Family Life


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Stand-up comic Evan Carter on road trips

Behold the family road trip!
Just speaking those words can
turn a parent to Jell-o. A quivering
mass, one step away from rocking
back and forth in the fetal posi

tion. The family road trip has not
really changed that much over the
years – except for the minivans
with three rows of seating, video
screens, Wi-Fi, and PlayStation 9
capabilities. Years ago when I was
doing time in the back seat, there
were cries of “Don’t touch me!”
“You’re a stinky head!” “Why
are the seatbelts tucked into the

I was fortunate to have parents
who took us out onto the open
road every chance they could.
I got to see and appreciate this
beautiful country. And even as
a young child I learned that no
matter where you travel in this
country, no matter how small and
off the beaten path the road takes
you, there will ALWAYS be a
Chinese restaurant.

When we headed to our cottage, our family outings would
begin at the ungodly hour of
5 a.m. My parents would load
us into the car still asleep in our
pajamas, and we’d wake up some

where else. Today it’s kidnapping,
but back then it was known as
beating the traffic. That’s what
every parent wants to do, beat the
traffic. Unfortunately with every

body “beating the traffic” it was
bumper-to-bumper way before
the sun showed up.

Driving while the kids are
sleeping is actually a brilliant
idea. It cuts down on fighting.
The car is one of the last great
battlegrounds on earth. The
back seat of the car is worse than
the Middle East. At some point
there’s going to be a battle for the
border. “Don’t touch me.” “You
touched me first.” “This is my
side and if you come over here
I’ll touch you as much as I want.”
The third seat of a minivan is
North Korea. It’s very quiet for a
long time and then for no reason
there’s a flare up. From the front
seat (essentially the UN) sharp
cries of “What now?!” are fired
over the heads of the middle row
passengers and ricochet off the
rear window.

If you’re the youngest child
with teenage siblings who were
ruled exempt by the Geneva
Convention, or worse, an only
child, the back seat can be torture,
as if water is being deposited
on your forehead, one drop at a
time. Have you ever seen a lone
kid in the backseat of a car? The
look on their face says, “After this
I’m going to need some serious

During the late 50s, a friend of
mine used to be that child. Every
Sunday her parents would go
for a three-hour trek around the
province. Country music blaring
over the radio, windows up, mom
and dad smoking like they were
on the set of Mad Men. Driving along those roads today will
catapult her into a full-blown trio
of hives, wheezing and a Hank
Williams medley.

All kidding aside, the great
thing about a family road trip is
the bond formed by everyone in
the car. Every classic book, movie,
or momentous event in history
revolves around a quest. That’s
what a family road trip is… a
quest. Adventures shared, discoveries explored: The best place to
get ice cream. Is a cup better than
a cone? Is a sugar cone better than
a regular one? All ground-break

ing topics of friendly debate when
you’re out on the open road.

I’m remembering a photo of my
youngest daughter Annie taken
when she was in Grade 1, next to a
plaque in front of Laura Secord’s
house in Queenston, Ont. Annie
had done a project on the War of
1812 heroine, and good parents
that we were, we planned a road
trip to bring history alive. The
car was gassed up. Tires and oil
checked (air conditioner still broken but don’t get me started).

Off we went on a beautiful
July day on our quest. Annie
and her big sister Emily in the
back, fueled by juice boxes and
sensible snacks (I refer you to the
previous good parent comment).
The Niagara Parkway was alive
with the sights and smells of
summer. Giddiness escalated as
we approached Queenston. There
it was, Laura’s homestead. The
Union Jack was waving majestically in the gentle breeze. I half
expected Laura to emerge with a
fresh plate of assorted chocolates.

Both girls raced from the car.
Why tell them to slow down, don’t
run, use your inside voices? This
was the destination of our quest!
We took pictures, read inscriptions and even pointed. Yes we

When it was all done we went
for some of the worst Chinese
food ever, which made the day
even more memorable.

Evan Carter is a Toronto-based stand-up
comedian and writer, and has worked with
such acts as Gladys Knight, The Temptations
and the late Marvin Gaye. You can see Evan
on “George Stroumboulopoulus Tonight”,
and hear him on CBC’s “Laugh out Loud”
and “Fresh Air”. For more information, go

Originally published in ParentsCanada magazine, July 2013.

a man carrying two children

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