A continuation of our East Coast Adventure...
Monday May 22- Cambridge
Today is our day to check out of the Residence Inn in Framingham. I do more laundry and pack- how in the world did we bring this much stuff??- and John goes to see if the mechanic knows what is wrong with the van and also upgrades us to a minivan. Much better. The mechanic says nothing is wrong; John says "Keep it another day- drive it home!" We pray that he can find out what is wrong with the car before we leave the area.
We arrived in Cambridge, just over the bridge from Boston, and were tired before we had even done anything! We decided to forgo walking the Freedom Trail and take a Duck Tour instead. When John and I were in Philadelphia, I promised myself I would never take a duck tour, and here we were, glad to do it just so we didn't have to do any more walking! The kids each had a duck quacker and quacked themselves silly until the Duck Driver told them "No Unauthorized Quacking". Quacking was never authorized. We toured Boston by land and sea and each of the kids got to drive the boat when we were on the Charles River and received an honorary Duck Captain sticker. The kids quacked all the way to the hotel. We drove downtown and ate at the Cheers pub that inspired the TV series. We ate our sandwiches and watched the Red Sox play the Yankees at Fenway Park on TV. We tried to explain to the kids how cool this was, but they were unimpressed. We also stopped at the Boston Public Garden- beautiful in the evening!- to see the "Make Way for Ducklings" statues. It was cold so it was a fast visit. We were glad to fall into bed again that night.
Tuesday May 23- Plymouth
We were supposed to get up and go see the sailors raise the flag in the morning on the USS Constitution, "Old Ironsides", but we slept in instead. We did finally get up and go to see her at the Charlestown Naval Yard, and went to the museum there as well. Pretty cool. John also took the kids to see a WWII Destroyer, the USS Cassin Young, but I was too cold, so Nathanael and I shopped in the gift shop instead.
We had to go back to Framingham to see about the van before we headed for Plymouth. The mechanic could not duplicate the problems we were having and said he thought it might be something electrical that was causing a short in the transmission. Sigh. We drove both our van and the rented minivan to Plymouth, just in case.
Plymouth is a gorgeous little seaside town and the weather looked like it was warming up just in time for our visit. We arrived at the John Carver Inn and immediately headed out in search of seafood. Seafood found at The Cabbyshack. We spotted the Plymouth Rock enclosure and stopped to look at this famous rock. Not impressive... oh well. The kids were anxious to get back to the John Carver Inn and swim in the Pilgrim Pool, which had a mock-up of the Mayflower with a water slide and a replica of Plymouth rock that held a hot tub (and was much more impressive than the real thing.) But they were torn because tonight was the final competition in American Idol. They chose the pool. We had lots of fun at the pool because we were there mid-week off season and had it completely to ourselves most of the time. Cool!
Wednesday May 24- Plymouth
Since our van was evidently behaving itself again, we dropped off the minivan and then headed over to Plimoth Plantation. It's a living history place where they have created a reproduction of the Wampanoag village and the Pilgrim settlement. The Wampanoag village has real native Americans who work at the village, dressing and living (during the day, at least) as their ancestors did and answering questions for tourists. Plimoth colony has "interpreters" who take on the persona of one of the real Plimoth settlers and they talk and act as though they are living in 1627. It was fascinating to talk to them and discuss the politics of the day, the circumstances around their journey, and their personal histories. Of course, John and I enjoyed this a lot more than the kids did. There were no "Pilgrim" children about, since school was not yet out in Massachusetts. Afterward, we toured the Mayflower II, a full size, seaworthy replica of the original Mayflower. Also very cool. And after spending a morning on the Constitution, we were actually learning a little about colonial ships.
Thursday May 25- New York City
Off to New York City! Of course, I had to do laundry first, at Ye Old Washing Well, but we finally got on the road and the van did not give us a bit of trouble. Maybe it was ok? We drove down the coast of Rhode Island and Connecticut and reached NYC just as rush hour was beginning. Most traffic was headed the other way, but it didn't matter- driving there is yucky no matter which way you're going. We made it to our hotel in Queens without any wrong turns, unloaded the car and rushed the two blocks to the subway. Aunt Mattie had given the kids each some money and we were going to try to get them tickets to a Broadway show, which we never could have afforded otherwise. We finally made it to the discount ticket booth near Times Square, but the only kid-friendly tickets they were offering were for "Beauty and the Beast", which John and I had already seen. Oh well. The kids had never seen the real musical, and there isn't anything like seeing a musical on Broadway. We got the tickets and headed off in search of food.
We ended up at another place John and I had already been- how weird is that?- The Brazil Grill, which serves all-you-can-eat Brazillian food. It was different, but quite good and we all ate until we were stuffed. Back to the theater, and the kids enjoyed the show enormously. They were all very impressed when we exited the show at about 10:45 pm into Times Square and it was as bright as daytime with all the neon lights. It really is an amazing experience. We formed a chain with John in the lead and the kids in order by age and pushed through the crowds back to the subway. One day John and I will look at each other and say how crazy- or how stupid- we were to take five children through Times Square! We dropped into bed, exhausted.
Friday May 26- New York City
We had tickets waiting for us for the Observation Deck at the Statue of Liberty at 9:45 and they said you needed to get there a couple of hours early. They weren't kidding! We were an hour late getting to Battery Park because a subway train was stalled, requiring us to take multiple trains in a very creative route. Our tickets were waiting for us, but it took an hour a half to get through the security lines. The kids stayed entertained with all the street acts. After we rode the ferry to Liberty Island, guess what? More lines! We had to stand in additional, stricter security lines to get into the Museum and Observation decks. Lines, lines, lines. This is definitely a once in a lifetime experience, because I do not want to stand in those lines again! Fortunately, it was a great experience. Unfortunately, we were so doggone tired from standing in lines all day (and from staying out so late the night before) that we skipped the trip to Ellis Island, which was really disappointing. We dragged ourselves back to the hotel for naps. When we awoke, we loaded the kids with twinkies from the snack box inside the van and headed to Ground Zero. They have done a lot of work since we were there two years ago. I think maybe the older kids understood why we brought them there, but it was lost on the younger ones.
The sun was setting and we took the subway over to Brooklyn and walked across the Brooklyn Bridge toward Manhattan. Nathanael had to hitch a ride on John's back, but the other kids mostly danced across the bridge. Where they found the energy, I have no idea. The plan for the evening was to skip the lines at the Empire State Building and go to the "Top of the Rock" at Rockefeller Center instead, but John really wanted the kids to see Central Park so we headed there before it got dark. Big mistake.
Central Park is filled wonderful paths, beautiful trees and flowers- and enormous boulders. The kids were enchanted with the boulders and immediately began clamoring to climb them. "Sure," John says, "Just stay where we can call you." The kids immediately begin jumping from rock to rock, running as fast as they can from one to the next. John rounds the corner just in time to witness Philip make a flying leap from one rock onto... something. Philip frantically motions to get his sister to stop her leap but it was too late, and she also landed in the... something. It was dark and quite difficult to see by this time. John goes up to where Philip and Becca are standing and Philip is standing in a mud bog past his knees. Thick, thick stinky mud.
"Oh great," I think. I start taking pictures while John tries to pull Philip out of the mud... with no success. There is some concern that Phillip is losing his shoes. What will we do if he has no shoes to wear and where do we find more? Becca was fortunate that she was able to slow down enough that she was only ankle deep in mud. She easily climbed out of the bog, but John could not get Philip out. Philip finally had to climb out as best he could, bracing against John, who was trying not to fall into the mud himself. Top of the Rock was out. We walked through the park followed by our stinking, muddy children until we found a water fountain. Becca cleaned her shoes and Philip's shoes. The problem was that we really couldn't go anywhere at all with Philip looking the way he did... not even the subway. There was no choice- he had to undress in Central Park. He hid behind a tree on a hill while his sister scraped the mud off his pants and washed them out as best she could. Finally (and thanks to the darkness) we were able to leave the park with them. We weren't sure any restaurant would let us in with wet, smelly children, but soon our problem was solved when it began to rain. Now everyone was wet and smelly! We hiked several blocks to our intended destination, the Afghan Kebob House and found it to be small, dark and welcoming to wet, smelly tourists. It was definitely unusual food and surprisingly, the kids ate with gusto. Who knew they would enjoy middle eastern food? Nathanael was falling asleep in his chair and it was already 11:00 in the evening. We dragged ourselves back to the hotel, made everyone speed-bathe, and fell into bed again.
Saturday, May 27- Lancaster County, Pennsylvania
We are exhausted! Pack up again, load the van again, and head out. No laundry this time. We got stuck for a very long time in a line of traffic trying to exit the Holland Tunnel. John commented that we were probably the only family van with a car top carrier from the south driving the streets of Manhattan on this day, and he was probably right. We headed to Amish Country in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. It rained on us as we drove down the New Jersey Turnpike in a 15 mph traffic jam. The van began acting up again, but John was determined not to worry about it. Before too long, the jam cleared up, and so did the rain... and the van was ok. We theorized that the mechanic in Boston was right: something electrical was going on with the van and as long as the weather stayed dry, maybe we would make it home.
We stayed at Eby Farm, a working dairy farm run by a Mennonite family that was also a Bed and Breakfast. It was such a relief to leave the chaos of New York behind! The kids were delighted to find that our host family also had four children close in ages. We were staying in a small apartment in their 200-year-old farm house which had a full kitchen, so we headed to the grocery to pick up lunch items. After lunch, John and I napped while the kids played. They were having lots of fun unwinding in their kid-way and were very disappointed when we said we were leaving for dinner. We ate at a family style restaurant called Plain and Fancy where they seated us with a family from- the Bronx! The food was served in large bowls that we passed around the table, and we had a fun time getting to know Albert and his wife and 2 year old daughter. He was a hoot! After dinner, the kids and I shopped in the gift shop and we went back to the farm and fell into bed again.
Sunday May 28- Lancaster County, Pennsylvania
We got up in the morning and went to the Mennonite church with our host family. They are not old order Mennonites, and it was a pleasant surprise to see how amazingly similar their church and our home church are. Afterward, we were planning on taking the kids to eat lunch on the Strasburg Railroad train, but when we saw the Memorial Day lines, we kept on driving. We stopped at Miller's Smorgasbord and had another delicous Pennsylvania Dutch dinner... mmmm!
We spent the rest of the day napping and vegetating on the farm. Our kids ran all over the farm with the Eby kids, played with the kittens and bunnies, fed the baby calves, and spent several hours building a dam in the creek. John fashioned a homemade fishing pole, borrowed some tackle and actually caught a fish. We milked a cow and watched the milk gathering operation. We sat out on the porch and watched the sunset. After we put the kids to bed, we sat out on the porch while night fell. It was so peaceful to hear the Amish buggies clip-clopping along the road as they headed home from their Sunday evening activities. We were thankful for the chance to rest at this farm and we were ready to get home.
Monday May 29- Lexington, KY
Mapquest did so well for us until today. Oh, we knew there were mountains in West Virginia, but how bad could it be? The van said "VERY BAD!" The drive was beautiful. Northwest Maryland and West Virginia are surely some of the most scenic drives in the country. And the weather was clear and beautiful. But after several hours of 5% and 7% mountain grades, the van began to seriously protest. We were very grateful to make it to back to Aunt Mattie's at 9:30 in the evevning. Just one more day, van, one more day!
Tuesday May 30- Home Again
Aunt Mattie and Uncle Frank flew in to Lexington so they could be home when we came back through and we were glad to visit with them. We also stopped in to visit Granny before heading home. And despite a rainshower on the way home- please make it, van!- we are home again, and exceedingly grateful to be here. There's just no place like home.