Here we were, traveling north on Interstate 5 on the cusp of babyOregonian’s first border crossing, and I was fighting to keep my eyelids open.
Who’s terrific thought was it to wake her at 4am and hit the road from Portland, Oregon to Whistler, B.C. before sunrise?
Oh yeah, mine.
Ted and I schemed back in winter (when daylight hours were short and the dark of night promised a chance at keeping a car-hating baby temporarily pacified): “It’ll be great,” we built our pep talk, tossing reassurances back and forth to each other. “She’ll sleep for a nice stretch before we hit Seattle, then we can grab breakfast and coffee and make for Canada while she’s in a good morning mood.”
No matter the pep talks, though, the underlying anxiety remained. We could navigate 25 countries and territories the two of us in a year, but could we three one long travel day with each other and a baby? (Now’s when you hardcore traveling families can have a good chuckle. Yes, we’re two firstborns raising a firstborn. Still figuring out the game…)
According to Google maps, the trip north should take sevenish hours. Factor in a border crossing, diaper changes, meals, baby-leg stretch breaks, and essential coffee stops, though, and those seven hours threatened to stretch into double digits.
Sometime between winter and July, thankfully, Lucie started tolerating…even occasionally enjoying…car rides, and the worry over wakeful-driving hours waned. Sometime in spring, we also added another passenger to the car: Ted’s brother Micah needed a ride to the Vancouver airport that same day, and since he literally lives half a dozen blocks from us in Portland, it made complete sense to carpool.
Early morning departure: we woke the baby long enough to transfer her to the car seat, surrounded ourselves with luggage and pillows, and Ted steered the car toward the interstate. Double-check the passports: yes, Ted’s, yes, mine, and yes, Lucie’s.
“Micah, do you have yours?”
“Yep,” came the reply from the back seat.
Full tank of gas, call forwarding in place, international text message plan, passports: essentials covered. Off we went.
4:27am. 20.6 miles in and #babyOregonian's wide eyed in the carseat, buzzing on travel, just like her mother. (So much for dreams of sleep.)
— Bethany & Ted (@twoOregonians) July 3, 2014
Did she sleep? Well, yes, for about 50 minutes, but by 5:30am, the early morning summer sunlight and the thrill of an out-of-the-ordinary day had her buzzing in the backseat.
Two things about this situation: One, silly me, imagining “covers of darkness” so many months ago; I forgot earth tilts on its axis. Two, she’s my daughter: given the opportunity to forgo sleep for adventure, she’ll absolutely take it.
So my eyelids fell heavy as I slumped in the passenger seat, half dozing, half watching Washington State whiz by out the window.
4:31am. Ted: "I tell you what. I really don't mind driving the ugly stretch between Portland and Seattle while it's still dark…"
— Bethany & Ted (@twoOregonians) July 3, 2014
Ted introduced his brother to Clover coffee, and in effort to avoid the worst of metropolitan rush hour traffic, we ate quickly and zoomed back to the on ramp and up the freeway, using our well-earned spot in the carpool lane and doing our best to keep Lucie occupied with The Hungry Caterpillar board book.
Near the border, signs posted the approximate current wait times to cross through immigration from the U.S. to Canada. The numbers looked promising (ten minutes?!), so we made one last state-side pit-stop at a wooded Washington rest area to let Lucie stretch her legs.
Lucie loved squirming around on her blanket; I loved confirming phone booths do still exist.
People, I had no idea that rest stops were impromptu baby-travel-conventions. We were the third set of parents spotted with an infant in tow in the span of twenty minutes.
We squirreled around longer than was necessary, feeling more tired from the 4am departure time than the actual driving, I suspect. That squirreling cost us: by the time we reached the border between the U.S. and Canada, the short wait time had ballooned to 45+ minutes, and the taste of freedom had made Lucie even more opposed to the straps in her car seat.
While Ted and Micah played “speculate on which lane will move faster, then change lanes mid stream like at the grocery store, then kick yourself for choosing the slow one,” Lucie started crying, and I retreated into border crossing memories.
High altitude, middle-of-nowhere Bolivia to Chile.
Back and forth, both sides of waterfalls between Argentina and Brazil.
Shuffling passports between Bosnia and Montenegro.
Border guards with flashlights at midnight in Kosovo.
$100 bills and fingerprint scanners in Tanzania.
Ted (nearly) left in limbo between Laos and Cambodia, protesting the $1 bribe on principle.
A thirty minute grilling at immigration followed by “Welcome to New Zealand” in my favorite place on earth (besides Oregon)…
Family vacation in the ’90s: tossing perfectly good apples and grapes at the guard’s behest. (Talk about childhood travel traumas…)
Somewhere between the crying letting up, the cars and semi-trucks rolling forward, and Ted handing our passports through the window to the Canadian border guard, I forgot to ask for Lucie’s first passport stamp. I’m not sure if it was the guard’s pitch-black sunglasses or dry, rapid-fire questioning of Micah’s one-way carpool trip to the Vancouver airport that threw me, but before I remembered the request, the station was in the rear view mirror.
Oh well. No ink on paper to prove it, but a year and a half after flying home from our round the world trip, we’d crossed an international border again, this time with a third little adorable Oregonian earning her first few travel stripes.
A familiar little wave of relief: we were through.
This post is part of our twoOregonians tour British Columbia series in which we use babyOregonian’s passport on her first international trip, attend the Canadian wedding of dear American and Lebanese friends, enjoy beautiful scenery and rejuvenating retreats in Whistler, and reconnect over delicious home cooking with our very first AirBnb host-turned-friend in Vancouver. Much gratitude to our friends for including us in the special celebrations, and thanks to Tourism Whistler and Scandinave Spa Whistler for sponsoring a portion of our adventures. As always, these stories, photos, and opinions are our own, and we love sharing them with you!