Anyone who knows us from Bournemouth will remember the Big Blue Happy Bus (our 7-seater minivan/MPV). There was only one rule about the Happy Bus: You Had To Be Happy to travel in it.
In order to collect my parents from Puerta Plata airport, and for our trip around Samana Peninsula, we hired a car. Over here in the DR they like their cars BIG – so Al wasn’t too surprised when I returned from the car hire company driving a Nissan Pathfinder (well, she did say I was in charge of car hire and it was the same price as the oh-so-sensible sensible minivan…..)
This four-wheel behemoth had a 4-litre V8 engine, three rows of seats, and tyres as big as the BFG’s dinner-plate. Talking to the front-seat passenger requried a megaphone, so great was the distance between the front seats.
I drove the Big White Happy Truck with great care. Partly because the roads are mad (badly maintained, with cars and motorikes going in every direction). Partly because the car drank petrol like a very thirsty fish – even at £3 per gallon, we got through £100 of petrol during the 5 days we had the car.
And yes, there was only one rule in the BWHT – YHTBH. All the kids enjoyed the view from the sunroof. Grandad didn’t enjoy the stereo very much, but did enjoy snoozing in the armchair-comfy seats. Granny enjoyed (this being the DR) that Katie or Zach needed to sit on someones lap. Al, sitting in the passenger seat, enjoyed more separation from me than she’s had in many months. Matthew enjoyed that he got to be away from Ben by sitting on the back bench seat, Ben was riven – torn between wanting to sit next to Grandad, and wanting to torment Matthew (which would have meant sitting in the back child-only bench seat). He found a compromise, sitting with Grandad and occasionally turning round to poke Matthew of deliver some similar annoyance to him. Me, I just enjoyed driving again, even on these pot-holed traffic-like-an-ant’s-nest roads.
After our 5-day hire we were all sad to see the car go back. Especially Zach: “Daddy, when are we getting our car back – I loved it, I really did”. It had carried us many miles in comfort and safety, and let us venture to places (on and off-road) that would otherwise have been unreachable. And maybe there is still more than a bit of petrolhead in me – the whoosh of the big engine, the push in the back as we accelerated past many a motorbike (and occasional car). That’s one of the harder things that I need to wean myself off as we strive for this simpler way of life.