Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Cheese-free travel

A few weekends ago, I did something I have never done in the history of my marriage, or even in the history of my life: I took a road trip by myself. Not only was it my first solitary road trip, it was the first time I'd ever traveled away from Jon and the kids. (There was one trip, nine years ago, but it was to a funeral and I took Mr. McP with me because he was still nursing, so that hardly counts as a getaway.)

My brother in Buffalo called me to tell me about a party, given by people we used to hang around with before I started going out with Jon. It was going to be big deal and even my cousin who lives in Egypt would be there, as well as my sister who lives in Florida. "Why don't you come?" he said. Why not indeed. It took me about fifteen seconds to realize that Jon and the kids can manage without me just fine. So I rented a car and I went to Buffalo by myself.

The rental car was a Prius with Massachusetts plates. I felt like I was incognito as a Taxachussetts liberal. I always thought it would be fun to take a road trip by myself. I am the veteran of many road trips with children, and also experience quite a few myself when I was a child. In the area of road trips, I have pretty much seen it all and traveling with children makes the whole experience a lot messier and louder than it needs to be.

My father will sometimes drive down to see us, by himself, and I always marvel at the tidyness of solitary travel. There will be a single suitcase, rather than bags and coolers packed up high enough to block the rear window. He'll have a modest bag of trash--a lone coffee cup, perhaps, or the wrappings of a sandwich. His car will be spotless, his clothes unrumpled.

I am a thrifty traveler, and always eschew roadside restaurants in favor of packed lunches. I detest pre-packed, homemade sandwiches--because of the trauma of my childhood car trips in which I would have to eat bologna and ketchup sandwiches that my mom made, while my brother sat beside me being car sick. I used to crack my window and methodically tear those sandwiches into tiny pieces and toss them out of the car. It would take about fifty miles of travel to discretely dispose of one sandwich. Now that I'm in charge of the menu, I pack crackers, cheese and a knife (among other things) and it is Jon's job to slice the cheese and pair it with crackers and hand it back to the kids. I do most of the driving. Our families are always impressed with this: "WOW, you drove the WHOLE WAY?" and they think Jon is a big slacker, but the truth is I prefer to drive because then I don't have to deal with the kids and pass out those damn cheese and crackers.

One time, we drove to Buffalo for my sister's wedding. We had one of those ancient Volvo station wagons with the third seat installed in the back so that all four kids could fit in the car. (We didn't upgrade to a minivan until Mr. McP was six.) The rehearsal dinner was at a chi-chi restaurant in the city and when I was surrendering the car to the valet, I noticed a big block of cheddar on the floor of the back seat--it wasn't even wrapped, it was a big BARE block of cheese sitting smack on the filthy, crumb-strewn floor of my car--and when I lifted my eyes from that mortifying sight, I caught the eye of the valet and realized that he had been staring at it too. Elephant in the room? For us it's the block of cheese in the car.

Anyway, for my solo trip, I broke a hunk off a baguette, and put a bunch of grapes in a baggie. I stopped at a Starbucks along the way and bought myself a large frothy drink, the sort I could never get away with if my kids were with me because they'd all want one too.

The purpose of the trip was to see my family and attend this party, and all that was really fun. I especially liked the tiny, cozy guest room at my brother's house, where the trains lulled me to sleep every night. And it was fabulous to hang out with people I love, but this is one trip in which the journey was almost as much fun. I ate my tidy little lunch and drank my coffee. I listened to "Sugarlumps" by Flight of the Conchords thirty-seven times in a row and no one complained. I stopped for rest whenever I wanted, ended up with the same tiny bag of trash that my dad usually does, and not once did someone ask, "Are we there yet?"


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  2. mmom!!!! you didn't even MENTION how we took such amazing care of the house while you were gone!!! the day you left a dog got sick on the couch and we cleaned up the whole thing and then george broke his toe and I took care of it and we cleaned the sheets.

  3. I hope to have a similar experience. Someday.

  4. Oh I am SOOOO jealous! How lovely! And your description perfectly nailed the mess and chaos of traveling with family. YAY you for taking the trip! Thanks for letting us come along vicariously:)

  5. awesome post as usual. in the midst of the children growing up, the simple pleasures of doing things w/o kids seem really cool.

  6. I LOVE to drive by myself!

    My husband always drives when we go on a driving trip as a family because he always drives whenever he's in the car. I think he prefers it, but even if he didn't, I'd insist on it because as much as I hate passing out cheese and crackers, I hate his critique of my driving even more.

  7. The only thing I miss about being married is having someone else do the driving. Well, that and the fact that I don't have to share the cheese.