For our sister trip this year, Laura and I decided to drive to Buffalo. “Buffalo?” my neighbor said. “That doesn’t sound like a vacation.”
Our father, originally from Worcester, Massachusetts, attended high school in Buffalo after his father was transferred there just before World War II. In 1969, Daddy drove the four of us kids there for a week to visit his parents. Laura, five years old at the time, has vague memories of it. The one thing we all remember was our visit to Niagara Falls. We remember it for its disappointment. There was no water rushing over the falls. Rocks as far as the eye could see, mere trickles along an otherwise dry riverbed. The Niagara River had been diverted over to the Canadian side so the Americans could examine the cliff to see if anything needed to be done to preserve it.
“Just think, kids,” our engineer father said enthusiastically. “This is the most historic time you could ever see it!” What fascinates an engineer often fails to fascinate young children (or anyone else for that matter).
We’ve seen Niagara Cliffs. Forty-five years later, Laura and I are bound for the Falls.
Reviews of the motel Laura and I Pricelined for our trip to Buffalo:
“Avoid @ all costs”
“Avoid this place if you can.”
“We will never return to this property.”
“In urgent need of a facelift.” This one could be describing me.
While others refer to it as a crap-ass hotel, I prefer to think of it as faded lady, a bit down at the heels. We are left to wonder, not for the first time, why couldn’t Daddy have had brothers and sisters? Then we might have had some relatives we could mooch off of.
We leave from my house at 8:30 in the morning. First stop, the McDonald’s in Lovingston where I have to upgrade the maps on my Garmin. I tried to do it at her house yesterday, but I’d forgotten to bring the cord that connects the Garmin to my computer. So here we are.
It takes forever, so we check our Facebook pages. “Michael will wonder why we’re not on the road,” Laura says. I’m sure a lot of people will be wondering that. I’m kind of wondering that. But we’re afraid to venture up north without updated maps. Such is the world of today. My father would either be appalled that we’re not bringing maps, or excited about this type of technology. One thing is for sure. He would have updated the Garmin at least a week before departure.
We’re taking Laura’s brand new Subaru Forester on this trip. My father always wanted me to have a Forester, because I am a forester, but I failed to fulfill that dream for him.
We have managed to close the rear gate in such a way that we can’t figure out how to open it again. This will prove inconvenient; all our baggage is back there and currently we have to put the back seats down to access it. Actually, the majority of our baggage is in the front seat, but that is all psychological and we have no problem at all accessing it.
While we’re waiting for the Garmin update, Laura is reading the owner’s manual.
“They give you a good bit of information about how to fix this car yourself,” Laura says. We try not to take this as an omen.
The manual tells us that if we’ve managed to lock the automatic power lift gate, “wait a while.” Laura wishes they’d give us some idea of what “a while” means. As long as it takes the Garmin to download? Surely not that long.
“We have dual climate control,” Laura says. “Obviously, this a car designed for menopausal women.” Perfect for us.
I feel bad about taking up this much time of our journey in a McDonald’s in Lovingston. “Well, we wouldn’t be waiting for this download if I’d sprung for the GPS in the Subaru,” Laura says, charitably. “So it’s my own fault.”
85 of 95 downloads are complete. It’s all I can do to keep from pulling the plug and getting on the road, but we’re so close now and Laura seems content to browse the owner’s manual. Another of Daddy’s legacies. “Read twice, then do,” was his mantra when we were growing up. Many a Christmas morning saw the Lundquist kids sitting under Daddy’s watchful gaze as we dutifully plowed through the directions to a new toy—not once, but twice— before we were allowed to take it out of its box. As adults, we know our appliances, we know our cars, we know our cell phones. It was good advice.
From inside Mickey D’s I see a friend pull up in her Prius. I contemplate hiding because I know she’ll see my husband somewhere and tell him that she saw us still sitting here mid-morning, far from Buffalo and not making much progress. But she appears to be purchasing a copy of the New York Times from the adjacent convenience store and either doesn’t see us, or pretends not to.
The downloads are complete now, but the install is taking it’s own sweet time. “We’re committed, now,” Laura says. I want to rip my hair out by the roots, but tap away on my laptop instead.
It’s 10:00 when we finally hit the road, Garmin updated and our next destination, a really crummy motel. We repeat the mantra: It’s not the destination, it’s the journey. We’re on our way.