Follow the Chocolate Brick Road

A wise man once said, “Give me chocolate or give me death.”

Hershey, Pennsylvania opted to give us both.

Ok, maybe no wise man ever said that, but I do know two very wise women who recognize when they’ve met the natural end to an amazing adventure. After almost three weeks of perfect weather, flawless logistics even in the most complicated of circumstances, no traffic, no ER visits and everyone still talking to each other; Hershey wasn’t as cooperative. After moving our accommodations 4 times, we enjoyed their amusement park, left our lunches on as many rides as possible and pulled up stakes to begin the long drive home.

This won’t end well.

It was a sweet ending to an even sweeter trip.

We’ve had a few days to unpack, clean out Viktor and start the endless laundry process, but I haven’t started unpacking the memories yet. It’s one of those tasks that I need to savor, and I’m afraid if I start going through the slideshow in my mind, that means it’s over–and I’m definitely not ready for that, yet. We saw so many sights, did awesome things all together with some of my favorite people on this planet, and that’s not as easy to find the natural end.

Hershey!

(Stay tuned as we wrap up with the numbers and a few more fun things to share!)

Beantown

We rolled into Boston licking our wounds, as in the bites, stings, stabs, disembowelments, or whatever the native Maine insects inflicted upon us over the last four days. They are intense little buggers, that’s for certain. So a couple of nights in a hotel was just the respite we needed.

But Boston had other plans for us than a relaxing weekend–it wanted some fun! We were treated to amazing day at Fenway–the Red Sox gave us a tour, delicious lunch and great seats to an afternoon game and I can tell you that those that were already baseball fans were obviously smitten, but those who weren’t have fallen in love after this trip. It’s hard not to surrounded by all that history and tradition.

Fenway!

And because there’s never enough sports–some went on to an MLS game that evening after the baseball game, and the rest of us played rugby over dinner at perhaps too nice of a restaurant for our road-weary crew in our matching T-shirts.

Our team of 13 now splits off to ten–Butch and Sundance will depart with a camp attendee, and Louise and I will make our way home in Viktor and the pace car by way of Hershey Park.

I’m going to need some chocolate comfort facing the end of this amazing trip.

Siri Vs. Viktor

I keep trying to foster a healthy relationship between Siri, our passive-aggressive navigation system, and Viktor, our 33 foot long RV.

It’s not going well.

Viktor: Good morning, Siri. I need to go this next leg of the journey all on interstates, avoiding these small back roads, please.

Siri: Recalculating route.

Viktor: Wait, this takes me through four 1-lane, unpaved streets and across someone’s front lawn! Can we fix that?

Siri: You said you wanted the shortest route. Recalculating.

Viktor: OK, how about the fastest route instead?

Siri: Recalculating.

Viktor: (Surveying map.) Um, this takes me through the Holland Tunnel at rush hour, a ferry, under at least 2 low clearance bridges, a private road and a herd of migrating bison. That’s tough to do with my size and height.

Siri: Sigh. That is the fastest route. Recalculating.

Viktor: Do you have a setting that eliminates shortcuts, and just takes the most straight-forward way?

Siri: I’m sorry, but I’ll have to check the Internet for that.

Viktor: (Under his breath) That’s where I would start….

Siri: Recalculating.

Viktor: (Glancing over the third route.) Ok, this seems better to start, but it looks questionable at the end. Is there a way to fix just that part?

Siri: Oh don’t worry. I will secretly recalculate you periodically throughout your journey just to mess with your head and to prove to you that my knowledge is superior to your so-called “needs.” It’s like a survival skills test which you miserably fail.

Viktor: Wait! No! I have someone following us so we need to be on the same route!

Siri: It seems like you need more than a navigation system for this particular trip, Viktor. (Under breath) And life in general.

Viktor: You’re right about that much. Right now I’ll start with Jake from State Farm to help me get un-wedged from this Dunkin’ Donuts drive thru bypass that I know can’t be a real driving direction you gave me…

Siri: (Evil cackle.) Recalculating….

Maine

After the longest drive of our route to date–6 hours–we wound our way through New Hampshire and back up along the coast of Maine. We had a picnic near a Moose Crossing sign before landing in Bar Harbor at the entrance of Acadia National Park.

Our campground was a full one and the sites were pretty close together, but since we had abandoned any sense of personal boundaries by Niagara, it was fine. And then we got a look at the oceanside views, and all else was forgotten. This was our first waterside camping experience, and it will not be our last.

Bar Harbor Camping

Louise quickly lapsed into a lobster-coma, and Butch teetered on an actual medical coma from his shellfish allergy, as Louise’s new boyfriend steamed fresh lobster every night 50 feet from our RV. I’m hoping both will regain consciousness by Pennsylvania.

We spent an afternoon in beautiful Bar Harbor–ate more lobster and Benadryl–and spent a lot of time in camp chairs around a fire and missing the actual sunset every night. Acadia National Park did not disappoint, and I’m quite certain our hike of 13 people along the Ocean Trail could be seen from space.

Acadia National Park

We have spent the last five nights in camping mode, and it’s beginning to show. We have used all of the hot water in Maine, so the few showers that were taken were short and inadequate. The laundry situation is officially out of control; there seems to be hidden stashes of dirty clothes everywhere that only appear after all of the quarters have been spent. Supplies are running dangerously low, and if it weren’t for the limes in our cocktails, we’d be battling a scurvy outbreak by now. (Sorry kids, you’re on your own.)

Hiking!

So it’s a good thing we are about to hit Boston, with it’s hotels and non-communal bathing options. Because we need to restock on just about everything for the home stretch. Even dessert.

The biggest tragedy of the trip.

Days 9 and 10 and 11-ish

To close out our sports Halls of Fame quadrumvirate, we showed Springfield, Mass a thing or two.

Our very own Sundance won the Rick Perry free-throw shooting contest! Which doesn’t sound like a thing at all because who would name a basketball game after the former governor of Texas, but then they explained to me that it wasn’t the Secretary of Energy at all, it was Rick Barry, who was awesome at free throws in the 60’s and 70’s, but I didn’t know that until after we completed our tour of the Pro Basketball Hall of Fame which makes so much more sense. So congratulations to Sundance and to Rick Barry. Maybe you guys can help the Energy Department anyway.

Winner!

After a nice lunch next door, we headed north to beautiful Vermont. Since we completed the Halls of Fame portion of our mission statement, we instead meandered to Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream factory. Vermont is beautiful, and we broke out the sweatshirts for the first time on this trip and it was heaven. We enjoyed our first campfire meal in more than a week, which even the kids thought was a welcome respite from french fries. The night sky put on a show, and I think we saw stars we didn’t know existed before.

Ben and Jerry’s

We were only minutes from Hanover, NH, so we strolled the streets on our last evening there. We thought we saw someone semi-famous and sort of stalked him from across a crowded restaurant, but it turned out to be a case of mistaken identity to everyone’s disappointment.

But that guy was a dead ringer for Rick Perry.

Team effort

Ok, enough about Louise’s wardrobe and her penchant for mud flaps.

Let’s talk about the other heroes of this trip–our poor families.

While we certainly would like to take credit for planning an itinerary that appeals to all, there also has to be a lot of open-mindedness and cooperation and we have received a lot of that over these adventures.

I think Butch and Sundance have the words “Respect the Process,” tattooed on their forearms, and have not questioned much of our crazy until this point. They have good-naturedly jumped through the hoops to pull everything off, even though that isn’t easy 24/7.

Our two smallest passengers–Squish and Big G–have foregone naps, settled for truffle cheese and bug spray for meals somedays, and never know which strange bed they’ll get put down in at night or if that bed will be in the same place in the morning. They are troopers.

Our teenagers are super thrilled to be on this vacation, but they also have been helpful and cooperative and hopefully they’ve had a little fun so far.

And the middles are sweet and patient and are showing incredible grace when things may not go exactly as planned, or especially when they do. They’re doing a lot of the summer reading entailing sports plaques and MLB lineups.


The last few days have held a long rural stop and driving, a car rental and border crossing, to a downtown Toronto hotel all in the span of 28 minutes and a heatwave in Celsius.

But in that short time, we ate at some fun restaurants, visited the Hockey Hall of Fame, swam, shopped, and saw another baseball game from beneath the CN Tower. It was a whole lot of fun. And before leaving Canada, we stopped at Niagara Falls which was amazing. And there still is much fun to be had and beauty to behold.

Niagara Falls!

So thank you little (and big) troops for being you. The whole purpose of this entire journey is to spend as much time with you as we can before your next chapter begins.

Now secure the cabin for takeoff and let’s ride.

Road Warriors

Guys,

Louise is in an RV mechanics chat room right now diagnosing why the front floorboards are 437 degrees.

She just asked for my PayPal password.

She is reading responses from Pearl, Gene and Tito.

She is flipping through the RV manual and saying words I don’t understand like, “alternator” and “inverter.”

She’s talking to Pearl in this strange new lingo and I’m kind of scared she’s going to start macrame-ing seat covers with her in a minute.

She’s lol-ing and just changed her Bitmoji to a mechanics outfit.

She logged into my PayPal account again.

She’s checking gauges and reporting the situation back to Gene who is funneling the questions back to some machinists forum.

She’s scarily good at this.

If she wasn’t a vegetarian, I could swear she just snapped into a Slim Jim.

Her accent just got thicker. Even typing.

She switched the radio to AM Auto Talk.

It’s been 103 miles and apparently we are in no danger.

She needs the PayPal password for the final solution, though.

Tito says to invest in a good shag rug for her feet.

Which I kind of think she wanted all along anyway.

The road can change you.

That’s what Lou now says, anyway.