Road tripping with my mom

I can’t say I remember any trips with my mom, except the one epic road trip to Texas. I still smirk when I think about it. Back then, the movie Thelma and Louise was popular and road trips were the “in thing.” Girl trips and open roads were glamorous and frankly, you were making a bold statement on female independence by doing it. So, why wouldn’t we? A couple of bold, independent single girls like us, should definitely have adventure.

My mom’s friend Karen had moved to Texas and they’d often chat long distance on the telephone. Sometimes they’d rack up a bill, chatting half the evening. (Remember, long distance calls were a luxury and at 38 cents a minute, things added up pretty quick back then.) I would tell her that she could drive there for about the same amount of cash. Finally, one night, my mom figured my idea had merit.

I was about 18 at the time.  Mom, was more than twice my age, but if she were alive today, she’d tell you that back then “we definitely looked like sisters.”

She had a brand new car, so we were absolutely equipped for this, anytime. (She always had a brand new car, my grandparents owned a General Motors dealership.) I convinced her to take a couple days off and make it a 5-day weekend. We’d drive all night and get to Texas in 24 hours. As our plan developed, I really thought I had her convinced. She seemed enthusiastic in our chats, but at the last minute, she chickened out. She came home from work, was tired and decided all she wanted to do was to rest and do things around the house for her days off.

I’d seen this “cold feet” act of hers before. So while she was distracted, I packed the car anyways. If I remember correctly it was about 11pm when I convinced her to “just go for a drive and get some coffee” with me.  One loop through the neighbourhood and I headed for I-75. I told her we could stop for coffee in Grand Forks, North Dakota  which was about 3 hours away.

In hind sight, she could have probably made a case for kidnapping. Except, who would believe her? After all, SHE was the one to pick up maps from CAA earlier in the week! Ha ha!

I don’t remember everything about the trip, but I do have strong memories of the highlights. She would tell you about waking up to see me speeding on an Interstate highway and watching a State Trooper pull over 4 cars at once, but not us. She would also tell you to avoid Oklahoma City at rush hour when you really don’t know where you’re going. And I bet she would say that 5 days definitely wasn’t long enough. I tend to agree.

My favourite part of the adventure was seeing her hug Karen when we arrived (Those two were thrilled to be reunited for an in-person visit!) and seeing the Kansas City Royals play baseball.

The baseball game was a completely spontaneous decision. We were relaxed and driving home when she tuned in a local radio station. They were broadcasting a pre-game show of the Kansas City Royals baseball team. She commented that she’d “always wanted to go to a MLB game.”

I said, “let’s do it! Let’s go, right now.” And we did.

She found the stadium on a map. I got us there. At the parking gate I asked the attendant where to get tickets. He said “but the game’s sold out! Don’t you know, the famous chicken’s here?!!”

I didn’t really know what he meant, but opted to pay for parking and take my chances at the box office anyway. My mom wanted to turn back. I pushed forward again, and before we even cleared the parking lot, we were approached by a scalper. I swapped him $20 for upper deck tickets and we were in! She always thought that was “pretty balsy” and that I was a heck of a street-smart gal. Very Thelma-ish.

I remember how absolutely satisfied she was sitting in the cheap seats, sipping a lemonade and snacking on a hot dog and a bag of peanuts. That was a good day. The Royals have (or had) a beautiful stadium with a waterfall in the outfield. They also had fireworks out there post game. It was a really nice evening. We picked a motel by the edge of town for the night and finished the trip in the morning. I know in her later years she would still tell the story of the scalper, and the funny San Diego Chicken at the baseball game.

What that trip taught me was, that you can ALWAYS get tickets to a big game. You don’t have to have a big plan, or a big budget to travel and have a great time. And, I  also believe that I would absolutely take a road trip with my teens if I was invited. After all, it could very well be, a once-in-a lifetime invitation.


PS: The photo is NOT from this trip. But it’s simply a photo of my spunky young mom, back in the day. We did NOT take a gas guzzling Impala on this trip. It was infact a SkyHawk.

In loving memory

My mother died two weeks ago. So, a lot of things have changed. First off, I’m grounded. No trips, no vacations, nothing for the foreseeable future. So, that’s different for me. I’m needed at home. There’s things only I can take care of.

Secondly, I didn’t know that she had aspirations of being a travel counsellor. We found a resume in her things. It’s from 20 years ago, but she was hoping to make a move within the organization she worked for and take on a role of travel sales.

In this resume she declares a love for travel and a thirst to see more of the world. I didn’t know this. Actually, it comes as quite a shock. I say this because she openly challenged me when I talked about planning trips. She didn’t want me “jetting off.” “Going to strange places.” “Stay closer to home” she’d say.

But maybe that “don’t go” attitude only applied to ME. Maybe her love for me simply outweighed the see-the-world zest for life and ambition she once had. Or the travel ambition she had for herself, or others.

img_4632
The woman who taught me to get up & go. I like this photo of her. It really shows that spunk. That fun-loving side of a younger woman who toted kids around coast to coast, spun tires, played loud music and showed us how to “road trip.”

 

In recent years, she hated the thought of me going anywhere. It actually caused her great anxiety. So, it got to the point where I didn’t even tell her of my plans. I simply went where I wanted to go and told her about how wonderful it was, once I got back.

Despite attempts to sneak away, she would sometimes hear about my plans from my brother. I’d be off on a weekend adventure, like I was in Cleveland, and I’d get a text from her. “Hope you’re having fun in Cleveland.” I never knew how to take these messages. Was she busting me? Was she sincere…. as in “have fun dear.” Or was it sarcasm? Whatever the sentiment, it was moments like those, I’ll miss and cherish now.

Keeping tabs on me was her hobby. I’m sure of it! And further, she would report my every move to my Amma. (Icelandic for grandmother) I resisted, at times, feeling like the “Amma Squad” was a division of the FBI or something. I’m kidding, of course, I wasn’t doing anything wrong, I was just indulging my independence and free spirit. I am an adult, in every country on earth, with age and wisdom to spare, after all. Our game of travel cat and mouse, was a pretty typical mother-daughter thing, I’d say.

Her health challenges were what limited her travels ultimately. I don’t think she left Canada in the last decade. “No need for a passport” she’d say. I, on the other hand, applied for a passport as soon as cross-border travel required it and have been busy trying to get those pages stamped ever since. I really felt like my passport was an actual ticket to adventure.

I’ll get my wings back. I’m looking forward to 2017. I have to. I need to keep my chin up and eyes to the sky, take things one day at a time. It’s how I’ll cope with this incredible loss. And I do take comfort in the fact that she had her own travel aspirations and a spark inside her, like I do, to see the world and experience what it has to offer.

Tips for seeing Kelowna and the Okanagan

1) Rent a car.

There are lakes, resorts and towns; wineries, national parks and historic sites abound. There’s literally something worthwhile to visit every 20 minutes, so you’ll want to stay mobile and cover some ground. The highway 97 north from Kelowna is double lane to Vernon and then single lane (with passing lanes) to the Trans-Canada and Revelstoke. I found it beautiful driving in the sunshine. Though I’m sure it would be more challenging in the winter and poor weather.

IMG_2623
One lane bridge over the Columbia River
Waterfall outside just outside the town of Revelstoke, BC
IMG_2519
Rock monument at Centennial Park in Revelstoke

2) Stay flexible.

Don’t over-plan or over schedule yourself. There is something around every corner that you’ll want to stop and see. For example. We had no idea that we wanted to go to a Kangaroo Farm. But when one of the tourism kiosk volunteers told us about it, and it was only 10 minutes away we decided heck ya! And now we’re going to recommend it to everyone we meet. Kids and youth admission is just $5, adults $10, or if you arrive before 10AM, everyone is just $5. (Cash only and at the gate. No advance tickets)

IMG_2413
Kangaroo Farm. 10 minutes north of the airport. See my friend the albino wallaby.

3) BC… Bring Cash

Roadside stands, u-pick fruit, and places like the kangaroo farm were cash only. And things in BC tend to be a little bit more expensive than on the prairies. For example, gas. In Winnipeg it was 96.9 cents per litre. In Kelowna 1.14 and in Revelstoke 121.9 on the same day.

IMG_2543

4) Save room for fruit and wine in your baggage allowance.

You don’t have to worry about packaging, or even making a stop on your way to the airport, YLW has it all conveniently inside the departure lounge. Once you’re past security, you can pick up a couple bottles of regional wine. They’ll even pack it in a carry-on approved box. (Bottle packs for 2 or 4)

IMG_2620
New Farm to Flight program. Packed fresh fruit for sale in the boarding lounge. A “suitcase” of peaches was $12.95
IMG_2630
Wine store at Kelowna Airport, past security and in the boarding lounge.

Give me a minute

I hate the idea of blazing from one gas station to the next, leap frogging traffic as you go. However, if a road trip in inevitable, I’m going to stop, explore and wander a bit. This makes it much more enjoyable for me. One such example was this detour off the Trans-Canada Highway in Saskatchewan, to stop and explore Wolseley.

The sign ON the Trans-Canada said “swinging bridge.” I thought that sounded like fun and slowed the truck down to make the turn.

“Mom! Where are we going?” Riley asked.

“Just give me a minute”, I replied. “We’re going to stop and see if we can find this swinging bridge.”

We turned onto the eastern access road, and literally 2o seconds later was the town sign. And at the 45 second mark, a golf course on the left, and a snazzy looking quilt shop sign on the right. So I pulled into the parking lot.

“Mom! Where are you going?” Riley asked.

“Just give me a minute” I replied. “I’m going to check out this quilt shop.”

IMG_1876
Tiger Lily Quilt shop, less than 1 minute north from the Trans Canada Highway in Saskatchewan

Tiger Lily Quilt Shop was just a cute as their sign. Inspiring designs on the walls, shelves and shelves of fabric, and yarn too. And a warm, friendly clerk at the desk. She told me that they’d moved from a location “downtown” to this one, just this year. I asked her where the bridge is, and she replied, “just over the tracks turn left. Then, at the three way stop sign go right. It’s at the end of that road.”

Sure enough, we were at the swinging bridge after a mere minute further of driving. What a beautiful location over the river!

My teen leapt from the car. This obviously looked like fun.

We stolled across the bridge and back, snapped a few photos and looked at the bridge. We paused then to read the plaques. And before you know it we were back headed towards the highway again.

All together it was about a 12 minute pause on our journey, but definitely a highlight. I highly recommend it. Take the detour, stretch your legs and see what a cute town Wolseley Saskatchewan is!

IMG_1748
Dedication, at the foot of the bridge
IMG_1756
Steadying myself as my teen son bounces on the bridge and takes my photo
IMG_1758
Heritage building on the far side of the bridge

IMG_1761

IMG_1763
More heritage buildings still in use, down on Front Street

Hotwire: Saskatoon

Roadtrip is not my first choice for travel adventure, but this time, I have personal reasons for making the trek.

Our first stop would be Saskatoon Saskatchewan. It’s my first time in the city and I won’t have time to explore. It’s simply a bed, breakfast and gas stop.

I was very surprised to learn that on a Tuesday night, the going rate for hotels was $170. Whether I checked Expedia.ca, Trivago.ca or the hotel sites themselves…. nothing for under $170. Best Western, Mainstay, 4Points, Courtyard, Holiday Inn… I checked them all.

So, we waited to the last minute to book something. And went with Hotwire.ca

We chose a 2.5star hotel, in the north side of Saskatoon, at $106 per night. Included free parking, free breakfast, WIFI and had guest laundry. As per Hotwire, it had a 95% approval rating. So, that was good enough for me.

We got the Country Inn and Suites. It’s right next to the Sandman Hotel and has a Denny’s restaurant adjacent.

Check-in was smooth, free coffee in the lobby. Rooms were big, the bedroom was separate from the sitting room which boasted a pullout couch, wet bar and microwave. Though the decor was dated, and the room bothered my allergies (probably the carpet) it was absolutely fine. Actually, for $106, it was great!

We went next door to Denny’s for dinner. It was as anticipated, mediocre. Factory prepared food, assembled and microwaved on location. But, I will say that the server, Jenn, was really great. She did her job well and we left her a large grat.

The breakfast at the Country Inn & Suites was actually fabulous! Cereal, 4 types of juice, bagels, muffins, waffles, Canadian bacon, omelettes and more. I was surprised and very impressed with the actual fruit (looked like thawed frozen berry mix) and the actual dairy whipped cream for the waffles. I’m really fussy and won’t ever eat cool-whip or the like. Two thumbs up for the top quality food and selection at the breakfast room.

So, a good day. Decent pit stop. My son would give the hotel/Denny’s a slightly higher rating though… as he found 4 different Pokemon characters in the parking lots here and two more in the lobby of the Country Inn.  That made him very happy.

Gotta love a Mustang!

My teen son has a new fascination with Ford Mustangs. And while he’s still a couple years away from having a driver’s license or a car, that hasn’t stopped him from obsessing.

This morning over breakfast we watched a documentary called A Faster Horse, it was a 50 year history of the Ford Mustang. I’ll admit it was interesting and I enjoyed it almost as much as he did. The people, the struggles and triumphs of the brand make for a great story.

They say that a Mustang isn’t a car you buy with your head, it’s a car you buy with your heart. They say there’s an emotional investment in owning a Mustang….and, I have to agree. After all, I am a Mustang owner! I’m on my second, and my father has had four. I guess that makes us “Mustang People.”

There’s just something about the rumble of the engine, and the sculpted, staunch lines of the body that makes you want to hit the open road and just drive. You feel powerful, and connected.

IMG_3654

So, not surprisingly, after seeing the movie, my son asked if we could go for a ride. So we did! Top down and open road we went for a spin and then we called Grandpa to say hi.

After we got off the phone with Grandpa, my son said, “Mom, we should go to the Mustang museum, or let’s go to the next anniversary rally. Or maybe we could go on a road trip and see Route 66.”

How do you not smile and start planning, when your teenager says he wants to spend time with you? What a fantastic challenge! I best start planning, and book the ol’ Mustang in for a tune-up. And while I’m at it, I should download the theme from the Vacation movies, “Holiday Road,” or whatever it’s called. I might just have an epic road trip in my near future.