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Published: July 30th 2015
Our middle child, Rosanna, and her husband Evan were expecting their first child on July 9th, so of course we wanted to be there for the big event. This necessitated a road trip from our home in Woodland Park, Colorado to their home in Danbury, Connecticut and back. The 4000 mile drive was necessitated by the need to transport "tons" of stuff belonging to Rosanna and our youngest child Will, who was spending the summer with them, after they moved away without aforementioned stuff. My wife Linda and oldest daughter Tamara though it would be a good idea for Tamara and our two grandkids, Liam (4) and Cecily (2) to go along as Tamara could swap driving chores with me. So the participants were decided, and ready to go by early July.
Tamara, husband Ryan, and grandkids came to our home for the Fourth of July weekend with the intent of Ryan leaving the rest here and driving home, meaning we would have to drop them off in Fort Collins on the way home. Our initial plan was to start driving east on 6 July, arriving on 8 July, just in time for the baby's arrival. But babies don't operate
Tombstone of James Hair
Probably the brother of Linda's great great grandfather. We didn't find the other relatives.
on a schedule. So the 6th came and went, as did the 7th, 8th, and 9th. We were getting impatient like runners at the starting line with no 'go!" Rosanna informed us that the doctor would induce the baby by 16 July if he didn't arrive naturally by then. So we decided to start driving east on Friday 10 July, arriving on Sunday evening, 12 July. We would drive there via Interstate 70 and return via Interstate 80, stopping to visit family along both routes.
Our neighbor, Dino, kindly offered to watch our four cats. Only one is ours, two belong to Tamara and one belongs to Rosanna. We had hoped to take her cat with us and leave it there. But she said NO...promising to take the cat with her when they come here for Christmas. That left our dog, Bonnie, which we didn't want to burden Dino with...dogs are so high maintenance. So we took Bonnie with us. She turned out to be the best behaved of all of us...never peed once in a hotel room!
10 July 2015 Friday. So on a beautiful morning occupants and car, absolutely packed to the rafters, headed east across
the flat plains of eastern Colorado and the similarly flat plains of Kansas; arriving 735 miles later at our hotel in Columbia MO about 9 pm. Nothing eventful to report happened along the way. I was able to exchange 10,000 points to stay at a Fairfield Inn, which was nice. However, it was too late to use the pool.
11 July 2015 Saturday. Another long day driving across Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and West Virginia; arriving 690 miles later in the southwestern corner of Pennsylvania about 7 pm. In that corner is the town of Claysville, located on the US40 National Pike, the first road funded by the federal government to take pioneers westward. And just outside of town were the first relatives we would visit; in the Claysville Cemetery. We had come to find the tombstones of Linda's great great great great great grandfather James Hair, who was born in 1733 in Old Crumnock, Ayrshire, Scotland, and who had immigrated to the colonies, fought against the British in the Revolutionary Was, was given land in the area for his service, and eventually died on 25 March 1817. We have a picture on Ancestry.com of his wife, Mary Greer's
tombstone, and of his son John Hair and grandson James Hair, and James' wife Margaret Black, and were hoping to find his. I had envisioned a small colonial cemetery, but when we arrived it was huge. One of the aforementioned pictures of tombstone had a building in the distance, so I tried to find that angle that picture was taken from and search that area. The light wasn't the best when we started searching at 7 pm, but we found a James Hair tombstone.
We left before Bonnie could desecrate any graves, and arrived at our hotel in Washington PA at 9 pm. I had booked a two queen non smoking room and upon checking in was told that the only room left was a smoking room. We were not please, but it was too late to start searching for another hotel. (Note: I complained to headquarters and was given a voucher good for another stay...which I will not use at that hotel!) I bought take out dinner from a nearby Chinese buffet which was good.
12 July 2015 Sunday. Off early as we wanted to get to Carlisle PA, which was 196 miles away, by 11:15 am
when my Aunt Minnie would be getting out of church. We arrived just in time and found that my cousin Joy and her husband John, who live in Georgia, were visiting her that day. We also met Lynn Ulrich Evans, a classmate of mine from Dalat School and Geneva College, who together with her husband John, is a teacher at the Prague International School. She was also briefly in town to visit her mother. So we had a 45 minute reunion before heading east again.
Our next stop was the Hershey Chocolate Factory a short 35 miles away in Hershey PA. Tamara took the kids on the ride through the factory to see how chocolate bars are made, while I went to the gift shop to buy chocolate...what else!
Our final stop was 228 miles further at Rosanna and Evan's home in Danbury CT. We arrived about 5 :30 pm and found a still pregnant Rosanna. She immediately smelled the cigarette smoke from our hotel and asked that we wash everything, including what was in our suitcases. It was that bad! She had prepared lasagna for dinner. We thanked her and promised we would do all the cooking
Arrival at Rosanna and Evan's home
Evan, Rosanna and Will preparing supper
from then on. We then unloaded all of Rosanna and Will's thing from the back of the car. Thus would begin the wait for our grandson to arrive.
13 July 2015 Monday. To pass the time we drove by the home in Danbury that my Uncle Tom and Aunt Zee lived in for 50 years, but now belonged to someone else. We also visited many quaint New England villages in the area. I also took Bonnie to a pet salon to give her a bath, which I hadn't been able to do the previous evening when Rosanna said she smelled of cigarette smoke too.
Finally by late Tuesday afternoon, 14 July, Rosanna started experiencing regular strong contractions. We timed her through the evening, and then she, Evan, Tamara, and Will (only three relatives allowed after visiting hours) drove to the hospital where they monitored her until 3:30 am and finally told her to go home.
15 July 2015 Wednesday. Early that morning Rosanna was really having strong contractions so returned to the hospital. I bought a baby book, calendar, flowers, and a newspaper dated 15 July, as gifts, certain that our grandson would arrive later that day.
Our grandson arrived at 1:37 am on 16 July without having to be induced. Connor Aidan Maxwell was a healthy 6 lbs 12 oz. We visited later that morning with the New York Times dated 16 July 2015.
On Friday 17 July we decided to drive into New York City, stopping at Central Park for a walk and then driving through Times Square and down Broadway to the vicinity of the new World Trade Center. By then we had enough of the terrible traffic so crossed the Brooklyn Bridge and drove to Jones Beach so the kids could see the Atlantic Ocean. That done, we proceeded back to Danbury to visit Rosanna, Evan, and Connor at the hospital.
By early Saturday afternoon on 18 July, they were released to come home. Hugs all around. But we decided that we should leave Sunday morning as having three kids under five in the house was probably too stressful on the new mom.
19 July 2015 Sunday. Linda wanted to drive through more colonial towns on the way west through New York so we did, crossing the Hudson at the Bear Mountain Bridge. We continued west on Interstate 84,
then 81, then 80, arriving 428 miles later at Linda's Mom's home in New Castle PA about 5 pm. We had a pleasant time getting caught up with her and Jon, Linda's brother, before going to another Fairfield Inn where we would spend two nights.
20 July Monday. Linda, Tamara and kids spent the morning at sister Melody's house, while I drove 30 minutes south to Geneva College, where I had met Linda and graduated. I bought a T-shirt at the bookstore, stopped by the library where I met the new president of the college who was also touring the campus, stopped by the engineering department where I interrupted the tail end of a conversation between a professor and a potential engineering student, by adding my recommendation that she should go to Geneva; and then drove back to Melody's home to pick up Linda etc to go to Linda's Mom's home again. More talking until we left about 2 pm to go to our friends' Buz and Kathy's home. While the girls went shopping, us guys went to Jiffy Lube to change my oil and fill the various lubricants, and visit a park for Liam to play. By 4
pm we all returned to their home for a picnic dinner. We had a great time sharing old times traveling together, and wished we could do it again. We returned to our hotel about 7 pm; in time for a quick swim before turning in for the night.
21 July Tuesday. We continued west for on Interstate 80 across Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois to my sister Carol's home in Carol Steam IL, arriving 451 miles later at 4 pm. Carol's husband Steve and son's Josh, Jordan, and Justin arrived from their work places a few minutes later so we had a great time catching up before hitting the road again at 5 pm. We had another 155 miles to go to Davenport IA. I hate Chicago traffic and their tolls every couple of miles. We finally arrived at our hotel about 8 pm, exhausted...time for bed.
22 July Wednesday. We had 1000 miles to home so divided those miles in half, making our next destination Kearney NE. Eastern Iowa has a number of colonies including the Amana Colony, which we have stopped at on previous passes through the state, and an Amish community at Kalona, south of Iowa
City. Our first stop was Kalona where we didn't find much to see. Our next stop was along a back country road that ran for miles through corn fields with no other cars around...except a State Trooper who clocked me going 72 mph in a 55 mph zone. He was nice and issued me a ticket for only 5 mph over the speed limit, but it still cost $87...first speeding ticket in at least 15 years! We got back in Interstate 80 where driving 80 mph was perfectly acceptable, arriving in Kearney about 6 pm. I was sent out for dinner and found a great Thai restaurant where I ordered take out. No pool in this hotel although otherwise it was very nice.
23 July 2015 Thursday. Today we completed our 2028 mile journey home, first stopping at Fort Collins to drop Tamara and the kids off, and then home!!! Arriving about 4 pm. No speeding tickets! Dog and wife happy to be home...me too! Spent the rest of the day picking up our mail at the post office, sorting through it, getting our keys back from Dino (and giving him a gift coupon for the Swiss Chalet and
thanking him profusely), and collapsing.
I promise this is the last time I will drive across the Great Plains...this being the 16h and 17th times. Linda and I will fly from now on.
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