To start July I celebrated my 45th birthday, and shortly afterwards I had 10 days scheduled off from work for a nice long vacation. One I felt was sorely overdue after the events of the previous 11 months and the experience of separating, selling my house and moving on with my life. I spent a lot of my down time trying to plan the perfect road trip with my kids…
One of my biggest fears was seeing this trip turn into something from the movie Vacation, where is something can go wrong will go wrong. I also feared extended hours in the car with two teenage girls and the potential issues that might arise. I had talked to the girls about what they wanted to do and the things that they wanted to see, and to be honest I didn’t quite get the reaction that I was hoping for from them. They didn’t seem super excited as I was for this trip…
That being said I have learned so much about me, and my relationship(s) with these girls that next summer the trip of a lifetime will happen and it will become an annual tradition. I was a different person back then as opposed to the man that sits here today. At some point I decided to break this road trip into two seperate ones… a trip with my buddies (as I was planning on draggin my daughters to some US ballparks) and one with Emily and Megan.
So upon returning from the States (more on that later) I unpacked, and then repacked the Jeep and we were off. The plan was to head towards Ottawa as I had booked a KOA campground for several nights, on all the back roads to explore this great country that we have. One of the things the boys and I had talked about just a few days before was saving turtles when you would see one trying to cross the road, Ryan was telling the story about he rescues turtles and turns to me and says, “I am sure your the same Ed?” I nodded politely and the conversation carried on. In my head I was thinking that one I’ve never rescued a turtle, and two I don’t think I’ve ever even seen a turtle crossing the road.
Well wouldn’t you know it after only a few hours on the road, there right in the middle was the poor little turtle trying to make it across the road.
We immediately pulled over and ran out into the middle of the road to rescue the poor little guy, when I bent over to pick him up by the edges of his shell he did what all good turtles tend to do. Pull his head inside of his shell and then proceeded to piss all over my left. Thankfully my dexterity was up to the challenge and I was able to Tennessee two step my way out of the stream just in time. We placed the turtle onto the side of the road, and facing in the same direction he was already headed, jumped back in the Jeep and we continued on the way.
Rescuing turtles will always be something that I will now be on the lookout for!
We continued to head North, stopping at not only the Candy Shoppe on the 400 North, we also hit up the Kawartha Dairy for a delicious ice cream cone and pulled over at several national parks to stretch our legs and have bathroom breaks as needed.
Once we got to our campsite in Ottawa and settled in, it was time for dinner. Over the first few months of the this summer I learned how to cook over an open campfire. Not the easiest thing to do as every single campfire will be different in terms of its intensity and distance from fire to food. It requires constant supervision and adjustments throughout the cooking process as too not too burn anything. Yes I’ve ruined a few hot dogs in my day but I pretty much have gotten the hang of it, and not once did I have to break out the Coleman stove that I bought as backup.
Nights around the campfire are my favorite. Sitting there listening to good music, talking and sharing stories, roasting marshmallows and making smores.
My only disappointment with this trip was my inability to get Emily to re-engage with some family time each night. She would retreat into the cabin with her headphones in, listening to her music and sending out an endless parade of SnapChats to her friends. Megan was all in and I had just the best time with her playing frisbee, catch and other games around the campsite. Emily was reluctant to join in on any of this family fun, she wouldn’t even go swimming with us at the pool and the lake.
The next day the weather was not the best and we did some shopping at the Tanger outlet mall in Ottawa and had some lunch while in town. We did a lot of shopping over the summer, getting the girls some fun things along the way and I basically replaced my entire wardrobe and shoe collection this year. I think this shopping trip was my last of this year in terms of clothing as my perception on money and how best to spend it was already starting to change… (more on the that in my #1 post for 2017.
I has asked the girls what they wanted to do while up in Ottawa and two common things come from this conversation, one was to go Zip Lining and the other was the chance to drive the Jeep. Both of these were crossed off the list the next day! I have a healthy respect for heights and was a little afraid of what the day might bring, but it was a beautiful drive over and across a large river dividing Ontario and Quebec that was a delight to see.
The zip lining course was at the top of a mountain and it was a long and winding road up to the top through some beautiful summer views.
We arrived on time, got all geared up and had the chance to watch the group ahead of us finish up with the final zipline back to the base camp. We walked out into the woods, had our orientation and away we went. My only other ziplining experience was in Jamaica and it was much different than what I experienced in Ottawa. I figured it would be a guided tour through the trees with instructors in front and behind us, travelling in a large group. Well that was not the case at all, we were pretty much on our own as the instructors kept watch from the safety of the ground. Being the first three on the course we were able to go at our own pace, and with two adventurous girls leading the way we quickly were ahead of everyone else and having just the best time imaginable.
The course started off with several climbing in and around type obstacles to orientate one from being off the ground and to get more comfortable with the zipline to come. It was actually a really fun time for me and I quickly got over my fear of heights to the point where it wasn’t even a factor. Watching my girls hit each line ahead of me allowed me to see what I was in store for, how fast the line might move and to prepare for each landing. The difference between an 80 lb girl and a 180 lb man are quite different in terms of speed and impact on each landing. I was able to generate a lot more speed across the ziplines than either of the girls were able to do so.
We had so much fun this day, I was able to conquer some of my own fears and felt that I grew closer to each girl throughout the afternoon.
Up next on the agenda was some off road driving in the Jeep after searching for the right road to drive on. With Emily turning 16 later in the year I knew that she would want to get some experience behind the wheel. I didn’t want to just trespass in an open field or on private property so while drive around the water I simply followed a sign for an empty lot for sale. The road turned from paved to gravel, and then eventually to no road at all and we ended up on an abandoned lot down on the Ottawa River. It was perfect!
I drove the Jeep right up to the edge of the water and enjoyed a few minutes of sheer beauty and some peace and quiet. Right up until the girls were attacked by a few wasps… hilarity ensued!
I was able to do some off roading across this lot and back up and down the “road” that led down to this cottage, and I even allowed the girls a chance to get behind the wheel of the Jeep for a trip themselves. Both girls showed no fear and had a blast driving the Jeep with not another soul around.
After several trips up and down and back again we headed back to the campgrounds for another fire roasted dinner of deliciousness. We would spend one more day in Ottawa before returning to the real world back here in Barrie. I know personally I had a wonderful time and learned a lot about myself and what is truly important in life and spending time with my girls. We would go camping several more times throughout the summer as I shared the wonderful world that is mother nature.
It was during this trip that I started to realize just what was important to me, the Summer of George has started with the idea of having the time of my life and doing a lot of crazy things that money could buy you. Sitting in the best seats if you will, replacing a wardrobe, buying countless baseball jersey and matching ball caps, Star Wars battle drones, and many other things… This extended road trip was the beginning of my understanding of what truly is important in life, my family, my friends. Spending time with them, having fun, creating memories. One that last a lifetime and are not easily forgotten or replaced, this thought process I would chase for the remainder of this year and wouldn’t fully understand until mid September.