I am very lucky to have the time, funds, and support to do some crazy trips and this one definitely counts.
If you recall, Lars drove out with us and then returned home via Frontier Air (new route and pretty good, hope it stays). This left the kids and me in NY and we filled our time with friends and relatives and general good visiting things. My mom volunteered to help drive us all back and I planned an alternative way back.
So from our house in MN to my parents in NY is 17 driving hours with no traffic. We have done the trip many times and it goes more or less straight west across the country and then go north at Chicago and North West over to MN. The plan this time was to go North first and then drive West for a total of 20 driving hours. We angled North and had dinner with relatives and they outdid themselves with a giant meal. They also drove the extra 15min north to show us Lake Ontario, one of the Great Lakes. We hugged goodbye and drove west toward Buffalo and spent the night at a hotel.
The hotel was not the best… it had issues but nothing I could not look past until poor Fiona rejected the giant dinner and dessert and car treats and threw up on the floor and on the closed toilet lid. Not cool. Not at all. I called the front desk and apologized and asked for some supplies to clean and their offering was 3 washcloths and a spray. yeah. That was not enough. Mom got them to hand over a bucket and a vacuum but hey, gloves might have been nice, or paper towels or a trash can? I got it clean and as I was cleaning I got their floor cleaner then it started. Oh well, they do not get 5 stars. We moved on in the morning after a decent sleep to see one of the natural wonders of the world Niagara Falls. We got super lucky with a 30min break in the rain right went we got there so short trip but worth it.
I wish I had preplanned because it would have saved over an hour if we could have driven through Canada but we had no documents for the kids and given the policy right now I’m not even going near a border if I can help it. The travel program kept telling us there was “a faster route” for over 50 miles and finally, quit when we had driven far enough around Lake Erie for it to give up and let us go. The next stop was to see friends who are making a go of the homesteading thing. They are clearing land and using the trees to build their home as well as using the land for naturalized farming (using what will grow there rather than clearing). We saw their adventure and then went to dinner at a nice place nearby. The hotel was 2 hours north so we reluctantly left at dark, and that far north it was nearly 10pm, and tucked sleeping kids into a nice little travel hotel at midnight.
The final day of our driving took us on the car ferry across Lake Michigan, the third Great lake in as many days. I’m conflicted about the ferry. It was a very nice ship with great fun things like movies and a kid room and bingo and trivia as well as 3 places to eat and a bar and lots of nice places to sit and watch the water. These lakes are GIANT, I could see no land in any direction after we lost sight of the shore for over an hour and we were going across the shortest part. The negative is that it is expensive and only saves about an hour of drive time, however, you are going the equivalent of 4 hours down the road with nobody driving. Timing is also fixed and while it worked for us this time, it might not really in the future. Still, worth the experience and by day three we could use a driving break.
The last little bit of the trip, a mere 4 hours, went well and we got home to a nice dinner and a tidy house thanks to Lars (and vacation mom).
We were not exactly ‘back to normal’ because my mom stayed with us for a week so we had a different sort of vacation where we want to maximize the grandma time. We spent our time talking about things to come and house plans and getting some things planned. We went to the Zoo and the splash pad and one night Mom watched the girls so Lars and I could go out for his birthday and on Saturday we drove up to Duluth to get our 4th great lake viewed. Lake Superior is 5% of the surface water for the entire planet and is an impressive sight. We did the lake walk that is a couple miles along the shore with various historical markers then visited a very short lighthouse. Prima came along this time and was an icebreaker as everyone remarks on the cuteness and smallness of our dog. She made the walk through and slept well that night.
Mom left yesterday and today I moved into the next phase of the move where I really buckle down and get details done. I updated addresses for next months bills as I paid this month and arranged for service switches etc. Lars thought I was doing it too early but #1 its easier to just call as I pay each bill and #2 I found out it takes up to 2 weeks for the internet to be installed at a new construction. Glad I started early! This week we deliver the things we have been collecting like lights and hardware because next week they start installing things like that. Pretty soon things will really look like a house in there.
There you go, 2 weeks travel in about 1000 words. Time to get back to my to-do list and tomorrow is a holiday so if I want it off I need to finish.
Yesterday we went off to the noted museum in new york; The Cloisters. I have never been there because it is in a very hard part of the city to get to, and, it is a very niche collection so when given a choice of how to spend time we always choose to be more downtown and get to see more in the day. This time we decided we were going and set out on the 1.5h drive (that took 2.5) and lucked out with a great parking spot and also a very pretty day.
The cloisters is basically a 14th and 15th-century European collection so I had told the kids that “everything you see in this museum we can do in the SCA” (the history group we do). Convincing kids museums are fun isn’t ever easy unless there is a dinosaur involved but they are getting better at appreciating. Anyway, the big surprise when we walked in was that they are doing a modern art exhibit for closing inspired by the collection.
Yup… that was a weird mix of awesome and fail at the same time.
The dresses were outstanding, showing that high-end designers, when asked to make wearable art, can absolutely do it 110%. They were also displayed perfectly in the spaces, truly showing that someone in charge was both artistic and skilled.
I didn’t go crazy with pictures because I know I can get better detail from the online catalogs but seeing them in person is something special. The unicorn tapestries were all they are ever hyped to be and recently reading a book they featured in made them more real to the kids. Overall, having the kids do math about the items impressed them that they were inches away from things created 900 years ago. To my European readers, I know, your post office is probably 900 years old but for us that is pretty impressive.
The other excellent thing about this museum is that the building IS part of the exhibit. Every door and window and most of the stones are from 14th and 15th-century monasteries. I wish I had more time to look at everything but the impressive part that I’ll carry forward in my life is the walled garden. I always thought the walls would make too much shade but this shows that plants in the center do very well and there is nice shade around the edges for sitting and looking at the garden. Given I will be in a place with lots of land I may be experimenting with the concept since it will be a good way to keep out the wildlife and also create an interesting structure on our flat rectangle of land.
We left the pocket universe of the Cloisters and headed back and as if we needed more reasons not to live in the crazy land of long island we took nearly 4 hours to get back. To give perspective, we can drive to the close part of Canada from our house in the same amount of time. It did give me an opportunity to get a nice landscape picture while stopped on the bridge so that’s good at least.
The day was not lost at all. One of the very very best things about visiting family is that there are more adults in the system so things get handled. My sister turned up at parents house and created dinner that was 10 min from done when we walked int. Way better than facing dinner decisions after 4 road fried hours. We topped off the night with a visit to the big boat with friends and floated at dock while the kids played and generally had fun.
Today Lars when home and now we enter into phase 2 of vacation – the solo mom adventure.
Last week Friday we packed up the minivan and hit the road after work. The kids are getting pretty well trained and I have to say this was one of the best trips for travel behaviors yet. The combo of learning to read, and, lifelong training meant that while it was still a loooong trip, nobody wanted to abandon anyone on the side of the road at any time.
We spent Friday night in a Chicago hotel, and Saturday in an eastern PA one. We made good enough time that the kids got some pool time in PA and the next morning we visited with family in the area and then back on the road to my parents’ house. Traffic was not perfect, it never is, but, only added on a little over an hour so all in all it was a 20 driving hour trip.
Once we got here my only plan was to be here. We have been making plans as we go but given that we are on vacation and nobody else is, we have plenty of chill time. There is a big 90th birthday reunion style party this weekend that since we are here we will go to. I’ve learned from being away that where there is a chance to see everyone, take it. You never know when the next one will come and for some of the people who are in their late 80’s I way prefer to visit them now then regret the loss when it is too late. I’m lucky that I enjoy 90% of my family and even the crazy 10% are not offensive, just not my preferred brand of crazy.
On the vacation bucket list we have gotten out on the big boat, had a cousin sleep over party, gone out for ice cream, and played in the parks. Its a bit cold for the beach but maybe next week. Just like most times you visit family, it isn’t truly a ‘vacation’ it is just living life in a different place with fewer responsibilities. I am glad we are here now, it is a great break from house packing at the very least 🙂
Our city is hosting a giant (American) Football game this weekend and that is great news for the travel industry. There was a short tense moment when it looked like in a crazy twist, the home team would win their way into the Super Bowl, meaning great things for local fans but cutting the possible earnings by 50% because we would only be attracting one team’s worth of out of town visitors. The Vikings didn’t let me down (like their true fans) when they did not win and thus economic goals did. The team that beat them is actually one I have a soft spot for. Can’t go so far as to say fan because I know next to nothing about them but they are beloved by many people I like from my college days so I’m happy they are happy.
Anway! What does this mean for us? Well, first the once in a lifetime opportunity to go see the spectacle that is a Superbowl village. MN transformed our downtown prediction street into an open-air festival. Tons of inside space was transformed into venue area and we spent a very nice half-day playing tourist and seeing all the fun.
(can’t caption the video but look how fun! Like a pro he is)
The real adventure in capitalism is that we took the leap into Air B&B land to rent out our guest room. I have toyed with the idea over the years, we do have a nice guest room that is dedicated to guests. I started the listing and then stopped, full of the nagging doubts that trying anything new has swirled around it. Then a person from Air B&B actually called me to ask if I needed help or had questions. That is a real mark of both service and anticipated demand in the area so I held my breath and just did it.
In for a penny, in for a pound, we also listed Niamh’s room since it is next to the guest room and both are on a different level so easy to have a ‘guest floor’ with a living room and bathroom and 2 bedrooms. Upon the advice of Air B&B man, I listed each room separately and within 3 hours my first room was booked. A day later the other was too. Today our first guests arrive and I’m excited!
I’m going to focus on the exciting part but yes, I’m nervous too. I’m letting strangers into the house with my family and all our stuff. I need to arrange my week to accommodate being here when needed. I’m kicking my kids out of a quarter of the house. I have to push away the media fed fears of crazy people and rely on the goodness of the general person.
I’ve learned fast about how the system worked and after a mistake on the first round, I priced things so that it is worth my trouble. In an odd way, I’m getting paid to clean my own house because cash is an incentive to actually get the rooms in order. Niamh is getting her share, I’m giving her $30 to vacate her room and sleep in ours. Good thing we have a big closet and she is pretty excited to camp out in it. The other girls’ opportunity up the opportunity to earn. There is $2 each per day on the line for being good and helpful, Zoe is taking it quite seriously.
The only thing I have not totally worked out is what do we do with our earnings from this side venture? Should I be a great parent and split it into the kid’s savings accounts? Should we use it to go out to a really nice dinner? Do we save it for a fun vacation fund? I have no idea if post Superbowl there will be much demand for our guest room so this might just be a small windfall but hey, money is money.
Now I need to get back to the hostess game and make sure our house is visitor ready. Let me know what you would do with a little windfall you don’t actually have to use for bills.
Today we GO!
(lets not talk about when we get there…)
I have spent the past few days chipping away at the pile of things that need to be done as well as getting in a few things that would be harder to do later. My NOT procrastination totally paid off because Lars and I were in HomeDepot, the 6th shop for the day, on a fact-finding mission about suites of appliances and we happened to see a fridge-sized box with a price tag of $160. I dismissed it, figuring it was some odd special thing or something that needed to be part of a larger, much more expensive, system. The sales lady just mentioned to us “hey, you guys need a fridge?” and we are like “um… yes?” Apparently, the warehouse missed this one and now it had to GO because they couldn’t inventory it anymore (or some such inventory reason) so we got a fridge originally priced $860 for $160. We have been working with our tiny fridge in the garage for extra milk but this will be way better. I see it as our reward for #1 checking out appliance prices for the house months in advance and #2 already have a clean car ready for travel that all we had to do was move car seats. #3 I just happened to have organized my ‘car bin’ of useful things including tie-down straps AND put it back in the car that day so we were able to fit the fridge in, and, tie the back gate down since it was just a little longer than our cargo area.
Don’t you just love a deal?!?
At this point, I have lists about my lists but we are near the end of them all. All trip stuff and clothing is assembled and job #1 today is to pack. People talk about ‘packing’ like putting things into a bag is hard, that is the easy bit – finding all the things you want for 5 people and a dog is the hard part. There is one load of laundry to do, final dishwasher load to run for today’s things. I need to make up the guest room for the house sitter but since we have guests often that is an easy thing. Books reserved at the library for pickup, food ready for prep for the trip. Lots to do but I’m in the last bit and positioned well. Thank you yesterday self for NOT falling into the new book you just downloaded and have waited for a year, You can read that tomorrow as a reward.
Teacher and friend gifts are ready for delivery, already delivered, or ready for when we get back.
I think I’ve completed all the things I NEED for Christmas and I packed supplies for cooking and final projects at my parents. Driving may mean 2x travel time but it also means I can bring more ‘stuff’. The kids are so used to a second Christmas when we return that they asked about it so we made the decision that all the things that the kids picked for each other and us can stay for mini Christmas.
I’m writing this at 7:30 in the morning and our go time is 3:30 so I have time to do what I need to do as well as go to my birthday massage appointment. I’m getting in the spirit here, things are looking good. This is the first year in YEARS my sisters will both be at my parents so I’m excited to see everyone. I hope to avoid the panic of leaving last minute and so far so good. Time to get breakfast, school lunch, kids to school. T-7h to takeoff.