Well, I did it again -- another cross-country road trip, this time with an even more elderly dog (15 1/2 !) and a girl who just crossed the threshhold from tween to teen (14!) This was our third and final extended road trip, I swear to God and if you ever hear me make sounds to the contrary -- kill me, please.
Fear motivated this particular trip. I had nothing planned, but then summer programs came to an end and my girl does not do well with unstructured time so I had no choice but to hit the road.
The drive was long because I live in the midwest and see no point in a vacation that does not lead to my swimming in an ocean. Six hours a day is my driving limit-- so all total we spent 4 days driving there, 8 days at our destination and 4 days driving home. I had a special ramp made for our dog who is no longer able to jump in and out of the car.
The first day I got off to a very late start-- as is my procrastinating way, and just as we were finally able to make it out the door at 4 p.m. I discovered that I left my phone charger at work.
This is how I came to find myself driving through the great north woods at midnight. There was no sign of civilization, not even another car passing for what seemed like hours. I turned off my headlights for a moment to confirm that yes, I could not even see my hand in front of my face.
It was magical. A stretch of the road was freshly black-topped and my lights reflected off of it and onto the towering trees so that I was driving through a giant canopy. There were so many animals walking around I thought I was in a disney movie-- deer, foxes, skunks, and unidentifiable ones (I am a city girl after all) all glowing in my headlights. I even saw little mice running across the road.
Penny was in a rare philosophical mood, talking about the planets, the universe and drifting in and out of sleep. It was a lovely evening.
The next day we walked along the beach of a great lake, and our old dog frolicked in the water like a pup. We stretched out on the hot sand for a good long while before heading back to the car.
One bad thing about the Canadian countryside is that the only place to stay is little mom and pop motels. This is one area where I do not prefer local businesses to big chains and my germ phobia has kicked up several notches as a result of this trip. Even back in my own bathroom this morning, I reflexively grabbed a tissue in order to turn on the light and flush the toilet. Yuck.
The third night we found a chain hotel and were watching the Olympic closing ceremony when I discovered what could have been a bed bug walking across the sheets. Several hours of hysteria ensued and now I am relying on prayers and magic to keep my home critter- free. Also, all of our bags are still unpacked and in the dining room.
The next 8 days were spent in my parent's home by the New England coast and consisted mainly of: lazing on the beach, swimming in the ocean, eating lobster tacos, lazing, swimming, eating lobster rolls, lazing, swimming, eating lobster bisque.
The new thing about this summer is that Penny decided she doesn't like the ocean anymore which means I went there by myself (!!!!) while Penny hung out with my parents at their home and around town. This was unexpected and a pleasure.
There were just a couple breaks to my lazing, swimming, eating routine. We spent one day on a history tour in Lexington and Concord where I actually got teary because I am just that geeky. We spent one day canoeing in the bay. One evening we did a walking tour of haunted Portsmouth, NH.
I also spent one night alone (no kid! no dog!) in a cliffside retreat overlooking the ocean. I sat out on the rocks late that night, waves crashing all around and imagined sea monsters reaching out for me. I started writing again.
It was hard saying goodbye to my mom. Too hard, almost. She's a smoker and her body is aging beyond her 64 years. She struggles to breathe. She is sad. She is the mirror image of my most insecure self and I wished I could put her in my pocket, keep her safe, hold her in my palm when I am feeling lonely.
We spent our first night back on the road in the Finger Lakes where every decent hotel is always booked for a 100 mile radius, although we did have a yummy Italian lunch the next day overlooking Seneca Lake.
The next three days driving home are where I forgot all the fun and relaxation and decided that I AM UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES DOING THIS AGAIN.
Pennsylvania has idiotic road laws (headlights on in work zones, even when it's sunny?) and Indiana is just......(there is no way to finish this thought without gravely offending Indianans so I will just ask: Why???)
I found a great deal $88 !! for a lovely resort outside of Chicago. I swam in their pool and we ate delicious room service meals. I also got so desperate for alone time that I paid Penny $10 to leave the room for one hour. I spent that time watching what turned out to be the last hour of Bridesmaids. (never saw it before so I thought it was the beginning.) I laughed and then I cried and then Penny returned and asked if I wanted to go down to the game room with her. I played Ms. Pac Man while she cheered.
The best thing about a long vacation is coming home and LOVING everything that is familiar -- the grocery store brands, the cashier's accent, even your own familiar germs on the toilet seat. I've been back less than 24 hours and still have that dreamy feeling looking out on my familar creek, sitting in my favorite chair on the deck: am I really here, at home?
I am so blessed.