Tuesday, July 10, 2012

On The Road Again

The Loudshoes family is currently on vacation; we left last Sunday for Ottawa, and then spent a few days in Montreal and now are in Ste-Sauveur, just north of Montreal in the Laurentians.
It was about a 6 hour drive to Ottawa from our house, then another 2 to Montreal and an hour more to Ste-Sauveur. Welcome to Canada: the Land Where Everything Is Far From Everywhere!

I don't mind a long drive; a good road trip can be almost as much fun as the actual vacation. I can read in a car without getting sick, which means I get plenty of uninterrupted book time, and it is an unparalleled opportunity to have a nap. I can get a lot of knitting done, too. It's pretty quiet in the car,
the Mister is usually a man of very few words, and he requires very little entertainment while he drives. What he thinks about for all those hours I do not want to know. (Once, when the Mister had a kidney stone and was all hopped up on Percoset, I drove us to Montreal with him nattering non-stop in the seat beside me...it was torture. In his drug-induced haze, he read every single road sign out to me for 500 miles. "It's 127 km to Kingston!"Every. Single. One. Throughout our marriage, I've been known to beg him for the occasional conversation, but right there and then I decided that him shutting up was the key to our success.)

Also, I'm of the firm belief that there are no calories in a moving vehicle, which means that one can consume as many potato chips, ju-jubes, peanut butter cookies and coffee as one's constituion and bladder will allow. Of course, this also has something to do with the fact that I have some control over where and when we stop, as well as how good the snack are in the cooler.

I remember many a long drive as a kid where I thought it would never end, and hell consisted of a hot car doing Mach 1 endlessly down the 401. Part of the problem, of course, when you are a kid is that you have no clue about how long this is going to take....you might have been put in the car to go pick up the dry cleaning, or you might be in there for the rest of the day, who knows?
Big Liver Girl told me a story that illustrates this nicely; when her now brother-in-law was about 7, his entire family (2 parents, 5 kids, of which he was the youngest) got into the station wagon (circa 1973....any bets on whether or not it had wood paneled siding?)to go to a hunting/fishing camp WAY far away. They drive all day the first day, stayed somewhere overnight and then piled in the car the next day and took off driving again. After about another 6 hours in the car, David asked with some exasperation "where are we even GOING???" like it had never occurred to anyone to tell him, and it really hadn't occurred to him to ask.

Two things have improved the summer family car trip immeasurably: air conditioning and IPods. Before air conditioning was commonplace in cars, there was no option but to keep the windows closed or have the windows open. If the windows were closed, you roasted. But if you had the windows open, it was only marginally cooler and considerably louder,  but you did have a hurricane force wind blowing through the car while you tried vainly to keep small children from being sucked out the window. After a few hours of that, you feel like you've spent the day Iin a wind tunnel. And your hair looks just bitching'.
Before there was any sort of personal musical device, one's choices were: A) play the radio for the whole car, or B) conversation between the passengers, or c) silence. Options B and C had their own dangers, depending on the temperment and current mood of the participants, and Option A meant that someone in the car was deeply unhappy, no matter what was playing. My friend Kelly's father thought that a perfectly reasonable compromise was to set the radio on "search" and have it play 5 second of every station along the dial, in a continuous loop. As you can imagine, that sent everyone batshit crazy in about two minutes.
Now, with the happy advent of earbuds and personal music devices, the car is blissfully quiet and no one is paying the slightest attention to each other. You would think this is exact opposite idea of an ideal family vacation, but in fact, it insures its success: the less we talk to each other, the better we get along. I never once had to threaten to stop the car and walk to Montreal by myself, as my mother once did.

When we get home, I hope my children appreciate the wonderful memories that their father and I strived to create for them, fuelled by potato chips and Ipods.

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