Who was it that said, “Life is about the journey not the destination.”? What a warm and fuzzy sentiment.
Surely they spoke of holiday driving with four children under the age of ten. An interstate trip of four hours. How bad could that be?
Our planning was impeccable. The van was packed and ready for an after-school pickup. We would hit the highway at 3:30 and arrive at our destination city just after 7:00 which means we would miss all major traffic jams. We even made it to the front of the school pick-up line.
3:15 – All children safely buckled into the van and we are making our way to the Interstate. I hear the standard plea from the peasants, “Dad! I’m hungry. Can we eat something?” and “I have to go to the bathroom.” This was expected…
3:29 – We stop at Sonic and get after-school snacks with the hope that they will keep everyone satisfied through the trip. Small Sprites for the children in the hopes that peeing will be kept to a minimum.
3:35 – We accelerate down the onramp and reach highway speed. The van shifts as we merge into light traffic and Jane’s Sprite flies from her lap only to land top down, driving the straw through the bottom of the cup. Yay. This scene would be fun if we had just won some sort of championship game and the Sprite were champagne. It was not and we did not.
3:37 – We decelerate up the off-ramp and pull into a truck stop/Hardees restaurant. I dump out a pond of Sprite from the center console. We confuse a Mexican gentleman who was sleeping in a station wagon packed full of blankets. In fact, the entire car was so full of blankets there was only room for the driver so it is safe to say that we confused each other.
3:42 – We accelerate down the onramp and reach highway speed. The vans shifts as we merge into light traffic.
4:16 – A whisper floats in from the rear of the car. “I peed”, is announced at a volume that only dogs can hear. I request clarification, “You did what?” A small child erupts into tears. My direct style of questioning decimated her very soul.
4:18 – We decelerate up the off-ramp and drive to a store that is a truck stop/antique store/restaurant. The wet child gets a fresh set of clothes, pajamas because that is all we can get to in the suitcase. I declare a mandatory bathroom break. The offending child swears that she is finished and doesn’t need to go. When Supermom and the other three return the offending child decides that was mistaken and could perhaps go pee some more.
4:35 – We accelerate down the onramp and reach highway speed. The van shifts slightly as we merge into medium traffic. As king of the car I decree, “Anyone having to eliminate any bodily function shall go in their pants and we will deal with it when our journey is complete.” The crowd falls silent. I turn XM radio to 90’s on 9 and jam out to a little Country Grammar.
5:26 – Another whisper floats into my ear from the back of the van. “Daddy. I have to poop.”
5:37 – We decelerate down the off-ramp into the State provided rest area. The ace of deuce pinches her loaf and we return to the highway.
5:48 – An unnamed child removes her shoes. The stench swirls in the air, circulating in the vents. Dead rats in Tupperware containers in cars in Arizona don’t smell this bad. I thought we ran over a dead skunk that had been eating dead squirrels. Once my eyes stop burning and my nose goes numb, the world becomes tolerable again. 90s of 9 starts to play a song by New Kids on The Block. A piece of my man-soul begins to cry.
We complete one quarter of the journey in one half of the budgeted time. The next three hours are a constant volley of question and answer. “Are we close?” and “No.”
The trip started to feel impossible. The questions and singing of random songs wouldn’t stop. Children who are normally as loud as a Boeing jet engine were constantly asking questions in a whisper that I could never understand. And the feet, another child removed her boots. How have we missed these feet for so long? I swear they bathe regularly.
I had a moment of weakness as a person and I allowed myself a daydream.
In my dream, I stopped the van on the side of the road and got out to walk alone across the country like Forrest Gump. The thought of frostbite and hungry coyotes was a comforting possibility. I had visions of fun conversations with highway bums around makeshift camp fires while eating canned beans.
Long, long beards and layers of clothes that I never remove because there is no better way to carry them. Perhaps a few cardboard signs with witty sayings to get me the occasional McDonalds coffee or five dollar bill. I would drift as a vagrant until my body was exhausted and I die peacefully in my sleep from late stage hypothermia.
I snap back to reality from my highway depression to avoid a large truck changing lanes without using a signal. Asshole.
The highway rolls on and my stress subsides. We arrive at our destination happy and healthy.
If you enjoy road trips, this post is for you. You’re welcome. I’m sure I will look back on them fondly. One day.
-Underdaddy to the rescue.