As children are once again back in school — practicing their writing skills by reporting on the topic “What I did last summer,” — it is a good time to reflect on how effective the opportunities for family-related memory-making were over the past couple of months. This is also a good time to think about how to get the most mileage on those opportunities in the future. Pun intended. Nothing says family memory making more than the Great Canadian Road Trip.
As a child, perhaps you were fortunate enough to enjoy a family road trip. Much like the movie National Lampoon’s Vacation, the whole family, including dog, was bundled into the car for a whirlwind tour of sight seeing, points of interest, and visits to relatives.
In our family, the six of us packed into the car, taking turns at riding in the front seat between our parents, jockeying for position in the back seat, looking out the window, reading or playing car bingo as the miles flew by.
The vast distances of the north inoculate us from the rigours of travel by motor vehicle. We measure distance in the time it takes to drive there. Dawson City? That’s six hours from Whitehorse. Haines Junction? An hour and a half. Prince George? Well partner, that is going to take you two days.
As northerners, we take these distances for granted. We know that there are small outposts dotting the landscape separated by lots of mountains, lakes and grizzlies feeding along the side of the road. We plan accordingly. If you come upon a gas station that is open for business, top up your tank.
Long before the car DVD player, our aunt, who was wise in the ways of entertaining children on long road trips, would send us on our way, not only with a picnic lunch, but also a package or two, wrapped with many layers of paper, with instructions on when to remove each layer. We took turns taking off a wrapping at each designated milepost, 100 miles, a steel bridge, a wild mammal, etc. Whoever was lucky enough to remove the last layer, received that prize. It kept us interested, looking out the windows for the next clue, and asking our father – the only legal driver in the vehicle – a thousand times how many miles we had gone, and how many were left to the next checkpoint.
There are many interesting and wondrous things to see in this great country of ours. Some of it is in our own backyard. You can watch the midnight sun dance across the sky in Dawson City, or travel the Dempster Highway to the Arctic Circle. Further afield are wonders like Niagara Falls, Cape Breton Island, Quebec City, the Confederation bridge and the Tyrell Dinosaur Museum in Drumheller, which is as great place for children to learn about dinosaurs. Along the way, Kluane, Jasper and Banff National Park, Vancouver Island, the Great Bear Rainforest and Long Beach are waiting for you to explore.
It doesn’t matter if you view the majestic peaks of Banff National Park, or hike the rugged wilderness of Kluane. You can visit the desert at Carcross, or stare into the dancing embers of a campfire. Whatever you do, take time to make memories. Memories that will last a lifetime.