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Three Lakes, a Museum and a Waterfall

2008 Sienna van, check. Living supplies for two people, check. Four passengers, check. Can’t see out the back window, check.

We were ready for our trip east to move Daughter 2 (D2) to school and mom to an apartment 30 minutes away. We had dad and Daughter 1 (D1) with us for moral support, family jokes, driving beast mode abilities and a good old family road trip. Cue scenes and feelings from the Mitchell's vs. the Machine's movie- gif provided.

Do you ever have a departure time that comes and goes when it doesn’t involve an airplane? We’ve struggled with this concept as a family- of on-time departures in a car- when there isn’t something pressing at the other end. A work event. A concert. A school event. An airplane. All have a decent deadline. In these cases, we are mostly on time, but rarely early. If we are to leave between 1-2, most assuredly we leave at 2:15. With this in mind, I told the group to be ready by 7am. Miraculously, we were not far off our true and necessary departure time of 8am the morning we left our farm in Wisconsin. Miraculous in that I’d been sick with Covid for three weeks before we left, taking away a lot of the packing and preparation time one needs to move across the country. Miraculous because getting a bow tied around a farmstead while you are gone takes attention to details and we are busy people.

Our first hours involved many miles of familiar roads and a wave to my sister in Reedsburg from the interstate. Driving is driving and we made good time until we were on the other side of Chicago. As I do not like missing anything that is within 30 miles of our route, I had hoped we’d have time for the Sand Dunes National Park in Indiana. By the time we got in the vicinity, however, it was looking like our arrival time in Cleveland, OH, where our beds were waiting, was already slipping well past dinnertime. To make sure we had the opportunity to see all we could, I was driving. When I’m not driving, I worry my road warrior husband will speed on past anything worth seeing. (His motto? Keep the driver’s side door shut.) But in this case, I couldn’t do all the calculations of getting us to the park, spending time there and figuring out that this stop wasn’t going to happen if we wanted to see Cleveland before 11pm. My copilots tried to please me and keep me calm. In the end, we made a wrong turn, spent 3x extra on tolls, found Lake Michigan with me in tears over missing the dunes- or was I exhausted, yes- took some pictures and got back on the road. One of my goals was to see as many Great Lakes as possible, having been to Lake Superior the week before we left. We did check that box. Whew.

Cleveland was a lovely surprise for us the next morning. We went to the water (Lake Erie), the Cleveland Museum of Art, visited Cleveland’s little Italy neighborhood, and drove through the cultural gardens on MLK Boulevard. After the typical wariness of the plan from our D2, we’d all have liked a few more hours at the museum. There was full-on engagement as soon as we approached the museum’s awesome building, gardens and collection.

Our next stop was Niagara Falls- the US side. I had read all over that it’s best seen from the Canadian side but staying on native soil would have to do this time. We had a beautiful, hot summer day to enjoy the area, the views and maneuver the crowds. We missed seeing Lake Ontario by heading directly toward our lodging that night outside Albany from Niagara. (My navigation skills wane as the day goes on and as hunger builds.) I cherish the misty photos of that day, seeing our foursome together, exploring and detached from our individual callings for a little while.

In Albany we saw the Schuyler mansion and the capitol building. I would return for a full tour of the capitol. If you like architecture, this building is a must see. Our drive landed us next in Natick, MA, where we moved our budding high school sophomore into her dorm room. There was a lot of, “mom, stop,” and “I’ll do that later” silliness on the part of our fiercely independent second child. Her big sister was as patient, kind and helpful as ever with her fresh knowledge of communal living. We attended orientation, met other parents, students, and teachers. And then it was done. We snapped a final foursome photo to mark the occasion and our fatigue. Our group was down to three. We would soon move me into my apartment. And my husband and D1 would fly home. And the adventure of being a family, together and apart, would continue.

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