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Day 11: Melancholy and the Infinite Maineness

05 Jul

Here it is, stupidly late at night, and I still am not finished packing. Mostly because I have been procrastinating. As if by not completing necessary tasks I can change the outcome. See, tomorrow I have to leave this glorious place, and to put it succinctly, I don’t want to go.

This morning seemed tinged with a touch of melancholy. We were all moving a little slower. Even our perpetually smiley Avery seemed a little down in the mouth. Everyone said they were fine, and no one admitted that anything was wrong, but I think we were all feeling the end. And sometimes the anticipation of the thing is worse than the thing itself. Except in this case. Leaving this view behind will be much worse than simply being sad about having to leave in the future. But it colored our morning, this weight around our heads. It was almost as if we went down to the beach because we felt we should, it was what we were supposed to do. And I’m glad we did, even if it was a bit more subdued. We had our rental kayaks for one final day and we got good use out of them. At first the girls simply paddled about in the harbor, then Beau took one out on another out-of-sight solo excursion, as the girls switched to inner tubes. Then I had the idea to put my book in a plastic bag and paddle out into the middle of the harbor so I could just drift and read. (A brilliant idea, if I do say so myself!) Then Beau and I took off for an excursion out of the harbor, this time turning left instead of right towards Lands End. Just outside the mouth of Little Harbor we discovered that we were on the other side of the Giant’s Stairs, where we had spent so much time playing on the rocks the day before. I knew it was close – after all we didn’t drive that far – but I truly wasn’t expecting it to be so close by water. At this point it was high tide, and I could absolutely see why the cottage owners told us it was best to go at low tide to see them. While still beautiful and impressive, they were much more impactful at low tide. It was a little unnerving to be out in open water, experiencing the chop borne of wave action and boat wake, especially given the need to give those rocks a wide berth. I didn’t want the rocks to become impactful on a physical level! So it was a relatively quick trip.

After all the kids went up to the house I took one of our inflatable inner tubes out into Little Harbor, and just floated. It was truly sublime. I just laid back, my rear finally acclimated to the chilly water, and let the water take me as I chased cars in my head. I don’t often get opportunities to complete unplug from everything, but this was one. No phone, no books, no kids. Weightless on the water. Enjoying the sun on my face, the cool breeze on my bare arms, and a smile on my face. It felt like a fitting goodbye to Little Harbor, which is now the keeper of a whole new year’s Maine memories.

It was time to make a dent on clearing out the refrigerator and have a late lunch. I suppose I should have been thinking about packing up and getting things under control to leave tomorrow, but that just wasn’t going to happen. After lunch I was reading on the porch (natch!) when the owners walked through the yard coming up from the beach. It was pleasant speaking with them. At one point they said that if I thought I might want to return next year I should let them know the dates I was interested in as soon as possible, as they frequently book the majority of the summer weeks with return visitors. IF? If I want to return?? I definitely want to return. I would spend my entire life just sitting on that porch if I could! But next summer is going to be a sleep-away camp summer for the girls, and this house is too big for just Beau and me. Maybe I could convince some friends to go in on the rental with me. Anyone interested in spending a week in Maine next summer? The house is rustic, to be sure, and has its odd quirks (for example, none of the upstairs bedrooms have ceilings. It’s like a cubical farm of rooms up there!) But honestly, you aren’t going to spend much time in your room, because, well, did I mention the porch?

After Avery and I had a little post-lunch ice cream (hey, we have to clean out the freezer, too!) the girls and I went back down to the beach for some final spins in the kayaks and tubes. It was fun to just play with my kids. At one point Avery was in a kayak, Harper and I were in tubes, and I was using the kayak paddle from my tube to drag us around the harbor. We were laughing and being goofy, and I had this sensation like life really just couldn’t get any better. But time was ticking on. Luckily, Beau came back down onto the beach and could help me transport the rental kayaks back into our yard to be picked up, while the girls brought the paddles, lifejackets, and tubes back up to the house. It was time to say goodbye to the beach. Once I got the kayaks and accessories laid out on the lawn, I parked myself in my favorite spot. Feet up on the rail, reading a book. I did have to pause and put on a fleece, and then wrap my legs in a towel. I would like to blame some of this nonsense on the fact I was still wearing a slightly damp bathing suit, but the truth is, my thin Florida blood is now reading 70 degrees and breezy as down right cold. But please don’t confuse that with a complaint! I was delighted to feel chilly and I will take any excuse to wear a fleece!

Eventually, it was time to come inside, shower, and start the process of ending our Maine vacation. Rustic also means there is no dishwasher, so I had to dig in and work my way through a large pile. There was also some laundry to do, seeing as how we are still 10 days from home. And we certainly unpacked and made ourselves comfortable here in the Nezinscott cottage! But I just couldn’t find the motivation. So I did the minimum, made a list of things to do tomorrow before our 11am check-out, and found any manner of things to waste time. Including this. But it’s time. Time to pack away the souvenirs, the towels, the tubes, the sunscreen, the clothes, and the books. I wish I had a nickel for every time this week that one of my kids has asked me some variation on, “So, why don’t we live here?” Because if I did, we could buy a place! I can’t believe the week is over, but tomorrow is a slow roll out of our favorite state, so we can savor the sights. I know it’s a naivete born of halcyon summers, without the suffering of brutal winters, but I do wish I could give my kids an infinite Maineness, so we wouldn’t have to experience the melancholy.


Day 10: The Way Life Should Be

04 Jul

This year, as we drove over the Piscataqua River Bridge, crossing into Maine from New Hampshire, we were greeted by a new road sign. It said, “Maine – Welcome Home.” It amused us with many jokes as one of the kids excitedly said, “Well, I guess we live here now!” But I was missing the old sign. We used to be greeted with a sign that said, “Maine – The Way Life Should Be.” That always made me smile. Because all of my experiences in Maine have indeed fit that description. Of course, I somewhat pad the deck by coming to Maine from Florida in the summer. But I have always had this sense of peace in my chest, every time I’ve been here, that this feeling of happiness and beauty would be a welcome way for life to be. Always.

Today, our Independence Day, lived up to the Maine state slogan. Because it was exactly the way life should be. I am ever so grateful to the cottage owner for suggesting I call Paddle Maine to rent kayaks. Even with the delivery snafu, if has been wonderful to have those boats available to us. I started my day like every other one this week, sitting on the porch reading. But when Avery said she wanted to go out in the kayak to explore a rock island that was only visible because it was low tide, I put aside the thing I wanted to do to accommodate her desires. As a side note: I do not always do that. Of the many things I have done badly as a mother, I think the fact that my children are aware and respect the fact that I am an individual apart from them is a triumph. Sometimes it is Mommy’s turn, and I do not have a problem asserting that. But when the baby of the group wants to take out a kayak, and you’re in Maine for only a short time, you change out of your pajama pants and walk down to the beach. We carried the kayaks down the exposed beach to the low water line and paddled out a bit, just messing around and enjoying each others company. It was likely our laughter down in the Harbor that drew Harper out to the beach, decked in her swimsuit and ready to go. I left the girls in the Harbor together and came back up to change and gather things for an extended time on the beach (by which I mean my chair and book!) Eventually, Beau appeared and the day just unfolded in a lazy, beautiful way. Beau wanted to take one of the kayaks and paddle around the point to Land’s End, the tip of Bailey Island. It really isn’t far from our protected Little Harbor, but it does require leaving the safety of the cove to venture into the edge of the Atlantic. I had originally told him that I wanted to go with him, but thinking on it more, I realized that in less than two months, he is going to begin driving a car. It’s time to let him venture forth into scary situations and trust him to handle himself in whatever circumstances arise. While he was off on his adventure, the girls splashed about in the harbor in tubes, we played some catch with the Nerf football, and I even got a few chapters read. Harper also wanted to paddle out of the cove, but I was not ready to give her the same free rein I gave Beau. So once he returned, Harper and I paddled out together, while the other two went back up to the house. We didn’t push all the way to Land’s End, but did paddle a little along the Casco Bay coast, and I was thankful for these sturdy, recreational kayaks, as it was much choppier with the wakes and waves of the end of high tide. We turned back and explored the edges of our harbor, finding an excellent little hidden beach. After beaching and securing the kayaks we also returned to the house. It was early afternoon and time for a late lunch. And because it was the 4th of July, I’m pretty sure it’s part of all non-vegetarian’s pledge as Americans to grill meat! I threw the remaining chicken breasts and hot dogs on the grill, and inspired by Scott’s culinary prowess, sauteed the rest of the onions.

After lunch it was time for Avery’s trip to Land’s End, but this one was achieved via foot. I threw on my bought special for the occasion 4th of July t-shirt (It reads: “Happy Treason Day Ungrateful Colonials” with a large Union Jack flag) and we walked down the road. The Land’s End Gift Shop at the end of Bailey Island is enormous and packed full of all manner of tourist tchotchke. We filled up our arms with t-shirts and postcards and Christmas ornaments. It is our tradition to buy a Christmas ornament at all the places we travel. Which makes decorating the Christmas tree a wonderful trip down memory lane. We also bought Harper a hooded sweatshirt that says “Harpswell”, as that is technically the name of the town we are in. Avery and I gazed out at the lovely coast, and even used one of those old-fashioned view finders, the large silver machines that you feed quarters and essentially gives you binocular vision. It was a very pleasant sojourn.

One of the attractions in Harpswell is a geological formation known as Giant’s Stairs. I knew it was a place I wanted to visit, and the cottage owner suggested we go at low tide, but I wasn’t really quite sure what to expect of this trail. I packed the kids into the van and we traveled the 1/2 mile or so to the McIntosh Lot Preserve. The trail itself is just a narrow dirt/gravel trail along the edge of the cliff, but the real attraction is the vast expanse of exposed rock that is open for climbing and exploring. As a bit of a geology nerd myself, I found the Giant’s Stairs area fascinating. There was a sign at the head of the trail explaining that there are several different types of rock exposed in this area – the majority of which is schist, a light gray, flaky, metamorphic rock, shot through with veins of mica, garnet, and quartz. The Giant’s Stairs themselves are an igneous basalt rock that formed when magma rose to the surface through cracks in the schist and cooled. And even if that explanation did nothing to excite you, I still think you would be impressed by the scale and beauty. There is something so amazing to me about seeing rock that was clearly formed as sediment in a horizontal layer, turned completely vertical. I turned the kids loose and they proceeded to scamper all over the vast formations. It turned into a study in my children’s personalities. Harper, as it turns out, is part mountain goat. She especially loves to climb and scamper over rocks, so she was off like a shot. Beau took his time, picking paths, and spent a good deal of the time either standing still or sitting and gazing out at the ocean in contemplation. Avery was off on her own some, but also spent a great deal of time by my side, in conversation. I was not sure what I expected of Giant’s Stairs, but I am thankful that we went to check it out. What I assumed would be a quick trip turned into an extended, and very enjoyable interaction with nature. Harper even contributed to the collection of cairns (stacked rocks) that were scattered about.

Another attraction in Harpswell that we had been informed of is a little place called Island Candy Company on Orr’s Island. After hiking and scampering about on rocks, we loaded back up and crossed the insanely narrow bridge from Bailey Island back up to Orr’s Island. What we discovered was a gourmet shop dressed in rustic clothing. We will have to return tomorrow, as I opted for Maine Sea Salt Caramel ice cream today, but that Strawberry Balsamic popsicle was also calling my name. We all got a treat, and I enjoyed the conversation with the locals who were running the shop. They also have an intensely lovely garden in front. They said that the roses surrounding the trellis at the opening of the garden typically bloomed a few days before the 4th of July, so they were a few days late this year, but you could see pink buds on the verge, so I wonder if they will be in bloom before we leave on Saturday.

Back at the house I talked the girls into watching a movie with me. As it got truly dark we started to hear fireworks, so we rushed out onto the porch to see if any were visible. Unfortunately our view of immediate fireworks was mostly blocked by the tall trees, but we could see quite an impressive display in the distance. We decided those were likely the ones being set off at the LLBean 4th of July Celebration in Freeport. Then I turned the girls loose with sparklers I had brought from home. They danced in the grass of the front yard, waving their sparklers around and spelling words that left tracers in our eyes. Avery at one point, while watching Harper dance, said, “This is incinerating our corneas, but it’s so fun!” Once they had burned through the sparklers we took advantage of the gas stove and had an indoor marshmallow roast. Then, in true America fashion, I dozed off on the couch while finishing our movie. Overall, it was one of those sublime vacation days. Filled with both ease and adventure. You know, the way life should be.


Days 8-9: We’re getting the band back together!

03 Jul

What a busy two days it has been! Which seems a strange thing to say since much of it was spent doing nothing. Tuesday morning we went down to the Little Harbor beach – accessible from our cottage via a fairly steep staircase. We took our inner tubes and floated on the ice cold water. There were some serious shrieks emitted as we plunged feet and rear ends into the water. I say it was icy, but really the temp was likely somewhere between 58-60 degrees. Still felt bone-chilling on my butt! After a few hours of messing around in the water and sitting reading on the rocks, we came back up the house. That’s when I noticed that my Keens are giving me the most bizarre tan lines on my feet. I am a Florida girl, so I typically have a perpetual flip-flop tan, but this is something else! My feet are beginning to look like a leopard’s pelt! Mental note: remove shoes when simply sitting on the rocks.

But messing around in the almost deserted harbor is not what made Tuesday so great. You ever have a friend who just gets you? For me that might be a person with which I share a love of storytelling, a similar wicked sense of humor, a distaste of being politically correct, and a love of books, words, trivia, and the all important Oxford comma. I once had this friend and co-worker who fit that bill, and he was very dear to me. But he up and left Florida to return to his home state. And while the loss of having my friend in close proximity has been difficult to bear, lucky for me his home state is Maine! Which made Tuesday and Wednesday feel like old home week. (Reunited and it feels so good!) For one night only, Scott and Krista were getting the band back together! It really is a shame that we weren’t anywhere that a game of bar trivia was available to be played, because we would have crushed it. But then again, when it comes to a place to sit, drink beers, and catch up after an absence, there really is no better place than the porch at Nezinscott. It was truly a joy to just sit and talk for hours – trading stories, rehashing memories, and catching up on our lives today. We also took a walk down to the very tip of Bailey’s Island. It is a beautiful vista, and as we stood on the rocks looking out at the Atlantic and the small islands just off the rocky shore, we realized that there were many tourists behind us taking pictures. Which meant that we were in almost all of their photos. It was so tempting to act out a scene just for their amusement. We could have played a hysterical fake proposal – so many different options to delight and engage a crowd! But instead, we decided to behave as good humans, and move on so others could chronicle the fact they had seen the view. The Land’s End Gift Shop, down on the point of Bailey’s Island, is definitely a place the kids and I will walk down to visit before we leave. It is full of delightful tourist tchotchke and I’m sure I’ll be able to find the perfect Christmas ornament to represent this year’s trip to this sublime little corner of Maine.

Back from a walk out of earshot of my darling little children, we settled back onto the porch for a little bit more until hunger drove us to remove meat from the refrigerator and throw it on the grill. Turns out Scott is a little bit of a cook now – those sauteed onions certainly made the meal! Luckily, I remembered to pack bug spray so that we did not become a meal for the blood-thirsty mosquitos that come swarming up at dusk and well into the night. Being the old people we are now, we decided to call it a night around 10:45pm. As we were getting the couch set up for Scott, we heard noises in the front yard. Earlier in the day I had made reservations for rental kayaks to be delivered. They told me it would be some time after 6pm. I hadn’t really thought about how late it was getting until a little after 10pm and I commented that I guess those kayaks weren’t getting delivered after all. When we heard noises in the front yard, we ran out, and I fumbled to turn on the porch lights (the rest of the house was blazing with light). We got out there just in time to see a pick-up truck with a trailer of kayaks, that was backed into the yard, pulling away. No one had knocked on the door, there had been no communication, and they didn’t stop even though we were trying to flag them down in the pitch black by waving our lit up cell phones at them. Truly bizarre and incomprehensible. But hey, it was almost 11pm, what were we going to do?

After a good night’s sleep, it was, of course, time to sit on the porch some more! As my children began to appear, I talked Harper into making us pancakes. It truly is wonderful having a little chef in the family! After a pleasant morning, it was regretfully time for Scott to hit the road, but not before I roped him into a quick project… Turns out the kayak delivery did happen at almost 11pm, but they had wordlessly dropped the kayaks in the yard of the immediate next door neighbor, who happens to be the owner of the cottage I’m renting. Thankfully he came over after discovering the snafu and told us an easier way to get the kayaks from his yard to the beach (without trying to transport them down the step steps!) Let me tell you, these recreational kayaks are not light, and I am so grateful to Scott for making two trips down and around to the beach carrying these monsters when he was just going to get in his car and drive home without getting to experience paddling out.

And we really did have fun with the kayaks today. The kids came tumbling down to the beach as soon as we had the kayaks in place. After pushing them out, I left them with the instruction that no one was to leave the protected harbor, and anyone in the boat had on a life jacket. While I was up at the house cleaning up and changing into a bathing suit, all three kids were down in the harbor. Stepping out on the porch I could see them, two in kayaks and one in an inflatable tube, playing and carousing together, trading off who was in the kayak, and just generally having a grand time. I’m not going to lie, I lingered in the house just so that could continue. I love it when my children bond with one another outside of my presence. I could hear their laughter from the porch and it made my heart glad. Once I got down to the beach I spent some time reading while they played, and then I had my turn in one of the kayaks. Beau, who is a rather confident kayaker, and I went out to the edges of the harbor, where it touches the open ocean. We explored a little bit, but did not truly venture out of the mouth of the harbor – the wind was kicking up and the tide was about to turn to run out. So we came back into the shallows and Beau ditched his boat on the shore before coming back out into the water to sit like a hood ornament on the front of my kayak. It was a fun bonding experience to spend time being silly with my 14 year old son. And not much sillier than him standing up on the nose of my kayak attempting yoga poses. Impressively, he only dumped off once or twice, but we laughed a lot and for that I am grateful. After securely beaching the kayaks, we stayed in the shin-deep water throwing a Nerf football around. It really was a lovely morning and afternoon.

Once we got back up to the house, I checked movie times in Brunswick. I had promised Beau that he could go see a movie by himself while the girls and I went to see Toy Story 4. Based on the movie times, Beau opted for a horror movie (Midsommar), and the girls and I enjoyed some Pixar silliness. Not for nothing, it was not by a long stretch the best of the Toy Story movies. And it had some horror sequences itself! (If you’ve seen it, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Those things are going to haunt my dreams.) But I’m not crying, you’re crying! It still hit me in the feels. Can Tom Hanks do any wrong? Beau’s movie was significantly longer than ours, so we walked across the parking lot to the Goodwill store, where we found all manner of useless items to entertain ourselves with, and some practical items that resolved deficiencies (those Dollar store flip-flops really didn’t hold their value, so the water shoes from the Goodwill will have their use.) Once we had acquired Beau, we headed back to the house, where I, you guessed it, parked myself back on the porch with a book. Beau sat outside with me for a bit, playing music on his bluetooth speaker. It was a companionable scene. And then the gull returned. I swear, there is a seagull here who is stalking me. I’m sure it’s just that some prior resident hand-fed him, but this massive seagull comes every afternoon and sits on the lawn right in front of the porch, staring at me. Like making direct eye contact staring at me. At first it was more than a little unnerving, but now he feels like an old friend.

It has been a wonderful week thus far, but these days have been the best of it. I am so thankful that Scott took the time to drive over and hang out. I miss my friend. It’s hard to believe this week is half over. But no time to be regretful for the passage of time, time for me to get back out on that porch…


Day 7: A Case of the Mondays

01 Jul

It seems that there was a case of the Mondays going around today. Heard from a few friends who were not having a good day. Kind of makes me feel bad that mine started off so well. Though the universe did see fit to throw a bit of a wrench into my afternoon. But luckily for me, it all turned out okay in the end.

I was up by 6:00am this morning. Not really my idea, not even sure why it happened. I’m not typically light-sensitive when I sleep. I’ve been known on more than one occasion to fall asleep reading and leave the lamp on the entire night. But I felt fairly chipper even at the early hour, so I gathered up my book and headed out to the porch to read. This view is so terrifically sublime, that it is actually somewhat distracting to my reading. But feels a small price to pay. I read on the porch for almost two hours and then started feeling drowsy. The rest of the house wasn’t yet stirring, so at 8:45am I went back into my bedroom and laid down for what became an hour long nap! Yes, by 9:45am I had already taken a nap! Talk about vacation victory! As the tide was now coming in, I changed out of my flannel pajama pants (my goal this vacation is to spend a tremendous amount of time in them!) and wandered down to the Little Harbor beach. It felt lovely to wade in the water – it was chilly on my feet, but not bone-chilling. I love rock beaches with so many different types of rocks to see and touch. I’m kind of a geological nerd that way. After a nice stroll and wade, I headed back up to the house for more porch sitting. As I went to sit down in the perfectly placed Adirondack chair, I was surprised to discover that we had some authentic Maine wildlife in our yard. But I must admit it was not what I was expecting. It was 4 turkey hens! Which just cracked me up because my parents have wild turkeys in their yard in Mandarin (Jacksonville, Florida) all the time! We come up here wishing against all hope to see moose and whales, even bear, but what do I get? Turkeys! Eventually they flew down off the ridge the house is situated on and I managed to get some funny photos and a very brief video of them taking flight. Don’t know if you’ve ever seen a turkey fly, but they aren’t graceful. They are very bottom heavy, and I just think it was a good thing they were flying *down* towards the beach! During this time Avery was taking her turn exploring the beach and playing on the rocks, so Beau and I sat on the porch have a nice quiet conversation. It was very peaceful and a lovely way to spend a morning.

In the afternoon we ventured forth from the house to fulfill a promise I had made to Beau about re-visiting a record shop we had visited on his 13th birthday. It’s a place called Bull Moose, and it is more than a record shop, but Beau was there to exclusively shop vinyl. Bull Moose also sells CDs (I picked up an Everything But the Girl disc), VHS tapes, DVDs (Picked up a copy of Win a Date with Tad Hamilton because it is silly and Topher Grace talking about Kate Bosworth’s different smiles hits me so deep in the feels), books, and other various pop culture games and paraphernalia. We first hit their Brunswick location as it is closest to our rental on Bailey’s Island/Harpswell. They had several things he wanted, but there was promise of another treasure at a different Bull Moose location. So, after a delicious and incredibly filling lunch at Portland Pie Company in Brunswick, we set Waze for the Middle Street Bull Moose location and started to head south. And that’s when the wrench hit me like something out of Dodgeball. A warning light I have never seen before lit up on my dash. “Check Emissions System” was suddenly glaring at me in bright yellow. Oh. No. The first thing I did was have Beau pull the manual out and decipher the meaning of the light. It basically said, if it turns on see the dealer, if it starts flashing, pull the car over. Luckily for us, it was just on, a solid yellow reminder that all was not well in my world. The next task for him, as I continued to drive towards Portland, was to look up the location of all the Honda dealerships in Maine, and get me connected to the Portland dealership. After a quick phone call, the service department said they could take a look at it if I could get it to them within the next 45 minutes. Since we were so close to the shop by that time, I did let Beau run into Bull Moose quickly. Once he had emerged triumphant with the sacred vinyl, we high-tailed it over to the dealership. Long story short, after about 1 hour and $45 they were able to give me the peace of mind that it was simply a problem with the gas cap not being screwed on tight enough. Phew! Of course, the really funny thing was that we had driven no more than 5 miles from the dealership when the darn light came on again. After a call back to the service advisor (and his brief chat with the service tech), he reported that the only error code that came up on the computer had to do with the gas cap, and the van had cleared all other potential problems. So he encouraged me to ignore the light, assume that it would turn off after another few times turning over the ignition, but if it didn’t I might need to get my gas cap replaced. I sure do hate it when reality intrudes on my vacations!

But I am good at ignoring red flags, so we continued along our merry way, jumping off the interstate to visit the mothership – the LL Bean Flagship store in Freeport. It was weird this year. The store itself seems to be dwindling in stock. Lots more open spaces on the floor. But we participated in our usual rituals – taking photos in front of the giant Bean Boot, and taking the kids’ photo inside the viewing spot of the huge trout tank (starting to be a tight fit for them). I bought a shirt and a pencil pouch (which I, of course, had monogrammed because I get it free with my LL Bean credit card!) But with a store credit from returning a bathing suit, my “Bean Bucks” from the credit card, and the 20% sale they were having, I ended up only paying $8.07 at checkout. That is by far the least I have ever spent in the Freeport store. Ever!

After a brief stop at the Hannaford in Brunswick to pick up a few supplies we missed on the first shopping trip, we were sailing back along those twisty rural roads racing the dying of the light. Not going to lie, I have no desire, nor intention, to drive those in full darkness! With the exception of the scare with the van, it really was a lovely day. And now, other than a promised trip to the movies one evening, I don’t really see us leaving Harpswell again until its time to leave for good. It was a nice day of adventure, but I’m ready for another do nothing day.

And I encourage you to stay tuned, there might be a guest star in the next installment…


Day 6: Sunday, Rainy Sunday

30 Jun

Today was exactly the day I needed after 5 days of hard, action-packed traveling. I did nothing. It was a do nothing day. Rain poured down for much of the day. The morning was perfectly lovely, nice and cool, sun shining, perfect for porch sitting. I had set as my day’s goal to finish the book I was currently reading (re-reading actually – The Time Traveler’s Wife – been pondering the sliding doors of life lately). And I accomplished my goal!! But my day literally went like this: rose late, sat on porch with book, watched from the porch as the girls wandered down to Little Harbor (they returned fairly quickly as I believe the word Avery used was “hypothermia”), inside to take a nap in bed, watched rain from the porch, lounged on couch with book, took shower, lounged on couch to finish book, cooked dinner, played board games with the kids, writing post, headed to bed shortly with new book. That’s it. And it was sublime.

More adventure awaits tomorrow. Beau has requested a trip into Brunswick to a favorite shop, and we’ll likely try to hit some area hikes and attractions. But sometimes, we need to revel in the do nothing day.


Day 6: By the numbers

Odometer: 128,506 – 128,506 (o miles) – Didn’t even start the car!

Total travel time: 0 hours (traveled from bedroom to porch to kitchen)

States traveled through/in: 1 (MAINE, Baby!)

Current standings in the CMRT 2019 Lottery Project: $27 in/$6 out (-$21 loss) – played the tickets bought in MA & ME – the lottery project is not going well!

Number of states found in our license plate-palooza: 0 –> Total of 46/51 – literally didn’t leave the house today!


Day 5: Maybe it was Providence

29 Jun

One of the definitions of providence is “a manifestation of divine care or direction.” And today felt like maybe it was providence that we were in Providence. First, if you are ever in need of a hotel in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, I highly recommend the Hilton. Not that we actually spent any time looking around Pawtucket, and I hope we didn’t miss anything too delightful, but the Hilton was quite nice, and perfectly located to jump back on the interstate to backtrack slightly to Providence (since we had missed our opportunity to visit yesterday.) We had a casual start to the day, no rush to get back in the car. This was Maine arrival day, but we weren’t allowed in the cottage until late afternoon anyway, so why not take a look around Providence?

Harper has been saying for years that she would like to attend the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) for fashion design. So our first stop was the RISD shop for her to procure a new sweatshirt. Then we walked around peeking into the windows of buildings – their Nature Lab looks amazing! As we walked past the RISD Art Museum, I questioned whether or not we really had time for this. But it seemed a carpe diem moment, and I told the kids that it would have to be an abbreviated visit, but we could take a quick spin. And oh how glad I am that we did! They have an astounding collection. Truly. I was actually quite stunned. I was most taken with a Frank Lloyd Wright library table and an unfinished Cassatt. But they had all the big-name impressionists you could care to see, as well as extensive Greek, Roman, and Egyptian galleries. Right now they also had a special exhibit of Gorham silver which was fascinating. And Harper was quite taken with their costume and textile collections, including some student work. Again I felt like I only saw about 50% of the available collection, but any is better than none in this occasion!

After visiting the RISD Museum, the kids and I hiked a few blocks uphill to the campus of Brown. I just wanted to see it, and for them to see it. It was absolutely delightful, and we only peeked in on one quad in all it’s green grass juxtaposed against old, red brick austerity. I wouldn’t be mad if any of my kids wanted to attend either of these schools.

Yesterday, Beau had been hoping to visit a very special bookshop in Providence, but we got in too late. Now, here was my chance to redeem myself as a mother, and get him to the cool place he researched. Their website is, but the shop is called Lovecraft Arts & Sciences, a place dedicated to, as they tell it, “Providence’s own master of Weird tales, author H. P. Lovecraft.” Beau loves the horror genre in general, so this was his kind of place. When we walked in the shop keeper was in a discussion with a very pretentious customer. He was trying to mansplain something about Lovecraft and his genre to her, and she just schooled him. It was very amusing. As a bonus, I bought a cool Rhode Island t-shirt, and Beau got a cool Lovecraft t-shirt. I am a t-shirt junkie myself, so I tell myself this is really just me doing some back-to-school shopping before he starts high school!

Though there were many more things to see and do in Providence (If I was a real US History teacher I would have pulled over at the Slater Mill Historic Site!), we were not just racing the clock to get to Maine, we were racing the tide! Every other year of Crazy Momma’s Road Trip we have rented the same house in Kennebunkport, Maine, a lovely cottage at the end of a quiet street, basically fronting on a semi-private beach along Turbat’s Creek. The house was sold – though seems to be back on the market! (Side note: Any one have $760,000 they want to give me?) But the house was off the rental market, and thus the reason I went looking for a new location and a new adventure in Maine. However, we all have a soft spot for Turbat’s Creek. It has been the location of so many dear, dear memories. And one of the coolest things about Turbat’s Creek is that it is tidal, with huge shifts. When the tide is out, you can walk across the mud flat that was previously underwater during high tide, and ford the now ankle-deep creek to Vaughan’s Island Preserve. I had charted the tides before leaving Florida, and knew that the low tide, and therefore the best time to visit, would be at 3:01pm today. Unfortunately, we lingered a bit too long, and with a fuel stop, we ended up arriving at the creek closer to 4:00pm. We could still walk across to Vaughan’s, but it was no longer ankle deep. And if it’s one thing I know about the tides on the creek, it’s that they move fast. Very fast. And you can find yourself swimming back across from Vaughan’s! So, though it was rushed, and not ideal – the kids wanted to play longer on the rocks and I wanted to spend more time exploring the tidal pools – I’m still so grateful that we were able to catch it at all. After a few more minutes of playing on the exposed rocks closer to the beach, and bonding with a huge, particularly friendly seagull, we loaded back in the van. With a wistful look back at “our” house, we headed into town. Beau had asked particularly if we could get a meal at Roma’s Pizza in Kennebunkport, and I was very happy to comply with that request. Roma’s is authentic, New York style pizza, and it was absolutely worth the drive from Florida!

After stuffing ourselves with pizza – and when I say we stuffed ourselves, I mean it was almost obscene – we got back on the road to our new rental cottage. Our first stop though, was in Brunswick for groceries. We love the Hannaford grocery store chain. We love them for many reasons, especially one involving liquor and another involving cereal. When one is shopping for a week’s worth of vacation home groceries, it is particularly helpful that Hannaford sells liquor, right there on the grocery store aisles! Check! Throw that in the cart. And while I happily buy store-brand most everything else, I am not typically a purchaser of store-brand cereal. We are very big on cereal in my family. We tend to splurge on name brands. But Beau and I fell in love with Hannaford’s store brand version of Crispix, mostly because they are called “Crispy Hexagons.” For some reason that makes us laugh and laugh. But tonight we may have found something even better. Because we discovered that their store brand version of Life cereal is called “Easy Living Oat Squares Cereal.” Easy Living! Yes, please! I am not entirely sure how we managed to fit all of the groceries into our already fairly packed van, but we did. It was an easy and stunningly beautiful drive from Brunswick to the house on Bailey Island.  Very narrow, windy, rural roads, with much greater elevation changes than I expected. We arrived with enough light to unload the car, choose bedrooms, and take a quick walk down to our new semi-private beach. I also had time to drink a cocktail on the porch, sitting in an Adirondack chair, feet on the rail, overlooking Little Harbor and the Atlantic Ocean before I lost the light and a massive thunderstorm came rolling in. I think it best that I tell you more about the house and location tomorrow. I have a feeling that the sun and the children may be getting me up tomorrow much earlier than I may choose. But suffice it to say, we arrived. The sign just past the Piscataqua River Bridge says, “Maine – Welcome Home. The Way Life Should Be.” Sigh. Ahhhhh, yes. Let it begin…



Day 5: By the numbers

Odometer: 128,275 – 128,506 (231 miles)
Total travel time: 12 hours (most spent exploring – only 4 hrs driving)
States traveled through/in: 4 (RI, MA, NH, ME)
Current standings in the CMRT 2019 Lottery Project: $10 in/$6 out (-$4 loss) – bought tickets in MA & ME, but forgot to play them!
Number of states found in our license plate-palooza: 1 –> Total of 46/51

Day 4: Two Tears in a Bucket — Pawtucket

28 Jun

It’s hard to think about today without starting with the end, the struggling end. It was a painful drive – on almost all levels. What should have been a 7.5 hr drive from Gettysburg to Pawtucket, Rhode Island, with an intermediary stop to take our (almost) annual picture in Weehawken, NJ, turned into a 9 hour drive, and we didn’t get to Hamilton Park. Which means we have now added Weehawken to our southbound itinerary – which makes me nervous because what if we have a problem on that day? I adore watching how the children have grown year by year as measured by the fence in Hamilton Park. But, today was not the day for that visit. So I’ll have to trust the universe that after today’s issues, the way will be made clear in July. I have rarely experienced more unpleasant drives. There have been a few, I mean, at least this time I didn’t have a migraine, like one drive last CMRT that required an unscheduled stop for the night. But the traffic trying to leave PA was just beyond anything I could have expected. Then you add in a driving rainstorm. Then back to full on stop and go traffic. But the universe does have a sense of humor, because we were stuck for a good portion of it behind a tanker truck apparently filled with liquid egg products. Which given two of my three children have egg allergies, kind of made me laugh. The traffic and driving conditions were killing me and we were stuck behind a truck filled with liquid that could kill them! (Okay, maybe that’s being overly-dramatic. Their reactions to exposures are severe gastrointestinal distress, not anaphylaxis, but it was still absurd.) As I was watching the conditions deteriorate and the time continue to click over, I started to fret. Not knowing what the conditions were like ahead of us, I did know that if it was raining like this in Weehawken there would be absolutely no point to our stopping. Even if we were willing to get soaking wet, I wouldn’t have been able to see the children if I was standing far enough away to take their picture, much less see the background of the NYC skyline. Plus, I knew we had another 3+ hours drive from there to our hotel in Pawtucket. So, I handed the phone to Beau and asked him to reprogram Waze to skip Hamilton Park and route us straight to Pawtucket. Thankfully, the rain did clear, but our massive delays meant skipping a meaningful stop and about two hours of driving at night. I feel like such an old woman now – I have started to really dislike driving at night. Add on top of that the fact that I wouldn’t say I’ve been getting a good amount of sleep the past four days and it has become a major struggle. In fact, we got to within 30 miles of the hotel and I had to pull off the interstate just to get out of the car to get some blood flowing and clear my head. We finally arrived at the Hilton in Pawtucket and I couldn’t be more grateful for the drive to be over.

Phew! Now that I’ve gotten that negative experience out of the way – sorry about that, but it really did consume my day – let me back track to our morning. I am so happy that I chose for us to spend the night in Gettysburg. It really is a cute little town. Our hotel – aptly named the Inn at Cemetery Hill – was right in the thick of things. Making it possible for us to simply walk up through the cemetery and look down over the landscape. To imagine the now empty field swarming with boys in uniform fighting, charging, dying as the artillery (some of which is still in place for representation) tore them to pieces. If it had not been so blazing hot I could have stood in contemplation of the scene for much longer, but knowing we had a fairly long drive ahead of us, I wanted to get us to the visitors center and museum as quickly as possible. Now, I have to say that I knew very little about the process of visiting Gettysburg, and what they would have to offer. I mean, I figured that given the importance of the Battle of Gettysburg, there would be a fairly nice visitors center and museum, but other than that I was clueless. The only research I had done was cursory – I knew there was a film, like at Manassas and Antietam, this one entitled “A New Birth of Freedom”. And I knew they had the cyclorama, and they offered the option of a bus tour or they would sell you an audio driving tour. But I was not at all prepared for what I discovered at the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitors Center. Woah. It was AMAZING!! And I would say I managed to see and process only about 50% of the offered experience. I cannot even begin to imagine how much money and design effort went in to creating this visitors center and museum, but it is incredibly well designed and curated. Overwhelming, really. We started with the film, this one narrated by Morgan Freeman. It was a wonderfully moving film, describing both how the nation got to the point of civil war, the role of the Battle of Gettysburg in the Civil War, and a brief view of its aftermath and impact. Very well done and a stirring start to our visit. Then it was on to the Cyclorama. I truly cannot do justice to describing this amazing oil painting and immersive experience. The painting itself measures 377 ft long and is 42 ft high. Displayed in a circular room with its realistic foreground to give the sensation of 3-dimensional engagement with the work, you are then immersed in the battle through the story narration and sound/light show. Painted by a French artist, Paul Philippoteaux, it was first displayed in Boston in 1884. Think of that. This was only 21 years after the battle itself. Apparently the artist spent a great deal of time in Gettysburg, sketching the landscape, but he also interviewed veterans who were a part of that final fight on the third day of battle. These same veterans would have been able to see this magnificent display of chaotic, destructive battle. I cannot even imagine what that might have been like for them. To see it once again laid out before them in whole, as their own individual roles played out in their memories. I highly recommend you check out this link for more information on the Gettysburg cyclorama (

After having senses overwhelmed by film and cyclorama, we entered the museum. The unbelievably massive, beautifully designed and curated, sensory-overloading museum. It honestly got to be too much for me. It would have taken me hours to have combed through that museum as I wished. Hours I knew I didn’t have, and we still hadn’t even driven the battlefield yet! So I did not give the museum the attention I wanted and it deserved. But it would have been impossible to do so without several days to spend in the area. So, I’m not going to say much more about it here, except to say that I WILL return to Gettysburg to spend more time in that museum. Especially to focus more on the section about the aftermath of the battle, and its affect on the residents of Gettysburg. We talk in our classrooms about the 50,000+ casualties (including 7,000+ deaths), but never do we really discuss the impact that (and the addition of 2,000+ horses/mules killed) would have had on the citizens living in, around, and near the battle.

Knowing we were short on time, but still needing to experience the battlefield itself, I headed into the gift shop to inquire about the audio tour. The shop was also overwhelming – I could have spent another day in there alone! And after the museum I was already in sensory overload, so I ducked my head and went straight to the register. He asked if I had a CD player in my car and handed me a book with CDs. I balked slightly at the price ($31) but after looking at the accompanying book and hearing part of the audio tour, I knew that I had made a marvelous investment. We did not have the full 3 hours to take and listen to the extended tour, we didn’t even have the full 2 hours to take and listen to the “abbreviated” tour, but we could drive the route and visit a few of the highlights on the tour, and that’s what we did. I was staggered by the sheer breadth of ground this battle covered. It is one thing to see it on a map and intellectually understand how it was spread out over miles. It is quite another to drive those miles and see it with your own eyes. I found it to be intensely moving. I’ll be planning a return to Gettysburg, though definitely in cooler Fall months, with the hopes of taking the experience in on a more thorough level. This drive-by was not enough for me. I want to hike in those woods and get even closer to the experience. I cannot recommend strongly enough that you visit Gettysburg, but do yourself a favor – add about 5 hours more than you think you need to the time dedicated to the task and don’t give your self a 7+ hour drive on the end of your day.


Day 4 – By the numbers:

Odometer: 127,855 – 128,275 (420 miles)

Total travel time: 9 hours, 15 min

States traveled in/through: 4 - PA, NJ, NY, RI

Gas stop: $2.89/gal – Gettysburg, PA

Current standings in the CMRT 2019 Lottery Project: $15 in/ $6 out (- $9 loss)

Number of states found in our license plate-palooza: 5 –> Total of 45/51


Day 3: Civil (War) Commitment

27 Jun

After the late night shenanigans on Day 2, I was glad that Day 3, while jam-packed, did not actually include that much driving. As this is Crazy Momma’s Road Trip – US History edition, it was time for us to delve in! And where better to start our exposure to Civil War history than Northern Virginia?

While a little bleary from lack of sleep, I quite luckily got to start my day with a Pete Tapley omelette. For those of you that knew Pete in college, did you know he is practically a gourmet chef?! Seriously. You know how Barney Stinson (the character played by Neil Patrick Harris on “How I Met Your Mother”) would talk about having a guy for any purpose or service? He had a Suit Guy, a Club Guy, a Baby Guy, and even a “Guy” Guy. Well, I have begun to acquire “guys” ala Barney Stinson – there are certain people who are so good at something that you want them to be the one to make that thing or provide that service always. For example, Joe Tison is my Beam & Coke Guy (See you on July 12th, Joe!) And Pete Tapley is my Omelette Guy. So delicious. And, as it is always a joy to watch a masterful cook in the kitchen, it is fun watching Pete effortlessly chop and combine ingredients, especially knowing that I am going to be the beneficiary!

Once properly fed, it was time to bid the Tapley boys adieu, and make the quick 15 minute jaunt to Manassas National Battlefield. This is the location of the First and Second Battles of Bull Run (also known as First and Second Manassas, by the Confederate troops). I’m not going to go into a lot of historical detail about the many battlefields here, but suffice it to say that the name of the 45 minute video in the visitor’s center is called “Manassas: End of Innocence.” It was a good, very educational film, and I’m glad we took the time to watch it. They also have a nice exhibit. The only downside of that exhibit was the small boy who was running around crazy, but that blame lays on the parents, not the park rangers. I am staring at a photograph of a dead boy, not too much older than my own teenage son, and this little kid was running around shouting, “Look at them shooters!” (In reference to the display of pistols and rifles) “Shooters! Shooters! Shooters! Pew Pew Pew!!” It was so intensely irritating. I am all for self-expression and youthful exuberance, but not at the expense of or to the detriment of others. Time and place, time and place. Thankfully, we were able to make some space to distance ourselves from that group, and went on to have a brief walk about, seeing the grave of poor widow Judith Henry, the only civilian casualty of the battle, and the statute honoring Thomas Jackson, who proudly held his position “like a stone wall.” While we did not spend a great deal of time, or take the entire tour, I had decided that because we were limited in our amount of time in the region, I wanted us to get a taste of many things, even if it meant not experiencing everything available at a particular site.

So we got in the van and headed off for a return visit to Harper’s Ferry, site of the infamous raid on the armory led by John Brown. It was fascinating to revisit Harpers Ferry these many years later since I have begun teaching US History. However, today was beastly hot and sticky, and the truth was, we just weren’t quite feeling Harper’s Ferry today. We just didn’t feel like making the climb up to the cemetery, or going into the historical tableaus located inside many of the non-air-conditioned old buildings. So, we cut our visit short, knowing that just meant we had more things to see on another return visit, hopefully during the Fall.

Our third, and most impactful to me, visit was to Antietam National Battlefield in Sharpsburg, Maryland. This was the location of the bloodiest day in American history. Over 23,000 casualties in a single day. Those figures are staggering. And this made the ground feel hallowed. Again, not even close to giving Antietam its proper due or time, but we walked out to Dunker Church from the visitors center and soaked in the imagery of what it must have been like to look out over those fields and see them filled with clashing armies and their aftermath. Unfortunately, it started raining in earnest, so I did not get a chance to visit the cemetery. Which was actually a big disappointment because I love visiting historic cemeteries. But right before the rain cut lose, we were able to visit the Sunken Road, or “Bloody Lane.” Incredibly moving. And I very much enjoyed driving the loop to Burnside Bridge, even if I only managed to glimpse the bridge because exiting the car would have meant getting soaked.

After Antietam, we were on our way to spend the night in Gettysburg. No, I was not foolish enough to believe I could even sample all 4 in one day, so I intentionally picked a hotel that was pretty close to all the historical action of Gettysburg. The Inn at Cemetery Hill is aptly named, and it will make for easy visiting in the morning. But I have to mention our drive from Antietam to Gettysburg, because it was beautiful. While I only ended up driving 135 miles today, they were not the easiest due to being rural, sometimes twisty, often narrow, roads. But the effort put in, was well-rewarded. Because it was some of the prettiest driving I’ve done since moving away from Lexington after law school 16 years ago. There was an especially beautiful stretch through the Catoctin Mountain Park area – truly lovely. Made me wish that we had time to just pull off the side of the road, pull on boots, and walk into the woods. I know my relaxation time is coming in Maine, but I do feel we missed an opportunity today. Though I will say, I was proud of Beau when I asked him if we should follow the signs that said “covered bridges” and he said, “Yes.” So we took a brief detour off path to cross through the Roddy Road Covered Bridge in Thurmont, MD. It was tiny, but further research shows that it was built in 1856, which makes it imminently cool. We turned around, got back on track, and arrived in Gettysburg at around 6:00pm. By this time we were all a little crabby, rather thirsty, and very hungry. After checking into the motel, we set off right across the street to the pizza place that Beau had scouted earlier in his research. We find a table, go up to the counter to order, and Harper asked her very important food allergy question: “Does your pizza dough have egg as an ingredient?” One affirmative answer later and we are disappointedly seeking a new place to eat. As we walked up through the town, Avery finds a tourist map that mentions another pizza place. We set out in search of it, but can’t find it. We stop at a diner, and after Harper asked her very important food allergy question: “Does your pasta have egg as an ingredient?” Another affirmative answer and we are looking for anywhere to eat! We ask the young waitress if she knows of any other pizza places in town and she mentions that a brand new pizza place called “Upper Crust” has just opened up the street. The minute we step inside we know the universe was being kind to us by making it impossible to eat in those other places. It is a huge, almost cavernous space, with three beautiful wood-fire pizza ovens in an open kitchen space. Harper’s very important food allergy question is answered in the negative and whooping with joy, we put our names on the list for a table. And what do we spy at the back of the restaurant, but skee ball machines and an air hockey table. So, after a brief stop at the bar by Crazy Momma to pick up a local beer, we killed time at the back of the restaurant playing (free!) games. Beau and I were having a rousing, and tied, game of air hockey when they told us our table was ready. The pizza was delicious, even if the Classic did need a few more pieces of their fresh mozzarella. And after dinner we played a few more rounds of Skee Ball (none of my kids could beat my high score, despite there being a $1 bet on the line), and except for one single game that Harper won, I crushed her at Pop-a-Shot.

Our good humor restored, we set off to walk back to the hotel. Beau said he wanted to watch the Democratic candidates debate on tv, and Avery just really wanted to chill, so it was only Harper and I who set back off into the Gettysburg evening to seek adventure. We had discussed doing the Civil War-themed Escape Room in town, but I decided that since it was CMRT – US History Edition and not CMRT – Escape Room Edition (Though, hold the phone! I think I’ve just had a brilliant idea!) we should take advantage of our location and take a ghost/history tour. Turns out, we chose poorly. The tour guide was a very sweet old man, and I have no doubt that he knew some important local history, but the tour group was way too large, they put too much emphasis on pictures that had been taken in the past by other visitors or visiting mediums, purportedly showing ghosts or spectral energy. It was a bonding experience with Harper, though, as we periodically discussed the flawed history while walking from location to location (No, Abraham Lincoln did not free the slaves. No, York/Yorktown, PA, is not universally recognized as the first capital of the United States just because the Articles of Confederation were written there.) Sigh. History really is so malleable.


Day 3: By the numbers

Odometer: 127,720 – 127,855 (135 miles)
Total travel time: 9 hours, 35 minutes
States traveled through/in: 4 (VA, WV, MD, PA)
Current standings in the CMRT 2019 Lottery Project: $10 in/$6 out (-$4 loss) – did not play today
Number of states found in our license plate-palooza: 5 –> Total of 40/51 (One of the two Dakotas down! Come on, North Dakota!)

Day 2 – Sly as a fox…

26 Jun

One of my greatest joys is when I can surprise my children. I don’t mean with things, though getting that thing they wanted and never thought you’d buy for them can be cool, too, but I like to surprise my children with experiences. And boy did I ever pull that off today! Last summer, I found myself in Asheville with my girls with about 18 hours to kill between two sessions of camp. I thought it would be fun for us to do an escape room together, and when I came across a place called Fox-n-Otter Adventure Escapes, I knew that I had found our place. (Those who know me, know I am veritably obsessed with otters. Come on, they have a pocket in their body to hold their favorite rock. A pocket! But I digress…) I knew this was the place for us and as a surprise to the girls, when I picked them up we went straight to play a room. It was such wild fun, that we immediately booked their other room for the next morning. We were obsessed! Not just with escape rooms in general, but with Fox-n-Otter specifically! The owner is so friendly and nice, the rooms are engaging and challenging without being demoralizingly hard or esoterically disconnected. Anyway, throw in Avery’s obsession with the host’s handlebar moustache, and she was hooked! I have a tradition with my children regarding their birthdays – they can have a party, or I will take them on a trip. Once Fox-n-Otter decided to make their seasonal room a year round adventure, Avery has been lobbying for me to take her back to Asheville for her birthday in October. Here’s the catch: as much as I would LOVE to visit Asheville in late October, it’s kind of a difficult place to get to from Jacksonville if you’re only taking a short weekend trip. So, I decided that we were going to take an early “birthday” trip and incorporate Fox-n-Otter into CMRT. After telling Avery that there was absolutely no way we could go to Asheville this summer, I set about making it happen. But I kept it a secret from her. Her siblings knew, but were sworn to secrecy, and doggone it if we weren’t able to keep that secret!

I told the kids that we had to leave the hotel in Hendersonville no later than 8:15am because we had such a long drive and we needed to get to Northern Virginia by 5:00pm. Avery did not question this. And despite knowing we were in North Carolina for the night, did not seem to question our proximity to Asheville. As we left the hotel, I was gratified to see Avery pick up her Kindle, because I knew she would be head-down for the first portion of our drive. A few crucial times after exiting the interstate in Arden, I kept peeking in the rearview mirror and silently willing Avery to NOT look up, especially when we were at a red light and the massive sign pointing to the summer camp she attended last year was right outside the window! But I smoothly pulled into the Fox-n-Otter parking lot and as I threw the van in park said, “Do you mind if we spend a little time here first?” The look of incredulous shock on her face was priceless. I think I was most giddy about that – her genuine joy upon our arrival. We played their updated Holiday’s Wonder Cabin and it was amazing! Intricate puzzles, unexpected twists and turns, the exact right number of red herrings, fun fun fun fun fun! Oh, and did I mention that we escaped? Working together very well, the Willim 3 and their Crazy Momma managed to break the previous escape record for the room by more than 2 minutes!! Such an exhilarating start to our day! Not only was the activity fun, but I pulled off one of my better surprises. It just felt good all the way around.

Then it was time to get in the car and push. Drive north, keep driving north, and then drive a little further north. Not my favorite part of the day. My knee is thinking that perhaps CMRT 2020 should be the Airplane Edition. I had never forgotten from all my years of commuting to Washington & Lee University from my home in Florida, that the trucks on I-81 are the worst. It is soooooo heavily trafficked by semi trucks. Don’t get me wrong, I understand the importance of trucking logistics, but it can make for some tenuous driving. There were lots of interstate slow-downs on this particular day (I repeat: the far left lane is for passing only!), and that meant in order to make our date in Northern Virginia we had to keep on rolling past Exit 188B. There would be no visit to Lexington on CMRT 2019. And it was breaking my heart. W&L and the town of Lexington hold a place very dear in my heart. Some of my favorite memories were made in Lexington. And I typically make it a habit to bid a wistful hello to the Colonnade, to the Law School, to the downtown streets of Lexington, and try to buy out the entire contents of the W&L bookstore whenever I am anywhere near, but today was not that day. I would be sadder about that if I couldn’t remind myself how much money I saved by not stopping! And I would be even sadder if we were not racing the clock because we were going to stay with one of my friends from W&L, a Mr. Pete Tapley. (Side note: not only did I pass up the chance to visit Lex, we also passed up the opportunity to exit the highway in Luray to visit the Dukes of Hazard Museum! One of these days…)

The reason we were on the clock for our visit to the Tapley residence is because Pete’s 16 year old son, Wim, is an exceedingly talented singer-songwriter who had a gig at the South Riding Inn at 6pm. For years the girls and I have been practicing our “we knew him when” and “I/my mom went to college with his dad” phrases. We’re going to use these when Wim becomes famous. And here was our chance to get to see Wim perform live at a public gig. As much as it hurt my heart to bypass a trip to W&L, this was so worth it! There is no doubt that Wim is a talented musician who clearly works hard on both his craft and the logistics necessary to succeed as a musician. But add to that the fact that he’s just got it. It. That intangible thing that can make someone a star. He is a natural performer, at ease in the spotlight; a cute kid with a bright smile and all the humble charisma to back up the talent. Anyway, if you haven’t already googled “Wim Tapley” by this point, or searched for his music on whatever music platform you use, you are missing out. Recall that he is only 16. And at this gig he was playing covers and originals, including some songs he wrote in middle school! Overall, it was an exceedingly fun night. Good music, good food, good company. My kiddos were not as engaged in the evening’s activities as I was (Two out of three brought books to read in the bar/restaurant), but they bore it beautifully. They seemed to understand how important it was for me to get a night. And it doesn’t hurt that Pete is such a fun guy. After the gig, we went to the grocery store right next door to pick up a few things. Most important on the list? Ice cream that had been promised earlier in the night. It was like having three goofy kids in the store (and in this scenario, Pete is one of the goofy kids, because Beau was, as always, self-possessed and merely amused at the antics.) I think one of my favorite parts was when Pete quite surprisingly threw a pint of Ben & Jerry’s at Beau for him to put in the cart. Thankfully Beau reacted so it didn’t hurt him, despite being hurled at his head, and it led to one of the best quotes of the night – Beau’s pronouncement, “This is like a Will Ferrell direct-to-DVD movie.” Then a proposed foot race back to the car had Avery blowing by a prematurely stopped Pete, saying, “The race ends at the car. Why are you celebrating, loser?!”

While my own children had had just about enough of me and my friend for the night, and rather quickly (after ice cream) drifted off to bed, the grown-ups (and I use that term loosely) stayed up for more conversation. Including a really funny conversation with Pete’s older son, Jack, who just finished his freshman year in college. I must say that the Tapleys have done a wonderful job raising their sons – both are kind, polite, and well-mannered. And isn’t that what really matters?

Anyway, Pete and I talked into the next day. Deep topics and real talk. It was nice. Too often we don’t take the time to connect with other human beings, even the people we know and love. It was nice to answer real questions and listen to real answers. Day two stretched into day three and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.


Day 2: By the numbers

Odometer: 127,242 – 127,720 (478 miles)
Total travel time: 9 hours
States traveled through/in: 3 (NC, TN, VA)
Gas stop: $2.69/gal – Salem, VA
Current standings in the CMRT 2019 Lottery Project: $10 in/$6 out (-$4 loss)
Number of states found in our license plate-palooza: 10 –> Total of 35/51 (includes DC)

Day 1: -Ville to -Ville to -Ville

25 Jun

Welcome back, road warriors! Crazy Momma’s Road Trip: Summer 2019 – US History Edition is now in effect! This morning at 10:15am, we rolled out of our driveway to start one of our most epic adventures yet. It will follow a fairly typical path, with some exciting new experiences ahead.

It was a relaxed start to our adventures this year. Only thing on the docket for day 1, a fairly easy jaunt up to Greenville, SC, to visit with my best friend from college and her brood. So we rolled out of Jacksonville without too much urgency, knowing we had a fairly easy day ahead of us. The weather was glorious – bright, open blue sky without a rain cloud in sight. Of course, I wasn’t thinking it was all that glorious as we stepped out of our car in Orangeburg, SC, and nearly melted into the tarmac. But in terms of clear weather driving inside my temperature-controlled minivan, conditions were ideal. The only problem was, and I think Sartre stated it most succinctly, “Hell is other people.” When is it that people stopped being taught how to drive? Seriously. Is that the problem? That no one bothers to talk about those unspoken (and sometimes mandated by law!) rules of the road? Most importantly, and I really am having to restrain myself from using all caps here, the far left lane is for passing only!! Holy smokes. It’s an issue, people. A safety issue. When I was a kid my best friend, Julie, had this awesome pad of signs that you could show to other drivers. It was shaped like a paddle and you could flip over the message you wanted to show. They were innocuous sayings, to the best of my recollection (which some could verify does seem to be shockingly spotty these days). But I recall us laughing in a very silly manner, and surely we wouldn’t have been allowed to play with it if it was inappropriate, even if it was the early 80s. Anyway, I thought of that today because I desperately wished I had one of those paddles. Every time I used the middle lane to pas a car moving at speed limit in the far left lane, I wanted to show them the sign, “YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG!” Because they are. They are doing it wrong. To the detriment of us all.


One interesting thing that presented itself on the drive was a difference noted between traveling I-95 vs. I-26. We had a good start on our license plate game; the first day is generally quite fruitful. We rounded up half the states, including Montana, one of the more elusive western states. But there was a marked difference between the diversity of plates seen while traveling I-95 vs. I-26. The majority of those 25 states found were seen on I-95. And you might say, yeah, but that’s where you started in Jacksonville, so that stands to reason. But it was more than that. Once we took the turn onto I-26, the diversity in the states represented decreased. The vast majority of plates were South Carolina plates, with a few GA, FL, and NC thrown in. It is interesting to me mostly because I noticed the pattern. Can’t really say it means anything, just seemed a surprising revelation.

Other than the dull ache of arthritis in my driving knee, and some frustrations due to other drivers not understanding the logistics of traffic flow, it really was a laid back, easy drive. Hopefully this auspicious start will be reflective of the trip as a whole.

We arrived in Greenville to meet Erin at a wonderfully cute book store in downtown Greenville called M. Judson on South Main. We were stopped immediately as we walked in the door by the amazing accent wall made of books surrounding their counter. Absolutely mesmerizing. Like using books as Legos. I sense a home improvement project coming on! Once we made our way into the store we met up with Erin and Mary Hazel, to be joined shortly by Charlie, Poppy, and DanDaddy and GranMary McKinney. What a fun time having some gourmet burgers and catching up with this crew. After dinner, the McKinneys headed back to Anderson and their delightful Windward Meadows, while the two crazy mommas and our collective brood of 6 met up with dear Clevey for some after dinner frivolity. Okay, so what I really mean here is ice cream and frozen yogurt, but the best part of the evening was spending time catching up with friends. After some sweet treats, we walked around the always lovely Falls Park on the Reedy while the children scampered off (sometimes because we shooed them away) so the grown-ups could talk. Other than it being insanely humid and hot tonight, it really is a pleasant place to spend an hour or two. It is such a beautiful park, with lots of meandering paths and scenic vistas to the waterfall. But hey, Erin and Clevey, next time let’s do it with beers and no kids, huh?

Too soon it was time for the hot and sticky Willims to jump back into the car and head up the road. I wanted to put a little more distance on the odometer, so we are tonight resting our heads in Hendersonville, NC, making our path today – Jacksonville to Greenville to Hendersonville. This may seem a strange place to stop for the night when tomorrow’s destination is Northern Virginia, but this ol’ Crazy Momma has a trick up her sleeve for tomorrow morning. Shhhhhh, it’s a surprise…


Day 1 – By the numbers:

Odometer: 126,795 – 127, 242 (447 miles)

Total travel time: 12 hours

States traveled in/through: 4 – FL, GA, SC, NC

Cheapest gas: $2.29/gal – Orangeburg, SC

Current standings in the CMRT 2019 Lottery Project: $5 in/ $6 out (+$1 profit)

Number of states found in our license plate-palooza: 25 (No, one of them was not North Dakota)

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