Maine Day 26 - 28: The Road Home
While I was planning one more day in Maine, to "do" Rt 302 and all the fun things it had to offer along the way (train museum, antiques galore, lots of quick restaurants, and mini-golf to name a few things on my mind), we woke up to a cold, rainy, overcast day.
I woke up very early that day, as I had (yet again) fallen asleep with the children. (Which is why I'm only just now blogging summer in fall. It's very difficult to both live and document a very full life.) I washed our plastic hotel cups with soap and water, washed the plastic kid plates I had, washed some plastic forks I'd acquired along the way, packed and loaded everything, including the cooler and ice, while they slept. By 7 am, I was coming back from the hotel lobby with breakfast for everyone and nothing left in the room but toiletries and their clothes for the day. I had made sure we had enough snacks and food for everyone for the entire day before we left, so we wouldn't have to stop for restaurant meals (because who wants to do that)? Again, I am seeing a light at the end of the tunnel, and I think it's headlights to a Winnebago. So many of the inconveniences that keep sane people from taking road trips like this one could be solved with a camper.
We drove exactly 500.0 miles from our hotel to my college friend and sorority sister Dana's house, nestled in the strikingly gorgeous Valley Forge National Historic Park area, and we arrived just in time to drive through Valley Forge as a brilliant sunset was flickering through the trees. Beautiful streams of light shone through and flickered little spotlights. It was hard not to stop and photograph, but I knew Dana and her family were expecting us, and I simply could not wait to see her. She was expecting their third child! Dana is an astrophysicist and teaches at Villanova. I have many favorite memories with her from our days at Furman, but my very favorite actually came when we were both in graduate school. She came for a while to study gamma rays with the telescope owned by the University of Arizona, where I was working on my Master's in education. We went to the desert one chilly night, and she showed me what she was working on and the big idea behind it. I was fascinated, and mostly, in great admiration. Her understanding and enthusiasm for our place in the heavens is irrefutably contagious. She and I share the same sort of cautious laugh sometimes and while we can and have had long, deep conversations, I'm equally at home together, just being and saying nothing. I can see why she's such a great teacher, and I still see that today when she's with her little boys - her wit, her patience, her intelligence, her tenacity - it's all there. As I write this, she's just recently had her third baby, and it's a girl. I'm so happy for her. For all of them. (All 5! 5! Wonderful news.)
The following day we played on the playground all together, all 5 of our kids. Then the kids and I struck out again, North Carolina bound, another 6.5 hours. Eloise slept and slept and slept so we drove and drove and drove. She woke up, hungry, in a traffic jam on the interstate. We did what we could, but traffic wasn't parked, so I had to pull over through what seemed like 18 lanes of traffic. When I exited, there was no public place to stop, just an endless maze of business parks, so we parked at one. I was surprised the security guard let us in as dirty as road-weary as we all looked, but I had that look of determination you don't question. I trudged through a big open indoor courtyard where every surface was glass or granite. In the center, four men about 5-10 years older than I am were having a meeting, and I realized they were all there well into dinnertime. All with laptop computers and tablets, all in dressy casual. It was like a magic mirror into the life I would have had had I kept my old job instead of staying home. I only lingered at the magic mirror for about 0.9 seconds.
In the office park parking lot, women my age all around me were exiting the building in pretty and clean work clothes. I felt dirty, my shoes were worn, our van was filthy, I had at least two kids wanting something from me, and there I was in the office building's conjoined Starbucks parking lot, using a plastic fork to heap fresh, cold, cut-up broccoli onto a plastic pink pig plate. I felt so out of place. And yet, I didn't want to be any of the people around me. I just wanted to crawl up into the van with the kids and shut the hatch behind me. If it hadn't been for the port-a-crib and antique sewing table I'd bought and stuffed in there, I probably would have. I think this is one of those moments you're wondering why we haven't bought that Winnebago yet.
We made it to NC, after 10-12 separate traffic jams on I-95, around 10 pm. Late, just late. So late. The kids' little cousin Cruz was still awake. Cruz is the toddler son of Jenny & Betto. Jenny is Geoff's cousin. Betto is a dancer and taught the kids a little salsa before bed. It was a good time. In the morning, Cannon helped Betto make these amazing bacon baskets? Do you know about these things? If not, you are missing out. You somehow shape bacon into baskets? (Maybe in a muffin pan?) Then you fill them with scrambled eggs and top with whatever you like. Paired with fruit, it was a Top 3 Breakfast of 2017 for me. (Stacy's scones and blueberry muffins are right up there in the Top 3 as well.)
The following day Jenny had to work, but Betto and Cruz and Cannon and Grace and Eloise and I all went to Pullen Park in Raleigh. We played on the playground a little while and waited for our little train ride to pull around, since Betto had graciously bought us all tickets. However, when it was time to apply sunscreen, one of our children had a meltdown that required my full body and attention to manage, and we left immediately.
It was time to go home.
So we did.
That evening, we arrived in front of our house, with 3,531.8 miles logged since our last time here.
This is what I saw.