The Daughter Chronicles

Monday, November 25, 2019

Our vacation to the garden spot of the world ... Pennsylvania!

Hey, it's November, and I decided that I should probably write a little about our trip to Pennsylvania in July. Timely updates matter greatly to me here at the blog! We went to the old homestead area because this year was our 25th anniversary, and I thought it would be fun to have a party at my parents' house and invite a bunch of people we probably would have invited to our wedding if we hadn't gotten married in Portland, 3000 miles away from almost everyone we knew (no regerts!). The kids were done with summer camp (Mia's, at which Norah volunteered this past summer), they didn't have anything going on until school started, and Krys had a little time off from work, so we were good to go! Krys didn't want to take too much time, so I went with the kids a few days earlier, on Friday, 12 July. She joined us the following Wednesday, and we spent the rest of that week and the next week chillin' in PA. We had a grand old time!

Before Krys got there, I hung out with friends of mine. On Sunday I went to a barbecue at my friend Frank's house, where I caught up with him and a bunch of other old friends. I hadn't been back to PA since 2012, which has been my longest stint away from there since I moved away in 1993. Airfare is just getting so expensive, and I can't go alone because Mia is too big for Krys to handle, so it's the whole family or nothing! So there was a lot to catch up on. I found out one of my friends whom I hadn't seen since the late Nineties was in town, so I had breakfast with him and we talked for hours. One night I went to my friend Dave's house to practice singing, as I was planning to perform some songs for my lovely bride at the party and I needed to get together with my band - three musical friends I had asked for help a few years ago. I hadn't sung in public in 30 years, and needless to say, I needed the practice. So that was fun.

On Tuesday we went to beautiful Columbia, Pennsylvania, home of the Turkey Hill Experience. The Turkey Hill Dairy is a local phenomenon, and the "Experience" is a very kid-friendly museum about how they make ice cream and other dairy products. We figured Mia might actually like it, so we took her, and my sister's kid, who gets along very well with Norah, came up for the weekend and decided to stay the entire week. It was fun - we mixed up some ice cream, saw various displays, and Mia seemed to enjoy it … as much as she enjoys things, which, if it's not television, isn't all that much. But she behaved herself, which is nice. Unfortunately, the weather was already getting bad - that week, apparently, was the worst of the summer - with the heat rising steadily and the humidity getting worse and worse. I grew up in it, but that doesn't mean I like it!

Krys came in on Wednesday morning, and we went out that night to a trivia night with Jen and Jeff, two of our friends. They had finished second the week before with only them and one other person on their team, and they figured we would put them over the edge, because our knowledge of useless pop culture trivia is so vast! And we did - we won, which was nice. The next night (after a horrid day), we were out at a different place with different friends, and we won another trivia contest. Good times! On Thursday, before our night, we went to Hershey Park. I love roller coasters, and we thought it would be fun. We figured we could meet my sister and her son there, and have a grand old day. Unfortunately, it didn't turn out that way. We got stuck in traffic on the highway because there was a horrible (and fatal) accident some miles ahead of us. We got off the freeway and tried to get onto a different one, and we got a little bit lost (Krys's phone was showing us how to get there, but the orientation was weird, so I kept turning right instead of left, for instance). Finally we were on our way, but we were 90 minutes behind schedule or so. The weather was ominous, too - all the way there, we kept seeing dark clouds and we were getting a little rain, but we were hoping it wouldn't hit Hershey. We got there almost two hours after I wanted to get there, because I wanted to ride roller coasters before it got too crowded and go to the water park, which is relatively new and which I didn't know existed the last time we were at the park (maybe in 2011?) and I love water parks. So we got there late, and I had a sinking feeling that we wouldn't get to do the water park, but whatever (I wanted to get there relatively early because I had made dinner plans, so we couldn't stay too, too late). Of course, as we were standing in line for the first coaster, it started pouring. That wasn't too bad - I don't mind getting wet, and it cooled everything down temporarily - but it was still a nice metaphor. Of course, then it stopped and the humidity got even more oppressive! Then no one wanted to ride coasters with me. The kids were either blasé about it (my nephew, who's 17 and blasé about everything except video games) or they didn't feel great (my niece and Norah) and they just didn't like the coasters (my sister). Luckily, Krys went on several with me, because she's awesome. Of course, I didn't get to go to the water park, and I couldn't go on one coaster because I was too fat (seriously - it really made my day!), and we got to dinner 45 minutes late, but the coasters were fun, and dinner was great, so the day wasn't a total loss.

We had our party on Saturday, and it was a lot of fun. It was ridiculously hot and humid, and I changed shirts three times, I think, because I could never get cooled down. I was running around helping set things up in the morning, and then I just couldn't sit down and relax a lot, but I didn't care too much. A bunch of Krys's high school friends came, her sister and a bunch of her family came, a bunch of my high school friends came, and I think everyone had a good time. It was so great to catch up with people, and I really do wish I had had more time to talk to some people, because it had been so long since I'd seen them. I love my friends, and it's so nice when I can actually hang out with them. Eventually I performed my brief concert for Krys, as part of our anniversary celebration, and the less said about it the better. My voice is pretty good, but again, it's been years and I'm out of practice, and I also haven't used a microphone very much in my life, so I was too quiet. My friends played brilliantly, though, and I hope everyone enjoyed it even though it wasn't the best singing in the world. The next day was also fun, as my cousin and aunt who couldn't make it the day before came by for brunch, and my cousin and aunt are pretty awesome, so that was fun.

We hadn't been up to visit Krys's homestead yet, so we did that in the next few days. We all went up on Monday and had dinner with Krys's dad, sister, and brother, but then I went back down to my parents' house because there was no place for Mia to sleep. On Tuesday, I went back up to Pottsville, without Mia, because we were going to State College to check out Penn State, which Norah really wanted to do. We drove there on Tuesday afternoon and spent most of Wednesday there, which was fun. I hadn't been back on campus since the mid-1990s, and while a lot was the same, it was cool to see some of the changes. We showed Norah where Krys and I lived (Krys lived in an apartment off-campus, while I lived in West Halls), we went to the Nittany Lion shrine and the Creamery, we drove past the stadium, and we strolled around downtown for a while. It's such a nice town, and Norah loved it. I don't know if she'll want to go to school there (out-of-state tuition is bad, man!), but it's definitely on her list.

After that, we chilled for the rest of our time there. A lot of my friends were doing other things, so I was glad I got to see them the week before, even if it was hectic. We went out to dinner with my parents one night and with Jen and Jeff another, and then we flew home. I had a good time, and while I was there for over two weeks, I still would have liked to stay a bit longer. Mia watched a lot of television - my parents set up a TV in my dad's den, where she slept, so she could watch without interfering with the big television in the main living room - and when she did go out, she seemed to enjoy herself. I felt bad that on the day of the party, it was so hot that I could barely take her outside. I brought her out for about 10 minutes, but I could see that the heat was making her really uncomfortable, so I took her back inside. Mia can be very friendly, and a lot of people hadn't met her, so she would have had a good time, but I could see it wasn't going to happen. Norah had a great time hanging out with her cousin, and it was excellent to see not only my friends, but my sister-in-law, who's awesome. I am glad I moved away, because it was absolutely the right decision, but I do miss my friends. It's fun to see them when I can!

So that was our quasi-vacation. We've done something for three consecutive summers, and I don't know if we will do anything next summer. Traveling is expensive, people! Plus, it's so tough with Mia. We didn't have to drama at the airports that we did when we flew out of Florida a few years ago, but it's still a pain to fly with her. She was great on the plane, of course, because she seems to like the steady drone - it helps her sleep, naturally, and I was kind of annoyed that random people kept sneezing or coughing on the red-eye to PA and waking her up - and she's remarkably patient, remarkable because she can be so impatient elsewhere. She spent a lot of time in her wheelchair - the bed she slept in wasn't a hospital bed like we have, so we couldn't raise the head - and I think she got a bit stiff after a while, but we tried to get her out every so often so she could stretch. But I think she had a good time, and my parents love seeing her, so we'll call it a success. And despite the heat and the crappy day at Hershey, I had a good time, too. I don't see my sister all that often, and she's fun to talk to, and it was nice driving around and checking out old haunts. Maybe it won't be seven years before we head back there!


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