Our big travel plans for 2020 were cancelled for obvious reasons, so we set smaller goals for this summer. Primary of which was seeing as much family as we could manage. A road trip on the way home was a stretch goal. Fortunately, Covid — and Canada — cooperated with both.
We started the summer off resuming our tradition of Family Camp, a beautiful spot on Lake Erie owned by our church’s denomination. For most of the time we’ve lived in Ohio, we’ve managed to coordinate with another family, and have loved watching our kids interact at least annually as they grow up. We pulled off a modified version last summer, but it lacked the structured faith-building activities that we value so much. On a previous year we bore witness to a baptism service in the lake, and Ben’s heart was set on the same setup for his own public confession of faith. We celebrated with him with great joy this year as he finally got to demonstrate his faith in a place that’s been so important to his walk with God.
Before and during camp we went for Covid tests (an activity that Abi distinctly disliked) so that we could arrive at the border with the necessary evidence of health. Combined with vaccination records for 4 out of 5 of us, we were allowed into the country — and straight into line for yet another test. Because Eli is too young for a vaccination, they instructed that she would have to quarantine… but the rest of would not. Exactly how to quarantine a 10-year independent of her family was not specified, so we were somewhat left to our own discretion. Fortunately, Eli was perfectly content to stay at the happy place that is Nana and Papa’s house. A pool, zip-line, and a big yard full of tiny off-road vehicles to ride around didn’t hurt. The rest of us generally stayed isolated for most of the two weeks anyway — although Nicole and I did manage to find some time to ourselves and to make a few connections with friends. (Apparently the Canadian government has since realised that quarantining a 10-year-old is silly, and have lifted this requirement for kids too young to get vaccinated.)
Eli earned her freedom with one extra Covid test and the completion of her two-week personal lock-down just in time for the next set of family to arrive. My parents made their way from Grand Cayman, via Ohio for their necessary testing, and my sister bravely made the flight from Calgary with her two little ones. It had been 3 years since this set of cousins was together, but it was wonderful! We were so glad they were able to make some memories together.
After 3 weeks in Ontario, it was time to start our trip home — via the scenic route. Aside from being desperate to see some more of the world, we had purchased an awesome road trip vehicle not long before Covid hit, and had yet to really stretch its legs. 2100 miles of Eastern Canada the the US made for good proving grounds…
Our first stop was north-east of Toronto, in Prince Edward county, where we visited old friends in their summer getaway spot on Lake Ontario. The next day, at their advice, we took a ferry toward Ottawa, where we paused in traffic only long enough to take a few photos of the seat of our government.
We spent more time in Quebec, enjoying a posh stay in Montreal one night, and an afternoon exploring Quebec City the next day. Both were highlights, but Quebec City and surrounding area were absolutely stunning. Our plan for the next night did not work, and the kids got to experience their first roadside motel — it was clean and safe, but we didn’t linger the next day, and pushed straight for New Brunswick.
In Fredericton we met up with some more friends — 2 out of 4 sisters, all of whom we think are pretty special. One, a former travel companion, the other a former babysitter who played an important part in our kids’ lives when they were young. We loved the little city of Fredericton, but loved even more reconnecting with friends, and watching our 3 kids love on their former babysitter’s foster kids!
The next day we headed for the border to cross into Maine. Apparently that was a mistake, because while they were very nice, and repeatedly assured us that all our paperwork was in order, they had no idea how to process our status, and we ended up sitting in silence on a hard wooden bench for 90 minutes while they pulled out giant binders that described the procedure for letting us in. When we finally were approved for re-entry, we drove straight for a walk-in clinic… then to a second one, since the first wouldn’t see me, for long overdue diagnosis and care for an ear infection that had been plaguing me since before we hit the road. (For the record, an ear infection is NOT a symptom of Covid, no matter what the dumb receptionist at a walk-in clinic tells you!)
We again settled for bare minimum accommodations for the night, and woke up early for more sight seeing. Portland, Maine, and surrounding area, have some definite charm — but don’t quite live up to the hype in my estimation. We took in what we could, including some lunch, and headed for Boston to visit some more old friends. Our second last night ended in Poughkeepsie, NY for no reason other that it was en route home.
At this point we were all a little road weary, but we managed a driving tour of historic Gettysburg, before landing at a comfortable hotel outside Pittsburgh. Thanks to Facebook, we made one more connection with an old friend for lunch, before splitting up to two different conclusions to our roadshow. Nicole and the kids headed home to pick up a new crop of baby chicks, and I stayed on in Pittsburgh for my first in-person work event since Covid hit, as a guest speaker for a smart manufacturing boot camp.
There were some allowances made for the state of the pandemic: we wore masks everywhere we went (even when we were the only ones doing so!) and our trip wasn’t quite a leisurely as it might have been if our month wasn’t squeezed by two weeks of unnecessary quarantine. But with these adjustments the trip felt safe and… almost normal. We got to reunite with family, we got to connect with friends, and we got to explore places we’d never been before. I might have some additional thoughts on the dual insanity of America’s lack of love for neighbor and Canada’s fear-based government over-reach, but in the end, we managed to make life work in the middle of a pandemic, and I think that means things are getting better. Here’s hoping next summer’s adventures can be even more… adventurous!