We just returned from a refreshing trip to the Midwest to spend some much needed time with our families. It had been almost 10 months since we had last seen everyone during our extremely brief trip passing through en route to New York. The timing was just perfect: Curtis was on hold waiting for his next training to begin, we had some leave we needed to use, and both of my brothers had just graduated, one from high school and another from college. We had everything squared away for all our upcoming transitions, so a couple weeks away wouldn’t hurt anything.
However, just days before we were scheduled to leave, our plans unraveled right before our eyes and we started scrambling to get things back in order. Unfortunately we weren’t able to do so, and we ended up leaving, unsure how it would all work out. At first it seemed like bad timing to be away from our home base. But once we were reunited with our favorite people, all that stress started to melt away (ok, maybe not ALL…). After just a couple days away, we were embracing the simpler life that we used to know, and started dreaming just a little bit of not ever returning to reality. If there was ever a time that we NEEDED to be with our families, this was it.
Curtis checked out on Friday, May 26, and we got on the road around 10. While our intention was to push through all the way to his family’s home in Michigan that day, we still had a few things we wanted to do on the way…namely drive through new counties. We don’t really care about getting every single county in New York (at least not yet) — that would require us to go to NYC, which has never been a necessity for us. However, we did care about visiting all counties North and West of NYC, so we planned our drive accordingly. We drove through the beautiful Schoharie River Valley on I-88, which had a very cool and mysterious look on this overcast day, with clouds hanging over the mountains as it rained on and off. We continued on I-86 West of Binghamton, then cut across highway 417 to enjoy the scenic route off the interstate. Our favorite part about this drive were the flowers all around — there were dame’s rockets lining either side of the highway, and we admired many vibrant blossoms in people’s yards while driving through small towns. We enjoyed this drive so much, but once we stopped for fuel around 5, we realized we had been on the road for 7 hours now and were STILL in New York! I had forgotten how long the state actually is — it didn’t feel like we had made much progress. We got back on I-86 and met up with I-90 shortly after entering Pennsylvania.
After that, we stuck to a more direct route until we arrived in Michigan. We made it through Cleveland then watched the sun set as we drove across Ohio. Once it was dark, Charlotte decided she had had enough of sitting on my lap and hopped back to the backseat where she slept the rest of the way. Once entering Michigan on US 23, we took highway 223 to 127, North to Lansing, and finally I-96 to Curtis’ family’s house. This route gave us 3 new counties in Southeast Michigan. We arrived around 11:30, after 13 hours on the road. It had been a while since we had done a long road trip, and honestly it didn’t feel that long at all. For some reason, even though highway roads typically take longer, they make the drive much more interesting and in return, it feels shorter.
Curtis and I both crashed right away once we arrived, but Charlotte had already been sleeping most of the day and was not at all interested in sleeping! Lucky for her, she still had 2 weeks of vacation filled with attention and belly rubs from families, playing with their pets (or howling at the cats), running around big grassy yards, and going on multiple day trips to different places. What more could a dog want?
On our first full day in Michigan, we went on a letterboxing adventure in all sorts of places between Grand Rapids and Lansing. We walked all around Portland and boxed in several cemeteries (which was perhaps not the best idea considering it was Memorial Day weekend). The majority of the boxes were drive by or short walks, so we were able to find a lot that day. The next day, we drove to Romeo, MI for a family reunion after church. The timing worked out great so that we were able to visit with Curtis’ grandparents and one aunt and uncle from his mom’s side. We did a little letterboxing on the way back home.
The rest of the week was filled with gardening, yard work, crafting, and woodworking. Curtis chopped down a couple trees, and used some of his and his dad’s scrap wood to make beautiful cutting boards. He found that they are very easy to make and look great, so maybe someday we’ll invest in all the tools he needs to make more. Curtis’ mom Julie taught me how to felt, and we enjoyed playing with watercolors and pastels. I feel like I always say I want to be more artsy, but I never take the time to do it unless I have someone to do it with. We enjoyed dinners out on the porch every night as the weather was just perfect all week. On our final night in Michigan, we drove to Muskegon for dinner with Curtis’ paternal grandparents.
Seriously, time just flies by so much faster when we’re with family. The whole trip was a blur and I can hardly remember the details. Of course it’s not the details that matter, it’s the memories and the time with family that really counts! Come back soon to read about the rest of our trip to the Midwest.