Wednesday, June 20, 2012

A Child’s Applause, The Best Part of a Road Trip


“Are we there yet?” I suppose every parent has heard this well worn question, seemingly a requirement of every road trip. I have definitely heard it a fair amount of times, learning not to become annoyed at this challenge. And yes it is a challenge, a call to which I think every dad responds, whether he realizes it or not. The challenge to make the trip interesting, to give something worthy of the many hours spent playing the punch bug game in the back seat of a car, minivan or suv.

This past weekend we took a road trip during which I initially thought I had failed to deliver on the promise of keeping things interesting. Our two hour trek took us to Baltimore where, as part of the anniversary of the war of 1812 (has it really been 200 years) the city took part in OpSail while hosting for the first time an air show over the Inner Harbor. I had everything planned out. Of course nothing went as planned.

OpSail (short for Operation Sail) is an international celebration of tall sailing ships. The ships sail into a city, offering free public tours and opportunities to share in the different cultures of people from many different nations. OpSail was in Baltimore for about a week and I thought it a nice end of school year trip for my boys to see this unusual collection and their crews. However the crowds were so big that we did not get the opportunity to actually board any of the vessels.

The crowds were also too big for us to get a good spot for the air show that was part of the Baltimore festivities. And so we decided to do something a little different. Having seen air shows in the past we thought we would go to the airport where the planes were taking off and landing in preparation for the show. I must say the sound of a group of F-18’s warming their engines during their preflight checks is nothing short of amazing, a symphony of sorts for those who are interested in planes. While watching the take jets take off my oldest son declared his intention of one day flying a fighter; that is if his first dream of playing in the NFL does not work out.

Because of logistical problems at the airport (they were not ready for such big crowds) it took us a lot longer to get back to our car. What I saw as a delay was a blessing, God orchestrating something that made the trip worth the effort. You see as we rode on the shuttle to the parking lot the Blue Angels returned from the air show. We had seen them take off earlier and had not planned to be around for their return. But there they were flying in formation on a line that would take them right over our shuttle. They broke formation just as they passed over top. My youngest son watched as they turned toward the runway, one giving us a great view of its top as the plane banked in the turn. Without any prompting my youngest son began to clap, the only one on the bus doing so, showing his appreciation of the pilot’s skill.

Watching my son applaud the Blue Angels made the trip worth the effort. Nothing that day had gone as I had planned but I know seeing that blue and yellow plane will endure as one of those unforgettable moments in my son’s life. Yes I enjoyed seeing the jets and the tall ships but it was the applause of a small child that became the best part of a great road trip. It was at that point that I knew I had succeeded in meeting the challenge posed in the question, “Are we there yet?”

{BTW - OpSail will make two more stops in the U.S. this year, Boston on June 30th and new London on July 6th}

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