The Drive

“Here today, up and off to somewhere else tomorrow! Travel, change, interest, excitement! The whole world before you, and a horizon that’s always changing!”
-Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows
Once again we decided to go to the mountains. It’s a four hour drive to the condominium nestled in the pine trees. Most people can get there in 4 hours but the drive took us 6 hours. Six long, torturous, sticky, dirty hours.  We’re lucky to be alive probably.
The drive is beautiful. It cuts through Yosemite, past waterfalls, through tunnels, on a winding road that makes me carsick every time.  There’s nowhere to buy lunch and few places to stop for gas. Yet we managed to stop MULTIPLE TIMES for various emergencies involving port-a potties.
As much as I resent port-a potties, I don’t resent the time we stopped for a herd of deer. We saw them at dusk and tumbled gratefully out of the car. We crept along the meadow, tripping over baby trees and hushing the boys in order to get a closer look. The sun was setting, leaving an golden glow over the green grass. The bucks raised their head and stared at us, showing off their massive antlers like kings with crowns. It was magical and it left quite an impression on the kids. Now whenever someone says “deer” the 2 year old replies, “SHH! Deer!” in a very loud whisper.
We carried on, past granite hills, high lakes, and tall cliffs with crumbles of rock left on their side from avalanches. The sun set, and Shel began to worry about bears.
He just can’t wrap his brain around the fact that bears SOMETIMES eat people. “Why do bears eat people?” he asked again, “What will happen if we see a bear? Will it try to eat us?”
I reassured him that bears have no intention of trying to eat us, much less chase us as we drive along at a nice clip ideal for making me carsick. His father chimed in, “If we see a bear he’ll probably ask us, “Do you have any Sheldons?””
Sheldon let out a squeak. I gave his father the stink eye, but the 5 year old had already picked up on it and was running with it as only one who has been stuck in a car for 4 hours can run.
“He’ll want to eat you for sure Shel, because you’re made out of ham. You’re a ham bone,” Q announced with indifference.
“NO! YOU STOP SAYING DAT! I’m NOT A HAM BONE!” Shel screeched. Four is a delicate age where it still seems possible that a person can be made out of ham. Shel really, really didn’t want to be made of ham. Especially ham that’s traveling through bear country in the dark.
“You are,” Q continued, unfazed by his brother’s terror, “you’re a ham bone. You’re ham…and I’m bacon.”
Rather stunned by this announcement, Shel stopped crying and we all sat in silence for a moment, processing the fact that half our family was made of cured meats.
Eventually we got to the condo, ragged, stumbling out like refugees. We all had stomach aches from eating a steady diet of candy and croutons. We felt terrible, but we had arrived. I hadn’t puked, bears hadn’t come looking for Shel, no one had an accident from having to hold it for the last half hour, and the 2 year old only screamed for the last 15 minutes. Phase One was a success.
I could say we slept like babies that night, and it would be true. We slept like babies who wake up every three hours to cry. We started Phase Two the next morning, sleep deprived and cranky, with faded orange mustaches.

Do you have any tips for traveling with small people? Tell me your crazy car stories!

*for more of Sheldon’s philosophy regarding bears, like my facebook page and scroll down a bit. I’ve got it carefully documented.

16 thoughts on “The Drive

  1. We went a bear hunt ourselves, this week. Charleigh asked: “Daddy, do bears eat people?” And he said: “Sometimes they eat little redheaded girls.” She said very quietly: “Daddy? I want to stay in the car!” Lovely photos (Did you get a new camera?) And words. Love you!

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  2. I like the deer story – which is saying a lot since I hate deer. (childhood semi-trauma – similar to Rory from Gilmore Girls incident)
    Traveling with children – we avoided our six and a half hour (but w/ kids, eight)drive to my family from Thanksgiving until after Memorial Day bc it is just so awful for us. I broke down and consented to letting Babushka buy the grandkids a portable DVD player so that we could come and visit her. Eight hours of Veggie Tales and Elmo beats a screaming two year old.

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  3. On our last car trip my 8 yr old very sweetly helped her sister concoct a story involving a huge assortment of imaginary friends. Then my 4 yr old spent half an hour screaming, and wailing, and crying, and well you get the idea, because the 8 yr old STOLE her imaginary friends and WOULDN'T GIVE THEM BACK.

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  4. Joann,

    I'm laughing at your bacon and ham sons, and anticipating a road trip ourselves hopefully. We'll be on the lookout for pork and bears… 🙂

    Re your comment on my post “Walls, Writing, and What You Were Made For,” thank you, JoAnn. You encourage me, and I'm glad to have YOU on this blogging world too. 🙂

    Jennifer Dougan
    http://www.jenniferdougan.com

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  5. I think your little family is adorable.

    Books on tape…course you still have a 2 year old so that could be a challenge, but soon…one year we drove 14 hours to Atlanta and listed to Trumpet of the Swans. We sat in the driveway for an hour when we got home so we could hear the end all together.

    Happy Travels…Yosemite is on my list.

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