Immediately after launching this blog, I set out on an actual, geographic journey with my 11 year old godson. We drove from Berkeley to Ashland, Oregon. As we entered the third hour of the drive I started to regret that I hadn’t brought my Auto-Bingo. My godson didn’t know what that was, so I explained that it is a game where you get points for noticing certain things along the road. I’ve always liked that it turns common sights into precious treasures.
So we invented our own game, and I highly recommend that you give it a try. It is based on a board game called Tokaido, where players travel a path modeled on the East Sea Road of Japan, collecting points for experiences, encounters, purchases, offerings and visiting hot springs (yes!).
My godson and I decided to play collaboratively, rather than against each other (his great suggestion!) with the goal of collecting more than 50 points on the trip. We started with the categories from the board game, then modified them and added our own.
Inspired by a stop at the Calatrava Sundial Bridge in Redding, we decided to collect “Vista” points for every bridge that we crossed by foot. That turned out to be a great choice, since Ashland’s Lithia Park is full of footbridges. Crossing tiny rivulets became tremendously points-lucrative!
We got “Experience” points for trying new things. He got one point for tasting Lithia water. I got two for actually swallowing a mouthful. We got points for a minor trespassing exploration of an old rail car in Yreka.
We toyed with “Generosity” points for tipping buskers, holding doors, turning a purse in to the lost-and- found, and little acts of kindness.
We claimed “Oddity” points for inexplicable weird stuff we saw. Like a 6′ 4″ guy dressed as Frozen Yogurt. And some freaky smiling mannequins.
But by far my favorite way to earn points was “Encounters”. We earned points for talking to people beyond immediate needs. We wouldn’t get points just for ordering at a coffee stand, but we did get points when we found out that the guy working at the stand was studying to be a nurse. Our first great encounter was a man on the Sundial Bridge who knew a LOT about salmon, and told us what to look for and when. There were vendors at a farmer’s market who told us all about their carnivorous plants, their mushroom vitality powders and their bees. And a favorite encounter was a painter in the park who was painting an impressionistic view of a very, very green scene, using only blue paint. When we asked him if he always painted in blue, he replied, “I sometimes paint in dragons” and then showed us his remarkable and elaborate gigantic canvases of colorful fantasy scenes, hanging in galleries.
I love that the game gave us an ongoing way to recognize our experience, and challenge ourselves to make it richer. For instance, we said hello to the painter on our way into the park. But we agreed that it was only a one-point encounter, and that if we wanted more points, we had to find out something about him, so we stopped and talked on the way back.
Since the trip, our scorecard gives us a way to remember things we did, and a reason to search our memories for anything that we might have left out; some little nugget that might push our score a little higher.
What should you give yourself points for?