I adore Vancouver, so much so that I think it may be my favorite North American city. Each time we go I make plans for our inevitable move, and it’s not just because I have a love/hate relationship with Seattle (I had to put the “love” in or M would accuse me of being a downer.)
So I jumped at the chance to run a half marathon there this morning. I contemplated going alone, but brought the crew with me because it’s always nice to have a cheering squad and who DOESN’T want to travel with five kids in tow?
M was giddy with anticipation, completely unrelated to my race or the actual weekend. Thanks to that interview with the Canadian mounties that took place on the snowiest day of the year (see this story),we now have Nexus passes, which allow us to zip in and out of Canada without a border wait. He had been very patient and could not wait another moment to use those passes.
The drive to the border was uneventful, save a constant downpour. As we fly across the border, ignoring a thirty minute wait, M said, no less than six times, “Well, I guess those Nexus passes paid for themselves,” and I am rather certain he also smirked at the line of Nexus-less cars and hollered, “Suckas!”
But our jubilation was short lived because once we were over the border and on the road into Vancouver, we hit some traffic and I asked M, “Hey, what’s that burning smell?”
M looked at the dashboard, looked back at me and said, without flinching, “Oh, that’s us.”
As smoke wafts up from out engine, we pull over to the side of the road in pouring rain. The traffic has now completely stopped, and it pretty much stays that way for two hours, which is how long it takes for a taxi to come and pick up me and the kids and take us to the hotel. (It took over four hours for the tow truck to get to M and tow him and the minivan into Vancouver.) In the meantime, the baby, after being cooped up for about four hours with nary a second of sleep, loses it and demands to be let out of the car. So I put on her raincoat and mine and we walk around in the rain. The shoulder of the road is thin and there’s only a huge patch of grass, but it’s goopy and muddy, and have I mentioned that I’m wearing flip-flops? At some point most of us get out and walk around and kind Canadian drivers asks if we need help and offer us candy. At some point M, the baby, and Bennett go looking for our taxi who can’t find us, but insists that we should be able to see him because he is flashing his lights. A photo:
You can’t see the rain, but it’s coming down.. even if it thinned now and then. Eventually the cab comes and I’m afraid he won’t let all the kids in without car-seats (I didn’t have an ounce of strength left) until he looks at me and asks, “You put baby in front?” I assumed we be just fine without the car-seats.
“Baby” was a holy terror on the ride and we sing her every song we can to calm her down until she looks at me, grabs both my ears and yells “DOGGY IN WINDOOOOOW!” So all six of us sing multiple rounds of that song. Thank goodness we knew all the verses.
Eventually we get to the hotel, and when we walk into the lobby we are dazed and mud-splattered. The kids, thrilled to be liberated from a car, lay waste to the lobby, walking on couches and dismantling floral arrangements. I got in line at the front desk and the woman in front of me turns around and asks, “Didn’t I see you all on the side of the road?” Before I can ask her how in God’s name she recognized us (was it all the mud on my jacket?) she points to Bennett’s fluorescent orange basketball shorts and says, “I’d recognize those anywhere.”
You don’t say.
The next day we walk around Granville Island in search of buskers. The boys are walking and wrestling at the same time. It seems the inane “punch-buggy” game (you may know it as “slug bug“) is now selling franchise opportunities. It was not enough for them to punch each other each time they saw a Volkswagen beetle (bug), there was now the “mini (cooper) flick,” the “taxi slap,” and the “Toyota twist”… and before I knew it they are beating the crap out of each other with each passing vehicle. At some point, Bennett does something to mightily offend Efram and he loses it, throwing an entire bag of Pirate’s Booty at him, then lunging on top of him to deliver a tremendous beating. Booty flies, and I even see some of that incredibly expensive dried mango get thrown around. As we are pulling Efram off of his brother and listening to him scream and yell at all of us, he pauses for a second to ask, “Hey, where are the buskers?”
I look around and realize that we are seated on a bench in a central square and many, many eyes are on us. People have stopped eating, chatting, taking photographs and are staring at our spectacle.
“Hey Efram,” I say. “Thanks to you, I think we ARE the buskers.”
I contemplate removing his baseball hat and collecting some money to cover the cost of that mango, but we decide it’s probably best to leave. Quickly. With that, we clean up what we can, I grab Efram by the ear, and we beat the hastiest retreat possible.
I know that when we travel we often take our Crazy Show on the road, but I hadn’t expected, in one short weekend, to be both roadside entertainment AND a performance of the Family Von Trapp meets Jersey Shore for a crowd of onlookers.
They managed to pull it together and cheer me on heartily as I finished the race. And as I ran I wasn’t thinking about the hellish drive or how abhorrent they had been the day before. I was just thinking about how much I love to run, how happy I was to be running my first long race since before I got pregnant with Bennett, over eleven years ago, and how marvelous it was to have a few hours “alone”… just me and a few thousand beautifully behaved runners.