Last weekend, I drove my grandparents to Vancouver. Since they first started talking about flying out to visit me, going to Vancouver has been high on their list of priorities. They’d excitedly called me when they finally received their passports in the mail. They’d talk about it every single time they called me on the phone.
For my part, I’d flat-out told them several times that I don’t know my way around Vancouver; that two of the three times I’d been there, smacksaw had been there to show me around, and the third time, I managed to drive myself and my father into Gastown and then promptly got lost for a few hours, so I am not high on the list in terms of being an excellent tour guide. Still, they were very excited to go, so I got behind the wheel and drove north.
What none of us counted on was the two hour wait at the border to cross customs, at the end of which, all of us were very testy. After we crossed the border, I asked them if they wanted to visit Point Roberts, and my grandma said she did, while my grandpa grunted non-commitally. I had driven approximately 90% of the way there when grandma changed her mind and said she’d rather just see Vancouver. So I sighed, turned around, and headed back toward the city. Vancouver isn’t smack on the border, and you have to drive through a decent bit of suburbia to get there. Twenty minutes later, we had not yet arrived in the city proper when my grandpa piped up and said “You can turn around and start heading home anytime.” I clenched my jaw and kept driving.
We finally got into the city, and when we found someplace to park, the grandparents couldn’t believe that the meter wouldn’t take US coins. Why wouldn’t they do this? Oh gee, I don’t know, maybe because we are in another country? And not like Tijuana, where the US dollar is way cooler than the peso by an order of magnitude.
We stopped, got some coffee, glared at each other, drove around Granville Island, and left. Pretty much a full day’s driving for approximately twenty minutes of activities.
The very next day, grandma decided she wanted to visit ‘the wine country’ which meant another day trip to Yakima. Unfortunately, she didn’t tell me about this desire until about 1pm, which is a very late start if you intend to drive halfway across the state on a Sunday.
Still, we got in the car, and I started driving east. Since Snoqualmie Falls was also on their list of places to visit, I stopped there along the way since it would presumably be too dark to see by the time we got back from Yakima.
After a few minutes, we got back into the car, and this is when the neverending loop of commentary started. Over and over again, grandma would exclaim “Look at all those trees!” “I can sure see why they call this the Evergreen state” “Looking at this, I can’t imagine how we’d ever run out of trees” over and over and over again. Sometimes, I would tell her a factoid like “most rest stops in Washington provide free coffee” and she would repeat what I’d just said, but more loudly, presumably for my grandpa. Sometimes she would repeat these factoids to me. They say that grandpa is losing his hearing. Frankly, I think he’s just ignoring grandma, which only makes her repeat everything AGAIN, which only serves to make him tune her out MORE, and so on and so forth. That has to be it.
We crossed the mountains and into the more deserty area of Washington, and while grandma was going on and on about how this place is supposedly the fruit bowl of the nation, that’s what she read, the fruit bowl of the nation, the grousing started up from the backseat. “Jesus Christ. JESUS CHRIST. I can’t see where they’d grow any goddamn grapes around here.” Every time he saw one of those places where cops sit to trap speeders, he’d suggest we could turn around and go back, and between those points, the ‘Jesus-Christ’ing continued, while upfront, the fruitbowl broken record was still going full-force. In what can only be described as a moment of temporary, parental-like insanity, I whipped around and told my grandpa to shut up, we weren’t going home before we even got to the goddamn place, and if he didn’t like it, that was too damn bad. I am the bad granddaughter. In my defense, you would have done it, too.
We stopped at some fruit stand on the outskirts of Yakima, and I have to admit that part of me was really hoping that both mouths in the car would be too crammed full of fruit to continue motormouthing the rest of the way. When we FINALLY got into Yakima, the handy-dandy tourist pamphlet my grandma had picked up suggested we go to the information center that is open ‘seven days a week’. While it may indeed be open seven days a week, in order to really be useful, they should strive to have it open more than a couple of hours per day, as it was long closed by four pm.
I’ve never been to Yakima before. I don’t know where the wineries are. Yet I struck out on the highway again, trying to make my grandma’s wine-country-wishes come true. Grandpa started up again with “Jesus CHRIST we drove all this way to buy some goddamn fruit?”. Clearly we had not bought enough fruit.
By the time I found the first winery, it was four thirty. It had closed at four. Grandma started in on ‘Look at all those fruit trees, it IS the fruitbowl of the nation, I wonder if they sell to Dole’ section of the day’s all-repeats-program, and I started looking for a winery AND a happy place to go to in my mind. I found another winery at five. They closed, no shit, at four thirty. The third and final winery I found, at around five thirty, had closed at five.
This is a very typical family experience–always a day late and a dollar short.
All of this was nothing compared to yesterday.
Yesterday afternoon, my dad called and said the family wanted to go to Leavenworth, which is a Bavarian-style town (keeping with the trend) Far Far Away. We all got into the car, Dad driving this time, and the grandma tree broken record started up again, this time for the benefit of my father. You think that shit gets old on the first day? Try two Sundays in a row, with the same visual cues inspiring the exact same remarks. It’s like some horrible deja vu land where not only do you know what’s coming because it has happened before, but you also sort of wish you were dead.
Now THAT is a happy, shining face.
After a while on I-90, we all decided we were hungry, and stopped at some roadside diner that billed itself ‘home of the turtle’. This was not just any turtle, but some sort of Super Fireplace Turtle wearing a hat of a type which I was unable to determine. Cowboy hat? Sombrero? Cowboy hat? Sombrero? Cow..brero.
After lunch, it was back on the highway.
Soon, green trees and tree comments gave way to desert scrub and the beginnings of the fruit bowl conversation AGAIN.
At some point along the way, we were supposed to turn onto I-97 north, and so, when we saw the exit marked ‘I-97’, we took it. The road it led us to didn’t quite feel right. The speed limit was too low, there were roads intersecting with it, there was NO TRAFFIC WHATSOEVER, but like brave Lewis-and-Clark adventurers, only more stupid, we forged ahead, because surely, SURELY, this was the right road. I-97 is supposed to run into 2, and from there it’s a short drive to Leavenworth. We saw a highway intersection up ahead. Yay! This validates we were going the correct direction! Yay! Wait…is that the Columbia River? Is that…I-90 again? No fucking way.
Oh yes. We took a frontage road for forty-five minutes, putting us in the crappy little town of Vantage and very, very, VERY far out of our way.
How would you like to cross the Columbia River? Ford it, caulk your wagon and float across, take a ferry, or hire an Indian guide?
By this point in time, my dad was really, really mad that we’d driven so far out of our way, my grandpa was starting up with his ‘Jesus-Christ’ing again, my brother was rolling his eyes and trying to melt through the passenger door, and my grandma needed some water so she could continue to drive us all batshit insane.
We now were all treated to an extra hour and a half of the repeated comments, including but not limited to wondering exactly what sort of fruit was in every single orchard we passed, reading every sign we passed aloud and then repeating it in case someone in the car hadn’t heard her the first time, and asking if the orchards all had contracts with Dole. Once, we passed a nursery filled with young trees, and my grandparents started debating what they thought the trees were. Grandma informed us that she calls them ‘silver maples, even though they probably aren’t, because they sort of look like silver maples, even though they probably aren’t’. If you’ve seen the movie ‘Sling Blade’ and have ever been really overtired, you will completely understand why I started giggling hysterically, and between fits of giggles quoted “Some folks call it a sling blade, I call it a kaiser blade, because it’s shaped like a bananer.” My dad, who was also incredibly overtired, started cracking up as well. We are terrible people, but that sort of goes along with being a member of my family.
My brother was still ambivalent.
Half an hour later, we FINALLY rolled into Leavenworth, where, per family tradition, everything was closed. Everything except for Ye Olde Gas Stattione and Ye Olde Starbucks.
At the point where we were driving through and I requested my dad stop so I could take this picture, we realized just how overtired Grandma was when she spilled the beans and revealed just how filthy a sweet old lady could be. She suggested we go purchase a large Bavarian sausage and attach it to the knight, hanging out from the bottom of his metal top, with a red apple along either side. I was simultaneously horrified and delighted, and if there has ever been a moment in my life when I felt I might die of laughter, that was it.
I have nothing to say about this picture except holy HELL that is a lot of crap in that store. Who buys crap like that? I’m pretty sure it’s the same people who collect Precious Moments figurines and pictures on plates.
I find nutcrackers to be terrifying in a combination clown/molestor-uncle sort of way. I’m glad this part of town was closed, because otherwise I am certain my family would have dragged me into it, kicking and screaming.
As we were sitting and drinking coffee (my brother elected to wait in the car the whole time we were there), I noticed that one of the buildings, although otherwise decorated in a very standard Leavenworth way, had the big Masonic Eye painted near the top. Conspiracy! Conspiracy!
I don’t know why, but I find this sign to be very, very funny.
After we were done drinking our coffee, it was time to turn around and go home–look how excited my dad is to be leaving!
On the way home, everyone was loopy enough to the point where I heard that once, my dad took my brother and I out trick or treating while he had the worst hangover of his life, my mom smoked while she was pregnant with me, and my grandpa gave my grandma a dutch oven on their wedding night.
Oh yes, I have a special family.
What was supposed to be a short afternoon trip turned into a twelve hour ordeal. It was an interesting sort of family vacation. Now let us never speak of it again.