Orange construction barrels and cones seem to be everywhere.

The Orange Menace: Providing family fun for hours

Much-needed road construction comes with some inconveniences

By John CollinsKENOSHA.COM

For decades, Collins was an active member of Kenosha’s civic and political realm. The former Wilson Elementary school teacher was the Kenosha County Clerk and later served 12 years as Kenosha County Executive.

Traveling with little tikes is always a challenge.  

I remember taking the Great American Road Trip from Kenosha to the Rockies. We saw The Field of Dreams, visited Buffalo Bill’s barn, saw rodeos, stopped at Yellowstone, got water at Wall Drugs, went into the Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota, and drove through the Badlands.  

Each of those stops created lifelong memories. They were wonderful. Not so wonderful was the ride between the monuments. We had a Dodge van with separated seats for the two kids. That should ensure peace along I-80 and I-90. Well, not so much.

Today’s tikes have TV screens in the back seat. Or, they have computer devices in their little hands that show cartoons for hours.  

But, back in the day, we had to come up with innovative ways to keep the two little passengers occupied and prevent them from poking at each other. The words still echo in my mind, “Dad, he’s looking at me.” 

Singing camp songs lasted about to Waukegan. Then it was stories. Those lasted to about Joliet.

“Let’s listen to the radio” lasted about three miles.

So, we reached into the parent bag of tricks and pulled out the time-tested idea of playing games.  

There was the “look for a red truck” game. The license plate game involved finding license plates from different states (“Ooh, I saw one from Alaska.”). That would occupy the little minds for maybe 50 miles before it dissolved into charges of fraud (“He did not see a New Hampshire and he’s looking at me again!”). Then Dad would threaten to put a plywood wall in the space between the kids.  

I think of those games when driving during construction season.  

How long could you keep kids occupied in counting orange cones? Holy cow! There are a lot of them. How high can a kid count? We could divide the count into cones and barrels. If they were counting orange cones, could they be occupied all the way to Iowa or would they burn out by the time we left the Tri-State Tollway?

In the last few weeks, we have dodged cones on every highway and byway in Kenosha and environs. There is hardly a street that is cone-free. 

After decades of complaining about the poor condition of Kenosha’s streets, now we have the luxury of complaining about the streets being repaired. And don’t look for any cone relief soon. The new federal infrastructure bill will cause the highway departments to fix even more roads. Not that that’s a bad thing.

Seeing all those cones causes me to think about what those suckers must cost. I wonder if the new law includes a line item in the budget for orange cones.  

If I had seen this coming, I would have invested heavily in orange cone stock. Or even better, I would have started my own business. I would have applied for a federal small business grant as a start-up. I would have named my business “The Orange Cone Company” and as the head honcho, my business card would say, “John Collins, The Orange Cone Head.”

Then I would start a subsidiary company that made electronic games for kids to play while riding in the back seat on long rides. The games would focus on counting cones. Every time they saw a cone they could touch the screen with their sticky little fingers and get a point.

That should occupy them until at least Dubuque.