Editor’s Note: This is Laura Diamond’s final installment in her series of entertaining posts that detailed her family’s two-month road trip in New England and the Mid-Atlantic states. We are so grateful she shared the ups and downs of her family’s journey with us!
Moving from Stowe, Vermont, to Burlington, Vermont, meant moving up in population size from 5,000-ish to 40,000-ish. Like astronauts acclimating to earth’s gravitational pull after time in space, we were visiting increasingly larger places so that Los Angeles would not crack us upon re-entry.
Burlington, a bustling college town with views of Lake Champlain, boasts the Church Street Marketplace, pedestrian blocks of stores and restaurants. Think Santa Monica’s 3rd Street Promenade, minus the buskers. We walked along the bluffs of Lake Champlain, and could all but convince ourselves we were on Ocean Avenue looking at the Pacific Ocean, but for the minor fact of the Adirondack mountains in the distance. Our adjustment process was progressing.
Until we visited Shelburne Farms, and took two steps back toward small town goodness. A 1,400-acre working farm, national historic site and nonprofit environmental education center located on the shores of Lake Champlain, Shelburne Famrs welcomes guests to milk a cow, gather eggs, watch cheese being made, and enjoy food grown on its grounds. It also has its own Inn, so you never have to leave the farm.
We left Burlington loaded with goodies from Shelburne Farms’ gift shop – wine, maple syrup and chocolate – to enjoy and share with friends and family who would be hosting us on our path. We skipped Boston, thanks to the Craigslist scammer who bamboozled a week’s rent from us (more on that later) and gratefully accepted an friend’s invitation to visit her in Amherst. It had been nearly 20 years since we’d seen each other. One of the highlights of this trip was the chance to renew friendships, and inaugurate new ones between our children.
We left Amherst with the goal of arriving in Washington Crossing, Pennsylvania in time for dinner. This required that we zoom past the NBA Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts without stopping. (I nearly blew it, wondering aloud, “What’s that shiny globe-shaped building?” before getting the evil eye from Christopher.)
Instead, we charted a course through Redding, Connecticut in order to visit the setting of My Brother Sam is Dead, a book we were reading to delve into American revolutionary history while in that neck of the woods.
After some R&R with the grandparents in Washington Crossing, it was time for the last leg of our journey, down to the Mason-Dixon line at last. When we arrived in D.C., the boys could smell home. They’d had it with history. With sightseeing. They were done. But the wealth of potential activities in Washington, DC tormented me. How could we choose? Taking a bicycle tour of the monuments; visiting the new Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial; watching money printed at the Bureau of Engraving & Printing; investigating the International Spy Museum?! These were all on our list of want-to’s. But time ran out, and they’ll stay on our list for next time.
As long as we had a car, we decided to add another state to our journey, visiting historic Alexandria, Virginia and the home of George Washington in Mount Vernon.
I’m still not sure how I feel about Mount Vernon. On the one hand, I was curious to see how the first President lived, see the faded wooden floors where he had stood, the desk where he had written, the bed where he died. On the other hand, I was sickened by imagining the horror of being enslaved there, as I walked on the same paths as the human beings he dominated to keep his house painted, his chamber pots cleaned, his family well-fed and pampered. I looked at the massive stately tomb of the most revered American, knowing that paces away nearly 300 slaves were buried without so much as a gravestone. We shared these observations with our kids. And they responded, “Can we please go home!!”
So, that was fun.
We lightened things up later that afternoon in Alexandria, eating crepes outdoors by the Town Hall, cruising the Potomac, and browsing some of the 62 artists’ studios at the Torpedo Factory Art Center. We drove over cobblestone roads past charming brick buildings. I soaked up the other-ness of it, anticipating the mini-malls and wide avenues of L.A. in my future.
The last day of our trip we spent at the Newseum, a gleaming treasure trove of history and a temple to the First Amendment. The kids were enthralled by “the Death Tower,” one of the checkpoints from East Berlin, along with sections of the Berlin Wall. They listened with astonishment as to the tower’s purpose — for guards to shoot fellow citizens trying to escape to the other side — and understood why the West’s side of the wall was painted with colorful murals and graffiti, while the East’s was dismally blank.
And then it was over.
We arrived home in Los Angeles changed in small but meaningful ways. My kids now appreciate more about home. (As in, “It’s so cool here” and “California is so happy” and “There are no bugs.”) They looked forward to the start of school. (As in, “I’m so happy I won’t have to spend any more time with you, Mom!”)
And they, willingly or not, learned about their world. Ten-year-old Aaron is eager to vote for John Huntsman for President, having shaken his hand in New Hampshire. Seven-year-old Emmett, a week after visiting the Newseum, came upon a mural-ed fence in Venice, stopped in his tracks and observed: “This side must be the West.”
I wouldn’t have predicted these would be the lessons they took from our travels. And that inability to predict what will happen is what I love about travel. Happy trails.
FamilyGal Laura Diamond of Southern California has finished up a two-month adventure on the East Coast with her husband and two sons, ages 7 and 11. This is her ninth installment; she and her family went to Six Flags Wild Animal Safari in New Jersey, floated down the Delaware River, reveled in history in Philadelphia, traipsed all over New York City and played in the lake and explored small towns in New Hampshire, and crossed into and hiked in Vermont.