Sunday, January 02, 2005

Notes from the Road - Day 1

Please note: When we decided to take our kids on our family's Grand Adventure to Florida, we wanted to capture the experience in an appropriate manner.

Conventionally, we took our digital camera with us and ended up taking around 600 pictures. Somewhat unconventionally, I took my PalmPilot and keyboard along, and jotted down incoherent thoughts and other spurious facts each day of the trip. The Notes from the Road postings are the result of this. I hope you enjoy coming along for the ride with us.

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The plan was to roll out of the driveway at 3 a.m. By piling our still-sleeping children into the already-packed minivan - and buckling them in, of course - we thought we would be able to knock off at least three or four hours of peaceful driving before the kids stirred in time for breakfast.

The best laid plans are, as you can well imagine, just that: plans. They don't translate well into reality. We ended up sleeping through the phalanx of alarms we had set, and rolled out of bed at 4:30. We still managed to get on the road by 5:30 - well past our original goal, but earlier than we had ever previously made it out of the house.

The Tim Hortons coffee - the last we would have for almost a couple of weeks - tasted especially good as we set off in the dark of a wintry morning.

We originally set a three-day goal for the 2,400-kilometer trip - making for three, 800-kilometer (500-mile) drives. By overdriving the first day, we figured out third day would be a short one, allowing us to arrive at our destination - my in-laws and their grandparents - earlier in the day.

The kids half-napped for the first couple of hours as we crossed the last bit of southwestern Ontario and approached the border crossing at Detroit.

I was struck by the gradual brightening of the pre-dawn sky as night slowly gave way to a mostly sunny morning. I felt as if we all had a front-row seat to the world waking up.

And I do mean we. Remember our grand plan to have all three little folks sleep for the first few hours? Yeah, as if. They sort-of napped for a bit, but ultimately were awake and increasingly excited as we crossed the very tall Ambassador Bridge and cruised into the incredibly bustling city of Detroit. Their chatter was a welcome change from the usual competitive bickering of three intensely-bright siblings.

Barely two hours into our trip and we had already set the tone for a memorable journey. Given that my wife and I always intended for the journey to be an integral part of the adventure, we smiled as we rolled on to breakfast in Ohio.

The first of many dichotomies of life in this amazingly rich and diverse land became obvious early on:
  1. A massive white cross that loomed over the highway and cast a shadow over the nearby porn superstore. And this in a supposedly dry country. I guess porn - and the suggestive billboards that heralded it in the preceding miles - was OK, but booze wasn't.
  2. A BMW-driving woman who left two infants in her unlocked, idling uber-machine while she ran into the rest stop.
  3. The 400-plus pound folks who were on a first-name basis with the servers at the local fast-food joint.
Sure, all of this can happen anywhere. But we crammed a lot of experiences into a very busy day, briefly touching one community after another as we hopscotched south. The net result for us was an intense package of memories that will stay with us far longer than the time it took to drive through whatever burg it was where they happened.

I'm writing this from our hotel in Ringgold, Georgia. We've covered 1,200 km and are just over halfway there. This has been the biggest single-day drive in our little family's history, and the kids fell asleep almost as soon as we tucked them into bed.

My wife and I are talking about possibly making it in two days. But we think it'll be best to hold off on telling our little people until we're sure Day 2 is as charmed as Day 1 so clearly was.

Today was memorable for us. Watching three sleeping kids in a quiet hotel room, I hope it was for them as well. The relaxed look on my wife's face suggests she knew this was precisely the case.

May tomorrow be just as easy, and may it bring us safely to our still far-off destination.

5 comments:

Amelia said...

Did you cover 1200kms in one day? Wow, that's quite a hike!!

YOu're so right about the memories thing, we travelled a bit whent he kids were younger. Not only do you see new and interesting places, you get to all be locked together in a car - which is great, because you talk so MUCH to each other and play all sorts of funny games!!

Drive safe, look forward to your next leg of the journey :)

Diva said...

It sounds like a lovely journey. The journeys should always be as adventurous as the destinations.

As for the bmw driver at the rest area, a woman in my town recently stopped for fuel at a gas station, filled up, and went inside to pay. She left her baby in the carseat and when we went back outside, her car had been stolen. They did find her child later that night, the car thief realized the baby was in there and left the baby at a rest area. While it could have been much more tragic, it was still very sad. I thought that story should have received more publicity because many parents do things like that and don't think twice about it.

Diva said...

It sounds like a lovely journey. The journeys should always be as adventurous as the destinations.

As for the bmw driver at the rest area, a woman in my town recently stopped for fuel at a gas station, filled up, and went inside to pay. She left her baby in the carseat and when we went back outside, her car had been stolen. They did find her child later that night, the car thief realized the baby was in there and left the baby at a rest area. While it could have been much more tragic, it was still very sad. I thought that story should have received more publicity because many parents do things like that and don't think twice about it.

Jef said...

I'm proud to say that I know what Tim Hortons is and I ate at my first one in October.

Who knew that the highway I drive almost every day has it's own website! I wonder if there is a Yahoo Group for it?

Dean said...

It sounds wonderful.

I love being in the car with my wife, going somewhere. Anywhere. Except to jail, maybe. I think such a trip might be a little tense. But other than that...