August 13- So this is it. The last blog of The Grand Adventure. Barring unforeseen circumstance (or arguably foreseen hangover-- we are hanging out with my family tonight), tomorrow night we will sleep in our own beds. Picking up where I left off, we spent our first night back in Eastern Daylight Time just north of South Bend, Indiana on Monday and headed over to Notre Dame Tuesday morning. The last time we were there was in about 1996, when a friend of mine got married, and I actually had a little trouble orienting at first. For one thing, then they rebuilt the stadium they considerably enlarged it, making it "closer" to everything else, which threw me off. (Was the art museum really that close to the stadium, I don't recall it as such?) Plus, of course, all the new buildings. They were just building the Debartolo buildings when I left (I think I had Physiology lecture in one of them), but now there is another entirely new quad past those and a big mixed housing/business area in what used to be ghetto in my day. But a bit of walking got us into mostly familiar territory, so the kids got to see my old dorm (Howard Hall), South Dining Hall ("looks like Hogwarts"), the student union, the Grotto, the library, and Galvin Hall, the biology building where I spent most of my waking hours.
After Notre Dame, we headed east and stopped for a tour of Jayco, the company that made our camper. The kids thought this was a lame idea, but Rob's family did it when they did their trips, so it's sort of a family tradition. Plus, how many things are actually made in the US anymore, so we took it as an opportunity. The factory was actually pretty neat—they showed us the sewing shop, where they make everything from draperies to cushions to bedspreads, and the assembly line for their ginormous fifth wheel trailers, where you could actually see them being assembled chassis to decals. Much of their labor force is local Mennonites, and Rob and I got some added interest from checking out some of their seriously tricked out commuter bikes.
After Jayco, we headed northeast for a long overdue visit with some of our favorite people, Fox and Janet Adelmann. We've known them since about 1996, but by our calculations, the last time we actually got it together to visit them was in 1999. At that time, they lived in a cute little house outside of Ann Arbor—but a year and a half ago they took the plunge and bought an 18-acre farm. One thing about Fox and Janet (aside from being about the coolest people ever), they don't do anything part-way. Last summer, when newly moved in, they just had a garden, but this year they expanded to nearly 2 acres under organic cultivation with 60 kinds of vegetables, distributed in a 40-share CSA. So Tuesday night we got to dig potatoes and pick corn for our dinner (you know it's going to be good when the conversation goes, "I think we will be OK if we pick the corn before we start the water, right?"), then on Wednesday we helped with the harvest for that day's distribution (Swiss chard, turnips, kale, corn, zucchini, cucumbers and hot peppers), followed by a breakfast feast of pancakes with local blueberries, topped with homemade maple syrup (yes, they tapped their own trees this spring and boiled down the sap).
After breakfast we helped with weeding (since they are totally organic and are also strongly against the waste associated with the common organic practice of covering the fields with black plastic to keep down weeds, that is something they've been struggling with). We made some very happy pepper plants, but were stymied from doing more by a big rainstorm that lasted a couple hours. After it cleared out, we decided to go swimming in the local lake, and then headed to Hell (Michigan) for some ice cream. Hell pretty much consists of an ice cream store and a BBQ joint (Hell's Kitchen), but nonetheless manages a brisk tourist business (it's particularly popular with bikers). Hell's other distinction is that it's Janet's home town, meaning that Fox can literally claim to have "in-laws from Hell."
We hoped to get an advance look at the Perseid on Wednesday night, but the mosquitoes drove us inside (that doesn't happen very often) and it fogged over anyway.
Thursday we made our promises that we'd be back before 2021, and continued east to my sister's house in Hudson, Ohio, between Cleveland and Akron, with a stop along the way at Tony Packo's, a Toledo diner made famous by Clinger in M*A*S*H and specializing in Hungarian influenced food. Unbeknownst to me, Rob had included this stop in the original trip plan; we probably didn't need a big lunch, given that we were on our way to spend time with my family, but the food was good. Brooke, of course, stuffed us stupid with margaritas, Mexican food, and cookies, and we spent a lovely evening relaxing on her back deck (but alas, didn't see any of the meteor shower here either.) Kieran also got the first set of presents in his belated birthday celebration and blow out a candle on a brownie sundae (he turned 10 on Wednesday when we were at Fox and Janet's but had to settle for ice cream, since we delayed presents and cake for Brooke's house). My parents arrived this morning, Rob went on a 40-mile bike ride, and Mom, Brooke and I took the kids to the pool.
After another huge meal, Kieran got to open his grandparent presents and to finally blow out ten candles on his birthday cake. I got a belated (a month, in this case) birthday present as well, a Wii Fit—I am looking forward to the yoga. We had planned to show trip pictures but we just haven't had the energy to cull through them all—I took 1500 and I think Rob took over 2000—which is the same reason they haven't been posted to the web yet. Maybe early next week. . .
To the folks who have been reading this, thanks for following along. It really has been the best trip ever. Seven short years till my next sabbatical. . .