Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Road Trip - Part One

OK: where did almost two? three? months go?? Into the (deemed by me) Bin of Boring Dailyness. What, after all is there to say about a life that looks sort of like: get up, get dressed, do daily chores including eating and drinking, go to work (or not), go to bed. Where are the amazing moments of the misty silence that is Venezia in late ottobre, the stunning Chagall windows in the Fraumunster in Zurich, and pain au chocolat et cafe on the sidewalk of Montmartre? The thing is, they are all around but due to familiarity, I don't pay the attention they deserve. Or they take on a life of their own and then I get overwhelmed with trying to do the experience some sort of justice.

Case in point: the road trip with Poppa. It was supposed to be a fairly straight-forward. Take one late middle-aged woman + one elderly father, put in a small vehicle with food, drink, and maps for 4 days, write about it later if it was "interesting". Well the lack of wordage might give you the idea that it wasn't interesting. Wrongo! as "they" say.

A few things to know: my dad was a very busy GP in the time when things such as house calls were part of the practice. We didn't see a lot of him and my mum did a very good job of making sure that he "wasn't bothered". She did such a good job, that it didn't occur to me until The Jr Girl was born that he might have liked to be a bit bothered and I have been making up for lost time on and off since. When we both lost our darlings within a month of one another, our relationship gathered in those events and moved on. He understands and is angry for the years The Sr Boy and I did not have. Last year, we tried our first Father-Daughter Road Trip. To Kaslo, with The Previous RAV. We got fabulous weather and a good time. This year, it was a run to Waterton.

I'd originally tried for a cross-Canada as far as Toronto as The Jr Girl has moved house again and wants her kitchen equipment. Dad wasn't going for that despite his occasionally mentioned thought that every Canadian should travel across the country on land. His "occasional mentions" are to me sort of like quietly voiced royal commands. He makes them so casually but there is always some deep underpinning. He is, however, now in his late 80s and TO looked just too far.

So, Waterton - another place of his university years - it was.

It was such a good trip! Once again, we got fabulous weather and once again, we got surprises. Dad hasn't been through the southern Kootenays for years and the colours of the aspens and cottonwoods were glorious. He loved the ferry trip across Kootenay Lake and told me stories I hadn't heard of sorties up and down the lake establishing measurements for fisheries research: late night adventures to see my mum who was visiting other family, a storm that left their boat 10 m up the beach when the water calmed down. We nipped in to Barefoot Handweaving to pick up the beautiful jacket I had commissioned in June and rolled on through the evening light to Creston. Ordinary, right? Except that this time, he was taking pictures and we turned around a couple of times to do so. Except that this time, we made time to stop and chat up the locals - he's very good at that and I am learning - and to simply look. This is what we didn't see because there was a big truck following us across this.

Creston was playing host to a collection of HotRodders. Those are a different breed of cats: loud noise early in the morning is an essential component and difficult for those of us who would prefer sleeping to blower assisted engine noise. The good news for the guy at the motel was that I was already awake and Dad doesn't do crabby upon awaking anymore. Won't be staying there again on that weekend. Ever.

Over breakfast and the maps, we decided to head to the YouEssofEh and a drive across Going to the Sun Road. As we were rolling up to the border, I asked Dad for his birth certificate (he is refusing to pay for a passport which he doesn't think he'll live long enough to use enough to justify the cost). "I didn't bring it." We are now between the Canadian and TheOtherCountry's borders and turning around is not an option. He got The Look. The Jrs know it. Some of you may know it. The useful look for when words fail. "Well, if they don't want me, we can just turn around." I forego explaining that first we would have to be let in to be allowed to turn around and if he doesn't have his documents, we might not get either in or out and, if we do, we might not get back into Canada. All this is playing out as I continue to drive up to the immigration officer and thinking of one of the stories in Thomas King's One Good Story That One.

"Where are you from?"
respective locations given as he looks over my passport and Dad's driver's licence
"Where are you going?"
route explained
"How long are you staying?"
length of stay explained
"Have a good visit."

As we were driving away:
Dad: "See, I didn't need it."
Me: "You still have to get back into Canada."
Dad: "Yeah." pause "Unless I croak along the way."
Me: "Oh joyous - then all I'd have to do is bury you somewhere because I bet they wouldn't let me bring you back unless you were stuffed."
Dad: "Probably not." pause "Wonder how much stuffing would cost?"

With a travelling buddy like that, how could I not have a good trip?

We discovered that Going to the Sun was closed east of the summit but that we could drive up for free because it was national free park day or some such thing. Dad's camera stopped working so we had to simply look and marvel at the courage of the workers who punched their way through the dirty thirties making that road. We do nothing similar in this time of big machines. There had already been snow up top and the road was being closed for the season two days after our visit. The snow stakes are 3 - 4 m long. Next day, we visited a local book store in the Amtrak station and mused over pictures of snow plows over the edge and other delights of winter in the mountains.

Next up: The Other Road

Still breathing.


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