Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Road Trips and Rest Stops

Now that I am a parent, every destination seems so much further away. Gone are the days of driving straight through from point A to point B. I remember when my daughter was an infant, what should have been a two hour drive took closer to seven. That trip involved nursing in the car in a church parking lot, a diaper failure that necessitated finding a store to buy a whole new outfit...You get the picture. Now that the children are older, they still seem to need frequent stops, even for short trips.

Usually you can find a public washroom, but every now and then you are stuck stopping at a place where the facilities are for customers only. We've bought sandwiches, doughnuts, chocolate and gas, just for the use of the washroom. One time we had to leave a toll highway then buy something at the closest convenience store to achieve customer status. With the extra fee for getting back on the highway, it ended up being a $10.00 bathroom break. But when you gotta go, you gotta go.

The drive to my mother's house is just under an hour and a half. We have only made it there once without having to stop part way. Knowing that the rest breaks are inevitable, I have discovered all the places en route where we can stop to "freshen up." This weekend we were driving up and my son needed to stop. Of course he couldn't wait an extra five minutes to get to the next Tim Horton's. So we stopped at a cheese factory on the highway. I warned the children that this would be a "customers only" kind of place so while they used the facilities I went and made a purchase. They had a large display of curd, what my kids refer to as "squeaky cheese", made fresh the same day. We opened it up as soon as we were in the car. I must tell you it was the best paid bathroom break ever. It was the squeakiest curd we have ever eaten. If you have never had cheese curd, the squeakier it is on your teeth, the fresher it is.

The bag of curd only lasted a few blocks, and we were slightly giddy from the sheer delight of it all. It was then amidst the giggles and squeaks that my son exclaimed, "Look! Chicken swans!" I couldn't make sense of what he was saying. "What on earth is a chicken swan?" I asked him. "You know, they're like swans, but with black necks and white on them." He was of course referring to Canada geese, but we've decided we like the name chicken swans better. Oh for chicken swans and squeaky cheese; even if it takes a little longer to get places, I wouldn't trade my travelling companions for anything.

A bevy of chicken swans by the river

Gotta Cache 'em All

As Annie Dillard says in Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, "the world is in fact planted in pennies." This weekend I discovered that there are actual hidden treasures all around us. They have been there all this time and I just didn't know to look. And so we have a new hobby--we have discovered Geocaching.

I had heard of geocaching before, but it didn't really interest me as it made me think of those agonizing hours spent orienteering as a Girl Guide. I have never really got the hang of map-reading and I am a notoriously bad navigator. However, my kids were getting a little impatient waiting for Pokemon Go to be released in Canada, and when I saw a friend post online about Geocaching with her children, I thought it might fill the void.

We watched a few videos to learn how it works and downloaded the app. I was surprised to learn that many of the caches are actually small containers filled with trinkets that other Geocachers have left behind. We were going to be treasure hunting! The kids were instantly hooked. We made a quick stop at the dollar store so that we would have some items to exchange when we found a cache. We picked up a bag of colourful ping pong balls, stickers and some tea light candles. A pen is also an essential part of a Geocaching kit, as once you find a cache you need to sign the log book, as well as marking it on the app.

My mother came along with us and we looked on the app for nearby caches, and then selected one and started navigation. Our first find was hidden in a old rotted tree stump in a park in the village that I didn't know existed. It was filled with little toys and the children swapped one of their trinkets for something in the container. We carefully put it back where we found it and were off to the next one, down the riverside trail. It was great to get out and explore, and exciting to find another hidden treasure box.

We then went looking for one between a lock and a dam. It was a good opportunity to remind the children of the purpose of the locks, and how they work. We searched and searched, however, this cache remained elusive. I decided to go down closer to the dam. A young couple was fishing down there, and the woman shouted up, "Gotta catch 'em all!" I guess we looked like we were playing Pokemon Go. There was poison ivy everywhere, and so we finally gave up. Geocaching in flip flops is not a good idea.

Over the weekend, Pokemon Go was released in Canada, and I did give in and download the game. So not only is there hidden treasure all around us, there are now tiny little creatures to be caught. Although the children have tried Go a few times, they said they prefer the Geocaching because they can find something real. We went again last night, this time with my mother in law, and searched up and down a trail until it was too dark to see and my cell ran out of batteries. We didn't find the cache, but we will be back again in daylight. The children also want to hide some of their own for others to find. We have found a new community, a circle of friends we may never meet in real life, but who share a common interest. We are getting out and walking and spending time together. This is the treasure; a world of adventures waiting to be discovered with the people we love.