Monday, April 8, 2013

Spontaneous Road Trip


 The conversation in the car pulling out of the church prking lot yesterday afternoon went something like this:

“Where do you want to drive when she falls asleep?” my husband asked.

“I don’t know, somewhere different?” I replied.

Over the past few months our toddler has developed a pattern of falling asleep in the car. If we are driving for more than about 15 minutes around midday she’s pretty much guaranteed to fall asleep in the car on us. We’ve learned that if we stop then she’ll wake up. There is absolutely no transferring her still asleep out of the car and into her bed. What’s worse, she won’t go back to sleep again until bedtime, which means she’ll be cranky and out of sorts for the rest of the day. On the other hand, if we keep driving she’ll sleep for an hour or so and wake up relatively well rested and cheerful. So we’ve gotten into the habit of planning to drive for an hour or so on our way home from church. It’s not our first choice of ways to spend the afternoon and we feel guilty about wasting the diesel but it’s a compromise that keeps us feeling relatively sane as parents. At least we can have some good conversations along the way. It gets tedious though, driving the same routes over and over. So yesterday we wanted to drive somewhere new.

“Let’s go west.” I said. West of us is mountains and forests and farmland and hopefully minimal traffic.

“Okay,” said my husband, easy-going soul that he is.

He suggested Skyline Drive, a scenic route through the mountains about 90 minutes away. I pointed out that since it is still early in what has been a cold spring the scenic route would probably be less than scenic. So we decided to head to Charlottesville instead. Charlottesville is where we lived when we first got married, but we hadn’t been back there to visit in over five years.

So off we headed, toddler in tow. As predicted she napped happily in the backseat for an hour. The road was beautiful, with rolling hills, cows and sheep, and banks of daffodils blooming along the median strip and roadsides. We made an extended lunch stop and arrived in Charlottesville around 5pm. My husband and I had a great time driving through town playing the “I remember that!” and “This used to be something else!” game. Our old apartment building is still there, although now under a different name. We parked downtown and walked around the downtown mall, which had been a favorite haunt. It was the same but different; some favorite stores were still there but others had been replaced, the old signs dimly visible behind the new ones. We listened to the street musicians and our toddler danced to the guitar and fiddle. We got frozen yogurt to share. And then we headed home. We told stories and my daughter sang songs to us in the car. It was a great day.

There’s something freeing and delightful about a spontaneous road trip, about saying, “let’s go” and just going. No work got done yesterday. No chores, no laundry, no preparations for the workweek ahead were accomplished. It was a completely non-industrious day of wandering where we pleased. We don’t do many unplanned things, especially since having a child. Babies and small children are wonderful in many ways, but they tend to require a lot of baggage and structure, which doesn’t lend itself well to adventure. It’s nice now, having an older toddler who can tag along for some fun every once in a while.