I’m back. After eight days, 37 hours total driving time and 2100 miles traveled, we’ve reached our summer destination or Northern Michigan. Moral of the story: IT IS WORTH EVERY DAMN MILE TRAVELED. Given the circumstances, the very mediocre standards I set before the trip and the things we packed to make the car part fun, the kids were absolute troopers, the very best road warriors.
(Two seconds before photo snapped: “Dash, car seat clip! Scoot it up! The Internet is watching. Get into formation!” Just kidding.)
Before I share the road stops, here’s a little video I put together of our trip. I’ve been promising to share a tutorial on how to make these (they really are quite easy and quick to put together!). That’s way overdue, but I’ll at least tell you the one thing you can do on any vacation or experience you want to later put into video is TAKE LOTS OF VIDEO CLIPS. Short ones. 5-10 seconds long. Film the details, anything you want to remember. I find I like our family videos better when there are lots of shorter clips in them vs. long footage of one thing. Then I just dump them all into video software, trim the clips, add dissolve transitions and insert songs. Wait, did that sound like Martha Stewart saying “It’s so easy! All you need to do is grind your wheat, add these 19 ingredients you’ll never find anywhere, layer it in a special pan using a unique method you’ll never master, bake it in an expensive specialty oven, and Voila! You did it!” Because it’s not. Promise it’s easy. I usually use Windows Live Movie Maker on my computer at home, but I have a Mac for the road, so I figured out how to work iMovie for these on the road.
Songs: Holiday Road from National Lampoon’s Vacation Soundtrack, Classical Gas by Mason Williams, Let Go by Frou Frou and the Main Title from Cider House Rules Soundtrack (also known as the Pure Michigan commercial song).
Brett and I watched this yesterday, and when it ended, he added, “In a few years, we’re going to watch this and cry.” It’s quite possible he meant from the memory of being trapped in the car with kids for so long, but I did not ask him to clarify because sentimental memories is the way I’d like to keep this.
Alright, let’s get to the good part.
Our first major stop was Chattanooga, Tennessee. We both fell in love with Chattanooga years ago, and out of all the places I try and lure Brett to (he loves his Florida), Chattanooga is one with pull. “I could absolutely live here,” is how he put it, and he doesn’t say that about anywhere but home. I found an Airbnb–wait for it–above a coffee shop on Main Street, and it was nothing short of magic. Brett stepped in first with our bags and hollered back to me, “Oh my God, this has your name all over it. You’re never going to want to leave.” And he was right. Several of you asked about the link, and I’m reluctantly giving it to you because, so help me God if I try and book this place again and it’s all booked up. Here.
The floors, the light, the view, the little hobbit door that goes to the rooftop terrace…ridiculously delightful.
And the best part was waking up early and creeping downstairs to the coffee shop (Mean Mug) for coffee and breakfast–in our pajamas.
On our last night there, my friend Tali came over at sunset for wine on the terrace while the kids watched a movie, and I added “rooftop terrace” to my dream life.
We had several things on our list of things to do and see in Chattanooga, but we loved our place and the neighborhood it was in so much, we kept our explorations pretty close. We could easily walk to the old Chattanooga Choo Choo, enjoyed dinner across the street from our condo at FEED, walked the bridge across the river, explored the shops and restaurants in the river district (cute bookstore Winder Binder, Clumpies for ice cream) and let the kids play in the little creeks built into the sidewalks by the aquarium (we do this every year, and they love it).
Chattanooga, you charmed us.
After Chattanooga, we took a detour from our normal route and headed to Muscatine, Iowa for the Hampton Family Reunion which turned out to be such a meaningful experience we will never forget. Brett’s dad has been studying his genealogy for the past several years, sometimes spending 20+ hours a week tracing Hampton family ancestors and their stories. A few years ago, he traveled to Muscatine, Iowa where he knew the earliest Hamptons had settled, in search of a family cemetery he believed was hidden on some property there. With his siblings, he wandered the area until he found it and sat on the steps of the home there until the owner came back. With her permission, he returned with family to restore the cemetery, renting machinery, clearing trees, erecting a gate, cleaning weathered tombstones and planting new ones for those buried who didn’t have them. We gathered together there on the morning of the 4th for a little ceremony–honoring stories and family and how we belong to each other.
We also got to enjoy a steamboat cruise of the Mississippi River, a fireworks show and some good ol’ small town treasures like a soap box derby race and putting pennies on the train tracks and waiting for them to get flattened (it worked!).
Our last stop before we landed at my dad’s was New Buffalo, Michigan where we stayed with our friends for a couple nights and began the Michigan transformation–campfires and lake swims.
And Nella got to spend time with her buddy, Grace. I love seeing them together.
In other summer news, Dash fell in love with a cicada.
Summer feels alive and well, and we are so happy to be in Michigan (and so happy Brett got to tag along this year!). More soon!