On Thursday July 22nd my wife, daughter, & I left on a family vacation out east. The original plan was to go as far as my brother's in Fort Wayne that afternoon (about a 4 hour drive) and then on to my sister's place in Rochester, NY on Friday and finish the drive up to my parents on Saturday the 24th.
Plans rarely work out the way you expect. We made it to Fort Wayne by about eight or eight thirty. We ate our dinner and I fed my daughter (unbeknownst to me it was Gerber prunes which would not bode well for the rest of the journey) and tried to get my daughter to go to sleep.... She wasn't having it. My brother wasn't home but he'd left us with the combo to his garage door. Thus his A.C. units had not been on for awhile and while merely hot and humid outside, it was generally unbearable inside. Between the heat and humidity, the strange surroundings, and the lack of padding in her pack 'n' play sleep was not about to embrace our little munchkin.
We gave it until 12:30. If she wasn't asleep by then, we'd get up shower and hit the road to Rochester and possibly on to my parents place. She wasn't asleep at 12:30. So we showered, re-packed the car, gassed up, coffee'd up (is that a legit term? If not, it is now, I'm taking it!) and by the time we hit the road it was about one-thirty. I took the first leg.
As is my tendency-- and honestly I'm not sure where I get this from-- I kept pushing my leg farther and farther allowing my wife to sleep more. Initially we were planning to switch drivers every 2 hours. I continued driving through most of Ohio. We stopped for gas somewhere between Euclid and Ashtabula (just east of Cleveland) sometime between five-thirty and six a.m.
My wife took over for awhile, we got through the rest of Ohio, a little snippet of Pennsylvania and into New York State where we stopped for breakfast before continuing on. I took the driving back over after breakfast. I saw the exit for my sister's place coming up... she wasn't home either so I just kept on driving until we made it to a rest stop and switched again. My wife took over driving for a short spell and got us as far as the I-90/I-81 interchange when we switched again.
The worst part of this journey is the last 100 miles/two hours or so. Once you get off I-81 it's all two lane roads for the rest of the trip. It's part of the reason why my wife & I usually drive through Canada instead (going through Canada only the last 45 minutes or so are on two lane roads, as opposed to the last 2 hours). After zooming along at around 75-80 for the lion's share of the journey the last 2 hours at anywhere from 30-65 mph is painfully slow. I'd go so far as to say those last two hours almost seem longer than the entire rest of the journey.
We finally pulled in to my parents driveway at about 5:15 pm Friday night. Somewhat road weary and exhausted. The house was full. My sister and her husband were napping before going to her 30 year class reunion, my brother (the one from Fort Wayne whose house we'd left at 1:30 am the same day) was there with his family. They were preparing to leave at 3 am for their return trip (the rest of us are still trying to figure out the logic on that). And my nephew and his family were there as well. We had planned to crash there that night but the house was quite full.
After talking with my recently awakened sister we determined there were free beds in her camper at the campground where my parents were also staying (Meacham Lake) as she and her husband were planning on crashing at my parents that night. So we got back in the car and drove up to camp to see and surprise the rest of my family who weren't expecting us for another day. We figured after about 16 hours of travel (thanks to frequent stops for food and diaper changes-- the latter of which we had more stops than anticipated thanks to Samantha's dessert the night before) what's another half hour?
So we pulled into the campground bedraggled and road weary and snuck into my parents site to surprise them. It was their first time seeing Sami since she was 3 months old. Needless to say she's changed considerably and developed quite a personality since then. For my sister, brother, and sister-in-law it was their first time ever seeing Sami. And the last time my brother-in-law had seen Samantha (he was in town on business shortly after she was born and stayed overnight on his trip) she was just over two weeks old.
Ever since an unfortunate incident getting knocked over by a yellow Lab several months ago, my daughter has been quite skittish around all dogs regardless of size and/or temperment. This was something we knew going into this trip and something we were a bit wary of considering my parents' Beagle, my brother's two Golden Retrievers, my sister's two Poodles, and my other brother's Pug. Luckily my other sister had sent her Airedale home early with her son who had to cut his vacation short to get back to work before we got there and my other brother was at my parents' house with his wife's toy poodle and his Labradoodle. Oh and my nephew had left his Great Dane at home (although I think with a saddle and riding lessons, Samantha would have been fine with Gizmo). Initially Samantha was quite clingy and fussy around the dogs but as the week progressed her skittishness subsided and she grew increasingly more comfortable-- first with my brother's Golden Retrievers and later with my sister's poodles, and finally with my parents' Beagle (once she learned Ginger's bark/howl/baying was far worse than her bite).
After some nice hot showers and dinner we finally went to bed. Our exhausted little one literally fell asleep in Toni's arms as we were visiting my sister and brother-in-law in their camper. That night all three of us slept like logs. Samantha woke up disoriented a few times but was quick to fall back asleep.
Saturday we largely took it easy and relaxed after all of the driving the day before. We visited and caught up with family and eventually drove back to my parents place for the night so we could join my parents for church the next morning (and give my mom a chance to show off her youngest granddaughter). Just 'cause that's the way we roll, yo!
Sunday evening following Sami's nap we returned to camp for Sami's third first birthday party (she had 2 b-day parties in June). She attacked her smash cake with great vigor and tremendous aplomb (if that's possible) before I took her into the lake and dunked her to wash off all the icing that hadn't quite made it into her mouth. She spent the next several hours on a sugar rush before literally collapsing in my aunt's camper at about 10:30 pm.
Monday we helped my parents and aunt break camp before making the rounds and spending time with my siblings in their respective campsites and then got together with my nephew and his family for a trip up Whiteface Mtn...
We stopped briefly in Saranac Lake at Jreck's (a northern NY sub chain that is leaps and bounds better than Subway. If you're ever in Northern NY I highly recommend seeking out a Jreck's) before continuing on to Whiteface. At about 4:08 we pulled up to the tollbooth at Whiteface Mountain to read a sign that indicated the road was closed for the day. Hours of operation were 9-4. D'oh! So back down the mountain we went with Sami crying (as she'd never experienced having her ears pop before that). Back down to Lake Placid where we sated my nephews 2 sons with a quick round of mini-golf before continuing back to the campground.
On Tuesday we met up with my nephew and his wife again and went to Lake Placid as a five-some (my brother and sis-in-law opted to take the boys for a day). It was great to bond and play catch-up with my "little brother-like" nephew. We hadn't seen each other in over three years and for a couple of guys who had been inseperable for several summers in the late eighties and into the early nineties we picked up right where we'd left off. While we did some shopping and grabbed a long quick meal (the food was great and we ate it quickly but the service was tremendously slow and thus the meal turned from forty-five minutes to an hour into two hours)
Wednesday we laid low for much of the day. I got in touch with an old high school friend that I hadn't seen or spoken to since my high school graduation party back in 1995. We took a trip out to see my grandparent's old sugar shack. My grandfather made maple syrup from the maple trees on his property for several years (long before I was born). In the years since my grandfather's passing in 1984 his sugar shack had long since fallen into disrepair. In recent years my aunt has cleaned up and renovated the shack and turned it into a bit of a wilderness retreat-- quite a feat considering how far off the beaten path my aunt already is. Wednesday evening my old high school chum stopped by for a visit. I introduced him to my wife and daughter and we talked for awhile, shared pictures, caught up with one another and shared stories of what's happened to the various classmates we've kept in touch with.
Thursday it was back to Lake Placid, this time with my parents. As much as I love the scenery where I'm from, barring a now-required passport or passport card there's not much to do other than spend time in the Adirondacks. My passport expired in September 09 and I'm yet to renew. After this trip, I decided I need to bite the bullet and renew my passport so on our next trip out East we can do a day trip out to Ottawa, Montreal, or possibly Parc Safari. My wife's exposure to Canada has been somewhat negative-- unclean rest stops along the 401, Toronto traffic,Trudeau (formerly Dorval) airport in Montreal, and a few bites from a plate of Poutine (a French-Canadian dish featuring cheese curds melted onto French Fries with piping hot beef gravy. Personally I enjoy it in small doses but it's a bit too unhealthy and heavy for my wife's palate). I'd like to introduce her to some of the more positive things that Canada has to offer (and growing up 11 miles from the NY/Quebec border I've grown to know and love many of those things) like the old city in Montreal, just about all of Ottawa (which I prefer over Montreal, but that's just me), the Rick Mercer Report (the Canadian equivalent of Jon Stewart/The Daily Show), and perhaps even the Dini Petty Show (is that even still on the air?)
We left on Friday morning with a scheduled stop in Erie, PA (which works out to be almost exactly halfway between Chicago and my parents home when traveling through the US, I believe the halfway point when traveling through Canada is a stretch of the 401 somewhere between Windsor and London Ontario).
Phew, pardon me while I catch my breath.