Acadia marked the last (possible) point we could travel any direction except west. We said a melancholic goodbye to the ocean and headed for Vermont. Along the way we stopped at my Aunt Meg’s house.
Meg treated us to a wonderful dinner and a restful evening. It was just what a bunch of weary travelers needed. So much so that Ben, who’s been rather stoic about meeting such a large, unknown extended family (“You have another Aunt?!”), cried when we left. I completely forgot to take photos. Her home was a respite for me too.
The only significant rain so far came on the way to and from Vermont. And rain it did! It came in sheets so thick I nearly couldn’t see the road at times. The pic below was just a drizzle comparatively.
We stopped for a night with Ruth and Don, this time at their home. They bought a beautiful home six months ago. Actually, they bought a train wreck of a home six months ago and have made it beautiful. It was a brilliant purchase, as it was the fixer-upper in a wonderful neighborhood. They are about halfway done with their initial plans and the house is fantastic. I forgot pictures here too.
We traveled westward to Niagra Falls.
The falls themselves were amazing. After that, there is nothing good to say about Niagara Falls. It felt like the apocalypse had happened and no one here knew about it. I guess that Niagara Falls used to have over 100,000 people living in it; its current population is around 50,000. There were empty buildings everywhere. It was very eerie feeling. We still found some fun.
Still, we were glad to leave Niagara. And never go back. It’s probably the only place on this trip that I wouldn’t recommend someone visit. It’s a cool waterfall with nearly-post-apocalyptic amenities.
From Niagara, we traveled on to Indiana Dunes National coastline. Unfortunately it doesn’t take reservations. So, when we arrived, the campground was full. So we traveled further on around and through Chicago traffic at rush-hour. We landed at Illinois Beach State Park. It must’ve been meant to be because it turns out the park was right out of my childhood. I knew the trees. We camped right in my favorite spot as a child.
We met one of my best friends, Ben Walstrum and his family. The kids played at the beach, swam, and scootered in the campground. It was a nice day. Then we headed north to Wisconsin.
The touch screen on my phone no longer works in the bottom left corner. Guess what that means. Yep. No punctuation except for periods because you can tap the space bar twice to get one. I can get emojis. 🧐🤓😭😖 See.
So ill make the text part short. We had a blast in Acadia. It is the place where the ocean meets the mountains. We walked on beaches. We clambered on rocks. We rented bikes and toured the carriage trails. We found wild blueberries and ate as much as we could. We ate lobster rolls from a picnic table restaurant on the dock. We saw so many faces of the ocean that I lost count. Sunset. Fog. Blue sky. Twilight. More shades of sky than I have words.
The best part was seeing my sister Ruth her husband Don and their daughter Maggie. She’s about eight months younger than Ben. We had wonderful conversations and laugher. It was a great time. Here are my favorite photos.
Our last adventure in Massachusetts was to go whale watching. We boarded the Privateer IV, through a group called 7seas, and settled in for a boat ride.
The whale watching companies all work together in the area, it almost makes it unnecessary to choose one company over another. They communicate about and share the whales. Our guide told us that the boats take turns and stagger their times. They radio to each other where they find whales. It’s a very interesting company model, where your competitors are also your assets.
The ride out to the whales was a beautiful one. We couldn’t have picked a more perfect day.
When we found whales, there were two of them. Their names were Nine and Milky Way. We spent about an hour with them. They would dive for a few minutes and come back up to the surface. Eventually, they got interested in our boat. They came right up to the side. If our boat had sat lower in the water, we would’ve been able to pet them. That’s how close they were. Several people to our left got wet when one of them blew a spot of water.
After about an hour, our guide said there was another boat in route. Even though our tour time was not over, we have had our fair share of whale-time. We had a great time, I’m not complaining, but it really struck me as a interesting model of business. They were relinquishing an asset to a competitor over their customers. But it made sense too because another boat did that for us at our beginning. I like that model.
We spent the rest of our tour cruising for an unlikely well, which we never found. We saw castles on the ocean shore, light houses, and lots of sailboats. It was a great final adventure in Gloucester.
On our drives around cities, one of our recurring conversations is, “Would you like to live here?” For most cities, Maya has plans of living there someday in the distant future, her future. Particularly on these coastal towns. Yesterday, as we drove past Boston I was speaking in a more present tense than ambiguous future. It was still tongue-in-cheek, but I really loved the town of Plymouth. It felt right. So I’m certain my tone changed a little. After a while, the three of us realized that Ben was quietly crying in the backseat. When we noticed, he exploded into tears crying that he wanted to go home.
I think we’re all missing home a little bit, each in our own way. Maya misses her space to sing alone in her room, her violin, her piano, most of all her friends. Ben misses all things familiar, his friends Luke and Abe, and a stable bedtime (though he doesn’t verbalize that part). Sara misses her own space and privacy. I miss my bed and, honestly, cooking in my own kitchen.
We are now over halfway home. We have some major adventures ahead of us, though. And despite those feelings above we are very excited for things to come.
my uncle Bob and aunt Mary live in Gloucester Massachusetts. It is a beautiful touristy town overlooking the sea. Their house is tucked away about a block from the ocean with a private pond and beautiful decks. We spent a couple nights with them and then they left letting us use their house for a couple more. It has been our homebase to explore the ocean, Boston, and Plymouth.
My cousin Matt, their son, was here for the first two days also. We had a wonderful time swimming in the very very cold ocean. I think I saw icebergs, Matt said the water was unbelievably warm.
My aunt MaryEllen, uncle Richard, aunt Beth, and uncle John all joined us for a day in Gloucester. We had lunch, chatted about all sorts of things, but best of all, we went sea glass hunting. The kids found quite a lot, with help from the adults.
Boston was very historic and very hot. Somehow the hot weather returned to us. We didn’t let that stop Estelle and we hiked the freedom Trail. It’s a trail inlaid into the sidewalks around the historic sites in Boston. It’s made up of red bricks so it’s easy to follow.
We saw several sites along the Freedom Trail. We saw the Boston massacre site, the Boston Common, the state hall, and Benjamin Franklin’s glass harmonica. That last one has a story Sara can tell you; for me the pain is too fresh. We stopped halfway through and watched the World Cup at the oldest tavern in Boston.
I think the kids’ favorite was the USS constitution. It is the oldest floating ship in the U.S. Navy. They were clearly sailors aboard, though they were doing crowd control, not sailing.
Next, we took a ferry back to the beginning of the trail and saw Boston from the water. Being on the water has always been my kids favorite parts of the days.
We ended our day with a Broadway musical In the historic Boston opera House. Aladdin. It did not disappoint!
We traveled back in time to Plimoth Plantation. (In Plymouth, MA) Permanently set in 1629, the final year the pilgrims held their property in common. The plantation hires actors to play the real people who lived in the community. You can ask questions and interact with them and they stay in character. It was very engaging. Afterwards, we walked along the modern day harbor.
Overnight we stayed at a wonderful hotel. We tried to check in early and our room wasn’t ready, but a king suite was. They upgraded us for free. It was a two room suite, but it was three sides of the building. The views were amazing. Unfortunately, it was just for one night and we had to check out today. Given all the amazing things we saw, it may sound crazy, but the views from the hotel room may have been my favorite part of New York City.
From my hotel, we took the subway to Time Square. It really was incredible. I’m not sure if it was the cargo pants with double water bottles in each pocket, the two kids in tow, the backpack, or the general look of awe on my face, but just about every street performer and garbage seller had me pegged as a tourist. We quickly learned a scowl and intentional not-seeing works the best.
We walked from Times Square to Rockefeller Square. We did a lot of walking.
Throughout this trip we’ve tried to find a bakery as good as Nana’s. If you don’t know my mother-in-law Laurie, then you’ve never experienced the best cookies in the world. We had heard of several amazing bakeries in New York City. And they were amazing, but nothing bested Nana. (Because I’m writing this a few days late, we later found one that compared equally to Nana’s cookies. It was a food truck in Boston.)
From Time Square, we took the subway again to the World Trade Center Memorial. I expected it to be more emotional, since it was one of the few memorials that I’ve lived for the event. It was a powerful tribute and an amazing space, but so much in the world has happened as a result of those towers coming down. I just had a sense of longing for what could’ve been if none of it had ever happened.
From there we walked to the Brooklyn Bridge, took a ferry to see the Statue of Liberty, and walked around the business district. On our ferry trip, we noticed that every ferry was shadowed by a Coast Guard boat. It was both welcome and a reminder of what we lost when the WTCs came down. Later, we found an airstream in the city (not ours), used as a food truck. Both the little girl and the Bull were more touristy than I had imagined. Both were shiny in places where tourists had rubbed. You can see it on the girl’s arms, the bull’s head, and one other place.
We found some great pizza, fun carousel, and the really quiet little park. Unfortunately, I don’t have a picture of the park. There are a couple boys about Ben’s age running around in the splash park less-than-fully-clothed. (Ben refused to join! 😆) It wasn’t a time that I could take pictures. But it was surprisingly quiet and peaceful.
Lastly, we took public transportation back out to New Jersey and said goodbye to New York City. It was a wonderful time, but a really expensive time. And, a really busy time. I was ready to leave, but I think I was the only one.
Finally, I want to give a shout-out to friends. Jason Scully and his family hosted us in New Jersey and made it possible for us to leave Eisley and the truck. Jason joined us for the first day, helped direct our route, figure out the transportation, and gave us great advice. We spent two nights with them and very thankful for their help. Sara‘s friend Wayne Petro was very helpful giving us directions in the city and walking us around the second day.
We learned a secret about NYC. I’m a little nervous to tell you, seeing it’s a secret and all. But here goes:
You know how New Yorkers are almost always depicted as mean or arrogant on TV? It’s totally false- at least in our experience. Not only were they willing to help, volunteering good advice often, but if we looked lost someone quickly stepped in to show us the way. On the subway, someone tried to give up their seats to Sara and my kids every. single. time. Every interaction with a local was a positive one.
For our our first day we checked into our hotel, toured Central Park, visited the Museum of anatural Hustory, and ate some very yummy food.
November 19, 1863
“Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”
Gettysburg was fantastic. I learned so much about the battle. I didn’t realize how close the confederate army was to winning the battle. I knew how bloody it was, but it was staggering to think of the roughly 20,000 dead in such a small place. It must have been horrible beyond horrific.
If if you ever venture here, we’ll mail you the audio tour for you car. It was a perfect way to experience the park and learn. It even engaged the kids.
We had a nice campsite overlooking a little stream. We had our first real fire of the trip, complete with s’mores.
Also, Eisley needed a small repair after I backed her into Melanie’s driveway and bottomed-out the black tank valve. It was a yucky job to reglue the pipe, but took less than 5 minutes and $5 to do.
You don’t walk into the National Gallery of Art and not expect nude statues. I knew the moment above was coming and I had my camera ready. The first statue past security did not disappoint. There was this slow realization creeping across Ben’s face that the female form in front of him was completely nude and anatomically correct. At first, his eyes just got bigger. Then he quick-walked (knowing not to run in a museum by this point) around to her backside. This is where he lost it. He giggled himself silly saying, “It’s a butt!”
Yep, he’s a Kane.
Sara and Maya got lost amid Cezanne, Van Gogh, Monet, Gauguin, and others. They enjoyed the refined beauty of artistic masters. Ben and I counted butts.
I’m a Kane too, it turns out.
He easily missed half of them, but it’s hard to count while quietly giggling to tears.
We finally drove out of the heat - just in time for our first stop with AC and a pool. But really, we couldn’t have asked for better weather to explore the capital. So far it has been in the upper 70s, a light breeze, and sunny.
We are staying at the beautiful house of my cousin Melanie and her husband Josh. The have two wonderful seventh grade kids, too.
Melanie and family have been the most gracious, kind hosts imaginable. They have fed and housed us, played and chatted, guided and encouraged, and all-around made our time here the best so far on this trip.
On Saturday, they took us around the National Mall, Lincoln Memorial, Vietnam Memorial, Korean Memorial, and into the Smithsonian AIr and Space Museum. There was a cultural festival happening on the mall too, so our lunch was authentic Armenian fare. So yummy.
Josh dropped us a short walk from the White House (you can’t get a car anywhere near) and waited with the car since there was no parking. The kids’ pictures are below with the White House. Sara’s pic didn’t turn out, she had her finger over the lens.
Click on any picture above to see a bigger version.
American History Museum
On Sunday, we tested our own skills navigating the city as Melanie and Josh and kids prepared for their week. We did pretty well - didn’t get lost once (thank you Google) and found parking everywhere were needed it.
We started our day at the American History Museum. I wish I had more pictures. The museum tells the story of American History though themes. Our favorite (Ben and mine, anyway) was the transportation section. Starting with early ships through the train, auto and airplane, it was a glimpse into America as it moved.
Another theme was “How did we become US?” It was amazing to me how the questions of immigration have persisted in the much same form (different peoples) throughout most of our history. Racism and Xenophobia are American themes. It was encouraging that most of the people groups who were attacked like Mexican immigrants and Muslims are today are now more or less accepted. (Racism persists, of course, but our American dialogue is not whether or not Irish and Japanese should be allowed in our country.) Bad ideas and bad arguments will keep getting replaced with good ideas good arguments.
African-American History Museum
The African-American history Museum was a powerful experience. It’s so new that we had to get tickets. It is free, but the demand is so high that you need to get time-sensitive ticket. Tickets “sell out” two months in advance. However, every morning at 6:30 they post four additional same-day tickets for each hour of the day. We got the 12:30 slot!
The beginning of the museum funnels you to the basement. It’s crowded and tight. It’s the history of the Middle Passage.
Eventually, the space opens up into the horrors of slavery. It is a heavy experience. Probably the heaviest moment, for us, came in the Jim Crow era exhibit. It was labeled “mature” and Sara went in to see and evaluate. Maya couldn’t accept the idea of being censored, and begged me to allow her to go. I relented.
Inside she she and her mom found images of lynchings, dead black men surrounded by white townsfolk posing for pictures. Posing. Smiling. The stretched necks were awful, gruesome images. The smiling whites were missing a part of their humanity.
Lest you think Montana innocent, further on, Montana was represented in Jim Crow laws.
Along this journey, I realized that my living grandma was 18 at the last reunion of civil war soldiers. This is not so long ago.
If you don’t know what a sharknado is, pause right here. Google it. Can you believe that they made 5 movies already and plan on another? We have been at Huntington Beach State Park, SC for the last three nights and we’ve seen a waterspout (a tornado over the ocean) and a wild shark on the beach. In my book, that qualifies as a Sharknado!
Sure the shark was caught by a fisherman, but that’s missing the very important point that the shark was swimming 100 feet from us just minutes prior to the photo. And, no the waterspout never touched down, but it certainly was impressive. The picture doesn’t do it justice. I’m sticking with sharknado!
Huntington Beach State Park
The beach! We’ve planned and dreamed of the beach for a while. While it has certainly lived up to our hopes, it’s had some struggles too. First, the joys:
As I snapped the picture above, I was a bit misty-eyed. We had rolled in and hurried to the beach after a long drive. Both kids were awestruck. It was their first time seeing the ocean. We laughed and and played until I was worn out and then they played some more in the shallows. It was such a peaceful culmination of years of hard work renovating Eisley. The moments spent underneath laying in snowmelt, or wearing a mask carrying buckets of mouse crap, or just long lonely tedious days came together in my mind watching my kids play. It’s a deep kind of joy to see your work become your kids’ laughter.
We also had great food on this leg of the journey! Our first night we went to a local seafood restaurant whose motto was, “Not fancy, just fresh.” Sara said the motto was a good one for me, too. (Phhhbt!) It was such a great restaurant! The food was amazing and the service was fantastic. Our waitress found out it was our first time in SC and seemed determined that we should taste the best local flavors. She brought us a free cup of “She crab soup” (I think that’s what it was called) because it was the thing she didn’t want anyone to miss. It was amazing. It was my first experience with hush puppies and I was shameless about devouring them.
Ben had a hot dog.
On the third evening, we were able to connect with my Aunt Martha. She recommended another seafood restaurant. It was another completely local place. The food was amazing - I had shrimp and grits - but the conversation was better. I don’t have much contact with people who knew me when I was born. I am so grateful for the conversations I get.
Which leads me to an apology to anyone I’ve missed along the way. I’ve tried to connect, but we’re new at travel and even after driving over 1k miles, 200 extra miles is still a barrier.
Onto the trials: 1) It was so hard to get out of the heat. We forced the kids to drink water all day and it still wasn’t enough. Sleeping was rough and both Sara and Maya had moments where I was concerned for them. We sought ac during those times. 2) Ants!!! For our entire stay we battled little sugar ants. They were incessant. Poor Ben had an ant highway on his bed frame. I made multiple trips buying different poisons at the local grocery store. The never went for our fridge or pantry, they were seemingly randomly everywhere. But it wasn’t random, we hadn’t set up the hideaway bed/table. On the way to SC, a peanut butter jar had fallen and spilled. The kids were so proud to help us set up camp, we didn’t check their work cleaning it up from under the hideaway bed. I went to show the table to my cousin and found ant city. 3) My plumbing. It was a real bummer not being able to use our shower here. ‘Nuff said
The beach was an amazing time for us, but we timed it perfect. I was ready to see it in my rear view mirror right about the time we pulled away, heading for Washington D.C.
When we were in the playground of the King Center, a group of mostly black middle school kids loudly joined us, as middle school kids do. Ben, sitting on a bench eating a string cheese, muttered to himself, “Wow, there are a lot of Americans here.” If you don’t know, he’s growing up in Montana. He’s probably never been the minority skin tone in any group ever before. He processed it well and with a little coaching went out to discover the age of the other young child in the playground - probably a 1st grader like himself.
Anyway, visiting the King Center was an important activity for our family. I was quite moved by it. We sat in Dr. King’s church and listened to his preaching, visited his boyhood home, and toured a museum to his life. He had six principles of nonviolent action that I will need to meditate on for a while. If I lived more according to those principles, my life would be better.
Ben had been talking about this for months. He had planned the rides. I didn’t even know there were guides to Legoland. You know how Tigger bounces in Winnie-the-Poo? You need to imagine a blue-eyed, blond, skinny-bean-of-a-six-year-old bouncing like Tigger.
After I recovered from the $ticker $hock, it was a pretty fun place. We shot Lego monsters on a digital ride, watched a 4D movie and got soaked, and played away the afternoon.
This was our favorite campsite so far.We were right across from the boat dock and at first it seemed like a bummer. But it really turned out to be that someone cleared out a beautiful view of the lake and the sunrise just for us. The bugs stayed away and even though the weather was hot, we stayed relatively cool.
I'm not an Airstream Jedi, yet. Airstream Jedi would have sounded presumptuous, like I know what I'm doing. That couldn't be further from the truth. Padawan is a title I can hope to live up to.
Knots Per Hour
My friend Mike is building an airplane. Check it out.