New England

Ten days of rich experiences filled the space between the time we sailed off from the Moose Willow on the Wyoming winds and arrived on the coast of Maine up to our knees in the Atlantic Ocean.

After a solid Pike County weekend, the three of us pushed off for the next leg of the expedition. Monday morning was a scatter of ends i kept loose and had yet to tie up. last minute laundry, fuel, Fed Ex Drop-off, new windshield wipers…we got off to a late-ish start. The day was dreary with constant rain that turned itself up and down like a toddler mashing the volume button of the remote. through the downpours and within the mist, it was clear that the leaves were changing in intensity. there is a visual frequency of vibrancy that can only be revealed on stormy days. the homies noticed.

we planned a route with the goal of arriving in Belfast, Maine by 2pm on Tuesday. Our first checkpoint was Waterfall Arts after school open studio session.

We took highways and back roads. We didn’t have a plan for Monday night. We were prepared to camp, but instead were treated to a night of indoor accommodations. We drove until just about dark, and landed in a cottage in Plymouth, New Hampshire. the southern end of the White Mountains.

the next morning i was up and at em. i snuggle-woke the homies and we were out the door before 8. the mountains held tight to the early morning fog. we drove straight into and over the hills as the fog broke free and its curtain pulled back so that we could see the mountainsides.

holy. moly. revealed. the sights we were treated to were on a high level of extraordinary. the reaction from the homies elevated that to the high heavens. i said a whole bunch of holy molies. from behind the prayer flags in the seats behind me, the chorus was a constant rotation of ‘wows’ and ‘holy moly pudding and pies’. at some point, i asked what other words we could be using instead of the ones on repeat. Crit said, “Mind. Blown. How bout that?”

that’ll do.

the golden aspen glow of the Rockies in the fall is magnificent. i’ve gawked my way through many Septembers and Octobers in Wyoming and Colorado and Idaho. i will never grow tired of it.

but THIS? New England in the beginning of October left the three of us both speechless and breathless. we had no words. and barrels and heaps of appreciation and wonder and wow. THIS is what we came for.

Bridget was our destination. she suggested a lunch stop on our route into Belfast and it was spot on. we tasted our first bowl of clam chowder and listened to our first real Maine accented conversations among the locals. the restaurant was wall-cluttered ceiling to baseboard with wooden plaques displaying painted quotes and country cuteness. once again, the homies were stimulated at a level of growth. a new experience outside their zone. a hand-made ice cream place was next door. we hit that up too.

we drove all the way to the harbor. where the river met the sea. and showed up when the bell chimed 2 at Waterfall Arts. We had Bridget and the studio to ourselves for over an hour. The three of them were quick friends. within 10 minutes of their meeting, homies were off on a sprint, dashing from tree to tree outside collecting leaves to make prints. they spent three hours in Bridget’s Open Studio trying things out. printing and felting and experimenting, and interacting and participating… existing once again in an experience far from the confines of their comfortable bubble.

We spent the night in an apartment across from Bridget’s due to my inability to breath in the same space as cats. Although Debul was reticent to spend the night at a “Rando’s Apartment” (he kept voting for camping instead) it made his top ten highlight reel of the trip. Attached to the living section of the apartment, was a real deal art studio.

the artist is 90+ years old, and lives on the floor below. he has one of those railing chair lifters to get up to his space. they saw room after room filled with hundreds and hundreds of huge painted canvases. they saw a lifetime of work from a career artist who has always insisted on painting every single day because he believed it is the only way to get better – to always be practicing. they saw the canvas hung on the wall that had recently been gessoed. they saw his brushes and his buckets of paint. they took it all in.

we went down to the waterfront for dinner. our Atlantic Coast finish line was lobster dinner. first, we strolled along the docks. we walked through towering yachts both in and out of the water. we learned how they get the big boats out of the water and how big the buildings and doors have to be to take them inside for repairs. we talked about what a marina is. and we chatted and listened and learned as the sky over the water slowly flickered between purple and pink.

the lobster was anticlimactic – it just tasted meh. although, it also made it on Debul’s highlight reel, “It was a neat experience to have that red lobster on the plate with its eyeballs still on it.”

Time with Bridget was super duper. the homies were incredibly engaged and captivated by her. i knew it would be that way. Time with Bridget was the first thing on the list i made about New England. we hoped for more time, we planned for more time….and not spending more time together was the biggest FAIL we experienced.

the next morning, i was up and at em again. i woke up the homies, stuffed our sleeping bags and pads, and was walking the aisles of the supermarket searching for a somewhat balanced breakfast and some food for camping by 8 again. the drive to Acadia was lovely. we crossed incredible bridges as we drove through costal Maine towns. Lobsters, lobster rolls, and cherry stone clams were sold in stands along both sides of the highway all the way to Bar Harbor. Once we arrived in town, the homies were dying for an Urban Assault. so we did. they took their wallets and we went in and out of stores up and down the street. another experience we will never have at home. Debul bought himself a stuffed animal lobster. He took his wrinkled money out of his wallet and handed it to the fella behind the counter without bothering to unravel it all. he made eye contact with the fella as he waited for his change. he said he did not need a bag and he shoved his change back in his sloth wallet and handed it all to me to carry. he was proud of himself, and so was i.

we ended up at the National Park Visitor Info building to get the low down on the park. homies got their Jr. Ranger packets from a kind Ranger named Maureen. she’s the one who told us what Cherry Stones were when Crit asked. we were setting up camp before noon. we took a moment to reorganize the truck and update journals. homies explored the campground while i got our site nice and situated. i marveled at their recently discovered independence. the three of us have done oodles of traveling together and this was the furthest away from me they have ever voluntarily gone. Debul still prefers to go to the restroom with Crit and me, but i can see the writing on the wall….it is just a matter of time.

we embarked on the park loop in the afternoon. part of me stays silently braced for some sort of childhood blowback, when will they start rolling their eyes and preferring to stay in the car? it never ever comes. they hop in and out of the truck over and over again. racing to the next experience and always reluctant to leave the current one. they could have stayed playing in the frigid waters of the Atlantic all day, they never wanted to stop scrambling along the rocks and cliffs, and the game of never touching dirt on top of Cadallaic Mountain lasted past dusk. When we were through walking through the loops of the Wild Garden, they asked if we could do it again and go back to their favorite spots. so we did. we double-took the cranberry bog and the pitcher plants and went back to count how many frogs we could find on the lilly pads. they read and touched and smelled and compared. we seemed to be the only kids in the park, and that was a-okay. they were both proud to earn their Jr. Ranger badges – they deserved them.

when we headed south from Bar Harbor, we thought we’d be heading back to Belfast for another night with Bridget. A text came through once we were on the road that said she had to work after dinner. we were bummed and decided to continue driving south so that the trip to Boston the next day was not all day in the car. I am pretty adamant about not texting while driving, so it wasn’t until we stopped for fuel an hour or so south of Belfast, that i let Bridget know our change of plans. turns out the text i received was from the day before…she was waiting for us all day. we went from being bummed to heartbroken. i felt awful about the disappointment, but we were too far down the coast by the time we learned of the mistake.

we landed in Freeport that night. LL Bean was on the New England bucket list. we explored the store after dinner. they truly loved it. the taxidermy, the fish pond, the aquarium….they sat in all the chairs and hammocks and picked out all the hoodies they thought DW might like. we got back to the hotel late and went straight to bed. Crit woke up in the middle of the night with a fever and sore throat. i was happy that we were not camping. the next morning, we slowed down our pace and moseyed in and out of the outlet stores in Freeport. it was about noon when we hopped back in the truck for Boston.

i am that friend who does not stay in touch. i am lucky that my besties don’t hold it against me. we were welcomed with open arms and all but a red carpet (there were even fresh flowers in our bedroom). Homies report that hanging out with “the kids” was in both their highlight reels. it was tons of fun. i suppose every kid in the world loves going to another kids house and playing with all their toys. the energy of a 3 and 5 year old was a dose of medicine for Crit who was still suffering from her throat.

on Saturday in the cold and the rain, we took the train into the big city and hit the Freedom Trail…along with throngs of others. It was rather “peopley” as Crit calls it. it seems their favorite part was putting pennies on the the tombstones in the cemetery. We caught a street performer’s act of escaping a straight jacket while hanging upside down in front of Quincy Market. We made the mistake of entering the market once the show broke up with every single other person. it was too much for Crit. so we bailed at the end in search of a quitter and chiller setting. we hopped right off the Freedom Trail and headed into the Italian North End. what a delight! the streets smelled scrumptious, and the bakery windows were one of the most exciting parts of the whole Boston tour. after a perfect much for kiddos (and me too) we strolled back to the train station along the harbor. We experienced first hand the urban benefits of the Boston’s Big Dig…that was still in progress the last time i visited the city. there was room to run and jump and roll on the grass. it suited them well after being herded through the city streets on the Freedom Trail. It all worked out perfectly.

that evening, as the homies all ate popcorn and watched a movie together, the adults sat on the front porch, sipping wine, gazing at the misty full moon, catching up. turns out the life post-40 offers the same deck of cards for all of us, whether you live in the wilds of Wyoming or the narrow streets of Newton, Mass. It was a real treat to spend a few days-in-the-life of people who i will be in it with forever….even if i’m not a great keeper-in-toucher.

we had one last urban expedition in the morning. we walked and strolled the four little homies through the streets to Trader Joe’s. we stocked up on some snacks for the rest of our journey and made more memories. we said “good-bye properly”, and drove back to northeastern PA, where another bunch of open arms squeezed us and welcomed us back “home”.

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