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Avoiding the Summer Road Trip From Hell

06/23/2012 11:27 EDT | Updated 08/23/2012 05:12 EDT

As I type this I am sitting outside in the shade wearing sunglasses. The lawn needs mowing. The tourist traffic is already moving up the road. So I know that summer's almost here. And besides cleaning up the yard, there's just one thing on my mind: what to do with the kids for the summer.

The first thought is a road trip to visit my parents. That's a 30-hour drive and I know every kilometre of the trip in advance. I'll make one stop to fill up in Edmunston, but will have already stopped twice for desperate bathroom breaks before getting there.

The next stage is a bit of rough two-lane through rural Quebec to get the coastal four-lane, Route 20, which has some of the best pastoral scenery, in my opinion, in Canada. We will be driving along that trip into the sunset. The colours will be soaked in intensely vivid oranges and reds and finally soft rose-violets, and my sunglasses will be working overtime to cut through the glare.

There'll be another food stop and fuel-up before Montreal. I never like stopping in Montreal for gas. And by then we will have been on the road for over eight hours. That is, if we haven't detoured into some major tourist attraction like Potato World back in Florenceville, NB. The sparkling city lights of Montreal reflected in the St. Lawrence will be beautiful, but I will be the only one looking; everyone else will be asleep.

I'll try not to wake anyone, and keep my foot into it to get us to North Bay before stopping for the night. The only thing on my mind will be keeping my mind awake, and looking for moose. We've already hit one and lived to tell the tale.

OK, let's just stop there and erase that thought -- the moose and everything before that. You've got me convinced. I don't think I want to do that drive. Not to mention that the drive between North Bay and Thunder Bay along the northern route is one of the longest and most boring on Earth.

So, what to do with the kids? Let me take a break, mow the lawn, and think. I'll be right back. Well, that was quick. The lawn is still too wet to mow. A night of heavy rain will do that.

Last summer we went to Florida. Yeah, I know. Florida in the summer? But, you know, it was great. The weather was sunny and hot the whole way down and the heat was pleasantly bearable when we got there, although the midday rainstorms were a bit daunting. Did I say "rainstorms"? These were road-flooding, engine-stalling deluges. But we've already done the theme park scene, and Florida can be a bit flat and boring, and I don't just mean the scenery.

A couple of summers before that we did the ferry ride to Martha's Vineyard and found the greatest beach in the Northern Hemisphere. So, been there, done that.

The real reason for all these summer road trips is not just for the kids, I have to admit. My wife and I keep looking for the next adventure. And while life on the East Coast is wonderfully laid back, there is also a world of opportunity out there. So it becomes not only "what to do with the kids for the summer" but "what to do with our own adventure down the road," which is always the real question.

And I don't think I'll get that solved while mowing the back lawn.

All this comes down to two things: figuring out where "home" is in the summer, and finding some new frontier in a world in which frontier is rapidly disappearing.

Excuse me for a minute. In storytelling, things are linear. But in life they are not. The baby is awake after her nap. So. I'm babysitting. The baby is now walking on the wet lawn and visiting the rabbit in its cage, while I read an online post about yet another new book dealing with the Kennedy assassination (speaking of lost frontiers). But where was I (other than getting lost in bucolic aberration of multi-tasking)? Oh yes. Summer vacation...or was it about finding home? Perhaps it's the same thing.

They -- that is, some contracting outfit -- is tearing up the road beside our house. My stream of thought is now constantly being assaulted by the beep-beeping of earth-movers backing up and the sound of trucks going by with their jake brakes clattering, which should be illegal in town, but for some reason is not.

My God, I've digressed even further. Perhaps we could put in a swimming pool. But it would take the rest of the summer to get it done. And then there's the maintenance.

Yes. I'm avoiding the issue. I don't have a clue as to what to do with the kids this summer. I know that my parents never had to struggle with these problems. We built forts and rafts and generally managed our own summers. But that was then and this is now.

So that's it. I've hit the wall. Feel free to offer your own solutions; I am officially open to suggestions.