While Kerouac had something else in mind, I'm sure, I recently took an odd little road trip of my own that I'll never forget. Nor will I ever remember it exactly as it happened. Really, all I'll ever remember is the lump in my throat, a surprise discovery at 120kmh, and Bill Gates' handiwork.
The Beginning: My oldest spawn - known 'round these parts as BandGeek - was nominated by her school to attend something called a music leadership camp. She was obviously excited (along with proud Mom and Dad) about the opportunity to spend a week away from home - with other teenaged grownups - getting some professional music instruction. On the other hand, she quickly grew tired of the "last summer at band camp..." jokes that seemed so necessary to me. It's true - we are merciless at our house.
And so it was that last weekend found me driving BandGeek, 3 of her school chums, and their assorted backpacks and instruments some 3.5 hours north to OELC. Up the mighty-yet-boring 401 we went, across the bland 407, merging onto the fearsome 400, veering northeast on 11 past Orillia and, eventually, down a single winding lane that stops at Lake Couchiching. The time flew by for me, listening to these 15 and 16 year-olds making their own fun and even including Old Crazylegs. It is a rare occasion that I get to see BandGeek in her natural setting - not my daughter, but her own secret person - and I loved it.
The Middle: We were met at the camp gates by a teacher/counsellor and given our instructions. First was a stop at the registration tent to be checked-in and given cottage assignments. Next was a visit to a small building where the obligatory camp shirts would be dispensed. After that, the boys in my charge would proceed down one path to settle in while I would escort the girls down a separate path to their own cottages. This would leave the kids an hour to explore the grounds before their first 'camp meeting'.
In all of this, something emerged the ether - I was leaving BandGeek on her own. She'd be gone for a week - a long way from home and without parents or any other family nearby, keeping her safe. This was a 'first time'. I marvelled at that thought for a minute, but I didn't let it bother me. She's a good kid, an independent kid, and she'd be okay.
Ssoon she hugged me good-bye and whispered, "I'm going to miss you, Dad". Then the lump - out of nowhere - was hard in my throat crowding my tongue. I choked it down. I told her I'd see her in a week and assured her (and me) that it would be fun. A moment later, she was off with her friend to explore.
The End: I walked along the shore of Couchiching back to the van, with nothing left to do but go back the way I came. I had no more purpose now, other than to call home and let them know I was coming. A few klicks down highway 400 with the van cruising at a comfortable 120kmh, I slid a newly-burned Peter Gabriel disc I'd ripped from one of my old cassette tapes. The first notes of In Your Eyes played, and there it was - a sound out of step. It was a 'wrong' sound, but a familiar trill that I couldn't quite place even though I knew it shouldn't be there.
Gabriel rasped through the chorus and then the sound was there again. A trill, followed by another trill, and soon several more. Then it was clear to me. It was the 'MSN sound'. It was that little warbly trilly sound when someone you're chatting with on MSN says something while you're chatting with someone else. It was BandGeek. I remembered she was using my PC to chat with friends while the PC was also recording the Peter Gabriel cassette. I'd messed up the process and somehow recorded all the sounds on the PC - not just the cassette. While I was reasoning this out, there was an explosion of trills. BandGeek must have in fine form that night - jungle drums and party lines for the Internet Age. I laughed out loud.
I suddenly felt better, less anxious. BandGeek was there with me when I least expected it and sorely needed it. I resolved to bug her a little less about wasting hours on MSN. And I resolved to hug her tight when 6 days would bring me back to Couchiching.