Back on the road with my two little munchkins in the back seat. They are champion road-trippers, and while we all miss Alexe when she skips out on the long drives and flies home, I love pointing the car in a direction and just going. Annaliese and Caspian snooze, chatter with each other, ask random questions, bop around to music, or merrily watch Pinky and the Brain as we roll along.
We made it to Underhill and settled into a.Natalie and u.William's house before heading over to a.Caitlin and u.Jim's for dinner. (The kids came by way of u.William's farm, where they spent a couple hours in the barn doing real farm chores with a bona fide herd of 60+ dairy cows.) There was some bathing, a tasty meal, and the kids stayed up late watching a movie while I chattered with my big sister. We didn't get them back to their bed until waaay too late.
And yet, the next morning when I woke up and came downstairs, they had apparently been up for some time, and found plenty to do.
u.William still has all his childhood toys. And he likes to share.
a.Natalie was intent on taking a hike, and she had picked the steep approach of Smuggler's Notch. We suited up, filled the water bottles and backpack with snacks, and headed out.
The steep approach is a collection of stone stairs, some assembled by lots of human effort, most simply a series of boulders that can be scrambled up. Caspian led the way, often with a 50 yard lead. William marched along without (for the most part) mentioning how pointless hiking is if you're not looking for moose sign or tapping maple trees. Annaliese whined constantly about going back, mostly because she knew it annoyed me. a.Natalie, climbing for 2, and managing a diabetic system that takes pregnancy as an opportunity to #$%&^ with predictable blood sugar reactions, methodically worked her way up with many rests, and only one pee break.
The destination at the top of the mountain, this lovely pond.
Expectant parents. They dream big, and are stubborn enough to make things happen in the face of all sorts of challenges. They're going to be great.
Alexe had arrived back in MS, and reminded me that it was blistering hot at home, and the water would be warm and brown. It inspired me to jump in every cold, clear body of water I saw for the rest of our time in the North. The kids took some cajoling, but they came in eventually. (I'm the head out in the middle.)
From the pond we went up a little further to the top of the ski lifts at Smuggler's Notch. The view out towards one of their water reservoirs, used for making snow. I love land that undulates like this. Oddly makes me feel the size and shape of the earth more than the wide open and flat expanses of the South and West.
The kids had never seen a ski lift before.
We may remedy that this winter. After all, there will be a cousin to visit in Vermont in the winter months!
We made it down the mountain without incident, and lots of whining from little ones who were forced to hold my hands on the dangerous spots.
Like everything in Vermont, it required celebrating with full fat soft serve.
We headed back to a.Caitlin and u.Jim's house for yet another delicious meal. This is the second of three nights they graciously fed the clan at their house.
a.Caitlin rocked a series of Doctor Who and Sherlock shirts.
The parents arrived, slightly delayed by a flat tire on the interstate. The delay might have been slighter if their spare had been inflated, or if they had a cell phone, or if they had an AAA membership. Luckily a good samaritan saved their day.
This could have been a conversation about gun control, or Bernie Sanders, or something else where opinions differ. We're a hard headed crew.
We learned our lesson and the kids were taken back to their bed and tucked in at a semi-reasonable hour. They beat me out of bed again, and I came down to find them with Natalie and William making maple sugar candies.
We took a short trip to u.William's latest expansion project, his very own Sugar House. Up to last year he was working his 150 acres of sugar woods and wholesaling the sap. This year he took the plunge and built a state of the art boiling operation to produce his own syrup.
This is his shiny reverse osmosis machine that removes a good percentage of the water from the sap before boiling. It saves a great deal of energy cost on the boiling side.
And this is the super-duper boiling rig. I hope we'll be up here to see this all in action one year.
We loaded down the Volt with liquid gold, headed to the shelves of the BTC.
We regrouped with the rest of the clan and headed to a nearby water fall.
Two and a half generations here:
We did a little swimming at the waterfall, and headed back to a.Caitlin's house where we were joined by Dan and his kids. A few members of the troupe fell asleep.
Others of us suited up and headed up the nearby mountain.
Where we visited the perfect Vermont swimming hole. Shaped like a seashell, it descends to over my head where the water flows through the narrow canyon it has worn away in the rocks.
Caspian came right in, once.
But eventually she made it.
The walk back down the mountain was delayed by attempts to create a stick-themed hair-do.
And then: Goodbyes were said to the grandparents before they headed home. A final meal was prepared by a.Caitlin and u.Jim and consumed by us all, and we headed to bed early. The next morning, (Monday) everyone headed back to work, and the kids and I hopped back in the Volt and started for home.
We drove across the top of New York and down through Ohio. There were a few stops, mostly for fuel and family hang out time in rest rooms. (The outside world is not as safe as Water Valley, so when one person has to go to the bathroom, that means we all get to hang out, for as long as it takes...)
And before we knew it we were somewhere between Cleveland and Cincinnati, and it was late. We passed a clean looking hotel and called to reserve a room while we went around the corner to a steak house for dinner.
For a late night meal in a fancy restaurant, these two were good company.
When we walked into the hotel room Caspian declared, "Home sweet home!"
We did some sleeping, woke up, and headed downstairs for an early morning swim.
Back upstairs for a bath.
Dressed and ready for the road, we had some hotel breakfast.
And then drove 800 miles. Like champions.
We stopped an hour away from home for dinner at a sushi place...
And rocketed home.
Where everything I ever wanted was waiting.