(our route, including all the stops we made on the way there...read on for more details)
since we were inspired to take this vacation to see how X did with longer car rides, we werent expecting much from the trip. and while there were plenty of challenges, we also ended up with some good experiences.
now, dave planned this whole trip. and i was grateful for it, because if i had been in charge, it never would have happened. i dont really have time to use the computer anymore, except once we put X to bed at night. anyway, dave chose a 4 hour drive and a one night stay in the fundy national park. he found some stand alone chalets inside the park that were renting for a really decent rate ($99) which meant that for the price of a hotel, we could be in our own building and not have to worry about a crying baby waking up wall-sharing neighbors. off to a good start.
so, on saturday morning we woke up and commenced operation "get out of town." we finished packing, gave X a quick bath (she needed it and the chalet for the night only had a shower), fed and changed her the requisite number of times (usually twice each within the hour or 1.5 hours after we get up every morning), and loaded everything and everyone in the car. we turned out of our driveway at about 11a.
we were then instantly hit with bridge traffic that meant we had to sit and stop on the road. i should mention that previously X has only been able to be quiet in her seat while the car is moving. also, she typically does not sleep while in her seat, though she will occasionally let herself doze. so the stopped traffic on the bridge had her red-faced and screaming. and we couldnt do anything about it. once we were moving and could find a place to pull over, we stopped and calmed her down (she was also hungry, so she ate) and got her back in the seat...
only to hit more traffic due to road construction near the airport. after sitting in that and having her scream again, we pulled over looking for lunch and a bit of sanity. we had only made it to brookfield. a tiny exit with farmland all around we pulled into the gas station at the towns one crossroad. the gas station tim hortons was busy and while we calmed X down (and fed her again) everyone was staring at us. i guess it was very obvious that we "werent from around these parts." after X was calmed, we put her in the sling to look for food (more weird looks ensued). i thought i had seen a little bakery across the road from the gas station and was dying for anything but tim hortons.
success, the little town bakery was perfect. they made us some great sandwiches on nice bread with real chunks of fresh chicken and turkey (not lunch meat slices). and while we were waiting, we chose a selection of fresh cookies and a whoopie pie (all but one of them were GREAT). plus, it was SO cheap. why the hell was there even a line at tims?
anyway, back on the road now (its about 1:30p), eating our food we thought the worst might be behind us since we had passed the traffic and she had eaten twice. we chatted and looked at the scenery. X was dozing and i was soaking in the roadside nature. it seems that much of nova scotias roadways are packed with lupines. they are so beautiful and cheerful, plus, it reminds me of the book "miss rumphius" that my mom used to read us as kids. warm fuzzy smiles all around...
and then we hit amherst at about 2:40p and had to pull over again because X woke up and was immediately shrieking. while i fed her again, dave used the time to run into the amherst zellers for a box of baby wipes (at least we were being productive on these stops). then we were back on the road and into new brunswick, only to pull over again in riverview and get gas and calm X down (its now 3:40p). more food and play time and we were back on the road again.
the next time she blew a gasket, we pulled in to the attraction called "hopewell rocks." it had a HUGE parking lot and seemed to boast of some beauty. if X was going to make us stop so often, at least for this stop we could try and get out and go for a small hike. after feeding her and changing her diaper, i put her in my wrap and we set off for the visitors center. we grabbed a map and followed the stream of people. shortly into the walk, X decided she needed more food (no joke, the kid is a bottomless pit!), so i found a bench on the trail and she went to town. then we were off again and she FINALLY let herself sleep.
we were then able to enjoy the lovely trail with the scent of pine so thick you could almost taste it. the trail started to descend and it opened up at a lookoff and a steep set of stairs. we had arrived at the "flower pots" rocks, the spot where you can "walk on the ocean floor." and, lucky for us, the tides were at the right time for us to actually get to walk down the stairs and walk the ocean floor. the huge tides in the bay create a massive difference between high tide and low tide, and also, the waters are always churning (always cloudy brown in color) so it has lots of energy to carve away the rocks where we were. aside from the drab rusty brown color, the cliffs/coast line we were walking along were gorgeous.
(low tide. at high tide, the water covers all of the stump-like part of the rocks.; dave, a geologist)
after ascending the three stories of stairs back to the trail, i decided i could reward myself with an ice cream cone. there was a little cafe at the top of the stairs before you headed back into the woods. a vanilla/chocolate twist to share. yum! and as we walked back toward the car i was completely unable to wipe the grin off my face that i had had since the scent of pine hit my nose. we were EXPLORING again. with a baby. the favorite parts of my old life were coming back to me. new sights with people i love. it took a while, since we also hadnt gotten to do as much while i was pregnant, but here we were, making small strides to achieve the balance of folding in what worked from our past with the reality of our present. i can get used to this...
and then we were back at the car for the very real reality of traveling with a little person. you guessed it, she was hungry again. then she needed a diaper change. there was a massive poop (this is what happens when you eat, and eat, and eat) and then while changing her she peed everywhere and needed new clothes. naked baby in the parking lot! aaaaaaaand, then we were back on the road. shortly thereafter we had to stop again when she melted down. after some food, i finally climbed in the back seat with her and stayed (i had previously spent the car ride in the front seat next to dave). i was able to entertain her the rest of the way into the fundy national park where we could check into our chalet.
she was tired and definitely ready to be out of the car when we pulled up. it was now 7p. it took 8 hours to do a 4 hour car ride. we were all a little frazzled. but, in a moment to melt your heart she turned on all her charm. i carried her into the office for check-in and put her butt on the counter and supported her to stay kind of seated there. and she proceeded to smile up a storm, googling at me, dave, and the check-in lady. you would have thought we had the happiest baby in the world. i felt so terrible that we had locked her in her car seat all day.
luckily, when we unlocked the door to our chalet we instantly felt at ease. it was perfect. a one room building with a bathroom and kitchenette. we didnt have to worry about disturbing the neighbors and the place was so cozy inside and so beautiful and peaceful outside. a perfect place for X to spend her first night away from home.
after the buzz wore off, the severe hunger set in. we hadnt eaten since the ice cream cone at hopewell rocks, and lunchtime at about noon before that. we had to go back into the town of alma for grub. more car for X (in hindsight, i could have just sent dave out to hunt for food, like a good cavewoman, but we were too hungry to think straight). we chose the sapranos for pizza and the octopus garden for desserts.
back in the cabin we gorged on food and tried to comfort the now super grumpy and tired baby. she had had a long, hard, and strange day, but with all her crying and making us pull over, she ended up showing us some things we never would have been able to enjoy otherwise [the bakery and the nature hike]). a preview of the future im sure. then, she finally succumbed to sleep and, bless her heart, she ended up sleeping 7 hours in a row! of course, i couldnt enjoy it, because i woke up at about the 5 hour mark wondering if she was still alive. but ah well, a small price to pay.
the morning came and we all woke up happy. dave went in to town, alone, to scrounge up breakfast (sweets from kellys bake shop...it didnt really do the trick) and we tried to muster the energy to leave this gorgeous place. we both absolutely want to come back one day, so we tried to remind ourselves that this isnt goodbye, but a so-long-for-now. after the car was packed, we drove over to the dickson falls trail to do a nice hike before facing the drive home.
what a joy. we had the trail ALL to ourselves. as we descended into this little microclimate, we inhaled the cool damp air and our eyes adjusted to all the green. the trees, the ferns, the spongy vibrant moss and nothing but the sounds of nature to frame it in. X of course fell right to sleep and i had that same grin from yesterday plastered to my face. this was fantastic. we didnt get to do much on this mini tester of a vacation but i was able to soak it all in, deep down into my bones.
back at the car, dave took photos of flowers while i fed X, yet again, and we decided if we should chance another short trail...which we did. we drove to the edge of the driveable part of the park, across a covered bridge (new brunswick is known for its many covered bridges), and into a parking lot. we parked and loaded X in the sling. this time she wasnt having it. she wanted to nap uninterrupted and the trail just wasnt interesting her. we went a little ways, got a few pics and turned around. of course she peed all over herself, so, after a diaper and clothing change, and a wee bit more food we were on the road.
(me and X doing what we did for most of the trip: feed/eat)
we made it all the way to moncton before the first meltdown occurred and it was a doozie. dave had wanted to try to eat at the pumphouse brewery in moncton anyway, so this could have turned out okay. except, we couldnt find the brewery. surprisingly though, moncton actually has a cute little old brick downtown so we pulled over and fed the monster. then we went looking for lunch.
while we walked, i carried X facing out so she could see some sights. i think part of her car troubles stems from boredom, so i was trying to stimulate her brain. and she loved it. we thought we would be able to sit down somewhere in the shade outside and have a peaceful lunch. no. we finally settled on the canada breakfast chain of coras (think slightly nicer IHOP) to get some fresh, non-greasy food that would be quick. of course she fussed as soon as we sat down so i ordered and walked with her outside. she would not. stop. fussing. i came back when the food was on the table and bounced her while dave shoveled food in his mouth. then he took X and i shoveled food in my mouth. can you spell indigestion? i peed and paid for the food and found the pair back at the car. tried to feed her and change her (while struggling to calm her down) and we were back on the road.
this time i was driving and dave was in the back with her. it went well until we got to amherst where we pulled over. more food and we were back on the road. i was able to sit in the back then and distract her from her troubles to the point where she let her eyes droop. i held her hands and helped her try to nap (she was startling herself awake before every time we went over a bump). she allowed this until we got near truro and we had to pull over again. more food and back to driving. then we hit excessive rain and slowed traffic and of course we had to pull off. after this feeding, we were close enough to home that we could keep her happy until we pulled in to our parking lot. the drive was only about 6 hours this time.
so, the trip was worth it to rejuvenate my soul a little bit, to see what X would do in the car for a longer trip, and to get out as a threesome and see what we could handle. of course it wasnt perfect, but there are definite possibilities for the future. and im very much looking forward to them.