Birth to puberty.
I’ve always traveled. Every year, my mother would pack up the car with suitcases, toys and an abundance of snacks. And set us on our way to wherever my grandparents were. Sometimes Florida, sometimes Nova Scotia, Canada and other times Toronto. At the age of eight months, I made the first two day trek to Florida.
Growing up, my friends revealed their green-eyed monsters when I would talk about my trips to Disney, or my voyage to Prince Edward Island. It was a different life. I had to use my words to describe what I had seen, and boy did I.
But though the destinations were always fun, and breathtaking, they weren’t the moments I remember the most.
The memories I retained from traveling during the first
sixteen years of my life, were the car rides.
The suitcases shoved in the trunk, the cooler in the backseat that always took up a little too much room. There were no cell phones, and less rest areas; less Starbucks available with free bathrooms. So the stops along the side of the road were endless.
My brother, who was five at the time, once screamed in the backseat because he needed to do number two and my mom told him he had to wait just four more miles.
Needless to say, he was unable to hold it, for four miles. We stood on the side of the highway while my mother ripped through our luggage trying to find my bother new clothes. We had to ride with that grocery bag full of poop-filled clothing for two more miles. I rolled the window down and refused to look at my brother for the remainder of the drive.
The stops we made along the coast, the restaurants and foods that were tried. That’s what I remember. Oysters and cod that I would hate then, and learn to love as the years passed.
The waves that enveloped my brother and I along the coast of Virginia.
Our stop in North Carolina for replenishment. A Denny’s. A racist waitress. An impression that stuck to this day.
The sun that streamed through the windows and warmed my face.
The games of “I spy” and “padiddle”. Our attempts to play goldfish in the backseat.
The trips to Nova Scotia always included an overnight in Bangor, Maine. We would stop at this bed and breakfast just outside of town. The cutest yellow house, just set back from the road. Horses in the rear, and a rooster that loved to let you know the sun was coming up in just two short hours.
This is where I would ride my first horse, and see my first coyote. Taste my first, and last splash of real maple syrup. We trudged through museums, and visit a home, that later in life, I would realize was that of Stephen King’s.
The exploration of this city took us years. One small excursion each morning before we departed for the last leg of our journey. Eventually, I knew Bangor like it was my own. We’d walk down Broadway, which now holds a Planet Fitness, Dunkin Donuts and a Tractor Supply Co., to Gifford’s to get my favor chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream. And to Dysart’s for the greatest hot chocolate this corner of the country.
Back then, twenty years ago, Bangor was filled with bookstores, cafes and art galleries. I remember the sound of trains, and the smell of sugar in the air.
Then one year, we stopped stopping in Bangor. We grew to an age where driving eleven hours straight wasn’t as big of a deal.
I’ve only returned there once, sense passing the age of twenty. And it wasn’t what I remembered.
And I’m not sure it was ever what I remembered.
Gifford’s is still there, but the smell is gone. The sound of the trains in the distance stifled by the honking of horns. It was a place that sat in my head, filled with fond memories.
I miss Bangor. The Bangor of my childhood.
These trips, and these years will always hold a fondness in my heart.
They fueled my love for travel, and taught me that my hometown is just a blimp on the map. And that the journey is sometimes more important than the destination.