.
The game went 15 innings, which means we got six innings of free baseball and had two seventh-inning stretches.
We also got to see "The Cuban Missile." That's Aroldis Chapman, the hardest-throwing man in baseball. In consecutive pitches, he threw 102, 103 and 104. Never seen that before.
Our best meal was at Vernon's, a St. Louis barbecue joint in an old gas station. Great ribs, brisket, turkey and sausage.
The worst meal: Skyline Chili. Let's just say that when you're served a meal that's topped with a pound of cheddar, the cook's probably trying to hide something.
But all in all, I give the trip four stars. We more or less maintained the integrity of our Pandora stations. If you're not careful, whether you start out with Johnny Cash or Beethoven, everything will devolve into Coldplay.
My daughter read us a good chunk of "Huckleberry Finn," which we selected because we crossed the Mississippi River twice on the trip.
We also crossed the Ohio River on a ferry, which prompted a child to ask, "Why are we taking a boat when we could just cross a bridge?"
Ah, youth is wasted on the young!
I hope when they have families, they take their children on long road trips. If they do, then we've raised them right.
Dimon Kendrick-Holmes, executive editor, firstname.lastname@example.org.