And so it ended, precisely twenty five days after it began. ‘It’ being the third installment in our bizarrely long and unattractive roadtrip series.
What is there to say about such an experience, really. I guess the phrases ‘necessary evil’ and ‘profoundly horrific at times’ come to mind. My mind, that is. Mostly I wonder what will come to the boys’ minds as they reflect on these awesome excursions.
Will they refuse to drive more than four hours, ever, in their entire lives? Will they insist on driving….everywhere? Will they get together one day and reminisce about their hellish upbringing?
‘Do you remember how dad listened to those boring baseball games? And that ridiculous Gipsy Kings he always insisted on playing….on his ipod?’ (Which will be worse than 8-track tapes by then.)
And another one will chime in ‘and do you remember those tantrums mom would throw in the passenger seat….[insert horrible falsetto impersonation] “I’m not getting anyone anything ever again for the rest of the trip”….or….”if you unbuckle your carseat one more time I’m going to crawl back there and spank you!”….and how she’d crawl back there all in a huff and start shoving stuff in our backpacks because the mess made her so mad.‘
‘Can you believe she could maneuver herself over the passenger seat and into the cargo area?! I’d like to see her do that now. He he he.’
And another one will add “and do you remember how much she’d eat on those trips! And dad would be all [insert deep-voiced impersonation] ‘I only had one of those Dove chocolates…where did they go’….and she’d eat like a whole bag of chocolate peanut butter pretzels from Trader Joe’s. And then we’d get to McDonald’s and she’d be all [insert bad mimicking] “this stuff is so unhealthy.”
Or something equally erudite, I’m sure.
Personally, I remember very little from those last two days of driving. We left Minneapolis at 5.30pm. Which was probably one of the stupider things we did on the trip. Agh, who am I kidding, it was all stupid: the detour to Hell Creek, spending eight days in the car….driving, walking around downtown Minneapolis with three small cranky children whilst being visually impaired, letting the Hen wear a swim diaper for six hours while wondering aloud ‘how well, DO those swim diapers work?’
Not well at all, really. When we arrived at our Minneapolis friend’s house for a quick visit (the reason we didn’t leave until 5:30) the kid was completely, soaking wet.
But if we hadn’t left so late, I might have missed this awesome conversation with the Maple Grove Starbucks barista.
He: ‘So, what’s going on?’
Me: ‘Ugh, trying to get to Bismarck. Tonight.’
He: ‘Did you know…..if North Dakota seceded from the union they’d be the third largest nuclear power in the world?!’
It took me an embarassingly long time to comprehend what he’d actually said. I got stuck on seceded….union…nuclear…
Me:’Ah, so THAT’s why we keep them around.’
Because North Dakota is not particularly noteworthy, or keepworthy, otherwise. (Sorry, North Dakota. I will say I feel quite welcome at your Bismarck Starbucks. After all, I’ve been there four times in the last eight months. Not everyone can say that.)
The last day of driving is always the worst. Because it’s always the longest. And we cover awesome territory like North Dakota. And Montana. Or Saskatchewan….which really is worse than North Dakota and Montana combined. (Sorry Saskatchewan.)
And the Gort spends the whole day asking ‘how many more hours until we get to Calgary’ and we say ‘fifteen’…’fourteen’….’don’t worry about it, it’s going to be dark by the time we get there.’ He also says things like ‘I’m going to hug the house when we get there,’ and the Hen natters on about how he needs to go to the ‘red house’. Tout de suite. And the baby remembers a time when he’d sit in his carseat for five minutes before being plucked from the car.
Eventually we made it to the border crossing at Sweetgrass/Coutts. Which was when the Gort announced he had to pee. Right now. As we sat in our car behind a truck pulling a trailer. Staring at all sorts of ominous bilingual signs. Stop! Arret! Do not move past this line unless explicitly told to do so. That sort of thing.
While in Indiana a friend had told me she’d driven to Toronto with her boyfriend. And their car had been searched for over an hour by the customs officers and their dogs. Which sucked for her, but made me realize, that we’ve been pretty lucky. I mean, I’ve had to relinquish some fruit, but that’s hardly awful.
Apparently having three kids, a really ugly minivan, and no firearms is good for something: uncomplicated border crossings.
After the agent waved us through, we pulled over to use their ‘facilities.’ I got out of the car. And I felt it. The dry air. The absence of humidity. It was barely seventy degrees.
And I loved it.
The professor looked at me one afternoon ‘not that I’m complaining,’ he began, ‘but I’m almost….cold.’ ‘I know!’ I replied triumphantly. As though the absence of humidity trumps bee infested backyards, a dirty house, and a laundry pile that will surely never end.
Maybe it does.