The first item I need to address:
A few people have asked me if the tale of our journey home includes children barfing in the car. I can most gratefully report that NO, no child emptied the contents of their stomach while we were on our way home. Thank. GOODNESS. And now, with that out of the way...
Vermont, Part II
After sleeping for about 4 hours, I gave up on trying to get back to sleep, got dressed, and started packing the car at 5:00 am. I was a driven woman. I was ready to face the land of cheese and bratwurst once again and bid farewell to the beautiful awfulness that is Vermont. The big boys woke up about 5:30, and I proceeded to put them to work. What else can you do with a 3 and 4 year old at 5:30 am when you're trying to pack for a 1,000 mile trip home? I'll tell you. NOTHING. So David and Daniel helped me pack up the van, and before we knew it, we were on our way home. We stopped for breakfast in Middlebury (I still love Middlebury), and I took over driving until we reached the New York thruway in Albany, NY. During my stint of driving, three major highlights occured:
1) Taking the Fort Ticonderoga ferry and seeing the clouds from Hurricane Irene. Creepy. Weird. Glad I was heading into New York. The ferry was fun, and the boys loved it. I would totally do it again.
2) Driving through a small portion of the Adirondacks. Gorgeous.
3) The Mysterious Mound of Manure.
Yes, you read that right. The Mysterious Mound of Manure. While waiting for the ferry, we got out of the car for a minute just to stretch our legs and watch the ferry come back from the NY side. We had been driving through a great deal of farmland (read: tractors on the road everywhere), so our tires were pretty full of the most aromatic fertilizer. Nothing seemed amiss to me until we started to walk back to the van, and my left leg started feeling...WEIRD. Kind of cold and wet. I looked down, and to my horror, there, smeared across my calf (and slightly across my cropped yoga pants) was THE MYSTERIOUS MOUND OF MANURE. Okay, so it wasn't really a MOUND, but it sounded good. "What on earth?!" I exclaimed. And then my dear sister Meg said,"Yeah, I was wondering what that was." GEE, THANKS, MEG. So I spent 5 minutes of our 7-minute ferry ride scrubbing my leg (and yoga pants) with a baby wipe. To this day, I have no idea how The Mysterious Mound of Manure found its way onto my unsuspecting left calf. It shall be a mystery until the day I die, and when I get to heaven, you can bet one of the first questions I'm going to ask God will be "Lord, how did the Mysterious Mound of Manure find its way onto my leg?" And then...AND THEN...I shall know. Oh, and I highly doubt I'm actually going to remember to ask God about the MM of M. But it's nice knowing that if I wanted to ask Him, I COULD. And that, my friends, is the strange and bizarre account of The Mysterious Mound of Manure.
Anyway, we managed to make it through the rest of New York and Pennsylvania fairly unscathed. Daniel did his usual screaming for the final 1.5 hours of the trip, but we sallied forth, and before I knew it, the mountains were gone, the roads were wide and open, Ohio stretched out before us, people were rude...and I was so very happy.
We checked into our hotel. Boy, was it nice to be in a hotel. Am I shallow and weak for saying that? If I am, then SO BE IT. We ordered a pizza and some potato skins, and I must say a word about pizza in Ohio: we have NEVER been disappointed. EVER. This is coming from a Chicago girl. We set things up picnic-style on the hotel room floor, and everyone gathered around the pizza box to eat. We watched footage of Hurricane Irene whilst eating (appetizing!), and were horrified to see that the very river in Vermont that we had been swimming in the entire week was severely flooded. Like halfway up the trees flooded. It was really shocking to think that we had escaped by mere hours. While Steve, Meg, and I were talking about the storm and such, David had decided that he'd had enough of this storm business, climbed up onto one of the beds, and growled,"HEY! This isn't my pillow!" and proceeded to fling it across the room, where it landed...square in the middle of the pizza box. On top of the pizza. Thankfully, the pizza survived, but it was truly amazing how one thing after another just seemed to keep happening. I think I went to bed at 8:30 that night.
And I slept.
Well, it was a step up.
And then I awoke with a burning desire to engage in two stereotypical suburbia activities:
1) I. Wanted. Starbucks.
2) I want to drive around and look at beautiful homes. Which meant only one thing...
We were taking a mini-detour through Shaker Heights, Ohio.
Have you ever been to Shaker Heights, Ohio? It's really an amazing little place. The homes are truly the most beautiful, well-preserved, older homes I have EVER seen in my entire life, the neighborhoods are absolutely gorgeous and very walkable, and it is the most beautiful, well-organized little community I've ever known of. The homes are ridiculously affordable (no, really; they ARE), and there are breathtakingly beautiful little parks EVERYWHERE. It is such a perfect little oasis, and you'd never know that downtown Cleveland is only 8 miles west. Shaker Heights is one of those places that I vowed, years ago, that I would return to, JUST to see if I felt the same way about it. And so, off we went to Starbucks and Shaker Heights. I think I was feeling a tad bit sorry for myself with the way everything had turned out, and I just wanted ONE thing to work out for me. We drove through a few neighborhoods, and I could feel myself falling in love again. But two blocks later...whoa. Not exactly the place we wanted to be. What started out as a "mini-detour" turned into nearly an hour of driving through the worst parts of Cleveland because there was major construction on the road we had planned to take out of Cleveland. And as gorgeous as Shaker Heights is, I realized a few things:
1) I was lucky enough to get to go back, "just to see". A lot of people never get that chance.
2) It's beautiful, but it's not the place for me.
I was fortunate enough to be able to close that chapter of my life. As difficult as our vacation was at times, I was aware of the privilege of being able to go back and satisfy my curiosity, so to speak. I was able to cross New England and Shaker Heights off my "list" for good. And THAT, my dear friends, was truly an amazing feeling. Closure! There's nothing quite like it.
The remainder of our trip was thankfully uneventful, and when I saw the Chicago skyline, I actually teared up a little, which I found quite startling. And no, it's not because Chicago is my home. But when I see Chicago, I know that I'm *almost* home. "Darn you," I said to Steve. "You're slowly wearing me down and making me love this area." He just smiled.
And honked his horn at the guy cutting us off.
Yep. We were home.
And so closes our most epic adventure yet. Thank you for sticking with me through my sporadic posting, and stay tuned for more (slightly tamer) adventures of Skarymop & Co.!