We’ve been sort of planning a road trip to the mountains for this coming summer. I had been hoping to go last summer, but then driving that far with a two year old scared me too bad, plus Neil was still so sick, so we postponed plans to this summer.
Then a few weeks ago I thought, hey, why don’t we just go at spring break? Neil had already decided to take the week off work, so that wasn’t a problem. And the nice thing about going at spring break instead of in the summer was that Neil and the boys could still go snowboarding. Neil took some convincing, but he finally, reluctantly, got on board. (By the time we actually left for our trip he was super excited, I promise.)
There was still a problem though. Our car. Yes, our car. No, we don’t have a van. Yes, we do have four kids. We have a Mazda 5 which is like a teeny-van that just barely fits all of us plus one purse and nothing else. It works for us because we don’t usually all drive together, besides to church or to go do something fun. On those occasions we don’t need a lot of cargo space. When I do need the space, like for groceries, I only ever have two kids with me, and the back seats fold flat to fit all my groceries. Plus, the Mazda costs literally half as much for gas. Main selling feature for me.
Anyway, how to fit a family of six plus clothes for a week plus outerwear and shoes for two different seasons plus three snowboards in a Mazda 5…
Roof rack! But, what- those things are like $450!!! And then you need a carrier- and those are like another $400! No, I can’t do that. I might as well just buy a new van. Sort of.
Google. Universal roof rack. $40 instead of $400. Semi-good reviews. Ordered off Amazon, shipped to the border, and picked up. $58 Canadian even with the crappy exchange rate and shipping. Yes, that’s more my style. Now, rooftop carrier. Hello Kijiji and $60 later we’re in business.
It took a lot of maneuvering and light packing to fit everything we needed, but we did it. By we, I mean Neil. I had nothing to do with that roof stuff.
We decided to drive straight from Oakbank, MB to Drumheller, AB in one day.
So at 4:30 am on March 28, we set off. The kids were super excited. They compared it to our trip to Mexico, when we also woke them up in the middle of the night. Ivy asked, approximately every 25 minutes for 16 hours, “We goin on a tip??”. Yes, Ivy, we’re going on a trip! “Yay!” Repeat times a hundred.
The roof top carrier was whistling a bit, and Neil was super paranoid about losing everything off of the top of car. Between our street and the next street, we stopped like three times to readjust things. Neil looked like he might have an aneurysm, and for a few minutes I thought he might totally cancel our trip and we would lose all the money I spent booking non-refundable hotel rooms through Expedia. But then he calmed down. Until 7 minutes later, when straps starting knocking against the side of the car. Neil looked like he was going to kill the roof rack. He pulled over and tucked the straps in, and it was mostly better, although he tugged on, tightened, and checked on the straps like a complete neurotic for the next 10 hours.
So, straps tucked in, our first stop was Brandon. All the kids plus myself had slept for about an hour on the way there. We pulled up at McDonald’s for breakfast, unloaded all kids. Then noticed the sign on the door that says cash only. Reloaded all kids. Noticed that Ivy is soaking wet from about mid-back to her knees. Ivy did you pee?? Oh no please no. Oh thank goodness, it’s water. Her water bottle spilled. All. Over. Her. Carseat. And we have 13 hours to go. And of course, all her clothes are packed away very deeply in the rooftop carrier. Even though the internet told me to have an extra set of clothes handy for everyone. I didn’t listen. Okay well, she doesn’t seem bothered by being wet. So we got some Tim Hortons, ate some breakfast, then reloaded all kids. Ivy is placed, completely naked from the waist down, in her carseat, on Neil’s hoodie, which is then wrapped around her. Neil put her wet pants and sweatshirt on the vents of our car so they could dry. It worked remarkably well, just so you know, if you’re ever in a similar situation.
We carried on. The kids watch half of a movie that skipped over and over again and finally quit, and then a whole movie, and then read, then dozed. We made it to Moose Jaw for lunch. The kids ran around in a play place and then we reloaded and keep going.
I put a movie in the dvd player for them. Then realized the dvd player wouldn’t turn on. At all. Oh shoot. We had like seven hours to go. No! No! No! Thankfully the kids didn’t seem to be as upset as I am, and they kept reading or playing with the little toys they brought along.
We stopped in Swift Current for gas and to readjust the roof top carrier and tighten straps again. I ran into three different stores as fast as I could looking for a replacement cord for the dvd player. I found one, but it didn’t work, so I returned it. We were screwed. It was gonna be an old-fashioned road trip. No dvd players. Okay, we had one iPad, so not totally old fashioned.
It started raining then. It didn’t stop for a long time.
At one point, I was driving, in the pouring rain, and I noticed that the snowboard bag that was strapped to our roof was suddenly visible out the driver’s side window, over my head. I didn’t want to say anything to Neil, but I had to. I silently pointed to the snowboard bag, and Neil not-so-silently cursed while I pulled over. He got out of the car, in the hard rain and the strong wind, and stomped around, pulling and tightening straps. He muttered very loudly and swore several times. Awhile ago I told the kids if they hear Neil or I swear, we owe them a dollar. The kids were all “a buck for me! two bucks for me!” and I was trying hard not to laugh, because honestly, it was funny, even though it wasn’t. I told them that yes, Dad owed them money, but please not to bring it up until the next morning. Neil got back in the car, soaking wet. He pulled an Ivy and sat pants-less for awhile. Thankfully he kept his underwear on.
We drove through probably four hours of rain, but it stopped before we got to Drumheller. It is really really cool driving from mostly prairies to boom! badlands! You kind of go down a big hill and all of a sudden the terrain is 100% different than what you were previously in. It was awesome. Plus, there are dinosaur statues basically everywhere in Drumheller, making it even awesomer. We found our hotel and checked in. The pool and waterslide were out of order. Thank goodness because Neil and I were so exhausted the thought of going for a swim made us want to throw up.
Most of our clothes, that were in the soft shelled roof top carrier, that was in the rain, for four hours, were very very wet. No harm done though- the hotel had a dryer. We ordered some pizza, the kids jumped on beds, and then we went to sleep. We had made it through a long day on the road and it really wasn’t too bad. Besides the wet kids, the wet clothes, the lack of a dvd player, and the cursing husband, it had gone so well. Our kids were seriously so well behaved, with no complaining, and no fighting, and no whining. By none I mean a little bit. But so little it’s not even worth mentioning. We were in the car for 16 hours, and sometimes the kids didn’t get out for over 7 hours, but they were total champs.
We tucked in, three to a bed, and slept till morning.
Except for those 15 times Ivy kicked me in the face, neck, and legs. And the rest of the night where she basically rotated 25 degrees every 19 minutes. Except for that, it was a good sleep.