taconic motor speedway

Last weekend we took a long overdue trip up to Poughkeepsie, NY to visit some friends we haven't seen since Olivia turned 1. We were excited to check out the house they bought (which we'd only seen in pictures), reconnect with them and, most importantly for Olivia, see their 7 month old border terrier for the first time! Olivia has been saying 'puppy' A LOT lately, so we figured it was a sign that we needed to visit someone with a dog as soon as possible. Either that, or we needed to find out who this 'puppy' person was and invite them over for dinner already. "Oh so you're the puppy my daughter talks about so much. I expected someone a bit more...hairy than you, but whatever. Just ignore the milkbones I've set out for appetizers."

The day of the trip we got everything prepped and ready to go: the pack n' play, snacks, extra clothes and our new forward facing car seat that Olivia would be using for the first time. We'd imagined how much easier our road trips would be with her able to see us and the things in front of her: passing her food, bottles and toys would be a snap, she'd be able to throw said items back at us with more precision, we could expand her vocabulary more by pointing out things we see on the road, and I could teach her how to flip off the people who stay in the left lane and drive too slow. Seemed like a win-win to me.

I picked up our rental car, packed the gear and the girls in and we were off. We made a quick stop for some drive through food since the adults hadn't eaten lunch, and then began the slog through city traffic. Now that Olivia could see what we were doing, she quickly realized that we were eating and wanted a taste. So Jodi passed her back a french fry, which quickly turned into about five or six fries once the little one determined they were tasty. We finally broke free of the city and were greeted with the lush and inviting scenery of the Taconic State Parkway which, keep in mind, we had never been on before.

The Taconic, or TSP as it's lovingly referred to, was brought about by former President FDR's desire to have a scenic road for people traveling through the Hudson Valley on their way to some of the state parks in that area. Or at least, that's what Wikipedia wants us to believe. The reality is something far, far different: the Taconic is an American version of the German Autobahn. At first I noticed that the road itself was filled with twists and turns that put my driving to the test. Then I saw that while I was doing somewhere around 70-80 MPH there were people FLYING by me, zigging and zagging around the other cars. At one point I saw cars that had Tide and KFC logos plastered on them, and I could have swore I heard the drivers yelling out "Shake N' Bake!" as they passed us by.

So I'm doing my best to keep up with traffic but avoid killing us all, when Olivia starts to cry and complain. Jodi looks back and notices that one of the straps on the new seat might be digging into her neck. She does her best to calm her down, but suggests that maybe we stop to do something about it. Unfortunately for us the TSP doesn't have rest stops, gas stations or even emergency pull off areas, so we're kind of in a bind. I join Jodi in trying to calm Olivia down, and hope there's someplace we can pull off to soon. O begins to quiet down, which I think is a good sign, and that's when one of the worst things that could happen, happens: she starts puking.

Jodi sees the hurling commence and shouts out, "Oh no!" Probably not the best thing to yell out to a toddler who is getting her first taste of car sickness, but what else would you yell so as not to scare her? "Yahtzee!?" "You did it!?" "Not on the upholstery!?" I decide to risk taking my eyes off the road for a second and turn to see the third and final salvo come from our little girl. She slumps over and seems to close her eyes, and that's when I get panic stricken and think she's either choking or something is seriously wrong. "Do something! Make sure she's ok!" I exclaim to my wife as I navigate another twist in the road and pray for an off ramp. Jodi calls out to Olivia, and that's when the crying starts. I breathe one sigh of relief that she's breathing ok, and then one more as I see a sign for an exit.

I pull into what appears to be an abandoned mini strip mall of restaurants and jump out of the car to attend to my child. I open the backseat door, she holds her vomit covered arms up and gives me a look that says, "Get this shit off of me now, dada." The closest thing we have to a cleaning agent is baby wipes which, of course, we're almost out of. I wipe her down as much as I can, peel her out of the car seat and hand her off to mom so she can finish cleaning her up while I hose down the seat. As usual, I had left my yellow hazmat suit back at the meth lab with my partner Jesse, so I was forced to tackle this problem au natural. I will spare the gross details, but note that: a) the mess was contained to the safety seat and did not hit any part of the upholstery (thank god); 2) I had just enough wipes to take care of the mess; and VII) we had some plastic bags to put everything in and contain things.

After doing my part I ventured over to see how Jodi was doing with getting Olivia cleaned up. As I rounded the car I saw our little girl running around the parking lot in nothing but a diaper and socks, with her soiled clothes and more baby wipes strewn about. I was relieved to see her being playful after what was surely a traumatic experience for her. But I guess that's the thing with kids, they're pretty resilient. Then again, maybe someday when she's an adult she'll have some psychotherapeutic discovery that ties her fear of riding in cars to this moment in her life. Or not. Who knows, I'm sure I'll mess her up somehow.

After that incident Olivia seemed just fine. The visit with our friends went off without a hitch. Baby girl toyed with the puppy's emotions and loved/hated being being licked by the dog. We had a blast seeing our friends and are hoping to visit them again soon. On the ride back we decided not to chance fate and took an alternate route home. It took longer, there was plenty of traffic and Olivia became impatient with being in the car for so long. We ended up having to pull the sing-along card and start belting out 'Wheels on the Bus.' There's only so many things you can say are "on the bus" before you have to start making things up. In this version we had zombies on the bus who said "brains, brains, brains," Arnolds who said "Whatchoo talkin' bout?" and Dwaynes who said "Hey, hey, hey!" Parenting tip: in many situations it's just as important to keep the adults entertained as it is the kids.

Photo courtesy of the lovely and talented Jodi McKee