The girls and I spent part of July driving to Alberta and back again. While there, we visited with family, attended a wedding and took the chance to explore history in Drumhellar and Rocky Mountain House. For this week, I thought I’d share some of my favourite road trip memories.
#1: The Wedding
The big reason I went back to Alberta was for a friend’s wedding. She’s waited a loooong time for her Prince Charming so I was really excited to celebrate with her. Thanks to Google Maps, I was able to navigate Calgary by myself (usually my husband drives there—he grew up there) to get to the wedding and the reception and go shopping in between.
This was the first time I’ve found myself tearing up at a wedding. And not because the pastor said anything tear-worthy (it was a remarkably short homily for an Anglican!). Rather, I found myself hearing the vows with a much different perspective after nine years of marriage.
My husband and I went to a lot of weddings when we were planning our own wedding. Most of our friends got married by the time Lily arrived, and we haven’t been to a wedding since then. Those wedding vows have a lot more significance now than they did back when we were starry-eyed lovers.
#2: Grandparents & Cousins
Most of our family is back in Alberta, so the girls were very excited to see their grandparents and cousins when we went back. Thankfully, my husband’s sister lives next door to her parents, making it easy to visit everyone while we’re there.
The cousins had just gotten a new horse. The girls had fun getting a ride. Plus, the oldest cousin (who just turned 12) was able to babysit them (with some supervision from her mom and grandma) while I was at the wedding.
I also fit in as many visits as I could with my own grandparents. They are in their 90s now. My grandpa still lives on his own, but my grandma, who has dementia, has been in a care home for the last year. I’m well aware that every visit with her might be my last.
It’s hard to visit only twice a year, because every time I go, her condition has deteriorated greatly since the last time I saw her. It’s also hard to explain to my daughter’s why Great-Grandma is ill. Last time, they asked why she kept repeating the same question over and over again. This time, they wanted to know why she didn’t talk at all.
We also saw my aunt and uncle on our way, both my brothers, my dad, and my uncle and his girlfriend. It was the first time many of them had met Pearl so I took as many pictures as possible to preserve these road trip memories. (And since most of the men in my family are camera-shy, well, that isn’t very many pictures! Although it’s harder for them to duck the camera when they’re holding a baby…)
How do you keep four kids busy in the car for a twelve-hour drive? Audiobooks!!! To prepare for this drive, I ordered some new Adventures in Odyssey for the girls. We also discovered the historical dramas of G.A. Henty. And I picked up a few other stories for the road at our library. There were a few moments of quiet along the drive, but for the most part, listening to these stories kept us busy there and back.
One reason I love audiobooks is that we’re listening together and then we can discuss the story. It’s fun to see what jumps out at the girls. Even Jade had questions or comments about the story (which usually made us laugh). Overall, though, the audiobooks are a shared experience that makes the road trips a lot more fun.
#4: The Hitchhiker
This was the first time in my life I’ve ever picked up a hitch hiker. I have this paranoia that hitch hikers are axe murderers (though hitching with an axe would be awkward, I suppose). It’s also illegal in most places to hitch hike.
Anyway, she was standing on the road just outside Revelstoke and I thought, “I should pick her up.” So we turned around, picked her up, and offered her a ride (to her amazement) nearly all the way to Calgary.
She was from Chicago and backpacking across western Canada with various friends. Right then, she was heading to Calgary to visit one friend while waiting for another friend to finish tree-planting around Edmonton. She told us about the campgrounds she’d stayed at around BC. I told her what I knew about the mountains and towns we were driving through.
#5: The Scenery
We drive the highway from Vancouver to Calgary nearly twice a year and I’m still amazed by the scenery along the way. This is such a beautiful part of Canada. From the coast through the interior to the Rocky Mountains and beyond, the scenery (and weather!) is constantly changing along the highway.
I pointed out waterfalls, wildflowers, trains and other things of interest to the girls while we drove. We didn’t see any wildlife this summer, but there were plenty of other things out the window to look at and talk about when we weren’t discussing the audiobooks.
The girls were also great at keeping themselves entertained. I love hearing their chatter as we drive. They have a new, innocent perspective that often makes me laugh (or think really hard to answer a question). This trip made me remember a few things Sunshine said as a toddler, on one of our road trips about five years ago…
“Mom, we keep passing the same trucks!” (After we’d leapfrogged a certain truck several times on the highway.) “It’s the drip truck.” (Then I had to explain to her why the company was called The Green Drop and why they’d have a big green drop on top of their truck.)
“Mom, this looks like a new road.” (On the Queen Elizabeth II Highway from Red Deer to Edmonton, which was getting a badly needed repaving.) “It’s pretty. I like it.”
(Overheard as she’s playing by herself in the back seat.) “I told my mom absolutely not, I can’t come over because I don’t know your names.” (In a different voice.) “Well, his name is Koo…”
On our drive home again, halfway through BC, Sunshine asked, “Mom, are we going back to Grandma D’s this trip?”
“It’s behind us. Far away.”
“How many minutes?”
(Thinking.) “Six thousand. No, 6,200. Or thirteen hours.”
Lily: “I’m going to have sixteen kids.”
Sunshine: “You don’t know that until you grow up.”
On one trip, when I traveled to Alberta by myself because my hubby had to work, my mother-in-law drove back with me. Along the way, we stopped at a corner store to and she went in to take Lily potty.
After Lily had sat for quite a long time, my mother-in-law asked her gently, “Are you done yet?”
Lily gently responded, “You haven’t taken me off yet.”
What are your favourite road trip memories?