4,650 miles. 20 days. One car. Two kids. A ton of luggage.
We just returned from a three-week road trip—an early-U.S. history tour, you could say. We wanted our kids to learn about the colonial era, the Revolutionary War, and the Civil War, and see some of the great sights and monuments on the East Coast. Also, my husband and I both had family members coincidentally renting houses not far apart up in Maine, and they’d invited us to visit. With the promise of cooler weather and a grand, old-fashioned family adventure, we mapped our route, I hired a garden sitter to keep dragging the hoses around at home, and—gas prices be damned—we were off.
After two long days of driving, we detoured to see Niagara Falls, rationalizing adding a couple of hours to our day’s journey by saying the kids needed to see the most powerful waterfall in North America. (My DH and I saw it from the Canadian side one cold winter day more than a decade ago.)
That evening we rolled into Saratoga Springs, New York, home of Garden Rant‘s Michele Owens. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting fellow Ranters Amy Stewart at a book signing and Susan Harris and Elizabeth Licata at the Garden Bloggers Spring Fling here in Austin, so of course I couldn’t resist the opportunity to meet Michele as well. She and her amiable husband generously made time for our visit during a busy Friday afternoon, serving our road-weary crew refreshments on her screened porch overlooking her lovely town garden. Our kids ran off to play with hers and had such a good time they didn’t want to leave.
I’ve been a southern gardener all my life and didn’t recognize anything in Michele’s upstate NY garden except hydrangeas and roses. Even her boxwood looked different. So when she showed me around, I think every other question I asked was, “What is this?” She told me I’d come during a transitional time in her garden, but it was cloaked in shades of green, and a collection of white flowers, including the hydrangeas in the photo above, simply glowed in the evening light. Thanks, Michele, for sharing your garden with me and for your hospitality.
The next day we visited Ft. Ticonderoga, which put on a 250th-anniversary reenactment of the Battle of Carillon in the French and Indian War. Thought not as hot as Austin, it was very warm, and I was impressed that the reenactors could stand to wear their tights, heavy layers, corsets, etc. People wore a lot of clothes a few hundred years ago, didn’t they? However, the Indian reenactors wore, ahem, very little—just a loincloth and leather leggings. I was too shy to photograph those brave fellows. Click here for a look at the King’s Garden near the fort.
This plea at a quaint rest stop in Vermont cracked me up.
We spent a lovely 4 days in Orr’s Island and Round Pond, Maine. Here are a few of my favorite scenes: the Maine coast, above.
Lobster buoys on a shingled shed.
Heading south, we stopped near Boston in historic Concord to visit the site of the Shot Heard Round the World (the start of the Revolution), Louisa May Alcott’s house, and this old cemetery, where U.S. flags decorated the graves of veterans born in the 1700s.
We ended up in the Big Apple over Independence Day weekend, and on the 4th of July we enjoyed a tour of the Statue of Liberty and nearby Ellis Island, where shiploads of immigrants entered the U.S. in the 1800s and early 1900s.
It was special to us to see the Statue of Liberty and read the poem inspired by her on our nation’s day of celebration of independence and freedom.
We stayed at a hotel in the Financial District, cattycorner from the former World Trade Center and with a sobering view from our room of the construction there. Reflecting on the promise of freedom and welcome embodied in the Statue, contrasted with the values of the 9/11 attackers, provided plenty of food for thought.
But it wasn’t all somber reflection on our visit to the greatest city in the world. We played in Central Park, saw Wicked on Broadway (fantastic!), ogled dinosaurs at the Natural History Museum, ate NYC-style pizza, wandered through Chinatown, and window-shopped in the grand stores around Madison Ave.
Next came Philadelphia, where we saw Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell, and a detour to the incredible garden Chanticleer. A few days later we arrived in Washington, D.C., where we took an evening stroll (which turned into a death march) to visit the monuments, including the Washington Monument pictured above.
Here’s the Jefferson Memorial.
D.C. was hot and humid, but not as bad as Austin, and we enjoyed the Smithsonian museums, a tour of the Capitol building, Arlington Cemetery, and the other memorials and monuments. But after NYC, we found it hard to get around in D.C. There’s little parking, the Metro stops are few and far between, and distances between attractions are long and hot, especially for children. Plus, we thought the Mall looked tired and unkempt (the grassy areas were half dead and straggly, temporary wooden fencing marred the views, and lights along sidewalks were out), not befitting the nation’s capital. I hear that renovations are being proposed for the Mall, and I think a makeover is definitely in order.
Jefferson was crazy about plants and gardening, and the reconstructed gardens emulate the grounds as he knew them. Pictured here is the long vegetable garden. Closer to the house are the flower beds, where, according to the official brochure, “[t]wenty-five percent of the flowers cultivated at Monticello were North American natives, and the gardens became, in part, a museum of New World botanical curiosities.” Jefferson was a native-plant enthusiast who left detailed records of his plants and sketches of his designs. Surely he would have been a garden blogger had he lived today.
We finished up our trip with a tour of Mammoth Cave, the world’s longest cave, in Kentucky, then had two more long days of driving to get home. It was wonderful to have several weeks of unstructured family time, and I hope the kids have lasting memories from the trip.
My only complaint about the trip was that our itinerary, packed with sightseeing and many destinations, left no time to visit the many garden bloggers along our route. We passed oh-so-close to the homes of Cold Climate Kathy, Ranter Elizabeth Licata, Art of Gardening’s Jim, Ranter Susan Harris, Clay and Limestone’s Gail, and Ledge and Gardens’ Layanee—and it pained me not to be able to stop by for a visit. However, as my family rightly pointed out, this was not strictly a Pam vacation. Alas. :-)
If you’ve had any trouble accessing my site in the past couple of days, you’ll have noticed that Digging was temporarily suspended by my server. A malicious hacker was apparently using my site to attack another server, and when Bluehost discovered what was going on they abruptly shut down my site (and my email account). Needless to say, this was an unpleasant event at the Penick household, but my computer guru spent long hours last night upgrading our software to try to get the lowlife out of the system. We’re not sure all the bugs have been worked out with the upgrade, and my design site is still not fixed, but Digging is at least up again. Please let me know if you see anything amiss with the site as we continue to straighten things out.
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