Ah the road trip. Staple of life and right of passage to adulthood. As a kid growing up before 2004 Road trips fucking sucked. Oops, I’m sorry, I shouldn’t be cussing so early in this but let’s be honest Gen X our kids are spoiled, they get in flight movies, video games and they don’t even have to share. When I was seven I had to get in the back of a Jaguar XJ12 (ok, not so rough) and drive from Nanaimo B.C. to Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. My four year old brother and I stuck in the back seat for 2 weeks including stop overs with family, some of which I have not seen since. There are two kinds of road trip in my book, the leisurely journey from A to B where stops are made and quirky roadside attractions are taken in OR the timed event where you have crossed three city limits so it is officially a timed event. These days I prefer the timed event, my knee and my back really get cranky if I sit in the car too long.
As a kid we would take trips from Nanaimo to Victoria several times a year and I thought they they were long trips, I drove it two years ago…I was a dumb kid. By the time I was in fourth grade we had moved to Kamloops, which meant the trips to Nana’s were now longer. We didn’t have much back then, I had gotten over the headaches and nausea that came with reading in the car when we went across the country so for many of the rides I could read a bit but I was also prone to just staring out the window and letting my imagination wander. The other option was nap, which I did but those are never comfortable. Life would change in 1989 when Nintendo Gameboy hit the market but it really was nothing compared to the rolling entertainment centres family vehicles have become, by God let them be bored like we were, let the develop an imagination and appreciation for scenery. Okay, I do understand that it increases the frequency of “Are we there yet?” and “Stop hitting me!” but I legitimately get concerned about kids today and their constant need to be entertained, way too often do I see a TV in the back of a vehicle just puttering around town. I digress, in short my trips as a kids were different.
Things change though don’t they. Road trips get to be adventures when we are in our 20’s though. A destination may be in the cards but most of the fun is in the trip. My favourite trip from that era started a little after midnight on a Friday night, I was picked up in Langley by Steve and Matt and we hit the highway. The reason for this was we had tickets to Bad Religion for Saturday night, they weren’t coming through Vancouver on that tour and we were not missing them when a quick jaunt up the Trans Canada Highway would fix the problem. The three of us were stoked for the show a mere…13 hours away in Edmonton. We made good time despite Matt and Steve needing sleep, I drove a few hours after a stop outside of Kamloops to caffeinate a fading Steve yielded poor results. In the fading darkness as we barreled through the nearly deserted Rockies Steve suddenly came to life in shotgun and came as close to yelling as I’ve ever seen him “Slow down!” I was making good time damn it but it was his car so I complied. The next few hours I got to drive into the sunrise in our incredible mountains, possibly the best sunrise of my life. Fatigue took me not long after dawn and Matt took over while I slept in the back seat, he had been out since before Kamloops but he also had the long day at work. We rolled into Edmonton about 2pm and found a hotel, after trying to occupy ourselves enough to stay awake we returned to our room and crashed. I was barely aware of setting the alarm clock but thankfully I did or our trip would have been wasted. I remember two things about the show 1) our west coast carcasses were frozen in the clear March air that night as we stood bundled inthe cold while locals in shorts and t-shirts snickered at us 2) the dude behind me was on the verge of vomitting on Matt and I the whole show, which I really don’t remember much of but the view, half way up the seats to the right of the stage. We left early the next morning and Steve was sure he knew the way, just outside of Edmonton the mile marker denoting Yellow Knife said different and I would like to say we partied on and had a road adventure that spanned weeks and thousands of miles but we eventually arrived home about 46 hours after we left.
These days I am on the Dad-centric timed event challenge. The first one I embarked on was a family emergency where I left Langley, headed to Kelowna and then on to Trail and back to Langley in the span of 26 hours. One year I left Langley at 2am after work and made a ridiculously good time to Sorrento BC to be there when my daughter woke up on her birthday, I would have been quicker but road work near Chase had me waiting for an escort car for 30min which killed my energy level and had me drifting off before I arrived. When I get on these trips I get focused, quiet and highly alert to the world outside of the car, fully in the zone. Okay I detest stopping for food or bathrooms on trips that should be under five hours, fill up and empty out before we leave family, timer has started and I got aches to avoid. This philosophy causes a lot of complaints and spikes the anxiety of my fiancee so I have found myself staring out the window letting my imagination roll over the scenery and listening to a podcast. Easter weekend we visit Mom in Lillooet and the narrow valley dotted with ranches and homesteads on the cliff sides really send me off into the ether, I love it. The kids sleep or read or play on there mobile devices, I refuse to serve up movies and encourage them to stare off at the scenery, it really is a spectacular view even though the ‘highway’ is a dodgy piece of road that resembles Frankenstein monster.
As much as I would love to make every trip as short as possible there are a long list of reasons to just enjoy the ride, the adventure, the sights, the break from whining. There is a certain level of sadness that the kids can just find the head space to get lost in the scenery or play a road trip game (granted those get annoying after a while too). Perhaps getting lost in your own head on a road trip is a dying aspect of life now, us Gen Xers started with the hand held video games and loved the in vehicle TV and DVD player options so much they are used just to go a few blocks by many people, another question mark in the new generation gap as those of us who remember Kurt Cobain in concert will have to learn to live with.