Are we there yet? The ups and downs of a long road trip

I’m riding in the middle seat of a shiny, white rented Chevy Suburban with a V8 packed with five additional vacationers, six bags of luggage/backpacks, fishing gear — which includes over 12 rods and reel, a multitude of tackle boxes and snacks.

I’m sure there’s a partridge in a pear tree in here somewhere.

My son-in-law Michael Tillman is driving. The husband (Steve) drove us through the wee hours of the night last night and needed to take care of some last-minute business. I happily claimed the middle backseat as my writing quarters. Unfortunately the three daughters are having fun without me while I attempt to write this column. OneRepublic is playing, “Wherever I Go.”

In the midst of writing a sentence, I boasted from the back seat that I had decided to take drum lessons. I reminded Steve, as I drummed on the back of his headrest, of the professor I had at Cincinnati Bible Seminary who began taking violin lessons when he was in his late 50s. I think my family pioneered a new Olympic sport, because never have I witnessed five people roll their eyes in synchrony.

The daughters continued having fun and were Snapchatting my car-dancing antics without my knowledge and reprimanding me for not having my writing done.

Aly: “Mom, we are going to be in Duluth soon. Everyone is going to be in awe of the Tall Ship Festival and the world’s biggest yellow rubber ducky — except you, if you don’t hurry up and finish — you will be sitting in the hot car writing … Is that what you want to happen?”

Phoebe peering over the seat noted: “Mom, you seriously only have one paragraph, shouldn’t you be writing?”

I noticed that Michael discreetly turned down the volume of the music.

Sheesh, kids can be such downers sometimes.

The car is quieter now.

Chloe is reading a book for fun since she just finished her sixth semester finals at Logan Chiropractic School yesterday morning. Phoebe, sitting next to Chloe in the third-row bench seat, is reading the “Raven Boys” — a book she checked out from the personal library of her best friend Abby Johnson.

Like our Canada fishing trips, Phoebe borrowing books from Abby’s extensive collection is a tradition. (Phoebe moves to Anderson the day we get back. Aly is sitting on the same bench seat with a barrier of blankets, and a trash bag full of skinny popcorn between us.)

Aly currently has her earplugs in and is returning emails, but has two books on her lap she picked up for our vacation: “Daring Greatly” by Brene Brown and “Big Magic” by Elizabeth Gilbert.

It’s a 21-hour drive to northwest Ontario before we arrive at the float-plane base, where we fly into Sandy Beach on Red Lake and unpack in our cabins — just like we’ve done nearly every year of our 27 years of marriage. And Steve’s family, decades prior.

Steve points to a Wisconsin hotel off the highway we stayed at a few years ago: “There’s where you and Phoebe were taking a walk and memorizing Bible Bowl verses one year.”

Car rides — the ultimate yearbook and better than Snapchat.

Janet Hommel Mangas grew up on the east side of Greenwood. The Center Grove area resident and her husband are the parents of three daughters. Send comments to