Six hours.

That’s how long it took a team of professionals to repair the damage three kids quietly inflicted our Honda Accord on a recent three-week road trip. 

I’ve never been so embarrassed — or thankful.

Interestingly, the semi-permanent, two-inch layer of cookies, lollypops and discarded wrappers on the floor of the back seat was totally preventable.

Let’s rewind to this summer, when we drove from our home in Orlando as far north as Quebec City in an unexpected odyssey that included earthquakes, hurricanes and floods. 

We started our road trip with a red-eye 12-hour overnight drive from Orlando to Richmond. Just the week before we had the car serviced, and really cleaned it both inside and out. 

As a rule we don’t let the kids eat or drink in the car, and this trip would be no exception. And for that first leg, motoring up I-95 as the kids slept through the night, things went as planned.

And that was the last thing to go as planned.

When we arrived in Richmond they were experiencing aftershocks from an earthquake that hit while we were already en route. This affected our schedule, moving up our travel times. Instead of an evening drive further north into the Catskill Mountains we left at lunch and had two meals on wheels.

After just a few days visiting with my parents we jumped ahead of an incoming hurricane – well, ahead of the eye of the hurricane, at least – washing into Montreal, followed shortly by Quebec City. We stuffed the car with all manner of comfort foods. Well, no mashed potatoes and gravy, but there were chips, muffins and fruit.

Then there was news of another storm developing in the south. By now the cooler packed with all manner of non-crumbly snacks and drinks had moved from buried in the trunk to below Erysse’s feet. The only thing more annoying than hearing the kids ask, “Are we there yet?” is the repetitive chanting of “I’m hungry! I’m hungry!”

The adults complied, feeding them whatever they wanted.

We hightailed it back through the devastation in New York’s watershed and landed in Washington to wait out the wind and rain for a few days. 

It was as I repacked the car to head home I noted something troubling.  I had some trouble fitting the cooler back in the foot well. Then I saw the problem. Both foot wells were lined with wrappers and half-finished juice boxes. I even found some banana and a half eaten apple.

Our kiddies were little piggies!

I am not sure how they did it, be it science or magic, but those beautiful men at the car palace restored what seemed to be a hopeless mess – as in buy a new car and abandon this one on the side of the road – to such brilliant new car interior quality. Even my mother would have raved – if I’d let her see the condition we’d dropped it off in.

We’re ready for our next road trip. This time, we have a strict rule: No food in the car.

Probably.