Sunday, August 19, 2012

Road Trip

Road trips aren't for everyone. It depends a lot on where you are going and more importantly the compatibility of the people you are travelling with. If you have some common interests (beyond family ties) the trip can be much more enjoyable regardless of the duration or destination.

As a kid, I was never a fan of road trips - not that our family took many. In fact, I don't recall many trips that required more than an hour's drive each way. Most were to nearby towns or to Winnipeg.

For most people that wouldn't be enough time to get really bored. Unless, of course your father was one of those farmers who enjoyed taking slow drives past every field on all the back roads just to see how other peoples crops were doing. Despite being a farm kid, I was never interested in farming so I found these trips to be VERY boring! If I could find a way to avoid tagging along on these outings - I did! Even the promise of going out for an ice cream or some other edible treat before we came home couldn't entice me to go.

My parents and I did drive to Thunder Bay for the wedding of one of my cousins in the mid 70's. For me, that was a LONG trip. We left early, stopped at Kenora for lunch and drove straight through after that. I could never read in a moving vehicle and staring out the window at all the rocky terrain east of Kenora was boring for a teenager. I did have a small portable radio with an earphone but radio reception wasn't great. The stations that I did manage to pick up, only stayed clear for a short time then faded as we passed out of their signal's range.

If I was on a road trip, I wanted to have someone to talk to about things I was interested in - or at least have a decent radio station to listen to. For me, it was more about the destination and being entertained along the way.

So, I haven't gone on a lot of road trips.

Oh sure, there were a few - like the time that three of my friends and I drove to Southern Ontario for a friend's wedding back in the early 80's. We drove down through North Dakota, then east through Minnesota and Wisconsin before taking a ferry back into Ontario. We drove home along the Trans Canada. We were only gone for 8 days but it was fun - especially getting to see a number of our friends over the few days we actually stayed in Ontario. En route, we talked, sang, listened to cassettes and played games.

I recall one road trip on a warm fall Sunday, back in my high school days. One of my gal pals and I packed a picnic lunch, filled her dads pickup truck with gas and headed up into the Pembina Hills to explore. The radio was blaring and we gabbed as we admired the beautiful fall foliage. We put at least 120 miles on the truck that day!

Since losing so much of my sight, my road trips have been even more infrequent. For many years, I barely left the city. It wasn't that I didn't want to go somewhere. It was more that I didn't want to impose on my friends to take me for a drive - with or without a particular destination in mind.

2011 changed that. I asked three friends to drive me out to see my ailing mom and to sort through things at the farm house where I'd grown up. Those were three bittersweet trips. I was thankful to be able to spend just a little more time with my mom, but also knew that each time could be the last that I would see her. Sorting through all of her possessions was also emotional as memories of youth and happier times flooded my memory. My wonderful friends kept me company as I took those emotional trips home.

One of those friends and I took another road trip a couple of weeks ago. We first met back in 1994 but over the years have discovered that we have many mutual friends and acquaintances. The town where she spent much of her youth, was also the town that I lived in for three years in the late 70's. She has been back many times over the years but I haven't been there since the mid 80's! To the best of our knowledge and despite all the commonalities, we never met back in the day.

As she drove into town, we both noted how much things have changed. New businesses, new homes and residences for seniors. She pointed out the house her parents had owned. We drove by a small house that some mutual friends had lived in.

I couldn't remember the street name or house number where I had a basement apartment, but was able to give her directions. I had dug out an old picture of the house but even it has now changed. The windows and front door are different. The front walk is no longer there and the driveway has been paved over.

What surprised me the most though, was that the campus where I had worked and later studied was no longer standing. The main building had been demolished! I had known that the old house that had been used as a dorm and the kitchen for the school had been sold a few years after the school had closed. It was moved, restored and is now an art gallery. The gallery was closed the day we were there so I didn't get to see inside but it is now located on a spacious lot that also features a beautiful sculpture garden and infinity pond/fountain.

Not far from the gallery/garden is a stunning nature park with natural grasses, stone work and a pathway surrounding a large pond that is connected to a nearby creek. (The pond is used for skating in the winter) Benches made of wood and stone are positioned at several points around the pond. The setting is tranquil and inviting. Had this piece of Heaven been there during my time in town, I'd have spent a lot of time there but it was just a farmer's field outside of town back then.

We had packed a picnic lunch and sat at a table near the town pool to eat. Aside from a very frisky wasp who insisted that it wanted part of my sandwich (his requests were repeatedly denied and he was eventually disposed of) it was a perfect day to be outside and enjoy our old and new surroundings.

Throughout the day, we also continued to find more connections by naming off places we remembered in town and the people we knew to see if the other knew them or perhaps the family. We hadn't gone to shop but to explore and reconnect with our pasts. We went to see how time had changed the things we had known and to deepen our friendship.

Things never stay the same. Tinges of sadness at the things that had changed. People and places no longer there. Pride and delight in seeing the progress and the diversity that the little town has developed over the years.

Road trips can be fun. We want to go back again sometime and take another dear friend with us to show her our roots.

We are already contemplating where a road trip may take us next year. 

When you travel with the right people - the journey and the destination will always be an adventure to savour and to treasure.


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