Wednesday, September 5, 2018

The Road Trip

 When we originally planned to drive across the US from Oregon to Washington DC I had all kinds of plans.  But, as I have learned from our limited experience with the State Department, things don't always go as planned.  My mom and I made the first leg to Utah without Brandon.  When the movers were finally able to come, he hopped on a plane and we were headed out soon after.  From the moment we started it was a time crunch and most of that time went to the actual driving.  In the end we were able to see a little bit of a lot of places. 
How can I describe the overall feeling of the trip?  It was chaos and adventure.  It was terrifying and exhilarating and fascinating.  The contrast between cities in this country is incredible.  Each place has its own style and its own feel.  Since we were so short on time most of our stops were the tourist sites which were packed with people in the peak of travel season.  Since we were also short on funds we kept mostly to what we could see for free. 
The kids weren't perfect.  They are kids after all and there was a fair share of whining and "are we there yet"s but I have to say that they did a great job.  It is hard enough to leave family and friends to move to a new place but we had them in a new hotel every night as we traveled.  Even as an adult it was a strain.  I started to feel like the car was our real home.  It helped that we were able to visit good friends and family on our way.  A friendly face in a new place is worth gold.
The first day was straight driving.  We went from Ogden to Council Bluffs, Iowa.  We mostly saw nothing so the air balloon crossing over the freeway was quite a delight. 

 Out of all the things we did and the places that we saw the kids will tell anyone who asks that staying in hotels was their favorite part of the trip.  Especially when there was a pool.  Since everything had been so last minute Brandon was basically booking hotels as we went because we were never quite sure where we were going to be. The places we stayed ranged wildly from dive to luxury which actually made things pretty fun.  We never were sure what we were getting until we pulled into the place.  Generally by the time we were arriving all of us were so sick of being in the car we didn't care much anyway. 
 The kids also loved picking movies from the Red Box and returning them in different places.  And they had a good time choosing snacks from the convenience stores when we stopped for gas, and getting fast food.  We tried to make sure and do some of our meals by buying things at grocery stores.  That way we still had some fruits and veggies to keep everyone from feeling gross.
I knew that we were going to be in the car for a fair share of the time, but knowing and actually driving those roads is a vastly different thing.
 Just about every night there was a battle for who was going to share a bed. The word is that if you are with Ike or Rosy you had better be ready to be kicked. I know it is true because in New Jersey they messed up our reservation and instead of one big room we were in two which meant 1 adult and 2 kids in each bed.  The first night I got stuck with the littles and we didn't sleep much at all.  Actually, I must have slept a little bit because I woke up sleepwalking in the night.  I was dreaming that Ike was on the subway track and I grabbed him from his bed and carried him over to the corner of the room before I regained a handle on reality.  The second night was better when I had Rocky and Daisy.  We stayed up late watching Food Network.
 Our first site was Winter Quarters.  Maybe we were just fresh on our trip but it was a lovely center.  The kids all got dressed up in pioneer garb and pushed a handcart around the place. 
I am sure it was because we had also just recently packed up all our belongings to move from a place we love in hopes of a better future but I felt a special kinship with those people.  Some of them were my own ancestors and they were probably scared when they left too, but everything turned out all right.  They were able to create a beautiful home in Utah.

Lots and lots of driving.

 Our next stop was Nauvoo.  We got there an hour before closing and learned how to make rope.  That night the kids got to participate in the children's parade and we saw the last variety show performance of the summer.  It was fabulous. 

 On Sunday we visited the Fr. Madison branch and had lunch in our hotel and headed back into Nauvoo.

 We stopped in a bunch of the buildings.  I personally loved the printing office because I'm all about the written word.  I was also really touched by the house of Wilford Woodruff.  There wasn't anything that special there, but the missionary was a lovely senior from Georgia and she spoke right to my heart.  Her message was mostly about the idea that God knows the desires of our hearts and even if He has other plans for us, He still has compassion for how we feel. By the end I was bawling and she was bawling and I was determined to be a more dedicated person.  One time a woman in our Eugene ward said that being Mormon was in her DNA and it has always stuck with me.  My ancestors chose this spiritual language and it is a literal part of who I am, mind, body and heart.
 Over and over again on this trip I was shocked to find myself at a place that I had heard of all my life but didn't truly believe was a real place.  I mean, how many times did I spell Mississippi in elementary school but here I was, actually putting my hand in it?  I never thought that these places were fictional but it blows my mind that you can just hop in a car and drive until you are looking at the Statue of Liberty or the Lincoln Memorial. 

 We went to the Carthage Jail where Joseph and Hyrum Smith were killed.  My Grandma Howard told me that her family came from that area.  She said that an ancestor had his name on the jail because he was a judge there at one point but now all the names have been removed.  Just as I said being Mormon was in my DNA so was being a Mormon persecutor.
They have done a good job trying to make the visit positive but it is sad.  It is so tragic that those two fathers never were able to return to their families. 
 The drive from Carthage to Terre Haute was my favorite part of the whole trip.  We went through miles of gorgeous cornfields.  We were on back roads instead of freeway and it was a beautiful morning.  The corn was as high as an elephant's eye and all that.
That drive delivered us to our dear friends the Davis family.  These guys were our family in Eugene and it was encouraging to me that even though we haven't seen each other for two years the bond is as strong as ever.  We picked up just where we left off.  They made an incredible dinner for us and we stayed up all night talking about memories and catching up on news.

 I had gotten a serious case of homesickness and Michelle and Jim healed me almost instantaneously.  They helped me remember that friendship still exists even when there are states, and possibly countries separating people.

After feeling so happy in Indiana it was hard to get back into the car.  There were some super grumpy kids.  It looked like it was going to be a long, awful slog so we pepped things up with some Slurpies.  Let's just say they were well-received.

 The motel we stayed at in Niagra Falls was 100% road trip nostalgia.  It looked straight out of the 60s. The Moonlight was just too perfect.  The room wasn't great for the price but it was worth it just for the sign.

 Despite the fact that the floor was sticky we all managed a great night of sleep.

I never get sick of little toes.
 Niagra Falls was on our original itinerary but then it was bumped but then I had a big tantrum and it was returend, and then Rosy had a big tantrum and it was bumped again.  Somehow we still ended up going there.  The deal was that we could go, but under no circumstance were we to get on a boat and get splashed by the water.  Rosy has such weird things that bother her.  I don't know what it was but the idea of the boat stressed her out. 
 Well, the thing about Niagra Falls on the New York side is that everything costs a hundred billion dollars and there is only really one cool thing to do. Go on a boat.

 We walked through hordes of tourists throwing money around and did get a nice little view.  Everyone was super mad though because the day was so hot and it would sure have been fun to go out on a boat.  Even Rosy agreed in the end, but by that time it was too late. 
Lessons learned at Niagra Falls.  If you have a chance to go on a boat, TAKE IT! 
 Brandon cheered everyone up with an impromptu game that he made up on the spot.  He is pretty amazing.  I mean, I don't like reading all those public posts where people go on and on about how perfect their significant other is, but seriously.  This guy is a road trip genius.  We had 4 kids ready to kill each other and he put them in a circle to do the wave and before you know it they are all laughing and cheerful.  I would have just told them to shut up and buckle themselves in.

 I wanted to spend longer looking around some of the places I lived as a missionary but there just wasn't time.  I guess it didn't matter much anyway because I hardly recognized anything.  I never would have recognized my old apartment building except I could never forget the theater and dance club across the street, The Hippodrome.
 Springfield has followed a lot of other cities in becoming what looks like a pretty hip place to live. 
 Roslindale was an even bigger surprise.  For some reason I remembered it as a quaint little suburb but it is a happening place.  The hustle and bustle felt foreign.  It made me sad that I didn't have more of a grasp of the city.  I did recognize the square, and the library (of course) and the Cathedral by our house that Sis. Smith always called La Cimitarra because the steeple looked like a weapon. 
The church seemed vaguely familiar.  I wonder if things have really changed that much or if I just have a horrible memory.  I definitely remember the top floor apartment in our house.  It looks pretty much exactly the same.  I am curious if there are still sister missionaries living there.  I thought it was adorable then and I still do now.
We got pretty good at grocery store meals that can be made in hotel rooms.  The rotisserie chicken was a favorite of Daisy.  The kids loved it because they got to watch cartoons while eating.  Note to self: Next time you want to have a vacation just get a room at the closest hotel and eat in front of the TV.  Everyone will like it more than they liked Niagra Falls.

We walked the Freedom Trail in Boston.  I did remember Boston Common and it hasn't changed a bit.  I love that the city has created the brick trail to follow.  It is kind of magical to follow.  My favorite part of it is the section that most people skip that goes right through the North End in Little Italy and across the Charles River. 
I really enjoyed going back.  It brought up a lot of feelings that I hadn't felt in a long time.  It made me realize that the city has changed but that the roots are still the same, and that is kind of true for me too. 
The Democratic Donkey and the Republican Resistance
Although if Rocky knew that was what she was doing I don't think she'd be happy.

 I loved being on the T again.  I found all the stops that I used to take off the orange line.  I wish we would have had one more day so that I could have taken the kids to Cambridge and gone to Harvard Square.  Too bad I have sworn off travel for the rest of my life.

This was the aforementioned hotel in Jersey.  You can see how fun it is to sleep with two wiggle worms...and that isn't even considering my crazy sleep walking.
 Since we really only had one day in New York City we had to make the best use of our time.  We rode the Staten Island Ferry and the Subway all over town.  We did some shopping at Times Square and ate at the Shake Shack.

 The rest of the day was spent at Central Park.  It was super hot and humid and the kids really enjoyed the splash pad.  I got so hot and tired that I fell asleep right on the turf.  I was kind of jealous that Ike just got to sleep and be carried around by his dad.
 Rosy had a moment where I thought we were going to have to leave her in New York forever.  Brandon talked her down with a little help from a popsicle.  The humidity was great for her hair though. 
 Our last stop was to get some pizza.  The kids loved seeing the Statue of Liberty and they really liked the Disney store.  I have never traveled during the peak tourist season like this and I kept laughing at how absurd it all is.  Humans are bizarre.  I mean, I know there are like 6 billion of us on the planet and most of us don't even live in this country but walking around the city it is hard to believe that so many people can inhabit such a small space.  The contrast between those huge empty cornfields and the nonstop flow of people in and out of the M&M store is almost impossible to comprehend. 
 From there we were on our way to Philadelphia where we were met by a bunch of Riglets. 

 We had so much fun with Derek and Aynna and their kids.  They have carved out a pretty cool life in a great part of the city.  We hung out with some neighbor kids who showed off their skills at dancing and parkour and walked to Fred's to get Water Ice.  I have never heard of water ice before but I'm a fan. 

 The kids reconnected with their cousins and we spent most of the afternoon just talking story.   Nobody was really interested in doing any sightseeing. Derek has a way of getting us all laughing really hard and it was fun to just hold still for a moment and enjoy being together.  We got dinner at an awesome Vietnamese place and the kids all watched a movie together, sleepover style.  They were great hosts and even packed snacks for us to take on the rest of the trip. 
 We stopped in for sacrament meeting at the meeting house next to the temple.  On the way out we traded cameras with the other tourist families and each got a photo.  The temple is super cool looking.  It is an strong grey color that matches with the surrounding buildings.  I found it striking.
 We walked over to the Rocky statue but were too lazy to wait in line for a photo.  Instead I just took one of the line.
 Our Rocky wasn't really feeling it and despite my begging wouldn't run up the steps to pose.  She was bummed out by the rain.  We've only been out of Oregon for a month and my kids have already turned into whiners when it comes to precipitation.  Daisy and Rosy picked up the slack. 

 The last leg of this trip wasn't really that long but it sure felt like it.  I think it was only like 3 hours but it was 3 hours too long. I guess the last mile of any kind of journey is generally the hardest so I shouldn't be surprised.

 We finally pulled into our new building.  When we got out I turned and looked at the car and my eyes filled with tears.  I honestly didn't think we would make it and now my feelings for that Odyssey are so tender.  We are ready to get started here in our home for the next couple of months.  In a way it was helpful spending 10 days in 10 different places because now 4 months feels like forever.
The kids get a gold star for being so good.  It was a crazy thing that we asked of them and they tried their best to be happy and well behaved. 
And a double gold star goes to Brandon.  He drove every time we were in a city and the traffic was crazy.  He planned all the hotels and figured out free stuff to do.  He came up with games and activities and kept us all in good spirits. 
We went so many places so quickly that we will all probably forget most of what we did but I hope that these kids always remember crossing from the West Coast to the East Coast together.  America is beautiful.