Posts Tagged ‘CMRT: Summer 2014 Edition’

Day Twenty-Four: CMRT, fait accompli

01 Jul

(Subtitle: Why, Wyoming? WHY?)

Full circle. Done deal. Fait accompli.

Crazy Momma’s Road Trip is over. CMRT: Summer 2014 Edition is officially in the books. It feels absolutely bizarre. I, as always on these final days, can’t quite believe it. I am excited to be home. There is comfort in my own bed, my own things, my familiar surroundings. But how could it be over? Didn’t it just start? Or did it happen at all? Were we really in a hotel room overlooking Times Square 19 days ago? Was I on a hike in Acadia National Park only 9 days ago? We once again crammed days and weeks of amazing adventures and wonderful visits with friends into one vacation. CMRT was bursting at the seams. But it has all taken on this surreal quality of perhaps never having happened at all.

Part of that may be the manner in which we end this road trip. With three straight visits with dear friends, where just hanging out and spending time together is the goal. Today, for example, the very last day, felt just like one of our normal summer days. We went to the dollar movie with friends. Got lunch out. Stopped by Publix for a little grocery shopping. Did some laundry. Yes, okay, so they were friends who moved away last year. And there was a 2 hour drive inserted in the middle there somewhere. But today just felt normal. And yet, at the same time, it felt strange. Being back in my own grocery store, surrounded by the familiar faces of the checkers, put me a touch off kilter. Pulling into our neighborhood, our garage, it was all under the simple comfort of rote muscle memory, I did it all on auto-pilot, and yet, I almost didn’t recognize the place. My house, oh my beautifully clean house! I truly almost didn’t recognize it. It was so clean, and yet, too sterile. As much as I loved seeing all the empty countertops, not a single toy or item out of place, it didn’t feel like home until we brought some things out of the car and cluttered up the joint.

Anyway, as always, I am conflicted. Happy to be home. Sad the trip is over. Confused, in a way, about how to feel. It will take some time for it all to sink in. CMRT, fait accompli. Now, for the summary…

CMRT: Summer 2014 Edition – BY THE NUMBERS:

Total miles driven: 3,699! That’s right, let’s write it longhand for fun; three thousand six hundred and ninety-nine miles. The only driver. That’s my butt behind the wheel for all of those miles. (Is it really any wonder that I developed a painful case of sciatica?)

Total number of days: 24 – I kept thinking that this year the trip was longer, that I had added days. Not really. I’m guessing that the fact we went north at the beginning of our “southbound” leg made it feel significantly longer. That and the fact it was almost 300 miles more driving!

Total number of states driven through (not including home state of FL): 13 – GA, SC, NC, VA, WV, MD, DE, NJ, NY, CT, MA, NH, ME

Total number of states slept in (again not including FL): 8 – VA, MD, NY, CT, ME, NC, SC, GA

Total amount of money spent on gas: $530.48 – that’s 9 different fill ups. Most I paid for gas was in CT at $3.89/gal. Lowest price was in SC at $3.26/gal. Most I put in the tank was 18.58 gallons, least was 14.07 gallons. It’s an approximately 20 gallon tank.

Outcome of the CMRT Lottery Project: Abyssmal failure. Epic losses. But still fun. I’ll consider it an entertainment fee. We put $130 in and got $62 out for a loss of $68. But hey, you never know if you don’t play. One of these days we may hit a big one…

And now for the stat you really care about. (Okay, maybe you don’t care. But I care. Obviously waaaaay too much) But you already know where this is going, don’t you? You do if you paid attention to the subtitle…

Number of license plates found: 50 – but don’t let the number fool you, because it includes the District of Columbia. That’s right, for the second year in a row we got all but one state. This year, I spotted North Dakota along a rural road in Kennebunkport, Maine. But we did not spot a single Wyoming plate. (Why, Wyoming? WHY?!) So. Very. Frustrating. But, for some reason coming this close and missing doesn’t feel as bad as it did last year. Perhaps because I’ve found Wyoming plates in the past. North Dakota hadn’t been spotted in years; it had become a nemesis. So, really it was a successful year with the license plate game. But it was so close I could taste it. Probably I’ll see one tomorrow. Nah. I don’t plan to leave my house for at least a day or two. It’ll take at least that long before I’m willing to sit behind the wheel again. My sciatica is better today than it was yesterday, but still not okay. Not moving properly, having difficulty doing things that require me to get from a standing to a sitting position. Not my favorite ending to an epic road trip, but seriously, I’m getting old and falling apart. What could I possibly expect?

But it’s over now. That epic road trip. The 5th annual. So, I’ll say it once again. CMRT, fait accompli.

Now what?



Day Twenty-Three: Throwback childhood

30 Jun

It seems everything and everyone is trying to capitalize on the notion of “throwback”. The hot new skateboard every kid wants is just a skinny piece of plastic. Throwback! It’s Thursday, time to post old pictures on your Facebook. Throwback! Major league baseball teams wear old-timey jerseys from years gone by. Throwback! And nothing to do on a summer day with a pack of kids? Take them to the roller rink. Throwback!!

That’s right, after lounging about all morning (so delightful! Especially since it was wonderfully cool and comfortable in the shade on the Grays back porch), Katie had a brilliant idea – let’s take the kids roller skating. So we loaded into her car and made our way to Sk8 City in Pooler, an honest to goodness brand new wonderfully clean roller rink in a nice area of town. Wow. Haven’t seen one of those in decades. For the low price of $6 per kid, we got admission + skate rental. (For an extra $2 I got a “walker” frame of PVC mounted on swiveling inline skate wheels for Avery to use to help her maintain balance.) Cheap. Fun. Yep, a throwback childhood activity to be sure. The Gray children already knew how to skate, but it was a little different for them because these skates had wheels instead of blades. But the balance and movement concept was similar. Mine had never skated before, except once on ice at the birthday party of one of the Gray children! But roller skating was something entirely new to Beau and Avery. Harper consistently borrows the neighbors roller skates and pinwheels herself up and down the sidewalk in front of our house. So, it was a learning curve, one in which Beau found himself on the floor quite frequently, until something clicked, and by the end he was doing really, really well. Avery started off with a death grip on the wall, but moved into the middle of the rink once I acquired one of the helper frames for her. And then by the end she too was circumnavigating the rink without help. Harper was like roller girl, off to the races. This was exactly her thing, and I sense a roller skating party in my future. I did not don skates today. For several reasons, not the least of which was intense pain in my leg (more on that later). But also because I am so out of shape the sweating and panting would have been embarrassing, or they would have had to cart me out of there on a stretcher (which also would have been embarrassing.) But the kids, especially the older girls, had a blast. And it was fun to see them out there. Ah, the sweet childhood memories of the roller rink…

They ended up skating (or at least wearing skates) for 2 hours. Then they spent another 20 minutes or so just playing on the massive play structure in the game room. At the end of it, they were all tired and sweaty. A really good workout for a reasonable price, and loads of fun to boot? Sign me up any day of the week. And what else is indicative of a throwback childhood? A picnic sitting on a beach towel on the deck at the neighborhood pool. On our way home we stopped in at Publix to pick up some dinner items – sandwiches or Lunchables, Pringles, grapes – and then raced home to change into bathing suits. Their pool is within easy walking distance of their home, so Katie & I packed up our pool bags & cooler, poured ourselves a much deserved cocktail, and headed out the door. We stayed at the pool for quite some time. The kids playing and swimming, taking a break to eat, then right back in the pool (it would have been more throwback if we had made them sit out for 30 minutes before going back in). We left the pool around 7:00pm. These kids should have been exhausted.

Back at the house and into pajamas. Clearly no showers were needed because they’d just been swimming. Another vestige of a throwback childhood – the dip in pool as bathing technique. A quick snack of Oreos, and it was time for them to watch a movie while the grown-ups relaxed. They were fairly easy to get into bed tonight, and I imagine that sleep will be very deep indeed. Beau seemed to have passed the optimal window, as he was awake long after the others, coming in to tell me that he just couldn’t fall asleep. I think maybe he moved past desperate exhaustion and into sheer delirium. Hopefully sleep will claim him soon. He clearly needs it. Tomorrow we have a morning plan, with a early afternoon departure on tap. Wow. The final day of CMRT is almost upon me. Weird.

Now to speak to my pain issue. I thought at first that it was just an ITBS flare up. It started a few days ago with clear aching in my knee caused by a well-established ITB problem. Started on that marathon driving day where I couldn’t use the cruise control. Not surprising, especially since I’m over 3,000 miles behind the wheel so far, but irritating only, not debilitating. Apparently the ITB issue is not the only thing in play. Because this pain, this pain I experienced today, is shockingly sharp. Take my breath away pain. Make me feel a little nauseous pain. And judging from my medical degree granted by the interwebs, it seems I am experiencing either sciatica, or piriformis syndrome. I quite literally can’t lift my right leg forward due to excruciating pain when I attempt to do so. It is a physical impossibility. I can bend it back at the knee, but trying to lift it forward from the hip and knee, not so much. And attempting to sit down? Forget about it. Bending at all causes a searing pain in my right glute. Quite literally a terrible pain in my butt! But the pain is not localized there, it also radiates down my entire leg – the side of my thigh, the knee, and the right side of my shin, down into my ankle and foot. Pain, numbness, even when simply standing. Obviously a nerve issue. Not good. I look and feel like a decrepit old woman. Me attempting to move is incredibly ungraceful and ridiculous. All of this caused by an actual pain in my butt. Huh. Seems absurd. Fingers crossed for my drive tomorrow afternoon. Anti-inflammatories and massage seem to provide a little, temporary relief. It’s going to be pretty funny when instead of caffeine stops I’m going to have to take butt massage stops tomorrow. Wonder which exits are best for that?


Day Twenty-Two: Cut me some slack

29 Jun

I have a new obsession. It is not driving on the interstate in South Carolina. That is my new cure for insomnia. No, my new obsession is slacklining. I want a slack line. But I digress.

So, we left Greenville around 10am, after one last visit with the Hinsons. Poppy very sweetly wrote the kids a note and tucked some treasures into a ziploc baggie. She quietly handed it to me and told me to give it to them while we were on the road. You should have heard the “awwwwww” emanating from the backseat when I handed it back. The drive to Georgia was an easy one. Anticipating just about 4 hours of interstate driving. Clear weather. Very little traffic. But I had forgotten about the hypnotic nature of interstate driving in SC. I don’t know what it is. The straightness of the road? The derth of exits? But despite having gotten a decent night’s sleep, I was instantly fighting drowsiness. But I battled through, with the help of my beloved (Coca-Cola, duh.) And much sooner than expected we were pulling into the Richmond Hill driveway of the Gray family. I believe the children were barrel rolling out of the car before I had even pulled to a complete stop. I was a little slower to emerge, not because of a lack of excitement, no, not that, but rather because my ITB problems in my right leg have radiated far past my knee, and I am now feeling pain in my ankle, but more severely in my right glute area. I feel like a decrepit old lady. And it all started on the NJ Turnpike! That marathon driving day that was so traffic laden that I was unable to use cruise control for a single second. And apparently my body’s stress threshold is only 21 days, so the cramping in my lower back and butt are now acting up to the point that I’m having trouble moving properly. (Oh, my back! I bruised my bender!) But I managed to eventually unfold myself from the drivers’ seat, and make my way inside. Just as delighted to see my friends, as the kids were, and thinking how bizarre it was that we had seen them exactly three weeks before on our very first day of travel (remember the closed Dairy Queen, eating ice cream in the Kroger instead stop?) It was nice to just sit in their kitchen, catching up and talking current events. The children had disappeared for the most part. Ensconced in play, doing their own catching up and discussing of current events. And you all know how much I love to ignore my children.

As I mentioned before, Tony had given me a six pack of assorted craft beers crewed in North Carolina. An appropriate and much appreciated gift. And as much as I enjoy a good beer, it seemed even more fun to have a tasting with others who appreciate beer. Thus the tasting flight was born. We poured a Cottonwood IPA, a Duck Rabbit Amber Ale, and a Brown Penny Brown Ale. All were enjoyed and appreciated, with us each voting on our first, second, and third beers of the night. The Brown Penny was Katie & my choice for first beer, with David choosing the Cottonwood. I chose Cottonwood second, and Duck Rabbit third. But Katie & David chose the Duck Rabbit. So, the real point of this was that we enjoyed some North Carolina beers, and reaffirmed that we could go drinking together because if someone got a beer that weren’t entirely sold on, we could switch and happily continue on.

But before I go any further, instead of discussing the delicious burgers and salad we had for dinner, or how nice it is for my children to feel so at home in a place not their own, I have to get back to my obsession. In their backyard the Grays have installed a slackline. It stretches between two trees, with a guideline (for balance) above. It’s just 25′ of 2″ wide bouncy, balancing fun. A moving balance beam, if you will. And holy cow is it fun! First of all, do yourself a favor and check youtube for slackline videos, especially competitions. Though the guerilla city ones are pretty awesome, too! Amazing! And the slackline in their backyard is a wonderfully fun challenge. Of balance, of strength. I was laughing hysterically at how much my leg was making the slackline shake and shimmy as I attempted to step up. But wow what a workout for your core it would be if you spent any time on it. I think I laughed the entire time I tried it (another good ab workout!) And I have a partner in my obsession. Little Harper Kate can’t stay off the thing. I see it as a fun way to challenge myself and develop some core stability on the side. She just sees it as pure fun. Yep. I’m getting a slack line. Just have to figure out a way to install it in the backyard. Might require some bribery beers for my engineering minded friends. But I have to find a way to make it happen.


Day Twenty-One: “Just keep swimming!”

28 Jun

Swim, swim, swim. Swim some more. Just keep swimming. And that is what we did. This morning, after our hotel breakfast, the kiddos and I headed back over to the Hinson household. From there we got into our bathing suits, and joined Erin’s hysterical friend, Mimi, at a neighborhood pool to which she has access. Ironically enough, Erin is always telling me that her friend, Mimi, and I are cut from the same cloth. That we both remind her of the other. And crazy enough, Mimi has an 8 year old son, also named Harper! (I do so adore absurdity.) Anyway, we got on like a house afire, and totally understand now why Erin would say so often that we are very much alike. And the kids, well, the kids just kept swimming. This particular pool still has 10 minutes of adult swim every hour. At 10 minutes til the hour the lifeguards blow their whistles, announce, “Adult swim!” and descend from their chairs. All the kids have to vacate the pool. Grown-ups only are allowed in the pool while the lifeguards are off the stands taking a break. It is so hysterically old school. I couldn’t believe it was really happening. But it did. And we witnessed 6 of them. Yes. You read that correctly. Or, to quote Erin, “Huh. You really can spend the entire day at the pool.” We arrived at about 10:40am, and left at 4:00pm. Want to guess what my tuckered children are doing right now? Resting their exhausted pink cheeks on their pillows as they snore! That is seriously a lot of swimming. Granted, they spent a large portion of that time hanging around like seagulls begging for handouts. And there were the multiple trips to the bathroom. And my boy, who is struggling to learn that you can’t just snatch something out of someone else’s hands just because you’ve decided in that moment that you would like to have it, spent some time sitting out in a chair. (Obscure EFO reference: I would have put him under the lifeguard stand if only the chair would have fit there.) But that’s a lot of activity, a lot of exercise, and a lot of skin to which I probably should have reapplied sunscreen. So now the children are sawing logs, and I have beach towels and bathing suits spread all over the hotel room, hoping they’ll dry out enough to pack back into the car tomorrow morning.

After finally leaving the pool we parted ways briefly. I took mine back to the hotel to have showers and put on clean, dry clothes. We also picked up some dinner. I wanted in on the Thai food Erin & Russell were having, but picky eaters who eschew seasoning/spice + egg allergy = stopping at Firehouse Subs for take-out. But first we stopped into Publix (welcome back to the south, Krista!) I needed to replace some beer in the Hinson refrigerator, but I also thought maybe we could get a treat to share. I noticed Oreos were on sale and let the kids pick out two different flavors. But the moment we had them selected, they starting snatching them out of each others hands, arguing loudly over who was going to carry the packages, and MOOMMMMM!! She won’t let me hold this! I want it! No, I’m carrying it! I took about two steps, stopped in my tracks, whirled around to face them and simply said, “That’s it. I’m done. Put them back. Put them back on the shelf right now.” You should have seen their faces. Some lessons are only hard learned. And I just couldn’t talk at them anymore. I put the cookies back on the shelf, got down on their level, and said, “The next time you think about snatching something out of someone else’s hands, think about how you feel right now. You have no one to blame but yourself. You are responsible for your behavior. You are responsible for your behavior. And you are responsible for your behavior. Hopefully you’ll make better choices next time instead of fighting and bickering and being rude to one another.” Impact. That seemed to make an impact. They grumbled for a moment, but I wasn’t having it. I talk and talk and talk, but this simple act of putting the treat back on the shelf and walking away without a backward glance seemed to get through. We’ll see if they can put the plan in motion, but it seemed like the lesson was properly sinking in.

Once we got there the kids ate their dinners and played, and then watched a movie as the grown-ups talked. Erin’s lovely parents, DanDaddy & GranMary (even my kids call them that!) stopped by for a quick visit. I always enjoy those visits. They are such sweet and wonderful people, and Dan, especially, is a delightfully engaged and creative storyteller. We missed our outing to Windward Meadows this year, Avery especially waxed rhapsodic about the beautiful flowers, and the wonderful adventures they have had there in the past, but hopefully it will be possible to revive that tradition next year. It really is the perfect location for free range children. And mine need to be let out of their cages from time to time.

We called it a relatively early night and rolled out from the Hinson house around 9pm, with promises to return in the morning for a short goodbye visit on our way out. It was a fun, full, and perfectly summer day. Next stop: Richmond Hill, Georgia for the duration. And suddenly my title feels like more than just the literal interpretation of our day. It also bears out Dory’s figurative advice – just keep swimming. This trip is almost over. And this tail end, it’s tough sometimes. But also wonderful because we are visiting so many friends, people we want to see and spend time with. So, especially when we are exhausted, and emotions and moods are worn thin, we must solider on. Just keep swimming.

Postscript: Noticed something really funny today on my way to the Hinson’s house. An antique store named Shinola. Don’t know what kind of stuff they have in there, but the name had me laughing out loud. At least the owners possess a quick wit.


Day Twenty: Nothing is Normal on CMRT

27 Jun

I am currently sitting in a hotel room in Greenville, South Carolina, willing my desperately overtired by now children to fall asleep quickly, because I’m waiting for my college housemate to come over so we can sit in the hallway drinking beer and trying not to laugh so hard we wet our pants. True story. What? Is that not a normal night? It is on CMRT.

Today we left behind the warm hospitality of the Taylor Family in Matthews, NC, and made our way a quick 2 hours down the interstate to Greenville. Along the drive we took a quick lunch stop in Gaffney, SC. Many know it because of the Gaffney Peach – the huge peach shaped/painted water tower beside the interstate (the one I always thought looked like a butt on a brown golf tee). But Gaffney is also the home of Limestone College, which just happens to be where my maternal grandmother attended college. That’s right. My maternal grandmother attended college. Not quite so common then as now. (Side note: I just googled my grandmother’s name + “Limestone” and found a newspaper clipping from October 1, 1933, mentioning her as having lit the altar candles in the wedding of a “college mate” from the class of ’30! Love you internet!) Anyway, we didn’t take the time to drive by the campus – I’ve done that before – but somehow it just makes me proud to know that way back then my whip smart grandmother was insistent on getting a college degree. She was a badass, pardon my French, and I’m excited that I got to know her for as long as I did. And it always makes me smile and think of her when I pass the Limestone College signs at the Gaffney exit.

Once we arrived at our hotel, we chucked the bags in the room, and made our way over to the Hinson’s house. Erin has 3, I have 3, may the odds be ever in our favor. We laughed about the number of interruptions our conversation had – like a lightning quick game of pepper – but we did actually manage to get in some catching up while we sat in the backyard. Ignoring the children, ‘natch. Aren’t we always saying that our kids need more freedom? But after awhile it was time to pick Russell up from work and head downtown for some super yummy pizza. With the humidity breaking just enough, and a cooling breeze picking up, it was a pleasant dinner on the outside patio at Bellacino’s. Simple pizza, but we wolfed it down. My kids even asked for seconds. Not only did we all get full, but I learned a very, very valuable lesson. The secret? Cross cut pizza. Can’t believe I never thought of this myself! Duh! My children, no matter how sinfully delicious it is, will not eat crust. Cross cut the pizza and there are tons of cheese-filled pizza slices without crust! Wow. It’s really been that easy all along? Man. And speaking of men, who should wander by on the sidewalk mere moments after Erin telling me she had run into him at a local baseball game? None other than Allen Gillespie, and his wife, Kelly. W&L Generals represent in Greenville! It was a wonderful coincidence, and fun to run into them.

Plan in place for our post bedtime (grown-up version of a jammy jam) rendezvous, I raced back to the hotel and threw my kids into bed as quickly as possible. It might even have worked. I do believe that they have all passed out. (Fingers crossed, knock on wood!) And there’s a text from Erin saying she’s on her way! So, that’s right, momentarily, I’ll be having an uninterrupted conversation with one of my oldest and dearest friends. Sipping a cold one. Reminiscing about old times, discussing our current lives, wondering about our futures. All while sitting in the hallway of a La Quinta Inn. Ahh, nothing is normal on CMRT, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.


Day Nineteen: Do Nothing Day

26 Jun

Love days like this. Especially at this point in the trip. It was a perfect do nothing day. Well, not perfect, because we didn’t get to spend the entire day with our friends since they are still in the throes of two swim teams, but darn near perfect. As they went off to the year-round swim team practice, I took my own kids to their neighborhood’s ah-mazing pool facility – large twisty slide, lazy river, zero-entry kiddie area – ah-mazing! I baked in the sun while they played and played and played. And in that easy way of children, they made friends with perfect strangers. Preferring to play with their friends we are visiting, but making temporary friends as they were not readily available. Then lunch and World Cup soccer. Then just hanging around the house. Plenty of time for the kids to veg, play epic multi-player games of Minecraft, and an afternoon viewing of the Lego Movie. Then our friends had to head off to their neighborhood swim team’s final meet. So we headed out to dinner – love me some On the Border! – and outings to PetSmart (more on that later) and Target. Just a regular day, but we got to spend time with our friends whom we miss. So it was a perfectly casual, laid back day. And best of all for me, I got to spend a great deal of time just talking with my friends. Actually grown-up conversation. With big words and everything. Ahhhhh…..

New discovery: Jim Beam Red Stag. Yum. Laffy Taffy cocktail. And I’m looking forward to tucking into the NC craft beer selection offered up by Tony when I get home. That’s a parting gift I can get behind.


Days Seventeen & Eighteen: Old Home Week

25 Jun

This is always the portion of the trip where I fall behind in my blogging. Because staying with friends is not conducive to writing a recap at the end of the day. At the end of the day with friends it’s time to go to bed because you’ve likely stayed up late talking, and/or drinking, and possibly kicking someone’s tail at cornhole. But I’m going to give the brief recap of the past two days. Nothing fancy. And certainly not schmancy.

Tuesday: Went to visit Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. Perhaps that seems a random place to visit, especially when we had to kind of go out of our way to visit it. But, not every kid gets a town with her name in it, and seemed the least I could do to take my daughter, Harper, to visit Harpers Ferry. And I’m so incredibly glad I did! Because the Harpers Ferry National Historic Park was awesome. Truly. The old town (lower village?) is really cool. It’s a combination of an actual working town (shops, restaurants, lodgings), and restored buildings and museum exhibits. We also hiked up the old stone steps to see Jefferson’s Rock (Benjamin Latrobe, designer of the US Capitol building, took a trip with Thomas Jefferson to visit Harpers Ferry, and made a sketch of old TJ next to a double stacked, teetering rock. Since that time they have added supports to keep the rock in place, but still kind of cool to think that we’re seeing the same landscape that Thomas Jefferson saw on his visit. Then we continued up the hill to visit the Harper Cemetery. A beautiful, rolling green space, and strangely, part of the Appalachian Trail. Harper, of course, especially enjoyed the day, because what kid doesn’t enjoy a day where it’s easy to pretend that it’s all about them?

After leaving Harpers Ferry (and an obligatory photo op at the post office), we drove through some of the gorgeous Virginia wine country on our way to the Tapley’s house in Chantilly, VA. Nothing says adventure like staying with a college friend you haven’t seen in 20 years! Honestly. Pete was a dear friend in college, and I have enjoyed rekindling a friendship between the adult versions of ourselves via Facebook, but most of all I appreciate his delightful wife’s willingness to host a random (obviously crazy) woman and her three young children. It was so much fun. Pete’s home is lovely, his wife is delightful, his kids are great, and believe it or not, he is an amazing chef! Seriously. The omelette he made this morning, including leftover grilled veggies from last night, was bar none the best omelette I’ve ever eaten. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Yesterday afternoon, we stopped by their house and picked up their younger son, and I took the four kids to the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center. Oh. My. I was in nerd heaven. The Discovery is there. The actual space shuttle. The last one to fly. It was amazing to see it up close, and I found myself getting strangely emotional about being in the same room with it. I tried to explain the significance of the space shuttle during my child hood, but they just couldn’t process the information. The hangar is packed full of other significant bits of aviation history. Such as the Enola Gay. That’s right, the plane that dropped the first atomic bomb. And an Air France Concorde. Might have been the very one that my own grandparents flew on across the Atlantic. Anyway, I was totally dorking out, and I loved this museum, even more than the kids.

The kids loved meeting and playing with the Tapley boys, who, despite being older, were gracious and kind to my younger children. We let them stay up crazy late while the grown-ups talked. It was nice. For all of us. Especially by this point in the trip I need a break from the kids. And let’s face it, they need a break from me. It was nice that a basement game room gave us both the separation we needed. It was fun to discover that Mr. Fitzwell is still up to some of his old shenanigans, and it was a blast meeting the woman that became his wife. They better be careful what they wish for, because Chantilly, Virginia, just became a spot in the permanent rotation for CMRT.

Today was a long driving day, but totally worth it. First, we got a chance to run around the campus of my beloved Washington & Lee University. Our route from Nova to Charlotte, NC took us down I-81 South. And there is absolutely no way I was going to be able to drive by the exits for Lexington and not stop. So, we made a quick stop in Lex Vegas – a brief hello to my friends, a quick snack at Sweet Things Ice Cream Shop, a spin around the bookstore so I could properly empty my wallet, and, of course, some photos on the lawn with Lee Chapel and the Colonnade in the background. Judging by the traffic we ran into later, we should have cut the visit even shorter than we did, but it was worth it. Lexington holds a strange sway over me – though I guess it’s not too strange since I spent 7 years of my life there – and I wouldn’t have been able to stand being so close and not visiting.

Unfortunately we did run into significant traffic in the late afternoon, but eventually we made it through and arrived at the Taylors’ Matthews, NC, home. We went straight to the pool, and despite our late arrival, the kids got a good long time to swim and play together. Which was awesome. The Willim 3 have been missing the Taylor boys since they moved from GCC, and the pool facility in their neighborhood is awesome – a win-win for everyone! Once again the kids got to stay up late playing as the grown-ups talked. Mine should be fairly wrecked for tomorrow, and probably pretty excited about just being lazy, and hanging around at the Taylors conserve energy for a swim meet. But eventually we did chase the kids off to bed – with very little push-back from the exhausted little ones. There may or may not have been an epic battle involving bean bags that ensued post childrens’ bedtimes, but as soldiers who fall valiantly on the field of battle deserve respect, I will report no further on the events that unfolded in the back yard.

And now, as my head is spinning from exhaustion, I will end by saying just this: I’ve had an amazing past two days. Reconnecting with an old college friend. Visiting said college campus. Being awash in nostalgia. Then visiting with friends who have been the cornerstone of my life with kids. It’s like old home week around here. And that is the very best kind of week.


** No editing. Perhaps I’ll catch the typos later, but I. Can’t. Keep. My. Eyes. Open.


Day Sixteen: Our day in Haiku

23 Jun

Drive Stop Eat Potty Drive

Traffic Traffic Drive Traffic

Crazy Momma Done


Total miles driven today: 356

Number of hours it took us to travel the distance that should have taken around 6 hours? 8.5 hours

Number of states traveled through: 5 (wake in CT, NY, NJ, DE, to bed in MD)

Amount of time spent in stop & go traffic today: approximately 97 hours (Truly. That’s what it felt like.)

Only funny thing I saw today? The panhandler working the traffic getting onto the George Washington Bridge was holding a sign that said something along the lines of “Homeless. Hungry. Anything helps. God bless U.” That obviously wasn’t the funny part. The funny part was that he was texting on an iphone held behind the cardboard sign. Ah, well, at least I credit him with the intelligence to attempt to hide the phone.

Tomorrow: Breathing life into the lyrics of “Tom Burleigh’s Dead” by Eddie from Ohio

There was a town by the name Harpers Ferry
A small border village, a beautiful sight
One day John Brown and his band of men merry
Came into town and were lookin’ to fight



Day Fifteen: “Take those kids with you!”

22 Jun

Phew! Felt like more than a single day, that’s for sure. From a hike to a summit in Acadia National Park, to me wanting to throat punch the rude front desk clerk at our middle of nowhere hotel (oh, excuse me, inn!) Highs. Lows. Almost 400 miles behind the wheel. Yeah. Quite a day…

We started with a decently early start from our hotel. We went to downtown Bar Harbor and walked around the cute little waterfront and village area. I couldn’t resist venturing into Sherman’s Books & Stationery. I’m a sucker for an independent bookstore, and the fact that this one had been in operation since 1886, well, that’s pretty darn cool, don’tcha think? And even better, when the kids started clamoring for new books and I told them they would have to pay for them with their own money, they were totally cool with that. The older two even bought brand new hardcovers that they just had to have. Love that these kids are that enamored with reading. After the bookstore we happened upon a cool, little ice cream shop. And, well, what makes a better mid-morning snack than ice cream? And yes, they did serve lobster ice cream. And no, Chris, I did not eat any! Unbelievably, we managed to add the elusive state of Montana to our license plate game tally while wandering the streets of downtown Bar Harbor!

After our stroll, and the disappointment of discovering that the old time soda fountain was closed on Sundays, we headed back into Acadia National Park. (Adding yet another elusive state – Utah – in one of the parking lots there. Only Wyoming and Hawaii left to go!) I had read about another hike that supposedly a good one to take with children – South Bubble Trail – so we took off in search of that. The park map is very easy to read and the roads are well-marked, so we found it rather easily. Parking was another issue, though. For such a a popular trail, there are very few parking spaces and no roadside parking available. Luckily it was only a few minutes wait as several cars loaded up and pulled out, and we were ready to take our walk in the woods. Here’s the thing, that trail that was supposed to be good with kids? I think they meant literal kids, you know, like baby goats. It was a rather vertical trail. Very short, less than a mile, but with a vertical gain of 518′. It was a bit humbling to be reminded how desperately out of shape I have become, and my knees were not terribly fond of the descent, but those issues aside… WOW! It was a great hike. The views from the summit were spectacular. Looking out over Jordan Pond from such an elevation was truly breathtaking. (Of course, the climb was also a little breathtaking, in a different way, but I was happy for the work out.) The kids were ecstatic with the results of our work, and I’m starting to think that maybe we are getting really close to being able to do some more hiking together. After the obligatory pictures (including selfies, natch), we made our way back down to the car. Because what was in front of us, not just 518′ of elevation change, but at least 6.5 hours of driving to get to our hotel in Connecticut. We ended up leaving the park at a little after noon, and after a stop for food, we settled in for a long drive.

We were all a little sad, and gave a shout out of thanks to Maine for another great week as we crossed the Piscataqua River Bridge in New Hampshire. And it was weird that one of our stops was at the Kennebunk Service Plaza off the Maine Turnpike. That’s our exit for the cottage! I was sorely tempted to drive back into Kennebunkport and spy on the people who are renting the cottage this week. I’m sure they couldn’t possibly be the exemplary tenants we are. But I resisted the urge and we kept on trucking. Or at least, we tried to, but holy crap the traffic was terrible! What’s the deal? It was a gorgeous afternoon; why is everyone trying to *leave* the state of Maine? It was seriously stop & go traffic on 95 for quite some time in Maine as we approached the bridge. Then it all magically cleared. Only to return as we were trying to cross from NH into Massachusetts, and at several points in MA. Talk about something my knees weren’t happy with. Not being able to use the cruise control at all today had my right knee very unhappy by the end of the day. And I’m not sure why I thought traveling 385+ miles in a day was a good idea, but honestly, I wish we had traveled 386+, because I was feeling pretty good after a dinner stop at Panera and could have gone further, but more because the hotel we are staying in tonight has an insanely rude front desk clerk. Those of you who know me personally would have been pleasantly pleased with the restraint I showed when dealing with her.

So, I picked this hotel – The Farmington Inn & Suites – randomly off because of its location along our path of travel. The distance seemed a doable driving distance from Bar Harbor. And the price seemed okay based on location and amenities offered. I made my booking, being perfectly honest about the fact that the room was for a single adult and three children under the age of 10. We arrived at around 7:20pm, and when we entered the lobby the children went directly to the little sitting area where they sat on the couches and started watching ESPN. The desk clerk was sitting in her chair behind the desk, chatting with a man. At first I assumed he was another employee – she was chatting so casually with him – but it turns out he was another guest who had obviously been there for some time. She was completely ignoring the fact that we had walked in, so during a lull in their conversation I just said, “Excuse me, but where is your restroom? We’re checking in, but I need to use the restroom first.” She looked at me with undisguised exasperation and pointed over her shoulder, “It’s down the hall, on the right.” As I headed in that direction, with a quick “I’ll be right back” to the children, she shouted, “Take those kids with you!” and then added a somewhat maniacal, fake laugh. I paused only briefly, gave her a smile and my own fake laugh, and then went down the hall. Since they are going for a homey inn feel, despite the fact that they are clearly just an old hotel, the restroom was about as far away from the tv/sitting room as my powder room is from my family room. When I returned briefly, I waited another minute for her to finish her conversation and the man to step aside. When he did, she stood up, looked me right in the face and said quite loudly and rather rudely, “I wasn’t kidding when I told you to take those kids with you! Children are *not* to be left unattended here!” I gave her a quizzical look, as if perhaps she was speaking a foreign language, and responded, “Um, okay.” She continued on, in the same rude tone, as if she was talking about a pack of wild animals, rather than my kids who were sitting quietly on the couches, “I mean, it’s over and done now, but don’t do that again. You cannot leave those children unattended!” Giving her my best deadpan expression, while expressing murderous intent with my eyes, I said, “Got it.” No, I didn’t apologize for my apparent flouting of some unwritten rule. After all, I made the booking for a room with three children, so obviously they don’t have any anti-children policies in place. She went on, never once saying a kind or professional word to me, never once welcoming me to the inn, just shoving paperwork under my face and saying, “Be sure to write down your vehicle information so we don’t tow you!” Yeah, definitely getting the warm fuzzies about my stay. If the room had not been prepaid, I would have walked out the door without a doubt. I guess my cold, dead eyed expression was finally getting through to her, because she suddenly shouted out in the general direction of the tv, “Hey, kids, you can have some cookies if you want!” Harper shouted back, “No, thanks, we’re good!” But I fixed her with a stare and said, “My children have food allergies, so they can’t have any. But we appreciate the offer.” She stammered an apology, and I continued, “It’s not a problem. Like I said, we appreciate the offer. In fact, I’m not sure you heard her, but my daughter said, ‘No, thank you.’” She smiled and said, “Oh, they are well trained.” I waited until she looked me in the eye before I said in the flattest, most restrained voice I could muster, “No. They are just good kids.” A small “oh” escaped her lips, and then she shoved the key at me and told me the breakfast times and the wifi policy. I was still standing at the desk, staring expectantly at her, when she went to sit back down in her chair. I said, still through gritted teeth, “And where might this room be located? What it the best way to get to it?” She seemed flustered at the question, and then said, “I don’t remember what room I put you in.” When I showed her the key folder she pointed up the stairs and said it was about halfway down the hall. I was seriously shocked at the appalling customer service. I wanted to punch that lady in the throat. I didn’t see any bears in Acadia, but this woman in Farmington, CT, definitely poked the (Crazy) Momma Bear. It might have been one thing if I had been allowing my children to behave like wild animals, but to speak about my children who were at that particular moment behaving more angelically than most adults in hotel lobbies as if they were wild animals, I wanted to show her exactly how a wild animal behaves. But I didn’t. Even after a long, trying day, I managed to show some restraint. And sometimes, that’s the best I can hope for. Just showing some restraint.

Tomorrow: “Only” 5.5 hours of driving. An “easy” day, if you will… After we decimate the breakfast buffett at the inn, that is. I may get charged $5 if I inadvertently don’t return the little slip of plastic that is my key (yes, that is an actual rule that I had to initial at check-in), but I intend to take this hotel for every free thing they offer.


Day Fourteen: Heading north on our southbound departure

21 Jun

This was it. KPT Departure Day. And for the first time ever, CMRT wasn’t specifically broken out into northbound and southbound segments. Because KPT Departure Day traditionally means the beginning of the southbound leg. But this year I pointed the van north out of Kennebunkport. Sometimes it’s fun to flip the script.

I can’t express how I felt about leaving the cottage this year. This last week has truly been amazing. It was really relaxed, and therefore mostly relaxing. Sadly, our favorite book store, Kennebooks, closed this past spring, and there is no summer Pixar release, so we didn’t end up having a movie day either. The weather was sublime; in fact, it was the first year that we didn’t have at least one day of rain. So mostly we just lounged around – the cottage, the beach, town (mostly in the general vicinity of Ben & Jerry’s – I love Scotchy, Scotch, Scotch!) I was, as always, sad to leave. But even the kids seemed to be sad to leave this year, and they’re usually ready for the next adventure. Beau even asked if maybe next year we could stay for two weeks. (Sure, kid, just remind me to buy a Powerball ticket on the way out of town!) Oh how I wish I could just “summer” up here. We met great people, played with old friends, soaked up the sun, remained laid back, and generally just had a blast together. What more could you ask for?

This morning when I awoke at 5:45am, I didn’t groan and throw the blanket over my head, cursing the noisy birds outside my window. I did slightly curse the open window, as I was freezing my butt off, despite sleeping in a sweatshirt under two blankets. Because of our northbound southbound departure, I was motivated to hit the road. I jumped in the shower, finished my own packing, stripped my bed, packed up our leftover food/snacks, and by 7:45am, I had the car totally packed except for the children and their stuff. And speaking of the children, the ones who had each morning been up before the dawn, today was the day they chose to sleep in. Avery appeared out of bed at around 7:45am, and Harper we had to wake sometime after 8:00am! I couldn’t believe it. Stinkers! And I bet now that we’re sharing a single hotel room they’ll once again wake before 6:00am. But I got it all together in record time, and at 8:45am we were pulling out of the driveway, with me trying not to get emotional. It’s hard to let go of a place when it is responsible for so many halcyon days. Memories that can’t be recreated any other place. And will we be back next year? I’d like to think so, but it’s hard to say. Things seem to be shifting, changing in ways large and small. Fingers crossed that Maine, and our lovely little cottage on Turbat’s Creek, will once again be a part of our summer adventures.

So, with the odometer reading 24,767 (1,532 miles so far), we left the creek and hit 95 North headed for Bar Harbor, our northernmost destination in the great state of Maine. It was a rather easy jaunt up 95 for the first 160 miles or so. And then we left the interstate. And the final 40 miles or so into Bar Harbor are on a small, single lane in each direction road. Snore. Oy. That last push was far rougher than the 3/4 of the trip that came before. But I have to say, the minute we hit Acadia National Park, it was all worth it. The drive just drifted away. I’ve been a lot of places in my life, I’m grateful to say, but few of them compare to the beauty that is Acadia. It has everything I love most. Rocks. Expansive water. Trees. Lush greenery. Wide open blue sky. Amazing. Truly amazing. Everywhere you look is a postcard vantage point. And I realized two things instantly: (1) A single afternoon and following morning were not going to be enough for me, and (2) my kids were not going to appreciate this anywhere near as much as I was. But, I think we found a pretty good compromise. We paid our $20 (per vehicle) and struck out on the Park Loop Road. We made a few random stops along the way – letting the kids get out and climb/play on the rocks – though Beau needed constant reminding that these were not the same thing as the rocks on Turbat’s Creek. Here falling of a ledge did not just mean a splash in the water or a broken wrist, it meant me shipping him home. So I had to keep him on a pretty short leash until we got to some more beachy spots where the rocks were much lower to the ground. And we found the perfect spot at Little Hunter’s Beach. Wide open beach, rock outcroppings to climb on, plenty of pretty rocks on the beach for Crazy Momma to investigate and ogle. One funny thing that happened there is that as we were loading back up into the van two young guys on scooters asked if I would take their picture. Told them I would be happy to and approached to get whoever’s phone or camera I was going to take it with. The first guy said his phone was turned off, and the other guy kind of shrugged and said he didn’t know where his was. They seemed really sheepish and disappointed, so I just grabbed a receipt and a pen out of my bag and said, “Okay, give me somebody’s cell number and I’ll text you the picture later.” They eagerly supplied a number and I took a few photos with my own phone. Later, when I had cell reception, I texted them two pictures. It was such a simple act of kindness, and apparently it meant quite a lot to them. Took little to no effort on my part, but to them I was “a hero.” Feels good to make some random strangers’ vacation better.

After doing about half the Park Loop Road we headed out of the park and checked into our hotel. Staying just long enough to drop off luggage, use the bathroom, and make sure I knew the right direction to head off in. We were seeking a trail I had seen in the Hiking in Maine book I borrowed (shout out of gratitude to Chris!) It promised to be great for kids, with lovely, scenic trails along the water. Boy did it ever deliver! It took us quite a bit of time to get there, as it was on the other side of Mount Desert Island, but it was worth it. (Side note: this may look like an island of a manageable size, but don’t forget that the roads don’t always go as the crow flies, and often the speed limits top out at 40mph, with most hovering closer to 25-30mph. Manage your time wisely if you visit Acadia/Bar Harbor/Mount Desert Island. You may only be 15 miles from your destination, but it might take you 40 minutes to get there.) But Ship Harbor Trail was great! It was probably only a little over a mile, with two loops. Half in the woods, half along the water. Half flat gravel path, but with enough varied terrain to make me feel like we were somewhat doing some real “hiking” (versus just walking in the woods). And plenty of rocks for the kiddos to clamber on. Lots of overlook spots with varied views. I really just can’t say enough about how happy I was that we sought out that particular path, and the fact it has a restroom right there at the small parking area is another boon. Because it was so close, we took a quick stop at the Bass Harbor Lighthouse. It was small, and cute, but kind of a funny and difficult way to view it – walking up and standing right next to it, especially since there was a large family trying to get their picture taken with it in the background. A shame that you couldn’t get further away and actually see the lighthouse with better perspective. But we checked that box quickly and moved on.

Our next destination was Timber Tina’s Great Maine Lumberjack Show. ‘Cause MAINE! And LUMBERJACKS! Okay, so I’m not gonna lie, I expected so much more. Truly. I mean, it was cool, and their feats were really impressive, but it just seemed like more merchandising that production. I wanted more. But, the most important thing is that the kids loved it to pieces! They even got a chance to go up on stage and pull/push a cross-cut saw with the lumberjacks. Afterwards they got a certificate that they got autographed by the lumberjacks and Timber Tina (a former Survivor contestant) herself. Perhaps part of my disappointment was that two of the lumberjacks were high school students. And don’t get me wrong, the stuff they were doing was crazy impressive, and I don’t mean to take anything away from their skill, their effort, their ability, but I think I expected (wanted?) burlier men who could better fill out those flannel shirts. You know what I mean? But again, let’s focus on the fact that the kids were crazy excited about it, and loved every second. And that part was pretty darn cool.

Now it’s time for me to hit the hay. Kids have been down pretty much since we returned to the room. We talked about potentially taking a lobstering/seal watching cruise in the morning. And I would LOVE to be out on Frenchman’s Bay for a few hours in the morning. But I couldn’t pull the trigger on online tickets for a 2 hour cruise that departs at 10:30am. Our next hotel is close to 7 hours down the road tomorrow. So we should probably plan to leave Bar Harbor around noon-ish. But I don’t know. The thought of being out on the water up here is exerting a powerful draw on me. I’m going to leave it to the Fates. We’ll see how our morning goes, and play it by ear. I know, seems out of character for me, right? What can I say, this place is so beautiful, I just can’t force myself to be in a rush to leave it. But I’ll tell you what, I want to start right this very second planning a return trip to Bar Harbor, but this time sans kids. Maybe even on a sailboat.


© 2010 Krista Lindsey Willim