Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Traveling Together or Is it Potty Break Time Yet?

One of the more unfortunate personal changes occurring in my body, and my hub's, as we age is our kidney capacity, or more accurately lack of our kidneys' capacity to hold quantities of liquid.  The loss of kidney fortitude over the years has affected our travel by car. Years ago, actually decades ago, the time span between pit stops could be hours. Stops were dictated by the need for gas. That has changed.

One reason things have changed is that cars get better gas mileage today and therefore the drive time between fill-ups is longer. That may be true, but is not the primary reason we stop. Someone has to pee, and in our family it is usually hub who needs to pull over first.

Last week we faced a ten hour trip home after visiting our son. We wanted to make the trip in one day and get home well before midnight.  Before leaving I suggested we drive at least two hours before the first stop.

We drove about an hour when hub had to pee. He couldn't wait another hour. At this rate we would get home sometime in the middle of the night. But once it got dark neither one of us would be able to sustain hours of driving; this too changes with age (at least with us). As summer turns into autumn, then winter, we lament the seasonal coming of shorter days; it gets dark by 5:00 p.m. and before 8:00 p.m. the last thing we want to do is drive and drive and drive…

If I ever write a book it is going to be an informational one about where and how to locate places to pee while traveling. Decades ago gas stations were the number one choice, but they became less than satisfactory. In recent years the rise of gas/convenience stores with usually fairly clean rest rooms has been a boon to travelers. Overseas travelers would be warned to exercise their thigh muscles; meager and at times no facilities may require squatting for essential functions. 

But back to the United States, the decline of kidneys and rise of rest stops. Hub often decides to get a cup of coffee or other drink before taking off again. That is fine, except it decreases driving time between stops. 

I remember an infamous car trip when our boys were about 6 and 8 years old. My sister-in-law, six months pregnant at the time, joined us. Our adventure began in San Francisco and ended at a relative's house in Los Angeles. It was a long trip, and we were hoping to complete it in one long, long day of driving - we were much younger then! We would stop and emphasize - anybody have to go? We're stopping now. Not everyone would take advantage of the opportunity. We would all pile back into the car with drinks and snacks. Sometimes less than ten minutes later a small, sheepish  voice - usually one of the boys or the pregnant mom -  would pipe up: I have to pee NOW. I thought those days were over.

I was wrong. As we age the time between pee stops decreases and the length of our car trips increase. In a few years we will either have to take a portable potty along with us or plan on spending more time on the road. That will mean motel stops because we will not have the energy, perseverance or bodies to endure long driving days while maneuvering in and out of a car. 

And so our aging journey of maturing cheerfully, although not necessarily comfortably or easily continues.


  1. I have found the same thing, it gets to be impossible to wait sometimes. Convenience stores do work, but also here in Washington state, grocery stores usually have decent restrooms and they are everywhere.

  2. We just got back from a road trip. At the first sign of an upcoming rest area, the driver says "do you need to rest?" Usually we need to rest. But it's good to walk around and stretch anyway.