Sunday, January 25, 2009

Best and Worst Road Trips

Picture an adolescent teenage girl with a boy's haircut on a road trip with her dad in England. Sounds like some kind of coming-of-age low budget indie movie? Think again. It was actually my best road trip.

I left Hong Kong to attend a boarding school in England when I was 15. My school was under renovation and was starting 2 weeks later than usual. After my family vacation in Europe was over, my dad and I said goodbye to my mother and my sister at the Frankfurt airport, and dad and I left for London to spend 2 weeks together.

We rented a Ford Fiesta. We joked that it was indeed a fiesta as the car hummed loudly and we had to shout at each other as we drove. We drove around and visited my dad's friends at various universities. We visited University of Bristol where the head of the zoology department introduced us to my new guardian; Sheffield to spend some time with dad's retired professor; and Bangor to stay with another friend. We went sightseeing at different places. I remember admiring the mysterious Stonehenge at Salisbury, the Roman baths, Abbey, and the Georgian stone crescent at Bath, and the scenic drive approaching Bangor, in Northern Wales.

I practiced speaking English with my dad. He exposed me to life in an English household when we stayed with his friends. I appreciated the time and effort my dad took to get me accustomed to life in England. We seldom argued and were comfortable in each other's company. It was sad when our road trip was over and I started life in my new school.

My worst road trip was also with my dad. This time we were on a family vacation somewhere in North America - I don't remember where we were going. My dad drove and I sat next to him to navigate and keep him awake. My mother and sister sat at the back. We were on a stretch of road in the middle of nowhere and my dad was concerned with moving on. My sister needed to use the bathroom. My dad berated her and refused. Being women, the three of us united and yelled at my dad, forcing him to pull over at the next diner. What I remembered from this road trip was my dad's exceptional bad temper and the amount of fighting with him. I found out later that my dad was going through andropause and this bad temper lasted a couple of years. It was just magnified during this road trip.

It is amazing that I could have the best and worst road trip with the same person. I recognize that personal dynamics change. I should savour the best moments to remember.


  1. I think it was somewhere in Montana, during our trip to Yellowstone. Absolutely unforgettable. Unfortunately I came around too late to experience the sensitive side of Dad - no French classes at Alliance Francaise on Saturday afternoons (I went alone), no late night math tutoring (he said I was blocking the TV)...

  2. I know...bad tempered dad is scary. Found a postcard from Dad when he went to Cambridge. I found it touching...even though he was complaining about how heavy the luggage I left behind Westonbirt was.