We haven't taken a big family summer vacation in years due to a variety of predictable challenges (not enough time, not enough money, too much work, not enough) but this summer Ted and I decided to be a little more pro-active and do the proper planning to make a bona fide vacation actually happen.The plan was to pack up the car and head northeast to New England to see friends in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and a first for me, Maine. I must say, I was more nervous about this trip than any other trip I've taken in a long time. First of all, we have never driven more than 5 hours continuously as a Clan. This trip would entail covering 1,000 miles with two days of at least 8 hours trapped in the car. (I swear, I was less nervous flying solo to Australia with Ben was he was only 11 months old.) And then of course, things got really busy right before our trip and we also had family come for a visit right beforehand. We did have dates lined up with friends and the motel booked in New Hampshire but that was it. We were to leave on Friday morning. On Wednesday evening Ted whispered to me, "We haven't discussed our route." I whispered back, "I know," and tried to avoid eye contact. Hopping in a car to go crash with friends with no particular route in mind is great when you're 22 and don't know any better, but it gets a little trickier when you've got a 5 year-old and a 9 year-old taking up residence in the back seat.
But we somehow managed to pack up the car, grab snacks, books on tape, dvds, cds and pull out the big map and thrust our car East. We must have had the travel gods looking out for us Big Time because other than a dingy motel room in Erie, PA our first night on the road, every place we visited and all the friends we saw, the food we ate, the lakes and ponds and beaches we swam in, the walks we took, the tiny but meaningful discoveries we made, it was just damn near perfect. I think it was a combination of great luck, truly wonderful and generous friends, impeccable weather, gorgeous, gorgeous landscapes and a little bit of planning that went a long way and allowed for flexibility on the getting there and coming back. And the value of friends was just huge on this trip. The Lucas Clan, The Steedman Family and Linda Lutz all literally flung open their doors to us. Being welcomed into these homes really made the trip and allowed us to deeply and genuinely relax into the places we were staying. Everyone knows I like to eat out, but on this trip, it was eating in our friends homes that made it all come together for me.
I'd have to write an epic post to tell the story of the whole trip, so I am going to share some of my favorite images and a few thoughts. It really was a wonder-filled adventure.
Sam at Squam Lake, Holderness, NH. Swimming to raft and practicing diving over and over are what he did for three days straight. He also kayaked around one edge of the lake solo. I got a few solo kayak trips in as well.
We stayed at the Boulders Motel, a funky little roadside motel overlooking Squam Lake. Every day the boys discovered something new. On this day it was climbing one of the giant boulders near the beach.
The joke in our family is that I made them all drive 1,000 miles just so that I could have a lobster roll in Maine. But that's not quite true. I actually ate three lobster rolls in two different states! The most delicious one (that I don't have a picture of) was eaten in the dining room of my friend Sarah's parents' amazing home. They don't mess around with lobsters in Maine. And they don't disappoint either.
Ben at Sunset. We were waiting for a Shrimp Po-Boy and a Lobster Roll at The Big Catch, he was more interested in hopping along the rocks. We are lucky, once we get our boys out, they can pretty much entertain themselves for hours at a time. They had a lot of that on this trip . . .
The boys made new friends every place we stayed. I love that about kids. Here they are at the stunning beach in York, Maine.
They also got to go off and explore solo and see nature in totally new ways. Sam and his new buddy Henry found 11 starfish in the tidepools of these rocks. (Also at York Beach.) When's the last time you saw 11 starfish in a tidepool? I'd say that was worth the price of gas right there.
I wasn't kidding about being mad for lobster in Maine. And I don't know if you can see it, but they were going for $3.99 a pound. This little shop was just plucked right in the residential area near the Steedmans home. What, we've got a 7-11 around the corner but here it's a live lobster shop. Awesome!
This is the Fireman's Parade in York on our last day in Maine. Sarah's family has deep roots in the York community and especially around the Fireman's Muster. (I think her Dad is the third generation to be involved in it and now his sons and his son-in-law are a part of it.) I geek out hard on small-town parades and so this was just magical to me. They threw out locally made salt water taffy! They wore old-fashioned (funny looking) hats and these cool red shirts that say "Protection" on the back. They pulled old out the antique fire rigs. OK, you get it, this was a really high note for leaving, especially since I didn't want to leave Maine at all.
This is my friend Linda, she has a place in Leyden, MA. The original "plan" (eeked out whilst on the road and via Facebook and very spotty internet action) was to just get together and have a cup of coffee and be on our way to a motel somewhere in Western MA. But the next thing you know Linda says we should just stay at her place and that is exactly was we did. It was completely spontaneous and I think that spontaneity when travelling can lead to some of the most amazing experiences. She ended up making a lovely meal--with lots of veggies grown right in her garden --which we ate al fresco on her deck. The boys went out into the woods and collected sticks for a fire that they really got to build and feed and marvel at. Later as we sat on the deck the stars came out, just carpeting the sky. And just as we were gathering things to bring in the kitchen, the owls started hooting in the forest. Another magical ending to the last leg of our trip.
If I can somehow figure out how to get some images off my phone, I'll share those next. But either way, we are so happy we made the trip and are seriously already talking about how we might do another version of it next summer.
Happy end of summer, everyone. I hope that you were able to go someplace amazing!