No Sleep ‘Til New Hampshire

I took the last two weeks off writing while I vacationed with my family. We took our annual trip to New Hampshire to visit my wife’s family and go to her annual family reunion. Since we’re leaving from Minneapolis we have a couple of ways to go. We can go through the states or the northern route through Canada. We decided to take the northern route and stop off for a day in northern Wisconsin and visit my parents.

We spent the day and night with my parents and saw some of my aunts and uncles. My dad made me a couple of Whiskey and Cokes in the standard water glass and I slept like a 46 year old baby, only being woken occasionally by the one year old baby. Thus begins the vacation and kids sleeping and not being able to sleep in various new locations for the next two weeks.

Lyme, NH (no, Lyme disease didn’t come from there – it came from Lyme, CT) is 23 hours (with kid stops) from my parents house in northern Wisconsin. Last year we spent two nights in Canada. This year is a budget year. We decided to go 11 hours the first day and 12 hours the second day, stopping somewhere around North Bay – for those of you versed in your northern Ontario geography.

Our kids have made this trip every year. I don’t often do the bragging thing about my kids, but I will give them a big hats off for being able to put up with traveling parents. Lila, Hoyt and Iris (she’s learning) can out car ride any kids. Yeah, there, I said it. And get this. No DVD player. Don’t get me wrong, Lila, the oldest, really does not like that. But we’ve trained hard at this riding thing since babydom.  Three hours is not even a trip in our house. Five hours, now we’re gettin’ somewhere. Eleven, Twelve hours a day – very doable.

But here’s the thing, we’re like a driving team. My wife Cynthia is like a flight attendant dispensing snacks, giving in flight information, playing games, breaking up fights, tricking and rewarding with m&m’s, reading until on the verge of carsick, telling stories, looking at clouds, etc. Every three hours we stop and use bathroom or change a diaper, whatever the case may be. The first three-hour break puts us at the top of Lake Michigan for a picnic lunch and a swim (not in that order, of course). Cynthia is very good about getting the kids out and in the water. I sort of watch the clock like a NASCAR driver who went into the pits only to find one of my tires got the lugs stripped off and I have to wait – nervously biting my racing glove finger tip – for a new tire to get put on.

Once we get about 8 hours into the drive I start to feel in a zone. I start thinking about how when we stop at the hotel it’s going to take 2 hours to get the kids wound down and sleeping. I think about unpacking and packing the suitcase, the time we spend bring stuffed animals into the room and hauling their limp unthankful carcasses back out in the morning.

I say to Cynthia, “Let’s go all the way through.” She shakes her head no. I tell her I feel good. I can do it. We can switch off. We stop at a McDonald’s that had plastic over the cash registers because the air conditioning system sprung a leak in the ceiling. The employee kids at this McDonald’s move like their life didn’t depend on it. I lobby Cynthia more to continue driving. I bought us another hour with the junk happy meal toys we just got. She says we can consider it. We continue on.

We haven’t driven straight through since we’ve had kids. But this is a new era. The 8-year-old and 3.8 year old can help entertain the 1-year-old. 7 years ago with our one child it was a lonely deal facing towards the back of the car watching where we’ve been. That has to be confusing for a one year old. They are just learning to walk – forward, then you put them in a seat and things move away from them for hours in a row.

After driving 12 hours Cynthia gives me the green light on the straight through play. Game on. I say to myself in a quiet kind of way. She reports to the kids that they get a special treat. They get to sleep in the car tonight. Genius thinking. She presented the idea to them so successfully that they didn’t even think to ask about where the pool would be in the minivan. We stopped at a gas station for fuel and caffeine and to change into long pants (it was getting cool – it’s Canada) and to get the kids in pajamas and use the bathroom. It looked like we were on the lam. If we had been on the lam, I would have put a fake mustache on. A fella can’t go wrong with a mustache when on the lam.

We had left my parents house at 7 am. We arrived at my in-laws house at 6 am the following morning. I drove 20 hours and Cynthia finished up the final three hours while I sat in the passenger seat nervously twitching like a rock star who gave it his all in a sold out show – not knowing how to come back to the world of regular people, not sure if I could ever interact with regular people who can’t drive 20 hours. Then Hoyt has to go to the bathroom at 5 am on hwy 91 in Vermont. I have to get out with him on the side of the road and get his pants off like they’re on fire. I know then that I’ll be ok and I’ll be back to regular very, very soon.

Sadly Yours,

Jason Spafford

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