Making road trip memories with kids – Winnipeg Free Press
We took our kids on a road trip. We crossed three provinces (four, if you count Manitoba) and three time zones, bought snacks and wandered around what seemed like about a thousand gas stations from Winnipeg to Vancouver, all part of one hell of an adventure .
We figured our kids were getting older and the opportunities to cram into our minivan and venture out on this kind of family vacation are numbered. We’ve never done anything like this before, and we figured if there was ever a time to do it, it’s now. So off we went, with my partner, Chris, driving, and me – as 1990s band TLC sang in their hit song No scrubs – hanging out on the passenger side of (my) best friend’s ride.
We encountered a lot of nostalgia along the way. The Fuddruckers restaurant in Saskatoon looked like the one in Winnipeg in the 1990s. Memories hit us as we chased the sunset west. In trying to give our children incredible memories and experiences, we’ve been sprinkled with the ones our parents gave us when we were young.
I had never done this route. My partner had. Every once in a while, as we drove down that long stretch of highway, he would tell a little story or mimic one of his parents’ manners that he remembered from the backseat of a vehicle as their family drove through the Canada.
I can only hope that our children will have these memories when they are older.
Other whiffs of nostalgia were wrapped up and sold to us at high-end candy stores in downtown Vancouver and Banff that offered treats from our childhoods, like Franken Berry cereal or Neapolitan taffy. They sell us our memories at full price.
We listened to a playlist ranging from John Prine and Post Malone to big band music and the Beatles. A bit of everything, and a new soundtrack for this summer. When we got to the mountains and out of cellphone range, we switched to audiobooks, gobbling up the content of Funny Farm: My Unexpected Life with 600 Rescue Animals by Laurie Zaleski and The storyteller: Tales of life and music by Dave Grohl. Turns out the leader of the Foo Fighters is the coolest, friendliest person on the planet.
I found the audiobooks relaxing (or, as relaxing as they can be) as I grabbed my seatbelt and the door handle as we cruised along the busy one-lane freeways outside. western end of Alberta and British Columbia. Driving along the highway feels like being at the end of the world in some places. There are massive valleys below, filled with heaps of giant trees and ground so low that streams and paths seem tiny.
The view is breathtaking, even through gritted teeth and a body so tense that I was almost standing (at an angle, of course) in the passenger seat. It turns out that I, a born and bred prairie girl, am not the best passenger on long highway trips, especially when they are not flat.
The turning point of our nearly two-week adventure was Vancouver, where my sister (the kids’ and nieces’ favorite aunt) and my Aunt Rose live in the heart of downtown, surrounded by skyscrapers and people.
While the destination (and the visit) was the big draw, and the place we stayed the longest, it was only part of the journey. When it was time to leave, it was hard to say goodbye. We crowded a lot during these three days. Leaving Vancouver meant leaving a piece of our heart behind. It also meant that the first part of the road trip was over. The expectation of the big city and of reuniting with our favorite aunts was over. Slowly at first, then at high speed. Three days were not enough, but neither were three years.
We’ve tried to make every moment count, whether we’re watching parts of Canada pass by or somehow participating in life outside of our element. We had bellies full of food for the road trip – takeaways and offers from gas stations at stops along the way. We went through the same outfits. (It was the first time in my life that I didn’t pack enough.) The children’s backpacks were full of their most prized possessions and a few small trinkets that we collected on our trip.
Real life did not exist during the holidays. There was no bedtime or alarm clock. No looming deadlines or appointment requests. (Although Chris and I checked and answered work emails a few times.) The only expectation was to have a good time and see and do everything we could. It’s exciting to see new things and be in new places. It’s amazing to realize how quickly you can become familiar with a new place when you’ve only been there for a very short time. The world gets a little smaller once you figure out which direction you’re going.
As far as road trips go, I think this one was good. Sure, we’ve had our share of tense moments when something didn’t work out for us or we got into an argument. Even if you love your family, five people nearby in a van or a shared hotel room for days on end can be overwhelming. But, we took our kids out, showed them a little bit of the world, and created memories that we hope will last a lifetime.
Twitter @ShelleyA Cook
Columnist, Reader Bridge Project Manager
Shelley is a born and raised Winnipegger. She is a proud Indigenous woman with family ties to the Brokenhead Ojibway Nation.
Read the full biography