It brings out the worst in us.

There's nothing like a family road trip to bring out the juvenility in everyone.

This became oh so apparent to me and mine as we embarked on a college visitation to Duluth over the MEA holiday. Rather than only a couple of us trek all that way just to see the UMD campus and chat with various people from there, Kent and I thought, why not make a little vacation out of it? Duluth is, after all, a tourist attraction, with enough offerings even this time of year to keep us busy for days.

Maybe it was the little more than four hours and 260 miles spent together, each way, packed like sardines into our highly fuel-efficient car. The car trouble we experienced on the trip home didn't help, either. There were times when you could cut the tension in what little free space was to be had with a knife.

Immature bantering was to be expected of the youngsters, even though at 20, 17 and 16 they're far from the toddlers they at times acted like. Some comments coming from the back seat we in front couldn't help but overhear: "You're invading my space." "I don't have anything to do." "EEK! You spilled on me!" "Help, I can't move!" "Excuse me, but I can hear you breathing." "It's all your fault." That's in addition to the incoherent yelling fits one, two or all three of them periodically unleashed.

Parents learn, over time, what works for them, and it hit us early on, right around Marcoux Corner, what we could hold over the girls to get them to behave. "Guess it's time to play our '70s music" was all we had to say, and an amazing silence filled the air.

The kids, unfortunately, were not the only ones acting a bit unruly at times. Admittedly, their father and I had a few freak-out moments, like when we figured out we were driving in circles while trying to maneuver all the one-ways downtown to find a particular place that it turned out was practically a straight shot, and only 1 1/2 miles, from our hotel. Hubby got just a little nervous when I accidentally drove us into Wisconsin upon entering Duluth, due to a detour that was not indicated in the Google Maps directions.

This brings me to one of several observations/revelations derived from this trip: When using an online map service, make sure you have at least a couple of back-up routes also lined up and print close-up maps of the area, with streets and landmarks clearly labeled. It's well worth the extra paper and ink. We could have avoided a lot of headaches, not to mention shave a few hours off of our driving time, if I'd only considered doing this prior to leaving Crookston.

Printers weren't available at the hotel, which necessitated writing out the directions by hand, an extremely agonizing task for lazy middle-aged people who haven't used this long-cut in years. Far from being a family of cartographers, hand drawing a map of said destination area was also impossible. And Google does not indicate one-way and closed streets. Given these facts, my one set of directions was rendered useless once we missed a turn and attempted to return to the original street through a maze of one-ways.

Another revelation that struck me on the drive home: Way too much tipping is expected in some cases. While tipping around 15 percent of the bill at sit-down restaurants where waiters/waitresses serve my food has been something ingrained in me since my teenage years of actually being the server, I really don't see why customers at a seaside malt shop, where the workers serve you from an open inside window DQ fashion, should be expected to contribute to the tip jar prominently sitting on the counter. With their prices, you'd think the tiny shop owners could afford to pay their workers an adequate wage.

The same goes for the "complimentary" breakfast and shuttle offered at the hotel. We're expected to place a few bucks in the tip jar after waiting in line for 25 minutes, only to find that most of the breakfast offerings have been snatched up by guests before you. It's not like the workers responsible for putting the food out directly served us, nor did they even try to put on their happy faces. At least the shuttle driver was pretty friendly. We didn't really mind handing him a crisp $5 bill because he probably saved us a good hour or more of getting lost on what was a 10-minute trip.

Nor did I mind handing a juicy tip over to the valet at the classy downtown bar across from the theatre us girls went to for a) letting us use his cell phone to call Hubby because someone forgot to bring hers, and b) calling us a cab to save Hubby the hassle of trying to find us again. By the way, sitting on a bench in downtown Duluth for nearly 45 minutes was a bit of an eye opener for young, innocent ladies. At least we were in the classy part of the city; I'd sure hate to have been in the vicinity of The Other Place, which gave me the eebie jeebies just driving past it.

Should my daughter choose to attend UMD, we'll know better on our next trip there. We could probably even hold our own now in certain parts of the city. If she attends the whole four years, we may even find enough time to catch everything we missed this time around.