The Call of the Open Road

When the call of the road beckons, it’s time to plot a course for new adventures, towns and cities.

March 20, 2023 | | Headwaters Nest

As the wild winter storms wind down and slushy piles gather on our driveways, kids shake off the blahs and get springy in their steps. They become puddle jumpers on their way home from school – it can’t be avoided, so we encourage them, and maybe take a little leap of our own.

Some of my favourite photos from my son Adrian’s childhood are of him on the go, running and jumping over and into puddles. I captured him mid-splash on several occasions. Something about the warmer temperatures makes you feel like rushing forward into new adventures. As Adrian grew, his adventures became more about after-school bike rides, or lingering in the schoolyard to throw some hoops, or practising rail slides in the scooter park. And now, with a driver’s licence, he’s heard the call of the open road.

I also loved the open road at his age, ready to take on new adventures, towns and cities. You start to compile a mental road map – first of local destinations, the wicked winding of the Forks of the Credit and Hockley roads, sneaky corners and dead ends for getting up to who knows what. Then bigger, faster roads – other towns burgeoning into cities, trips to Toronto, so different from where you grew up and so much more exotic.

The mental maps crystalize, and eventually you can make the Highway 10 route south, to 410, to 401, to 427, to the Gardiner Expressway – smoothly and at cruising speed. The CN Tower rises into full glorious view and for the small-town kid in us, the sexy, electric skyline can feel scary and alluring all at once.

And after that? The extended road trip.

Illustration by Shelagh Armstrong

Some of my first road trips were with friends and my now-husband, Derrick. With friends, cross-border shopping in the ’90s was the best. We bought Chuck Taylors at sports stores for a fraction of the price, saw Niagara Falls from the U.S. side, and drove with the music blaring.

I drove with Derrick to Virginia to discover the history of the area. We drove back via Washington to visit The Capitol, see the White House and Arlington Cemetery, where Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis had just been laid to rest alongside former President Kennedy. We watched the tiny eternal flame flicker and the flags flap above us in the quiet calm. What we didn’t know that day, when we made the decision to drive home straight through, was that in the hours ahead we would meet a wild storm on the hilly roads of Pennsylvania.

The rain started lashing as the sun went down. The Pennsylvania hills loomed to the left and right of us, and the highway was narrowed by pylons where construction crews had cut away the shoulders. The rain pounded down harder. We couldn’t drown out the sounds of the deluge as we anxiously shifted side to side in the rivers of water. Transport trucks in front, behind, and to the side of us met with more than a few unlucky animals trying to escape the hills as the mud, rocks and debris poured down.

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  • With shallow breath, I gripped the handle above my head in the passenger seat. We were stuck – no exits, nowhere to pull over, and no slowing down as transports ten times our size bore down. A shift too far to the left and we would drop into construction pits. With my fight-or-flight response at peak level, I screamed that we needed to stop; we were going to be killed! My husband lashed out. He yelled at me to “Be quiet! Be quiet! Be quiet!” so he could concentrate. I started to cry in earnest.

    Needless to say, the romance of our road trip had evaporated. I buried my head and cried it out for an hour until the storm finally began to let up and the sun peeked over the horizon. We crossed the border in silence. We took the highway home in silence. We said one word to each other, “Goodbye,” and stayed in silence for days.

    Over the years, the adventure has become part of our shared history, and in hindsight we’re still glad we made the trip. I took other road trips with my friend Ingrid down to the southern states and we had fun times together. There were no storms to battle, and we shared the long hours of driving, making the best of Interstate rest stops and our meagre budget until we hit the ocean.

    This past winter, having had the luck to do some driving around California, Adrian declared he wanted to take a road trip on his own, with some buddies, to drive right across the U.S. It’s far – over 4,000 kilometres from here to southern California. When the day comes, I know I’ll be scared as he heads out the door, but I also know the call of the road and the thrill he’ll feel as he expands his own mental maps and memories.

    More Family Fun This Spring

    It’s never too early
    New to parenting or caregiving a young child? It might be time to seek out your local EarlyON Child and Family Centre. EarlyON centres offer free programs for your child, newborn to age 6, including storytimes, singalongs, games – and support for you as a caregiver from caring professionals who can provide guidance and advice, and connect you to important programs. You will also meet like-minded parents and caregivers, and bond with others if that’s something you’re looking for. Use the interactive map to find the EarlyON centre near you.

    Band-ing together
    The Orangeville Community Band’s mantra is simple: Encouraging Musical Enjoyment. People new to musical instruments (age 9 to 99) can join OCB’s Beginning Band, with a new session coming together in September. The Beginner Band spends time growing their playing and music theory skills in a friendly environment, and participates in two performances with the main band. For over 15 years, OCB has been growing musicians here in the hills, at reasonable rates ($75 to join; bring your own or rent an instrument). Whether you or your young one are new to playing a musical instrument, this could be the opportunity to learn more.

    Cue the teenage drama
    …in the best way! Theatre Orangeville’s Drama Young Company is prepping now for auditions for their summer program for youth in Grades 7 to 12. Working toward a full-scale production, this is an immersive opportunity for up-and-coming actors in a safe, respectful environment. Successful candidates will spend four weeks, Monday to Friday, practising their craft and learning from the best. The Theatre Orangeville rehearsal hall is located just west of Orangeville.

    On our minds
    Our mental health and that of our kids has never been more at the forefront of our minds. For help in building the knowledge toolkit to support one another, check out the UNICEF campaign, #OnMyMind: Better mental health for every child. It seeks to empower and educate families and youth on mental well-being. The startling fact, according to UNICEF, is that half of all mental health conditions start by age 14, but most conditions go undetected and untreated. Use the online materials to start conversations, create safe and secure environments, and bring the mental health conversation into the open.

    About the Author More by Bethany Lee

    Bethany Lee is a freelance writer who lives in Mono.

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