I love it when others share their trips and photos with me. It’s a glimpse at an area of the world I haven’t seen and may not get to. We can live vicariously, right?
So this post is all about my trip to Pennsylvania last week. I talked about it initially in this post. Growing up, my parents were semi-separated (and yet I still got three brothers out of the deal), but for all intents and purposes my mom was a single mom until I was in high school, so there were no vacations or road trips. There were day visits to Six Flags or Sea World every so often, but as I got older and those trips become more expensive, they were few and far between. On the other hand, D got dragged around by his mom every summer to somewhere, and usually he didn’t give two flips about where they were going or what his mom made them do. He’s been to almost every continental state, and even Canada! This lead to some major differences of opinion on this trip.
The trip to him was well-worn, and he was on a mission: get to grandma’s!
He wouldn’t admit it until later, but he wanted to beat his dad’s record for this trip…and that is why we were on the road from Austin, Texas all the way to La Grange, Kentucky in less than 15 hours, including being at a dead stand-still for an hour and a half about 60 miles outside of Memphis. We were right at an entrance ramp, and people were going up the entrance ramp to get off the highway! Finally a state police officer came and blocked that off. I finally told D to shut off the car, and we rolled down the windows and opened the sun roof.
Then, D thought we were going to sleep in our car seats for the night at a truck stop. I put my foot down at that at midnight, when we finally pulled off in La Grange.
We got up six hours later and got back on the road. We hit Cincinnati not too long after that, and were at his grandma’s by lunchtime, which surprised the heck out of her! Usually this trip requires an entire day, and a second day that brings you in at dinner time. Needless to say, D broke his dad’s record.
This was the first time I met D’s Pennsylvania relatives (dad’s side), and they were a great bunch! His grandma refused to let us lift a finger, but was quick to shut down any squabbling. A true grandma, right?
One day we had pancakes, and after I finished I got up to wipe off the dripping syrup off the container. His grandma had her back to me, still sitting at the table, but all of a sudden said, “Hey, whaddaya doin’ kid!?” It started me so much I almost dropped the syrup!
On top of that, his grandma is just a hoot. She’s funny and quirky, and sees some of the world in a different light and perspective than most. It was refreshing and reminding to see that. I got to learn more about his family and enjoyed the stories they told.
I got to meet the aunts and uncles and cousins, two of which are about our age. One got married last summer, and the other is getting married next summer! We have been forewarned that June 13 is the date and we have to be there. They could not stop talking about the wedding last year, when D’s brother was floorboarded by his grandma’s sudden appearance in what was very obviously a wig for the rehearsal dinner. To sum up their hilarious retellings, D’s brother shit a brick…but never mentioned it when he came back home. Haha!
We didn’t do much while there – stayed in for relatives to stop by and what not, watched the news, Family Feud every Pirates game day and evening. The first few days I read voraciously on my Kindle. I finished four books on the trip, barely starting a fifth one on the return trip.
But something bad happened. Really bad.
I could not stay awake! Every day after lunch, I would get my Kindle and sit on the couch to read and simultaneously watch the news or Family Fued, and then I’d fall asleep. We’re not talking about power naps – we’re talking a few hours! I could not control myself. After the first couple times, I thought it was because I was trying to read on my Kindle. Read all about that suspicion in this post. I then stopped reading, and still I fell asleep. D would snooze on the couch, but then one day toward the end of the trip he went to take a nap and slept even longer than me! His grandma said it was because we drove too much, too fast. I suppose it’s the equivalent of jet lag?
One night, D’s uncle brought up his registered “specially crafted” motorcycle and took us both for a ride. That day he’d driven it in to Pittsburgh, and he told me he and his wife have driven over 100 miles in it at one time!
On Thursday we went into Pittsburgh so D could go to the Strip district. We HAD to eat at Primanti Bros., which I was not too impressed with. He didn’t tell me my sandwich came with coleslaw on it, and it’s not any kind of coleslaw I’ve seen before, so I picked it off and he ate it. However, they had excellent fries. We walked down to the Strip, went in the stores and browsed the street vendors looking for the best prices. I bought a couple of items, and a souvenir for my mom, and then we headed back to the stores or vendors we wanted to buy from.
Then I twisted D’s arm and made him take me to the Pittsburgh Zoo. He was adamant that we had to get home before rush hour. It was 1:00! The last time I’d been to the zoo I was in first grade! I had to overly stress that I didn’t get to go to do these kinds of things growing up that he took for granted and came to abhor. I also didn’t come 14000 miles to sit around at his grandma’s for five days, even though I enjoyed her company and being with his family.
I loved the zoo! Especially when I discovered they have a program for sea turtles called the Sea Turtle Second Chance Program. There was a great variety of animals, and most of it was shaded well. There were people of all ages there, which was wonderful to see.
That night we did an experiment, recommended by his family. Apparently they had all done it (except his grandma) and his grandma was the ringleader. We lit beeswax candles and stuck them in our ears to draw out ear wax. D and I both did it, on both ears, and then we cut open the candles and examined the insides. It was frightfully disgusting, but we were all filled with gross curiosity. I think his grandma was the most fascinated, since she ran off to get a flashlight to shine down into the candles, and also readily produced the knife and scissors to cut open the candles. She even lit the candles while I held them for D!
Since the candles worked so well, I got a set for my mom, dad and brothers, and a few extras for D and me to use. Then we browsed around his grandma’s town, and just went in to the furniture store for something to do. And I ended up finding the ottoman for the end of the bed that I could not find for the right size and most definitely not for the right price in Texas. The saleslady ended up giving me 56% off, and I walked out of the store with the floor model for less than $85.
We had dinner Friday night with D’s grandma and her sister and her husband. His (great) aunt even gave me a pair of earrings! The design almost matches the thumb ring I wear on my left hand. She was a little different than his grandma, a little quieter, but very sweet and kind.
And then the moment came. At dinner, D’s grandma started calling me D’s mother’s name! More than once! She said I looked just like her! That I walked like her, talked like her, laughed like her! OMG. Nooooo! I told D he was marrying his mother. Thankfully, his aunt came to my rescue and told his grandmother she was crazy.
We headed back to Texas on Saturday morning, and all along the way we were held up with torrential rain or construction or wrecks. I drove from the north side of Cincinnati all the way to Nashville, from about 10 to 2:30 when we hit traffic. We were finally able to reach an exit, and found an alternate route to get us farther up the highway we had just exited. Of course, D wouldn’t listen to my navigating, which he assigned to me, and got us in a bind. Then he insisted we go straight through the heart of Nashville instead of going around it on 155, but I decided to find something better to do. I tried to read, but just couldn’t focus. At one point while stopped in traffic for nearly two hours, we popped out the tablet, turned on Bluetooth and played a movie with pretty good sound coming out of my Jeep speakers.
We didn’t make that great time coming back home, but we did reach the south side of Little Rock before stopping the first night. I would highly recommend that you never stop to sleep for the night in Little Rock. Every place we passed, even during the daylight, looked sketchy. Where we stayed, D almost got beat up trying to come into our room! The guys all hanging around outside thought that he called either the front desk or police on them when he was calling his grandma!! Even after telling them he was just checking in with his folks – and that we had driven all the way from Pittsburgh – they still were insistent that he didn’t. I had to practically drag him in the door and slam it shut when I heard footsteps approaching.
We got home, unloaded, and went to pick up our sweet Baby from “summer camp” and were home by 4:00 the second day.
In all it was a great trip, but I would prefer to fly next time, and go see and do more than what we did. Unfortunately, I did not get to go to Graceland after checking tour prices. It’s more than a tank of gas – for just one person! Alas, it will be for another trip.
Now, I have two things to share with you: Baby’s “letter” from “summer camp” and things I realized while on the trip.
Baby’s letter, penned by our dog-lover friends who have a 12 year old lab and a “Mexican Hairless” dog. They rescued him and he had mange very badly, so they don’t know what he really is, and that’s what they call him, along with Pissy Pete. (His actual name is Conan.)
Dear Mom & Dad,
Summer camp has been OK. I really don’t like this little Mexican I have as a roommate. He is a real jackass. He always barks at me even thought I’m not doing anything. The counselors have been cool. They let me just run around outside so I don’t pester them. The blonde dog started growling at me because when she is sniffing my butt I get excited and accidentally hit her in the face with my tail.
Hope you guys are having fun.
- There are still cash-only businesses in major cities.
- In that area of PA most people have their own well for water supply in the home. I grew up with one, but later our indoor water came from a water company.
- In that area of PA houses and land were cheap. His cousin was looking at a three bedroom house on three acres for only $125K. In Texas on average an acre of land is a good 5 grand.
- Most houses have an exterior of either brick or siding, entirely. Brick houses in Texas are very unusual, and cost a pretty penny.
- In PA, most places have what I call store-front awnings over doorways and walkways, even on the houses. In the south, there are no awnings like that except maybe on a Main Street.
- Some people do not believe in pets co-existing in the home…so they live in the basement.
- Most houses have basements for storage due to being snowed in.
- Highway systems are VERY different up north than they are in Texas.
- Predominantly, the vast majority of people own very new cars compared to in Texas. D says this is due to rusting undercarriages from the snow.
- I saw my first groundhog and chipmunk, which I’ve never seen in Texas. I’ve seen remnants of groundhogs, but never lazying away out in the open, or even out at all!
- Some folks have multiple jobs/tasks to sustain their family.
- For a while on the road everyone had trucks or minivans. In PA, most people had cars, SUVs and trucks…even with their gas prices.
- Did I mention their gas prices? How can they afford to drive a truck?