For parents, especially inept, inexperienced dads such as myself, it is important to watch the visual cues that can indicate the onslaught of trouble...in this case, car-sickness. I lacked such skills, but I am very glad that I had the necessary tools at-hand to protect my car's resale value.
First, the visual cues: There weren't any -- that was the visual cue. My son was far too quiet and removed from his surroundings. He was merely looking out the windows. That's what I'd be doing if I weren't driving. I saw nothing unusual in my rear-view mirror to suggest trouble. But he was also too passive, not playing with anything in the back seat. He has toys to play with of course, but there are greater thrills to be had when you're 4 and in the back seat of daddy's car. Kicking the center console comes to mind immediately. None of this was happening...I should've noticed something was amiss. I was enjoying the drive far too much - that in itself should've tipped me off. It was too quiet to be normal.
Second, the response: My son had eaten a normal amount of food prior to our little roadtrip through Yosemite. (As an aside, I humbly believe that Yosemite is some of God's best work, and I wasn't going to let a bit of vomit - well, quite a bit of vomit - from spoiling our trip through the spleandor of this place). So, before we even started on the trip, I told myself the old Boy Scout motto, over and over, and planned for emergencies such as this one. I had plastic bags on-hand, and plenty of baby wipes. What I didn't have was a wide spot on this windy stretch of 2-lane road to pull over!
5 minutes of searching, and we found a 'scenic overlook', complete with the necessary items for the response...trash cans. The baby wipes did an amazing job cleaning up the mess on kid, child safety seat (or car seat) and car upholstery. It was a warm day, so we pulled the car seat out to sit in the abundant sunshine and let natural sunlight do its thing to dry and de-odorize it.
It's all good, I thought. 15 minutes of delay was OK. Our sightseeing schedule won't be significantly impacted. My son looked a bit pale, I thought, but I'd expect that after what he'd been through. A few minutes in the fresh mountain air and my son looked fully re-charged and ready for anything (wrong assumption #1) so we piled back in the car, strapped in the car seat, then the kid, and off we went, figuring we'd just pull over again if he got sick again (wrong assumption #2). Besides, I thought, surely he was empty already (wrong assumption #3).
About a mile from the scenic overlook, it happened again, with more mass and force than I could have imagined. My little boy even managed to clip the back of my head with the remains of his breakfast. But alas, we're now stuck in a juggernaught of RV's and motorhomes making their way - as tourists do - at a snail's pace down the windy road. The words "Cruise America" are now ingrained in my memory, plastered in bright red in letter 6-feet high on the back of the motorhome we would follow for the next 40 minutes.
Slowness was not good. I could hear my kid's innards gurgling from the driver's seat. There was no car noise - we were hardly moving - but there was no place in sight to pull over. My wife, nimble woman that she is, managed to clean the mess from the front seat, and in her foresight had given the boy a plastic bag to wretch into if the need arose. Turns out most of the discharge made it into the bag, and I merely caught some rebound from the force of the moment. So, once again, baby wipes saved the day.
A bit of advice: If this happens to you, do yourself a big favor and check EVERYWHERE for stray bits of bile. On a hot day, like the day we drove through Yosemite, temperatures in the car can get hot enough to cause the stuff to ferment and really stink up the place. BE THOROUGH - clean everywhere, especially the crease between the seat and the seat back.
Cost: $0 - had the wipes already, had the plastic bags from a spree at Wal-Mart.
Savings: $300 or more, depending on what your car's upholstery costs to clean.