From when I was about 3 until I was about 15, my family made the semi-annual trek up north. It was about 7 hours to drive it. We were allowed 1, maybe 2, rest stops, so I learned young how to hold my bladder and monitor fluid intake. And we weren’t really allowed to talk. Especially when we went through Toronto. My father has never like driving in that city and never will.
I think it was the late 70′s when we had this chevy van that kind of looked like this:
except it was blue with a white strip, so naturally it was the “Pepsi van”.
We would pack up the van the night before, even if it was December or January, except for the sleeping bags and pillows so that they’d be nice and warm when we got ready to go. We always left about 4 o’clock in the morning to avoid “those assholes in Toronto”. As the oldest, I got to lie down in the back of the van, snuggled in my sleeping bag with a book. (Of course, this was in the days when it was absolutely acceptable to have unharnessed children supine in a moving vehicle among unrestrained bags and piles of junk food).
I was really good at not talking. I read with my flashlight, slept sometimes, and tried to make sure my head was positioned so that I could see the world upside-down. Power lines moving through my field of vision like undulating waves that marked a path from city to city.
I always made sure that I was awake if we took the DVP. Back then it had special orange streetlights and we were all convinced that they smelt like cheese. “It smells like cheese!” I’d say, and one of my parents would solemly reply, “Yes, I smell cheese too.” Sometimes that would be our entire conversation until we stopped for pancakes. I never did figure out WHY we took the DVP when we were trying to get to the 400, but there you go. I should ask my Dad.
After the Pepsi van, we got a swanky green and white Chevy Suburban with a built-in 8-track. That beast was the size of a hummer and probably consumed gas at a rate that would make Dick Cheney grin. Our silent journeys turned into replays of The Eagles and Supertramp, but I still got to lie down in the back with my sleeping bag where I could see the wires and treetops and the snow coming down onto my face.