You know how when you lose the tie to your hoodie in the washing machine and you spend the next few years of your life attempting to thread the end of the oversized cord through a too-small opening and then push that string through a cotton tunnel a millimeter at a time, losing ground faster than you make it until that knot finally emerges a little more humble than it began and you want to cry at the momentous accomplishment?
That’s what driving the RV to Cooperstown, New York feels like.
But unlike the sweatshirt analogy, the drive is totally worth it, and I was especially grateful Butch was in the driver’s seat. Cooperstown is the type of place that everyone should visit at some point even if baseball isn’t your jam. The Baseball Hall of Fame is a place that will elicit memories whether you’ve seen 1000 games or a half of an inning. You probably know more than you think, but will learn a lot more despite what you think. And in summer, a leisurely walk through the museum or just down Main Street is a perfect way to spend an afternoon. Our crew of 13 reunited once again after a beautiful wedding we attended, and Louise and Sundance got an extended stay at Niagara Falls.
In this leg of our journey, the temperature has dropped substantially and we are exclaiming our good fortune by the minute. Western New York is a balmy 75 degrees during the day and in the 50’s at night.
We continued our own group heatwave with a trip to the ballpark on Day 3. Translate that to mean we certainly make a splash wherever we go and most of the time we’re a hot mess. But the unsuspecting folks with the Cincinnati Reds were amazing hosts, treating us to a ridiculous experience of delicious food and drink, spoiling us with this summer treat. They even managed to throw in a Grand Slam and a win for the home team.
Our full crew of 15 happy campers sadly dwindled down to 12 for a little while as those job things got in the way of our fun once again. So we spread out a little in our cramp quarters and then fed quarters to the campground laundry room a few weeks earlier than expected to prepare for the next leg of our journey: Canton, Ohio!
If you’re reading this, that means I wrote it, and my fingers didn’t melt into the keyboard as I feared mere hours ago when we began our first full day at our campsite on the surface of the sun.
It’s hot here in Ohio. In a metal can with wheels. With an A/C unit capable of cooling a whopping 3 1/2 square inches. Louise and I did our best to keep the children entertained and cool with our mad Uno skills and me reading the average temperatures in Maine on Weatherchannel.com, but I think the real relief arrived when the rest of the crew showed up and they could commiserate with all of their siblings.
So I’m going to gloss over the heat–mainly because the sheen from our sweat makes us all appear rather glossy–ignore the one vomiting incident and the fact that we’ve used all of our super-jumbo data plan before we crossed our first state line and focus on the wins on Camping Day 1.
~I didn’t hit anything or anyone backing Viktor into the site and hooked up all of the hoses and whatnots like a boss. Even the gross ones.
~Louise can dress a mean first degree burn caused by scalding vinyl jump pads.
~When the sun eventually goes down and they’re rehydrated with a little birthday cake and piñata treats, this is the scene that will remain in your head for a long time.
Alright, enough messing around. We really have to get semi-serious for 6 minutes to pull this off.
It’s logistics day, and I’ll take just a minute to provide some real details on the trip planning before we get back to our regularly scheduled nonsense just in case anyone was looking for some real travel advice (which seems like a huge error in judgement on your part) or are simply morbidly curious.
We’ve been planning this trip since we disembarked from our western adventure two years ago. It turns out the kids ended up having a marvelous time–more so than even first admitted by rolling-eyed teenagers. So over the course of months, we polled and discussed our next dream destinations, and Louise and I came up with itinerary last fall to incorporate a good many of those lofty goals.
We knew we wanted to go in a different direction this time–literally–and decided the East Coast would check off a lot of boxes. Acadia National Park seemed like a popular place amongst our families, so we planned a route that would take us through some other suggested destinations, and the idea of all of the Halls of Fame was born. We also have a joyous wedding to attend in the middle, so that was also taken into account. Oh yes, and all of the business that gets taken care of in early July in the sports world. And school. And graduations. And camps. And college orientations. And new jobs. And old jobs. And paychecks. If those pesky details weren’t a factor, the trip would’ve started in April and we’d be looping around Land’s End for the third time stocking up on summer clearance duck boots and blueberry scones right about now. But alas, reality is a killjoy.
Instead, we’ve compacted it into about 3 weeks, with the Dads, a.k.a Butch and Sundance, traveling for over two of them.
We’ve learned many lessons from our past adventures. We will still keep the same lodging arrangements–the biggest RV site in the campground as well as the the largest and most modern cabin–but this time we will also have a car following to carry stuff and passengers for all of our non-camp excursions, which are many. We have a fairly good amount of hotel stays mixed in there as well, especially at the larger cities where driving Viktor through may result in increased insurance claims and marital separations.
The kids’ ages range from 1-22 and it was a surprisingly easier sell this time than last. I’m still not sure if that’s a compliment on our fun-planning skills or if they just have devised a more sophisticated patricide plan, but we’re risk-takers. Apparently.
They are aware of about 75% of the itinerary I’d say, but through the Herculean planning efforts of their parents, there’s a good deal of surprises that still await. Some items–like getting passports updated and measurements for their trip uniforms obviously revealed some of the treats that were in store, but we’ve managed to keep a few things secret. After we planned our route, we made reservations at each location, secured advance tickets to where we could, even went to the bank and ordered foreign money (but then quickly gave all of said cash back to Costco, Target and Publix so don’t even think about robbing us). There’s very few details that haven’t been anticipated with the exception of where all of this stuff is going to physically go and if a pallet of marshmallows is going to be enough.
After the final load-in today and filling Viktor the RV up with gas, we should be ready to roll to the first destination: Cincinnati. Don’t question. It’ll all make sense as we go.
As will these robes.
You can follow along here, on Facebook or on Twitter, @Subdiva. We’d love to have you join us.
Me: Even if we do laundry twice during the trip, that makes about 90 T-shirts and 180 socks just for reference.
Butch: Over/under that we return with 11 of the original sock total?
Me: Under is how that works.
2. Outdoor Movie System with 70′ Screen and Projector
Sundance: Um, do we really have the space for that and the 90 T-shirts? Me: Yes! Because it hooks up to our Netflix account–which I’ll access from our new Wifi hotspot I’m also bringing aboard–we won’t need to pack physical movies, so it’s actually a space-saving item.
Sundance: Um, I’m not sure that’s how that works…
3. Portable Air-Conditioning Unit
Louise: This might not work on the RV since the exhaust is supposed to be mounted in a window.
Me: I’ve anticipated that, so I’ve purchased a second unit to cool the hot air coming out of the back of the first unit because I’m good at Science.
Louise: I’m not really sure that’s how that works…
4. Portable Ice Maker
Butch: Doesn’t the freezer on the RV do that already?
Me: Technically, yes. But I had to remove the trays to make room for the refrigerant for the new air conditioners.
Butch: Is that the way that’s supposed to work?
5. Portable Propane Grill
Sundance: Don’t all the campgrounds we’re going to provide grills at each site?
Me: Yes, but then we’d have to pack charcoal and lighter fluid and 2 is more than 1 so we’re saving room because I’m even better at math.
Sundance: Now I know that’s not how that works…
6. Extra large capacity Blender
Louise: Should we limit our cocktail choices to selections that don’t need appliances that take up counter space?
Me: Louise, we’re campers not barbarians.
Louise: You’re right–that’s exactly how that works.
Now that we’ve been back a few days and Louise’s legal team has had a chance to review the material, (she’s so high maintenance) I thought I’d offer a couple of clarifications from our recent trip.
~All of the mystery rashes and various infections have been cleared up. The only conditions remaining uncured are severe post-expedition depression and a renewed urgency for adventure.
~The children were indeed scarred by the white rental van experience. I see a physical shudder run through them all whenever we pass one on the road. (Wait until they see what I’m picking them up in carpool this year.)
~Had we realized the Olympics would be starting so soon after our return, we may have kept driving south to Brazil and entered some of the rowing events. With Thelma and Louise’s ability to sail through rocky waters laden with sewage without ever missing a stroke, we’d medal for sure.
~We were all so taken with our Hide and Go Seek experience with the bears at the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center, that we decided to adopt a couple in appreciation. However, it turns out “adoption” doesn’t mean they actually come to Nashville to live with us and snuggle on the couch with a pot of honey, so I’m a little disappointed.
~In the movie (or Thelma and Louise sequel), I would like Julia Roberts to play me, and Louise requests Jennifer Aniston. Butch and Sundance are fine with their original actor portrayals, even posthumously as in the case of Paul Newman.
~As predicted, the RV earned her name about midway through the trip. Because she was a strong woman infamous for “her storytelling, bad mouth and heavy drinking that would make grown men blush combined with a penchant for wanderlust and all things unabashed, rambunctious and inappropriate,” our ship was aptly dubbed, “Calamity Jane.”
~C.J. once said, “I figure if a girl wants to be a legend, she should go ahead and be one.” That isn’t the kind of woman who would drink Cupcake Pinot Grigio.
Days on the road–20
Cans of bear mace used–0
Bags of ice–68
Collective hours of quality sleep–4.5
Number of times I called Louise by her real name–0
Quarters used for arcade and laundry–811
Cell phone data overages–36 GB
Times the door flew open while in motion–half dozen
Pizzas ordered–16 (but felt like 100)
Various road trip movie quotes heard/delivered–406
Fly traps bought and attempted–18
Blankies Fed-Exed to West Yellowstone from Cody, Wyoming–1
Summer reading assignments completed–a fraction of what was assigned
Temperature swing between destinations–60 degrees
Wine bottles bought in retail outlets–30-ish
Years Louise will have to live with her juice wine purchases–Eternity
Things we would change–0
Laughs–a million at least
Amazing and awe-inspiring sights–More than we dreamed
After spending the morning shopping the Magnificent Mile, eating cheeseborgers, cheeseborgers, cheeseborgers (the real deal!) on Navy Pier, The Elite Eight came to the unanimous conclusion that we had done all we wanted to do, and it was time to go home. So we left Chicago, returned the rental car, pulled up stakes at the last campground, and boarded the fun bus one last time.
Thelma: You awake? Louise: Guess you could call it that, my eyes are open. Thelma: I’m awake too. I feel awake. Louise: Good. Thelma: I feel really awake. I don’t recall ever feeling this awake. You know? Everything looks different now. You feel like that? You feel like you got something to live for now?* Louise: Drive for as long as you can–if you get tired you can always lay down in the back. Thelma: You mean on the sheets with the bloody nose, exploded diaper and ground zero of the mystery rash? Louise: That’d be the one. Thelma: I think I’ll keep driving.**
Not exactly margaritas by the sea, but we made it to a Courtyard in Indianapolis.
*Actual original screenplay lines.
**Actual proposed sequel lines.
Day 18 lulled us into a false sense of security during the long, smooth ride from Minneapolis across the green fields of Wisconsin on our way to our final destination of Chicago.
Day 18 gave us no traffic, clear roads and and beautiful weather as we made excellent time.
Day 18 was kind to us on gas and bathroom stops. She had the best radio stations to date.
Until late in the day across the Illinois state line.
Then she turned.
She started charging us ridiculous tolls every 10 feet. She switched up the descriptions of the campground to not provide a shuttle service to downtown as originally planned, but be 20 miles from the nearest train station and 55 from Miracle Mile. She needled the children for the first time all trip by not staying on her side nor keeping her hands to herself. She took the last of the diapers without telling anyone on the day in which that would be an issue. Then that minx of a day tried to make the slide on the RV malfunction and the battery need a reset.
Day 18 underestimated Thelma and Louise.
Just when Day 18 began her premature victory dance, our heroines rented a car–with seats!–so the night in Chicago would be saved. They crawled under the RV and did major mechanical work in record time. They drove like bosses through the countryside and tight city streets. (You should see Louise’s parking spot–epic.) And even when 18 closed the most famous deep dish pizza place in the city as we walked up tired and hungry due to a power outage, well, we went to the 2nd best a few blocks away and got a table for 8 in 5 minutes.
Did you really think that after a half dozen different campgrounds on this trip alone that you’d catch us flappable when the guy said our site was for 5 not 8? And that diaper thing–I bet you were counting on that for that to be a potty training moment in a Culver’s in rural Illinois.
WHO DO YOU THINK YOU’RE DEALING WITH, DAY 18????*
If you need character references, I suggest you go back to your associates, Days 14 and 9. Meanwhile, you can just fade off into the sunset and we will meet 20 on Michigan Avenue tomorrow.**
(*This is by no means a challenge, Day 18. If there are any misunderstanding today, we apologize profusely and no need for you to seek revenge or a reappearance.)
(**Faithful Reader, if this seems like a lemons to lemonade post, you would be correct. Our version was in the form of a carafe of Italian Lemonade served at Gino’s East to accompany our deep dish.)