Have rental car, will travel

We hadn’t originally planned to do an actual summer vacation this year. We planned a couple of weekend trips here and there, but nothing major. But then The Husband found out he was expecting a bonus for July, and it kept nagging at me that we hadn’t been to visit his family in Maine in almost three years. I kept thinking that his grandmother is in her mid-80s, and I’d really regret it if we didn’t make the trip and then we didn’t get that chance to see her again.

However, airfare was running $500-$600 per person, and multiply that by four people, and that’s simply out of our budget, yet my car is older (15 years) and I don’t quite trust it on a road trip of that magnitude, especially after breaking down on our summer road trip last year. Thankfully, rental car research revealed that getting a full-size rental car — plus a couple of nights in hotel rooms to break up the trip — was going to be significantly cheaper than the cumulative cost of flying, so the wheels were set into motion to try to get this trip planned at the sort of last minute, with just three weeks’ notice.

We have a number of family and friends in the Northeast, and incredibly, everyone we needed to be available was going to be around when we needed them to be. Sure, it would be more than 2,500 miles in the car, but sometimes the true life experiences happen during the journey itself, right? Plus, I grew up in a family where long road trips were the norm; in fact, I didn’t fly for the first time until after I had graduated high school. So we were set to make this happen.

In late July, we set off one afternoon, first stopping at a hotel in northern West Virginia, then arriving late the next day at the home of our dear friend Serenity and her family a little north of Boston. We built in extra time with them, two full days, since it had been a while since our families had visited (even though I’d just seen her in NYC the month before), and I’m so glad we did. We went to the beach, the kids played together (creating both a show and an art museum completely on their own), we went candle pin bowling (our first time — and The Big Sis rocked it!), we had a cookout and played with their puppy, we enjoyed ice cream cake and a visit to a local ice cream favorite (hey, not on the same night, at least!), we took advantage after the kids went to bed and enjoyed wine and scotch and adult conversation, and just generally enjoyed spending time with our friends.

We left Massachusetts and made a two-hour stop at the New Hampshire Children’s Museum before meeting our (ex-) sister-in-law for lunch and to pick up The Cousin, who is the girls’ only cousin on The Husband’s side. She hitched a ride with us the additional 3 1/2 hours up to The Husband’s Grandmother’s House, where we spent 3 1/2 days. We didn’t really have a specific itinerary in mind before arriving, but we managed to fit in a variety of things: a lobster dinner, swimming at a family member’s pool, exploring historic Fort Knox, ice cream (okay, multiple times), playground, swimming at the pond where The Husband used to swim as a kid, and even a date night on our last night there. Oh, and The Husband’s grandmother and two aunts even did a little surprise birthday party for The Little Sis since her birthday was the next week. She was SO happy about that, since she was very much into her birthday this year!

After leaving Maine, we dropped off The Cousin and then headed down to Connecticut to see The Husband’s dad and his wife, though on the way we stopped for lunch with some of my parenting board friends in Massachusetts — four of us met up, as well as two husbands and a large collection of children. Two of the ladies I had met before, and another I finally got to meet for the first time, and it was a little chaotic but so much fun!

We spent just less than 24 hours at The Husband’s dad’s house in Connecticut, but we enjoyed our visit with them. (His wife isn’t in the best health and isn’t really up for hosting us much longer than that. They’d sort of hinted at that previously, but seeing her in person for the first time in many years, I can understand.) They also were nice and got an ice cream cake for The Little Sis for her then-upcoming birthday. What a spoiled little girl!

After our overnight with them, we hit the road to Pennsylvania for the night, though first stopping at a diner in New York to meet up with another board friend and her family. I had actually just met this friend in person for the first time on my trip to NYC in June, but this time we were able to get together with our families, which was a lot of fun. We arrived at our hotel in Harrisburg later that night where we went swimming and hot-tubbing before hitting the road the next day for the final leg home.

It was indeed a long drive — we logged 2,600 miles on the road in an 11-day span, but we survived it, and even had quite a bit of fun along the way, all the while visiting with friends and family who are near and dear to us.

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