We meander along the 20, the 185 and the 2 over three days to get ourselves back to The Passage. The leisurely pace cuts down on the long hauls buckled up in the car and allows for extended lunch stops – read play breaks for Nellie and Noah, sanity time outs for maman and papa.
Our guys actually do very well on long trips. Our newest recruit, Lila-Jeanne, is in constant snooze mode. We rarely hear a noise from her. Whenever there is a little stirring, big brother gives her a light stroke on the cheeks and expertly administers the soother to get those sucking muscles back into a calming tempo.
We pull into Rivière du Loup’s Quality Inn our first night. They have a trio package just for us – swimming pool, continental breakfast and high speed internet. Noah and Nellie love paddling and splashing. The time in the pool is a healthy release for all the pent up energy accumulated over the hours in the car.
After a good night’s sleep it’s hard to contain the enthusiasm of discovery in the small eating area. Nellie and Noah are ricocheting from the plates and the cutlery, to the fruits, to the muffins and then buzzing about deciding on seating arrangements. Once the table is selected, it’s time for the settings. They are exuberant, boisterous despite my feeble attempts to contain their energy. From the smiles at the tables around us, it seems there are no serious disappointments on the lost opportunity of a quiet breakfast. With full bellies we’re ready to roll to New Brunswick.
Noah and Nellie have books, drawing games, plush buddies, their own MP3 music player and each other to keep themselves entertained. There’s a certain tipping point though where questions become the de rigueur means of whiling away the time for Noah. Questions rocket out of his mouth like there is no tomorrow. It’s as if he is acquiring knowledge at an accelerated rate to store up for future reference. Each answer from the passenger seat begets another question from our lad.
Noah – Why is there a moose on that sign?
Me – It warns drivers that there are moose in the area.
Noah – Why do drivers need to know that?
Me – Sometimes the moose cross the road and that can be dangerous for drivers.
Noah – Why don’t we ever see any moose?
Me – They’re deep in the woods and usually come out at night.
Noah – Why do they come out at night?
Me – Because there are less cars and less noise.
Noah – Why are there more moose here?
Me – Maybe the forest is thicker, or there is more food for them to eat?
Noah – What kind of food?
He’s really on a roll now and before we’ve clocked another couple of kilometres, my head will be spinning. I know it’s time to invoke the silence zone and give our weary ears a rest from the rapid fire grilling.
I play the silence card and it works – for about ten minutes. The question factory jumps right back to peak performance producing high volumes. Where are the authentic, wild woodsy moose posing by the roadside when you really need them?
We are saved by a Burger King pit stop in Grand Falls. There’s an excellent play area for kids with climbing, crawling and sliding apparatus. It is becoming a New Brunswick rite of passage for us. Nellie is now able to get through the entire set up with just a little help from Noah. Her skills have improved since the last time we dropped in on our way to Québec.
Another favourite on our Halifax – Sorel treks is the McDonald’s in La Pocatière just west of Kamouraska when traveling from the Maritimes. They’ve got a snowboard ride with an animated course that both kids love. The bakery in Kamouraska has excellent fare but is only a seasonal operation.
Hotels are synonymous with pools for us. Fredericton’s Delta gets high marks because they have a wading pool of approximately 250 square feet that is a wing of the main pool. This trip we stop on the way there and the way back. It’s our last night before we hit The Passage and fun is in the air. On this evening their game is to throw a small rubber whale and turtle from their pool into the main pool. Papa’s charge is to lunge after these missiles of love and lob them back into the holding pool. There are plenty of squeals as I thrash about in the water on my retrieval missions. Every four or five throws, Nellie implores me to rescue her waterlogged, sinking turtle from its slow descent to the bottom. There’s a lot of giggling and shouting as they race after the animals when I throw them back. We all enjoy the wetness and the laughs and head back to the room satisfied with a good night’s play.
We’re off to a leisurely start for our last day on the road. We have some minor frustrations accessing Harvey’s on Regent St. on the way out of town. It seems like the place is situated to cater only to the car traffic coming down the hill toward the river. Mé expertly navigates a detour to allow me to sate my craving for one of their burgers. Harvey’s is a favourite from years ago that was rekindled this winter wonderland tour on our way to visit with Jean, Cadi and gang in Ville Mercier.
Noah is in a question crescendo as we roll along the TransCanada. Lila is seemingly oblivious to the ride. Nellie is mostly contemplative. At Sackville’s coffee stop, I bump into a former professor. It’s the second time in three years that I see him at this Tim’s. He’s retired now but still involved in his first love the Tintamarre theatre. As infrequently as it happens, I always enjoy a few words with Alex. He brought verve, excitement and passion to our stage experiences and imbued us with the love of language, of story and the confidence to strut our stuff.
We’re only a couple of hours away from home sweet home. It’s blustery over the Cobequid Pass and clear sailing from Truro to The Passage. There’s been a dump of snow in the last 24 hours. I’m wondering if we’ll be able to power our way through what is on the driveway. I’m not relishing breaking out a shovel. Joy of joys, the driveway is clear and a path is made right up to our front door. It’s the best welcome home gift ever courtesy of Mé’s friend who took the time to come by and shovel.
We’re back at the OK Corral and ready to crash in our own beds.