The long road home

AT RANDOM: Travelling is great, but there's nothing like coming home to our piece of paradise

If TV commercials are to be believed, summer is the time to grab friends and family, hop in a convertible and hit the open road. It’s a wonderful idea and a great way to get to know this huge, beautiful diverse country we call home.

I’ve done many road trips in places both far from home and nearby. When I was five, my family and I drove from Nova Scotia back west through the U.S. It was a long time ago and some details are sketchy, but I still recall a visit to Paul Revere’s house in Boston and staying at the historic Old Faithful Inn in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming.

I’ve been lucky enough to see huge chunks of Europe from the comfort of a Volkswagen Westfalia, stopping wherever the mood strikes and doing a spot of camping on the side of the road, even in Greece, where signs clearly warned, “No freelance camping.”

But in the last few years, road trips for us have involved leaving Vernon and spending the next 12 or 13 hours on the road in a bid to get to Swift Current, Sask., my husband’s hometown and where his family still lives.

It’s a beautiful drive, past the sparkling Mara Lake, through Revelstoke and Yoho National Parks and then of course through Canada’s pride and joy, the Rocky Mountains.  I’ve done the drive countless times, and those craggy peaks never fail to inspire.

Every time we make the drive I think how lovely it would be to make a few stops along the way: The Enchanted Forest near Revelstoke, perhaps a stroll through the Banff town centre, a visit to Medicine Hat’s historic downtown and then a side trip to my grandparents’ hometown of Drumheller to visit the world-renowned Royal Tyrrell Museum. The list of fun things to do between here and Swifty is endless.

When we have broken up the trip in Calgary in the past, we usually wonder why we bother. Why unpack for one night when it’s just another five hours in a straight line? And our daughter is usually chomping at the bit to get there, anxious to see her GG, Papa and cousins.

No worries, I always tell myself, as we can enjoy all of these touristy delights on our way back. After all, we have an entire two weeks off from work, all the time in the world.

I have been making this trip, usually by car, occasionally by air (still a long trip, what with a change of planes and a more than two-hour drive from the Regina airport) for 20 years and I have in-laws I adore and nieces I love. But one of these days I’d like to actually see other parts of Saskatchewan, such as Moose Jaw or Saskatoon.

I did get to enjoy a day at the Mennonite Heritage Village, next to Doc’s Town (similar to O’Keefe Ranch), where we enjoyed a thoroughly interesting tour. When we were invited to sit down at the big farmhouse kitchen table for coffee with tour guide Liz Unger and her husband, Cornie, I jumped at the chance. The kids enjoyed ice tea and cookies and I enjoyed the stories told by these life-long Saskatchewan residents. It was warm, friendly and relaxed. It was so much fun to do something touristy that I was happy to hand over $15 for a cookbook (we’ve already made the apple cake and the jelly roll).

Those of you whose families all live in the North Okanagan, I envy you. How wonderful to have family nearby, to pick up the phone and go for a quick coffee, a walk, a trip to the beach. And how wonderful that your holidays might actually involve somewhere that requires a passport.

After Swift Current, we spent three nights in Calgary with my brother and sister-in-law. It was glorious: big city delights such as dim sum for lunch and wonderful visits to Heritage Park and the Calgary Zoo followed by ice-cold beverages on the deck at night.

And those fun stops I said we’d make on the way back to Vernon didn’t happen: I spent the seven-hour drive home sleeping because after a day in the hot sun at the zoo I ended up with heat exhaustion. I managed to wake up as we pulled into the D&E Drive-in for milkshakes, happy to be home and thankful for our good fortune that has us living in a place that the rest of the country visits for vacation.