"What I Did With My Summer Vacation" or, "Lapish Family Roadtrip 2018"
Last year, our family embarked on the second most spontaneous adventure of our lives (to date), and left home to live in an RV for a month, traveling across the United States. You could say we were bitten by the wanderlust bug, and you'd be right. You can read more about that epic trip here.
This year, we really wanted to take off and see more of the world; we knew we had a family reunion in Vermont for a week in July, so it made sense to build the trip around that. Sadly, since we already had lodging for a week, it was far cheaper to drive our own car than to rent an RV again, so this summer's trip was shaping up to be pretty different from last summer's trip early on.
So I went back to my BFF, Roadtrippers.com, and started plotting. I started with our destination as Vermont, and then began adding anything and everything we've ever wanted to do and see in that part of the world. Over the weeks and months of planning, we culled the list quite a bit (bye, Boston!! We just couldn't do you justice this time) based on time and budget and overall interest (only one of us wants to do it? Probably not worth it). Some things got cut, some things got added, and some things were non-negotiable (seeing my family in Washington, DC; doing NYC with the kids; taking lots of ferry rides; Niagara Falls; some beach, any beach; etc).
The very first day of our trip was, as you can see from the map, the longest haul. We wanted to dive right in to the good stuff, so we left early that day and powered through the ~10 hour drive to DC. I figured if we were going to do a long haul day, best to get it out of the way early when everyone is still pumped to be traveling, amiright??
We crashed with my cousin + fam for a few nights (thanks for the amazing hospitality, guys! all the wine, all the food, and lending us your awesome kid to spend the day with in the city!), saw the city; drove out to the country to ride/drive tractors and excavators and cook out with my aunt and uncle, and a whole mess of awesome cousin-kids; had a massive Nerf gun battle; and generally enjoyed ourselves to pieces.
After DC, we entered new territory for us. We headed east and slightly south to cross the Chesapeake Bay and headed out to Assateague Island (of "Misty of Chincoteague" fame - and yes, there are still wild ponies who basically own the place and do their own thing). We did some VERY primitive camping there; pit toilets, sleeping on the ground, sky full of stars instead of a roof. As majestic and awe-inspiring as that was, Sam and I had trouble sleeping, so we went for a 2am walk in the moonlight and saw the bay reflecting the night sky, and Mars shining brightly, and it was kind of magical. On Assateague, we had some great beach time, saw wild horses, and developed a newfound appreciation for indoor plumbing.
From Assateague, we headed north to PA for one of McGee's official work days. The boys and I dropped him off for meetings with one of his corporate clients, and explored the area while he worked. - Allow me to interrupt myself for a moment here to heap some praise on my husband, who inexplicably managed to show up to client meetings looking pressed and spiffy and profesh, after having slept on the ground, played in the ocean, and "showered" in a primitive, slimy campground shower. I did not manage to look quite so polished after all of that, so I'm a little bit in awe.
Pennsylvania only got a day of our time, because we had places to be - so after McGee was done with work, we picked him up and headed to Jersey. NYC was one of our non-negotiables; it's my favorite city on earth, and my kids have always begged to go. We gave NYC some priority in our itinerary and budget, and spent the second longest amount of time there (second only to our week in Vermont).
Finding a safe and comfortable place to stay in the NYC area can be tricky on a budget, so I have to share this great place that we ended up. At $88/night for a two bedroom apartment, it's kind of steal. We were located in Jersey City, across the Hudson from Manhattan, and it was an easy (and cheap) Uber ride to the ferry terminal each morning. The apartment was a third floor walkup over a Cuban restaurant that served the BEST coffee, and we were regulars there for our four days (three nights) in town.
As a family, we've enjoyed watching Cake Boss over the years; we love the Valastro family and we DROOL over their creations. And wouldn't you know it, our apartment was located just a mile from their flagship shop, which was right next to the ferry terminal....you see where I'm going with this. We may or may not have gorged ourselves on their signature lobster tail pastries.
Highlights from NYC:
- The ferry captain who got to know us during our stay and would call out "Heeeeeey, Chattanooga!" I hope he and his wife end up retiring in TN like they're thinking about.
- Tearing up a bit when I saw my kids see the skyline for the first time. It was everything I hoped it would be.
- Meeting my friend Meaghan for dinner at Prune, after having read Gabrielle Hamilton's memoir together the month before (the food and atmosphere were AMAZING and I have no idea how they can afford to be so inexpensive. Best cocktails ever and half the price of any other place I've been in NYC).
- Being alone in NYC for a few hours after dinner, and finding my way back to Jersey City via subway, foot, bike, ferry, and Uber. The bike ride along the Hudson River in the sunset will stay with me forever.
- My day with the kids in the city while McGee did more client meetings in Jersey; we had a blast together.
- Getting caught in the world's most intense downpour - for hours - with no umbrellas or ponchos or shelter. Flash flooding made the water up to our knees in some places; probably not too sanitary in the city, but it was definitely a memory the kids and I will share forever.
- Spending Sam's birthday in the city, and doing the things he'd been wanting to do (he's easy to please: his top must-do's in NYC were the LEGO store in Rockefeller Center and eating at Big Gay Ice Cream. DONE.)
- Driving in Manhattan. We only took the car into the city on our way out of town, but man it was a rush. I love to drive.
We left Manhattan as the sun set, and drove out to Niantic for another night of primitive camping. It was so late when we got to the campsite, and we set up in the pitch black night. It was a bit...uncomfortable, and we were all tired and coming down from our NYC high. But the next day, we did a TON of laundry, repacked the car, showered, and explored the coastline in Niantic, and it was lovely.
From there, we headed up the coast to Portsmouth, where we only spent a few hours enjoying the view and some dinner. This is one of the parts of our trip that we really regret not having given more time to; Portsmouth was so beautiful, we wish we could have spent a few days there instead of hours. But every road trip has these moments, and you just have to bookmark them in your mind to some day return to. We'll be back, Portsmouth.
That night, we stayed in an adorable refurbished camper in a field on a farm outside of Portland, Maine. Yes, you read that right. We found it on Airbnb, and not only was it incredibly budget-friendly, but our host, Susan, was one of the most enjoyable people we met our whole trip. She let the boys to help her with farm chores, showed them how to feed the horses and navigate the barns, and let them play with her labradoodle puppies that she's raising to sell. It was a thoroughly lovely experience, and I highly recommend it.
The next morning, we headed to Freeport, Maine, because, LL Bean etc. It was a magical place of outlet/sales/shopping/eating glory. We got some back to school shopping crossed off the list (Jack needs uniforms for middle school this year, yikes). The end of the day saw us safely arrived at the Lapish family reunion in Goshen, Vermont, where we stayed for a week.
Vermont was lovely, and one of the very best parts was getting to hang out with our dear friends from college in Burlington not once, but twice during our week there. We explored Grand Isle (in the middle of Lake Champlain), and did a wine tasting at a small vineyard there with all five of our (combined) kids in tow. Highlights from that week include:
- Wine tasting, obviously.
- Walking around Burlington in the cool evening with friends.
- Snuggling with my baby nephew.
- The one night that we saw multiple mice and in the process of catching them, a BAT FLEW IN (I didn't say these were all positive highlights...but come to think of it, it WAS funny. In retrospect. Now that my heart rate has come down.)
- The next night that MORE mice scurried through and ANOTHER BAT CAME IN.
- The wind and rain storms we got while there - it was truly beautiful.
- Touring Ben & Jerry's production center and getting so. many. delicious. samples. (yes, they make delicious vegan ice cream!! yes, I tried some!! yes, I also had non-vegan ice cream!! yes, you can judge me if you want - my stomach certainly did!!)
- Swimming in Lake Dunmore (gorgeous)
- Spending time with family
From Vermont, we headed north for Canada. O Canada!! We spent two days in Montréal, enjoying the language (I can still read French, thankfully, even if my speaking is really, really rusty), the GORGEOUS and well planned mètro system (so much fun to ride), Old Montréal, beignets covered in maple syrup and topped with maple ice cream (OMG), and the lovely Airbnb apartment we stayed in in Laval (the other side of the river from downtown Montréal, and a quick train ride away).
Politics aside, the things I loved most about Canada were 1 - the language, 2 - the people (everyone we met was SO nice), 3 - the metric system (come on, it just makes more sense), 4 - the scenery. So much to love about Canada.
We left Montréal for Ottawa, the nation's capitol, and stumbled on an amazing Priceline last-minute secret deal for a hotel that we thought would probably be sketchy based on the price - but ended up being a gorgeous high rise right next to Parliament Hill. We loved wandering the Hill the next morning, seeing the famous Changing of the Guard, and meeting some of the friendliest people around.
The farther west we traveled in Canada, the more English we encountered, although pretty much everywhere at least offered English as an alternative to French. We briefly dipped back into the US to visit Boldt Castle in the 1000 Islands area, and it was absolutely worth the sidetrack. One of Charlie's only requests for the entire trip was to go to a castle - but all of us enjoyed rambling over the island, learning the tragic love story behind the place, and wandering the awe-filling halls of the castle itself.
That night, we headed onward to Toronto, where McGee's company has an office. He spent the next day in the office, and the boys and I took the Toronto Island Ferry out to the islands in Lake Ontario just off the shore of the city. We had a BLAST, you guys. If you happen to visit Toronto, I'd highly recommend spending a day there. The islands are connected to one another by bridges for easy walking and biking, and no cars are allowed, so it's safe to let the kids run wild. Dogs and their owners play catch on the huge green lawns, and the whole area is covered in groves of gorgeous weeping willows. In the center of the islands is Centreville Amusement Park, where we spent almost the entirety of our day. It's purportedly for kids 3-7, but the boys and I had some awesome thrills and a TON of fun (the log flume ride was my fave, and I could have - and kinda did - ridden it all day).
When McGee got off work that evening, we met him in the city for dinner and then headed to a place outside of Niagara Falls on Lake Ontario. It was amazing to wake up and see the endless stretch of lake outside the windows. I honestly had no grasp of how enormous the Great Lakes really are. We headed out to Niagara and were OVER.WHELMED. The thing that surprised me the most was the color of the water. It's Caribbean turquoise, crystal clear. It had been a bit of a stressful morning, and we were nearing the end of our 24 day trip, and I wasn't feeling well; I guess all of that played a part in my frayed emotions, but I did NOT expect to burst into tears upon seeing the Falls for the first time.
Sam and I wanted a closer look, so we did the Behind The Falls experience, which was easily my favorite part of the day. You get a rain poncho, and are led through tunnels in the cliffs until you suddenly come out RIGHT beside the base of the falls. Then you can wander from there down other tunnels that lead to different points behind the falls; it's incredible. You're RIGHT THERE, in a cave opening, behind Niagara Falls, watching and feeling the crush and power of the water.
From Niagara, we made our way home, stopping overnight to see family in Ohio and again to see friends in Kentucky. So to sum up:
- 24 days on the road
- 3152 miles
- approx 43 gallons of ice cream
- approx 25 pizzas
- 2 languages
- 4 times through customs
- 2 countries
- ZERO MEDICAL EMERGENCIES OMG (this is our first trip in the history of our family that we can say that)
- 1 injured toenail that I’ll probably lose #notanactualmedicalemergency
- approx 50 miles walked
- 2 nights sleeping under the stars
- 5 air bnb hosts
- 4 GOOD air bnb hosts
- 2 buses
- 3 major subway systems
- 10 different beds
- 7 mice
- 2 bats
- 95 leeches
- 8 ferry boats
- 2 great lakes
It's good to be in our own beds and snuggling our kitties and dogs, but we miss the road! Until next year....
Emily Lapish is a lifestyle photographer in Chattanooga, TN specializing in all things family-related. She spends her time
fending off wild animals raising three boys with her husband, and enjoys long walks through Target while cradling a hazelnut latte.