Friday, July 13, 2012

Are we there yet?

By Babs Mountjoy

I remember the family road trip.

You know, the one where you’d pack up the kids and the family dog in the big old station wagon along with the cartop carrier full of camping gear and whatever else you could squeeze in there. Off , shoulder to shoulder, to find some cottage or campground for a week of “Mom, he touched me!” and “Are we there yet?” and if Mom and Dad were lucky, a few minutes of peace when the children all found something else to do.

We were pretty low-tech back then. You brought board games to play by lantern light, a deck of cards. A Frisbee, if you could find yours. Then you spent the rest of the time gallivanting about the spot your family landed—in the lake, at the mini-golf, playground, even hiding-and-seeking in the woods, exploring as long as you could. When it got dark you’d come back to the cabin/tent and patch up your wounds, slather on the calamine lotion and sleep hearty till the next day. Seems simple enough.

This summer, I’ve headed west to do some research for a book I’m writing set in Montana, so I invited a friend to help me drive and brought my twelve-year-old daughter, too. But we’re not doing anything so easy as we did “back in the day.”

We’re traveling in this:

My dear husband insisted that we must purchase this in time to take it with us. Since my husband couldn’t get away from work to help me with it, this has certainly been a learning experience for ME, though. So with less than three days’ preparation, away we went.

I’ve got to admit it’s got its perks. TV —even cable, depending on the stop. Running water, toilet, shower, all inside with you. Refrigerator instead of that old clunky plastic cooler. Even a stove so you don’t have to light a fire anywhere. Big comfortable front seats and lots of storage and room for the girl to move about inside. But beyond that, it has a stereo system. And during the thunderstorm that terrified my child, a DVD player with plenty of episodes of Glee.

Camping used to be easy. I know how to set up a tent. Sleeping bags go on the ground. Zip the tent before the bears (or more likely raccoons) get your food. This behemoth? It leads to some rather unexpected problems.

Like toll booths.

You know, all you have to do is drive up to one of these booths and take the ticket. Easy enough. Unless the booth thinks you’re a semi truck. Then it spits the ticket out about eight feet off the ground. So here I am belted into the driver’s seat, my shoes off for driving, trying to reach out the window for this ticket. No way to reach it so I wriggle out of the belt. Still no joy. So I open the door a crack to lean closer and drop a shoe out of the door. Fabulous.

We survived that, of course. We survived the cupboard flying open and shattering the glass dishes all over the floor. We mostly survived the gas station with the large concrete block that took out the back left compartment door, after applying a batch of duct tape and a bungee cord to hold the particleboard skeleton together till we get home.

We learned how to make the hot water heater work, how to pack most things in plastic, how to get the set-up and take-down of all the cords and hoses nearly as fast as getting that tent up and packed. Actually, we’ve figured out that by the time we get home and park it, we’ll probably know it all.

And the opportunity to spend a night inside a strong metal bus during a 20-mph wind and rain storm instead of in a puddle in a tent? Pretty awesome.

Then there’s the pull-up-for-the-night and not having to lug ANYTHING inside a hotel. Coffee, snacks, dinner, even breakfast, right at arms’ reach. The sudden realization one morning in Minnesota that a whole line of thunderstorms was bearing down on us and we unclipped and unhooked and sped away before Little Miss ever woke up. She slept on the road for some time—and thankfully forgot we’d promised her swimming in the morning.

So, yeah, we’ll keep the newfangled way to travel the byways, though we may still pull over to picnic at the rest stops, with our slapped-together ham sandwiches and grapes and paper plates and our Frisbees to throw back and forth till it’s time to get back in the vehicle. This country is beautiful through all its different terrains, temperatures and tent/camp sites. We’ve enjoyed and marveled at everything from the dry, ghostly castles of the Badlands to the depths of Glacier Lake, and the bright nightlights of Reno, Nevada.

The important part is that we’re able to travel together. We might like it enough to consider it as a retirement option—something that a tent and a station wagon would not have done for us.

But if someone asks “Are we there yet?” one more time

I guess some things never change.


Barbara “Babs” Mountjoy has written since she was a little girl, unable to restrain the stories that percolated through her fingers onto her keyboard – or, back then, onto the old Royal typewriter. Babs has been a published author for more than thirty-five years, with a number of publications under her belt. Her non-fiction book, 101 LITTLE INSTRUCTIONS FOR SURVIVING YOUR DIVORCE, was published by Impact Publishers in 1999. Her first novel, THE ELF QUEEN, was released under the pen name Lyndi Alexander in 2010. THE ELF QUEEN launched her Clan Elves of the Bitterroot series, under which the second and third titles, THE ELF CHILD and THE ELF MAGE, released in 2011 and 2012. Wild Rose Press released her romantic suspense novels, SECRETS IN THE SAND, in 2011, and, CONVICTION OF THE HEART, in June 2012. Will Rose Press will also release Babs’ THAT GIRL’S THE ONE I LOVE in September 2012. Zumaya Publications published her women’s fiction title, SECOND CHANCES, in July 2012. Babs is a contributor to two CUP OF COMFORT anthologies. She blogs about autism, writing and life at, and spent seven years of her career as a news reporter and editor in South Florida. Her romances/womens fiction books are published under the pen name Alana Lorens, and her fantasy/sci-fi under the pen name Lyndi Alexander.


Liz Flaherty said...

This looks like fun! I loved your post.

Lillian Duncan said...

I grew up with tent camping and fishing at the lake as vacation--and hated it! But I married an outdoorsy sort of guy so we camp--just the way you do. With our camper--an air conditioning--TV-Internet--microwave. I just love roughing it!!

Kathy Otten said...

Toll booth story was so funny. I could totaly picture it. You're brave to drive that big thing though. I have enough trouble backing up a car, I'd never be able to do that big thing.
Glad you all had such a good time.

Shawna Lee Coronado said...

I love this story.