I have been on a few road trips, some of which solo, some of which short, others over multiple weeks. I love all kinds of road trips. Last summer, in the midst of a life turmoil, I came to the conclusion that it was time to go back home. Home, at the time, was 4500 Km away and it meant driving for several days across the country with everything I owned that fit in my small car. I had already driven across the country four times before, two of these times, by myself, my-happy-healthy-self. This time, I dreaded being stuck in a car with my-unhappy-unhealthy-self for five long days. So I called my mom.
Being the caring and loving mom she is, I didn’t need to sell her the idea, but I told her “this is the opportunity of a lifetime, mom. You’ve always wanted to drive across the country. Here’s your chance“. This was indeed the opportunity of a lifetime and take a two-week road trip with my mom. Maybe I needed to remind myself more than my mom.
We arranged for her to fly to Vancouver where I would pick her up. And to make the cross-the-country road trip more complete, we planned to go to Tofino for a few days and head out east from there.
The day before I picked her up, I met by chance two acquaintances from Montreal. They were on a romantic dirt bag year-long climbing road trip. I envied them. I told them that I was on an exciting road trip too, with my mom. Their scornful reaction surprised me. Reflecting back, I figured that maybe not all moms are cool like mine. She flew across the freaking country to accompany me back home. How cool is that!
Mom absolutely trusted me and followed me on every road side adventures I suggested. Although this was at times a bit tiring, I needed a shoulder to lean on after all, I am deeply touched by her trust and love. She didn’t complain when I suggested to go camping in the Okanagan Valley. She was over 65 and hadn’t been toughing it up rustic camping style for over 40 years. We bought her a comfy and warm pad to sleep on for the occasion. She even agreed when I suggested we go “see the grizzlies” at Lake Louise. My mom is scared to death of bears. We saw two! She can brag about it and impress her friends now. I’m proud of her.
As we hit the prairies, the scenery offered a more quiet spectacle. Almost every one I know who drove across the country say they are… flat. Thanks to my mom, I discovered another aspect of the never-ending bright yellow fields of canola. I owe my parents my contemplative nature and had it not been for my mom on that trip, I would have driven across the prairies once more, without noticing the full beauty of the prairies, still blinded by the magnificence of the Pacific Coast Range and the Rockies. My parents are rookie “birdologists”. As it turns out, Saskatchewan is renowned for its bird conservation areas. Not once in my four transcanadian pilgrimages had I noticed how many conservation areas are disguised as simple rest areas along the highway. We saw warblers, grebes, sparrows, sandpipers, a loon, mallards, cormorants, hawks, owls, coots, …
Over the two weeks it took to get to Quebec, I realized that I owed all my road trips to my mom and dad. To appreciate road trips, I think, you have to be minimally contemplative. You have to stop along the way and take the scenery in. Sometimes it’s easy to do, when it jumps in your face and overwhelms you, like in British-Columbia and Alberta. But most of the time, you have to let it come to you, in its fragile and subtle manner. It’s the only way you can see the gradual changes in the size of the crows from one side of the country to the other. A crow’s a crow for the person who moves at 120 Km/h. If you don’t stop, how are you going to notice when there are no more orange hawkweed flowers along the road? The moment you spend with people you meet on a road trip are fleeting and may seem superficial if you don’t know how to appreciate what they are generously offering you. A distorted “bonjour” pronounced with some difficulty but great pride is just a bonjour to the fast traveler. It can be an invitation to come back to the contemplative person.
Merci maman for all the road trips! xox