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Miles and miles of forced bonding

When my youngest said she was driving to Florida alone to spend the summer there for a school ministry program, the mama genes kicked in hard, and I knew I had to ride with her to keep her company and help with the driving.

It was a delicate operation. If I insisted, it could go bad and she would resist. I played it cool for weeks and waited for her to come around  and she finally did, thank goodness.

So we took a road trip.

Another road trip with that kid who fights me every step of the way. Yes, I am a glutton for punishment, and yes, it was fun. I set out to keep my mouth closed as much as possible and let it be her trip. And while she insisted she could have gone it alone, she slept the first five hours while I drove us across Texas.

The conflicts started with the music, as always. The truth is her music is more mellow  what I call "bathtub music," while mine gets your heart going a bit. After the third roll of her Ed Sheeran CD, I protested, and we moved on to the likes of Led Zeppelin, Eminem, Santana and Rob Thomas.

Then there was the Map Disagreement, which we always debate, where I am less Google Maps and Siri, and more looking at a REAL MAP (on the phone is fine), with a REAL LAYOUT OF THE LAND and using brain and senses to get us to our destination. If you drive all your life with someone (is Siri really a someone?) telling you when to turn, you never really get it. Plus, Siri can get it dangerously wrong, like when I was in D.C. and Siri had me merging left at high speed onto a closed toll road.

And that's only one example of many.

We made a detour through New Orleans so I could introduce her to my Aunt Judy, and she got to experience real Cajun hospitality, with a home-cooked meal of steamed shrimp, boiled crawfish and fried catfish, all thrown on a table covered with newspapers, where your napkin is a towel and spirits run high.

That next morning, we took the scenic route for a bit and had lunch on the coast of Mississippi, a fried oyster po-boy for me in Biloxi, and we dipped our toes in the cold Gulf waters.

She drove and I dozed till Mobile, Ala., then we hit the interstate and plowed on through to Panama City Beach. It was long, but I have always loved a road trip, and the mandatory, forced bonding is a bonus.

We had a little beach time, where, with your eyes closed, you might think it's raining, but instead it is bird poop. She and the guy at the chair rental twisted my arm and talked me into riding a banana boat that was pulled by a jet ski, which was fun and slippery and wet. Everything I imagined could go wrong did not, and I'd do it again ... probably.

We had ice cream and walked the pier, and then she said goodbye and drove to the place she'll be staying for the next two months. The next day I went back to the beach for a few hours, then took a plane home, back to reality, though it'll be skewed because that kid won't be in the house this summer at all.

As for how she'll drive back  with or without me  that remains to be seen. She's keeping her options open, and I'm playing it cool.

She may not know it, but the rest of us know. ... I'll be booking my flight in about a month.

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