Two for the Road

ZOOMER Magazine - - DRIVING - By Re­becca Field Jager

WE CLINK OUR SHELLS to­gether i n a toast. Around us, rev­ellers buzz about the Toron­torestau­rant party room, eat­ing Cana­dian oys­ters and wash­ing them down with On­tario VQA wines. In this mo­ment, how­ever, de­spite the din, there is just the two of us, our eyes locked know­ingly. Ac­tu­ally, con­sid­er­ing we only met a few months ago, I know this man quite well.

For starters, I know that be­neath that tai­lored suit and cool de­meanour, his heart is thump­ing at the thought of getting this gelati­nous crea­ture down. As is mine.

Here’s to road trips, I mur­mur, re­fer­ring to a jour­ney we’d taken to­gether early on in our re­la­tion­ship and dur­ing which he tasted oys­ters for the first time.

Road trips are the stuff of many of our child­hood mem­o­ries. Back in the ’50s and ’60s, when most fam­i­liesowne­datlea­s­t­onecarand­newly con­structed high­ways criss­crossed the con­ti­nent, par­ents ev­ery­where loaded their kids into the back seat and took to the open road. So maybe it’s not sur­pris­ing then, that mere weeks into our courtship, when we both dis­cov­ered nei­ther of us had ever been to On­tario’s new­est wine ap­pel­la­tion, Prince Ed­ward County, we si­mul­ta­ne­ously bel­lowed, “Road trip!” And then, over glasses of wine and his lap­top, plot­ted a three-day ad­ven­ture.

Mind you, a few of my gal pals were sur­prised that I’d com­mit­ted to such a lengthy haul with some­one I hardly knew.

What if he’s a boar or, worse, a bore? But as a sin­gle boomer in the throes of on­line dat­ing, I don’t feel I need years to fig­ure out whether a per­son is, or isn’t, the one. I know what I like and dis­like, what will

grow on me or drive me in­sane. And so I viewed the road trip, dur­ing which we’d travel to­gether, eat to­gether, sleep to­gether, nav­i­gate and ne­go­ti­ate, like an all-en­com­pass­ing im­mer­sive ex­pe­ri­ence, a mi­cro­cosm of what life with this per­son might be.

Ac­cord­ing to Ellen Starr, a Toron­to­based cou­ples coun­sel­lor, my as­sess­ment is not off the rails. Road trips, she at­tests, can be a great way for cou­ples to ex­plore new­found re­la­tion­ships. “The plan­ning alone can serve as a lit­mus test, a road map to the fu­ture. Are both part­ners getting an equal say? How do you each han­dle com­pro­mise? How are re­spon­si­bil­i­ties such as book­ing ac­com­mo­da­tions di­vided?”

She says, too, that long­time cou­ples em­bark­ing on a new chap­ter in life – empty nesters, the newly re­tired – can ben­e­fit from the en­vi­ron­ment the in­te­rior of a ve­hi­cle on a lengthy jour­ney creates. Un­like the popu-

“I viewed the road trip, dur­ing which we’d travel to­gether, eat to­gether, sleep to­gether, nav­i­gate and ne­go­ti­ate, like an all-en­com­pass­ing im­mer­sive ex­pe­ri­ence, a mi­cro­cosm of what life with this per­son might be”

lar con­ven­tion of “pil­low talk,” with long, deep con­ver­sa­tions in which a cou­ple stares into each other’s eyes, in­ter­est­ingly, the fact that you’re not fac­ing each other can be less in­tim­i­dat­ing. “This is of­ten true for men es­pe­cially who tra­di­tion­ally drive, but women, too, might be more apt to be open when they can gaze out the win­dow, look­ing away.”

Sure enough, dur­ing the twoand-a-half-hour trek from Toronto to PEC, Roameo – as I’d se­cretly dubbed him, get it? – and I fell into a can­did con­ver­sa­tion with him ask­ing pointed ques­tions and he paus­ing osten­si­bly to ad­just the rear-view mir­ror or the air con­di­tion­ing but more likely to col­lect his thoughts be­fore an­swer­ing mine. I fid­dled with the lid of my wa­ter bot­tle or took a sud­den in­ter­est in the scenery be­fore spilling my guts about past angsts, fu­ture dreams.

By the time we pulled into Cribs on the Creek, a condo-style ac­com­mo­da­tion in down­town Welling­ton, we were both ready for some lighter con­ver­sa­tion and ex­cited to of­fi­cially start our hol­i­day.

If new re­la­tion­ships are all about chem­istry and a road trip is a cat­a­lyst, then our lovely room was the test tube in which a bit of him and a bit of me mixed to­gether to see if we would fiz­zle, bond or ex­plode. In the en­su­ing days, we learned a lot about each other from this ex­per­i­ment, from our lev­els of tidi­ness to our ap­petites for in­ti­macy. But it was from our time out and about that we learned the most about who the other is.

Here’s the thing: up until now, like many new duos, we’d spent most of our time to­gether in a bub­ble, tucked away in the cor­ner of some restau­rant or holed up in one an­other’s home alone, without the com­pany and com­plex­i­ties of fam­ily or friends. Road trips give cou­ples the chance to come up for air, to in­ter­act with other peo­ple and per­haps use these sto­ries to steer their own con­ver­sa­tions into deeper, un­char­tered wa­ters.

Prince Ed­ward County, a hot­bed of en­trepreneur­ship, is the per­fect place to go story hunt­ing. It is rife with risk-tak­ers – hote­liers, restau­ra­teurs, brew­mas­ters, ar­ti­sans and first-gen­er­a­tion wine­mak­ers – most of them happy to share their tales if they have time. As an en­tre­pre­neur my­self, I’m al­ways keen to hear a good roll-the-dice yarn and Roameo, a long-time cor­po­rate guy but with re­tire­ment and all its pos­si­bil­i­ties not far away, was, too.

And so, af­ter our vis­its, we’d sit on one of the many pa­tios that dot the re­gion sip­ping wine or craft beer, mar­vel­ling at the boots-on­the-ground na­ture of folks like Sam Ravenda, who left her Toronto job in the hospi­tal­ity busi­ness to open Sand and Pearl, a rus­tic seafood restau­rant and oys­ter bar on the main strip in Pic­ton. Or Dan and Lynn Sul­li­van, own­ers of Rose­hall Run Win­ery, who de­scribed the thrill and ter­ror of be­ing among the first to plant in this stony soil. Or Sarah Sk­lash, who, along with her best friend, bought a road­side fish­er­men’s lodg­ing and turned it into

The June Mo­tel, a swanky, un­apolo­get­i­cally pink, 1960s-es­que oa­sis. Or Caro­line Granger, owner of Grange of Prince Ed­ward Win­ery, who took the fam­ily farm of her youth, planted 10 acres and grew it into 60 acres of lush vine­yards, in which, by the way, we en­joyed a freshly pre­pared pic­nic. Roameo and I clinked our glasses to­gether to all of them! But it wasn’t all wine and rosés. In fact, per­haps our most telling mo­ment came when we were driv­ing away from one of these en­coun­ters on the last day of our jour­ney. I was do­ing what I al­ways do when I’ve en­joyed a hol­i­day, fan­ta­siz­ing about mov­ing to the desti­na­tion, bub­bling with ex­cite­ment of so many op­tions. I could barely con­tain my­self as I sat in the pas­sen­ger seat go­ing on about how cool it would be to open a busi­ness here, to try some­thing new.

But then, just when my en­thu­si­asm was about to reach its most pas­sion­ate peak, he asked me to bring up the cal­cu­la­tor on my cell­phone and in­put a se­ries of num­bers. How many cus­tomers was it rea­son­able to ex­pect? How many months is the av­er­age sea­son? What would the over­all op­er­a­tional costs look like? By the end of the ex­er­cise, my heart had sunk into the floor­board.

You’re damn right I gazed out at the scenery. A deep breath, and then I turned to him. “Well, aren’t you a buz­zkill?” Much to my sur­prise, without so much as check­ing a mir­ror, he let out a knee-slap­ping, hearty laugh, and I couldn’t help but start laugh­ing, too.

Oh sure, we may not ride off into the sun­set to­gether, I re­mem­ber think­ing, but we now know each other well enough to be our­selves in each other’s com­pany, and that’s a trip in it­self.

And it’s why, although we only date oc­ca­sion­ally, I’ve in­vited him to this wine and oys­ter evening. To road trips, he says, and we bring the shells to our lips, smiling bravely. And then, down the hatch we go.

In­side the tast­ing room at Rose­hall Run Win­ery, Prince Ed­ward County

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