Day 1: From Colorado Springs, to Denver, to Dulles, to Portland... Finally.
If you haven't met John yet, you should know that he is unabashedly wild & adventurous, in the best possible way. I am yet to see that boy ever take his life for granted... he understands the valuable difference between "being alive" & "living". We were at Old Chicago planning our Yellowstone & Grand Teton trip when he asked, "Have you ever been to Maine?" A little backstory to the question: he has been pondering a move to the East Coast, so the question didn't really surprise me all that much. After all, I had been looking at flight totals to get him into Portland, Maine for his solo adventure to explore what could possibly be his new home. "No, I don't think so." And that's when the invite to join him was presented -- & I am not the type of person to ever say no to the prospect of an adventure.
So on Sunday, May 7, after sleeping for a solid two hours, we were on our way to the Colorado Springs Airport. The art of "non-reving" is an acquired skill, & to be honest, the flight totals from COS were looking terrible, but that's the gamble you make when you don't pay for your seat on an airplane. You have to be flexible. Period. We were hoping to get on the flight to Denver or to Chicago, that would connect us to the next inbound flight to Portland. We made our way through TSA relatively quickly & took a seat in the terminal. As the flight to Chicago began to board, it became evident that we weren't going to get on that flight, so I removed us from the standby list & waited for the Denver flight... which yielded similar results. With only one open seat remaining on the plane & the two of us needing a place to sit, we decided to just make the drive to Denver -- which would give us more options to land in Portland later that day by connecting through other cities instead of taking the direct flight. Walking out of the airport, watching the planes that we wanted to be on depart, was sort of annoying & frustrating. Maybe it was just my two hours of sleep getting to me. The drive to Denver from Colorado Springs isn't even that bad, & it's not like we had paid for tickets to guarantee us a seat -- but it would have been much more convenient to fly for 20 minutes than drive for over an hour. Shrug. The airlines have spoiled me for life.
We loaded the car back up with our bags & proceeded to drive to Denver. John fell asleep while I dreamed, with my eyes open, about sleeping. Upon arriving at Denver International Airport, we went through TSA... for the second time in two hours. The flights through Denver to Portland were full, so we listed for a flight that routed through Washington-Dulles in D.C.. We were 9 & 10 on the standby list, with plenty of seats open, so I wasn't that worried -- until practically every paying passenger booked on the later flight wanted to take the earlier flight. Most of the travelers going to Dulles have "status" with their airline miles, so they can take an earlier flight without having to pay the $75 same-day-change fee that "normal" passengers would pay. I was watching the boarding totals like a hawk, completely unable to relax. Literally, I was sitting in the boarding area, refreshing the standby list every two minutes, counting the passengers in line at the Gate who were trying to get on the flight we wanted. But, again, that's the game you play when you non-rev... sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. One day, I'll get used to it. One day. Maybe.
Surprise, surprise, hallelujah Lord Jesus, we were assigned seats on the flight (praise hands), & as it turns out, had we gotten on our original flight route through Denver or Chicago, we wouldn't have made it into Portland at all. Everything happens for a reason, right? I said a quick, silent prayer of thanks as we were seated on the flight to Dulles. Upon landing there (seriously, the strangest airport I've ever been to), we posted up at Wolfgang Puck to consume unhealthy amounts of beer & have lunch. Of course, I got Mac 'n Cheese, because I'm an adult child, & had a locally brewed beer, The Public Pale, because I love drinking spirits that are native to the place that I'm visiting... even if it is just the airport.
After over-paying for the meal, we began our journey to the next gate, which would get us on the magical flight to Portland. We had no problem getting assigned seats, both of us getting our own row in a window seat on the ERJ-145. We began the taxi to the runway when the pilot came over the intercom, advising of a groundstop due to rain on the route -- I knew things had gone too smoothly with this flight. John & I exchanged glances of frustration & disbelief, but we understood the unpredictability of weather & took deep breaths. We sat on the runway for over an hour before we were given clearance to takeoff, but honestly, it was worth the wait to not have the flight cancelled.
After takeoff, I saw a rainbow in the distance, which was a friendly reminder that life is full of chaos & so many elements that are out of my control -- but God is good, even when life isn't. That rainbow quickly knocked my frustrated thoughts & attitude back into perspective. We landed in Portland as the sun was setting, transforming the sky into bright pink hues that reflected on the water. Arriving in a brand new place, stepping off a plane into an unfamiliar terminal, is one of life's single-greatest feelings. Adventure awaits around every corner & there is nothing like that adrenaline rush. This trip in particular carried a different emotion than any other before, as this was a place that would possibly host a new life for John. He's a grown man. Of course he can take care of himself. But I'd be lying if I said I didn't care about him, his future, or his well-being. This trip was essentially a test-run for what his future would hold, so this adventure in particular just felt a little different, but not necessarily in a bad way.
We picked up the rental car from Hertz after scoring a killer deal on an SUV with ID90Travel, an interline employee discount travel company. Imagine our surprise when the Hertz agent issued us a brand new 2017 Nissan Rogue that barely had 4,000 miles on it. Heck. Yes. Bring. It. On. We walked to the garage & greeted our new ride for the weekend, the fresh red paint practically shimmering in the darkness. Bags loaded, GPS on, & windows down, we took to the coast to try & see what we could before the sun descended beneath the horizon. We drove across a drawbridge near downtown, saw shipping yards, & made a pitstop in Cape Elizabeth where we got our first full-view of the Atlantic's crashing waves. The temperature had dropped significantly, so we didn't spend much time admiring the view before retreating back inside the warmth of the Rogue.
After thanking Little Tap House for their hospitality, we took to the brick streets of Downtown Portland again. We weren't ready to get back to the car. Despite our fatigue, the night still felt young. The sky was clear & the air was cool, so we seized the opportunity to just walk around downtown. John expressed his excitement about this new place, & the tone in his voice was all the convincing I needed to know he would eventually call this place home. After finding our way back to the Rogue, we drove around to find a place to park for the night. Lucky for us, there was a Holiday Inn with plenty of free city parking out front. Note to self: park near hotels downtown if you can find free parking nearby. They have bathrooms inside the lobby & won't think twice if you use the facilities & leave promptly thereafter. Which we did. All night.
Day 2: Bahston, Beeyahs, & Cheeyahs
Oh, I'm sorry, that East Coast accent must have stuck with me. For those not familiar, Day 2 consisted of Boston, Beers, & Cheers. We made our way from Portland to Boston around six o'clock in the morning on Monday so we could tour the Samuel Adams Brewery for their Morning Mash-In Tour. Traffic was less than glamorous once we got within city limits, the GPS quoting over one hour for a drive that consisted of less than 15 miles. The roads were pretty intense too, with multiple underground tunnels through the city. We found the Brewery, but parking wasn't entirely marked clearly... so we took a guess at a safe zone from the tow-trucks & got a quick bite at the McDonald's down the street. Didn't really want to indulge in all the free beer on an empty stomach first thing in the morning.
When you walk in the lobby area, you are met with case upon case of trophies, ribbons, & awards for their outstanding beer. I was really impressed, because I wasn't even aware they had won any awards. Shame on me. Matt was our tour guide, & he was an excellent source of knowledge, humor, & puns. He let us play with hops & grains while explaining the vital roles each play in the beer crafting process. The entire tour was interactive & inclusive, the best part being (of course) the tasting room. John & I took seats at the front of the room so we could get first dibs on the goods. Matt talked about each beer, one by one, while passing around giant pitchers of the Boston Lager, Boston 26.2 Lager, Boston Summer Ale, & an experimental brew they had conjured up. Matt also passed around a bottle of the Utopias, which are ABV 24%+ proof beers that cost, literally, hundreds of dollars per bottle, but they are ultra-rare & special, so it was cool to hold such a legendary icon from the brewery. After the tasting concluded, we were given our tasting goblets to keep for memory's sake & were welcomed to stay & finish off the pitchers. We knew we had plenty to do in the city still, so we opted out of tasting too many extras of the remaining beer samples.
The bartender there was kind enough to lend his pro tips for getting to the Cheers bar (yes, the one that inspired the TV show), by giving us directions to the subway station just two blocks down the road. Score. We left the car parked at Doyle's, praying again that the car wouldn't be towed, & set off on foot to find the railway. After purchasing train tickets, we were onboard the city's public transportation, feeling like bonafide locals. Boston is a very commuter-friendly city when it comes to walking & public transportation, which surprised me. All of the places we wanted to see were easy to find & navigate to, namely the Cheers bar, the sight of the Boston Tea Party, & the Boston Massacre. Pretty cool to be in such a historically vibrant city to experience firsthand the stories I had only read about in history books or seen on television.
Per the usual, we posted up at the bar top & ordered a round of beer. I watched the TV show for the first time last summer with my aunt & uncle, thanks to the streaming capabilities of Netflix. John's connection to Cheers runs way deeper, so we klinked our foam-topped beers together, & took a refreshing sip while I pondered that connection & the significance behind it. The bartender was really entertaining, laying on his accent extra-thick when we told him how much we loved listening to the East Coast natives speak. He laughed & told us he frequently turns his accent on fleek to help his tips with the tourists -- & it worked, he definitely got a fat tip from me.
After paying the tab, we went to the gift shop & explored the preserved bar-top that served as the actual inspiration for Cheers, which was located in the upstairs portion of the restaurant. Note to all interested travelers: there are way more gifts upstairs than downstairs, so please don't cheat yourself out of the goodies that await you! Of course I purchased a pin, magnet, shot glass, etc., before retreating back to the streets of Boston. We explored more of the downtown area, stumbling on the second Cheers location by accident, but we weren't all that impressed because we had already experienced the original. We hopped inside some souvenir shops along the way, where John spent over $50 on patches & stickers (yes, we are aware that the sticker/patch/lapel pin obsession is real). The most unique part about Boston for me was the history told in the alleys between the brand new skyscrapers & the original brick buildings built hundreds of years ago. Seeing such stark contrasts in architecture reminded me of how far we have advanced in technology & as a culture.
After finishing up our exploration of downtown Boston, we headed back to Doyle's via train & foot. After crossing Washington Street, I said a silent prayer that the Rogue was still parked where we left her, unviolated by a city tow truck. Turning the corner around Doyle's Cafe, I held my breath.... & there she was, right where we left her. High five. We did it. We unloaded our bags, shuffled through our souvenirs, & hit the road again to head back to Portland, but via the scenic route along the Atlantic coastline. As with any trip, we didn't believe in driving the Interstate unless absolutely necessary.
The sun was turning the sky pink & orange as we worked our way back up the coast during the sunset. We pulled off by the beach in one of the small coastal towns, Gloucester, Massachusetts, where we did a quick walk along the beach. On the horizon, we could see the skyline of Boston in the distance, which looked like a floating city on the water. At first, I thought maybe all of the beer I had consumed in Boston was creating mirages, but it was, indeed, a real sight to see the skyscrapers from that perspective.
The sun had mostly settled to sleep when we reached Rockport, Massachusetts. Population? Six thousand people, & hardly any of them in sight. We were scouting out good potential spots to view the sunrise the following morning when John's hankering for seafood hit him hard in the stomach. As we were meandering the dark & seemingly abandoned streets in Rockport, the smell of fresh seafood consumed the air. While we couldn't see any restaurants that were open, we followed our noses to Roy Moore's Fish Shack. Anyone who knows me knows... I hate seafood, almost as much as I hate fruit. Almost. So I did what any sane seafood-hating girl would do, & I ordered mozzarella sticks (because cheese, duh), & John ordered lobstah, which was the biggest crustacean I had ever seen in my life. Poor little lobstah never stood a chance against his seafood craving.
We decided to stay the night in Rockport, finding a parking lot in the woods to car camp. Don't worry, I promise the location wasn't nearly as sketchy as I just made it sound. The spot was mostly quiet, aside from the headlamp-wearing-loudmouths who pulled in fifteen minutes after us to have a midnight hike with friends. They were so loud, I could hear every word of their conversation, even though they were on the other side of the lot entirely. I rolled over to face the window, ready to sleep & completely overcome by exhaustion. But when I saw the moon hanging in the sky, unbeknownst to its own beauty, I couldn't look away. Without the blur of city lights, & now without the noise of the headlamp posse, I saw the moon in a completely different way that night. I can't say for certain how long I stared at the vastness of the sky, contrasting it with the brightness of the moon, but the experience was well worth all of the sleep I lost as a result.
Day 3: A Sunrise, Coastal Drive, Surfers, & Steaks
I set an alarm so we wouldn't miss the sunrise, but we were both awake before it ever sounded. You could say that maybe we were a little too excited about experiencing a sunrise on the East Coast...? Absolutely. We drove to one of the spots we had found the night before, but it wasn't the ideal view we had originally hoped, so we kept driving until we found a private road that lead right up to the rocky coastline. The house adjacent to the coast appeared unoccupied, so we parked out front & headed to the giant boulders to wait for the show to begin. I was wearing my sweatpants, beanie, & warm slipper socks, but the rocks were cold to the touch & the ocean air carried a chill with each ripple of the tide. Everything around us had a grey & blue hue that quickly transitioned into purple, orange, & pink as the moon & sun traded places. Every single color in the sky got more & more vibrant as the minutes passed, even though the sun was yet to make her formal appearance. I have never seen anything like those colors, I didn't ever want to forget them, so I took at least fifty photographs. And then it happened. A golden halo reflected in the clouds for a few moments that got lighter & lighter, until the sun actually crested over the horizon. The spectacle was over in less than three seconds, but it was unreal to see... I don't know how to accurately describe it. One moment I was watching the horizon in anticipation for the sun's greeting, & the next? I was yelling at John to "Look! Look! Look!" as he turned around to see the sun quickly ascending into the sky. He threw his arms up in utter amazement, & we both stood in awe of our Creator. One of the best mornings of my entire life that I will never forget it.
I don't even know how to begin talking about what happened next, because I am still just taken aback by that sunrise. If you've ever experienced a sunrise on the ocean from the East Coast perspective, then you know precisely why I'm fumbling over the proper words to describe the experience. The sounds of the waves greeting the shore, the reflection of that perfect sky being amplified by the waters, & the warm, orange glow that the clouds created on our skin. I remember the details as if it happened just yesterday. Magic. That's the only way to describe it.
We spent the rest of the day leisurely driving up the coast. As per our usual agreement, anytime that I gasped or my pupils turned into hearts, John would pull over so I could take a photograph. On our quest to collect the traditional state lapel pins, we saw more surfers catching waves & more waves catching the shore... but sadly, not many lapel pins. And not many stores that were open that early in the summer season (even though it was May, for crying out loud). One of my favorite stops along the coast was in Newbury, Massachusetts. We had our gas station coffee in hand & we sat on a crooked pile of rocks along the shore. The waves were such a force against the stone, causing dramatic splashes that could pull a person out to sea if you took one wrong step. We eventually took our shoes & socks off so we could have a closer encounter with the Atlantic. We were there for well over an hour, listening, observing, thinking, playing, barely speaking a word to each other. Some experiences in life are like that.
My second favorite stop along the coast was in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. First things first, we finally found lapel pins. Granted, they weren't exactly what we wanted, they weren't exactly pretty, but by gosh they said "New Hampshire" so we didn't care. We walked in to a few different shops in town, one of which had a plethora of quirky goods, Off Piste (go shop your heart out). Buttons, pins, outdoor-inspired gear, sarcastic merchandise, etc. This place was a gold-mine! I also noticed a cool tattoo shop that I wanted to run into, but I resisted the urge. After all of that shopping, we had worked up an appetite, so we made a pitstop for brews & foods.
The day passed like another whirlwind, & before I knew it, we were back in Portland. Having lived in the car for the entire duration of the trip, we decided to splurge on a double-queen hotel for the night so we could get at least one night of decent sleep (okay, okay, & a shower). We took turns freshening up & splurging on cable television & hit the road again. Our plan? To see the lighthouse, explore Portland, & have dinner at Texas Roadhouse incognito -- John eventually wants to transfer to this location in particular, so we had to do a little quality control to make sure the people were cool enough to keep up with him.
The lighthouse in Casco Bay was easy to spot & just as beautiful in person as all of the photographs I had seen. A tall, white tower surrounded by dark boulders & a ripping tide proved to be a dramatic experience. We wandered around the grounds & explored an abandoned military bunker (can't rightly remember the name) before heading back downtown, where the Portland Observatory resides. Sadly, the observatory was closed, so John waited in the car while I did a quick walk-around & took a few photographs of the original brick building. When I got back in the car, John said he had a surprise. Dude, I love surprises. He revved the engine & we were off again, this time to some unknown location just outside of town.
The surprise? An island. Mackworth Island, to be exact, but it wasn't like some luscious tropical locale, think more along the lines of a moody, mildly-creepy-but-still-incredibly-cool island, complete with an abandoned basketball court & school that reminded me of a horror movie. We followed the mostly dirt roads & enjoyed what felt like a backcountry experience in the Rogue, when we found a trail that worked its way all around the island. The trail map showed a rough sketch of the terrain, with bold print indicating that the depiction was not drawn to scale -- incredibly helpful, right? Dusk was settling in around us & we still had to make an appearance at the local Roadhouse, so we opted out of the trail in exchange for a hot meal instead. What can I say, food always wins. We wanted to make a short stop on the way for some ice cream, but the line at the locally-owned shop reached into the street, so we made a pact to get ice cream from there the next time we were on the East Coast.
We were seated right away at the Roadhouse in a large corner booth in the bar area. Our eyes were wide as we looked around & made comparisons to the various Roadhouse locations we had worked at in the past. Our server, Matt (ugh, I think?), was attentive & personal -- & would you believe, he had worked at the Powers location in Colorado Springs just a few months prior?! What are the chances. Small freaking world. Turns out, we all knew a bunch of the same people within the Roadhouse family. It didn't take long before John's smile turned the widest I had ever seen it, & he said, "I think I'm moving to Maine." His grin was practically crooked at this point, the wonder of possibilities alive in his eyes. I know that feeling all too well, which made it impossible to not encourage him in this decision.
When we got back to the hotel, I started looking at the flight options for getting home. We could go through Dulles again, but a flight through Newark first thing in the morning showed wide open availability, with a connecting flight to Denver that evening that looked just as promising. "Isn't Newark near New York City...?" he asked. We exchanged a curious glance & laughed. Yup, Newark is near New York City.
Day 4: Coloradans in the Big Apple
We got off the train, navigating our way up the subway steps & into Lower Manhattan. The sun was reflecting off the buildings with beautiful rays as the sounds of cars honking, people chattering, & footsteps walking flooded my senses. I felt like I was on a movie set. Everything I had ever seen or heard about New York City was flashing before me in real life, in real time. I love the wilderness, I love the peace & stillness of being in the backcountry... but New York City? That place was just as wild & beautiful as a dusty trail on the ridge of a mountain.
We had made a quick itinerary of must-sees while in the city for a few hours: One World Trade Center, the World Trade Center Memorial & Museum, & the Statue of Liberty. The plan seemed completely feasible, until you take into account the time spent on trains, the time spent walking, the time spent waiting in lines, & the time spent actually visiting these historic sites. We asked for directions to the World Trade Center Memorial & Museum, which was just one city block from the subway station. The area had posted signs & banners to help direct the tourist traffic, but the streets were incredibly distracting. The closer we got to the museum, the heavier my feet felt, the deeper my heart beat. Thinking about it now still raises the hairs on my arms. And then we turned the corner & saw the Memorial for the first time. The last thing I wanted to do was cry in front of John, so I let him walk ahead while I wept silently. Despite the way the sun was hanging in the air & the warm glow it provided to the hundreds of people below her, the feelings within me were dark & cold. The morning of September 11, 2001 was just as warm & just as beautiful... until 8:46 A.M.
Taking photographs at Ground Zero felt almost like an intrusion. On the one hand, I wanted to put away the camera & mourn the nearly 3,000 people who died, over 6,000 people who were injured, & the entire world that was forever changed by that morning. But on the other hand, I knew photographs were a necessity, so that I may never forget the impact of September 11 on the world & in my own life, so that the stories I tell can serve as a reminder to do good in the world, no matter how ugly it may become.
I was thankful John gave me my own space to breathe, cry, & process being on that sacred ground. I think maybe he wanted his own space to do the same. I was reading the names etched into the bronze, listening to the cascading waterfalls, reimagining the events from that September day. I saw flowers placed over certain names, indicating that today was that fallen American's birthday, which created another overwhelming lump in my throat. I had to look away. And when I did, my eyes caught one name in particular, "Deanna Lynn Galante and Her Unborn Child," & the tears became relentless.
And then we entered the museum. I can't speak for John, but I can say that I wasn't completely prepared to go inside. I could have easily spent one full day at the Memorial alone, reading the names, replaying the events from 2001. But knowing that we only had a short window of opportunity to experience New York, I had to take a deep breath & enter inside. I remembered that the museum was incredibly controversial when it first opened in 2014, & probably continues to be today -- people don't want to remember what happened. People don't want a profit to be turned at the expense of terrorist attacks on American soil. A gift shop with mugs & magnets only fueling the fire of those who opposed its opening. But having experienced the museum first hand, I can say that it is a must-see in New York City. The event plays a vital role in our American history, & every single person in the world has felt its reverberating effects in one form or another.
After entering through security, you are taken underground to a dimly-lit lobby & immersed in audio clips of interviews from witnesses to the event & video highlights from the varying worldwide news outlets as the news broke about the attacks. Pieces of the towers remain intact within the museum, serving as dark reminders of that fateful morning, yet still filling those underground walls with hope. This was not a place I wanted to rush through, but I didn't have much else of a choice. We saw the remains of the Ladder 3 firetruck, the scraps from the radio tower, & hundreds of artifacts that were recovered from the rubble.
The most powerful exhibit of the museum was the Historical Exhibition, which is set in the actual footprint of the original North Tower. Everything from people's shoes to scraps of airplanes were compiled in a thoughtful & humbling, yet still haunting, way. I experienced 9/11 from the midwest, safe within the walls of my high school study hall classroom as the chilling events took place on the other side of the country through a television screen. But on May 10, 2017, I got to experience 9/11 all over again, in a way that brought the event to a more realistic & powerful light. As an adult, I have a greater understanding for the impact of the event, both on the world & among the people within it. I locked eyes with John a couple of times as we walked through the exhibit, our expressions speaking the same sentiment of disbelief & overwhelming emotion. I was caught between wanting to run outside & feel the sun on my skin, to burying myself underground with all of the relics that currently surrounded me. The museum was a tragic, beautiful experience that I will never forget. I exited its doors as a changed American.
After stepping into the sun, I took my first breath in what felt like my entire lifetime. I was still overwhelmed with emotion, but incredibly grateful to be outside in the fresh air. Incredibly grateful for the gift of life. Down the street from the museum, as we made our trek to the docks for the ferry to the Statue of Liberty, was a hot dog stand. John practically skipped with delight to the vendor, & I was reminded yet again that life's greatest memories happen in the seemingly insignificant time that passes between its more grandeur events. The man behind the counter talked & laughed with us in a New York accent that was so thick, I could barely understand him. We were really in New York City... & nothing proved that fact more than that stale, cold hot dog & that warm, flat Pepsi for nine bucks.
En route to the docks, we ran into a New York City Police Officer, so John approached him & politely asked for a photo. The officer obliged, apologizing that he had left his hat in the police cruiser. Omg stahhhp. We took turns taking photographs of each other, thanking the officer for his service to the community & for taking the time to let us be 120% tourists with him. Hot dogs? Check. NYPD Officer? Check.
The line at the docks for the ferry to the Statue of Liberty was the most unbearable part of the whole trip (but in the end, completely worth it, obviously). The crown-passes were all sold out until August, which was a buzzkill, but we were still excited for the opportunity to see the Statue of Liberty at all. We were in line for over an hour, Lady Liberty resting gently on the distant horizon, teasing us with her presence. I was beginning to feel overwhelmed again, but not because of some emotional experience -- because of the crowds. But, once we had set foot on the top tier of the ferry boat, the towering skyscrapers set perfectly against that blue sky, surrounded by the chattering tourists & families, all suddenly felt right in the world. As the boat was loading & the river current was pushing, the boat rocked against the bumpers of the dock, which caused the people onboard the boat to jolt & tumble to the side... it was a really entertaining way to people watch until we took off. John was laughing his butt off every time the boat & the people rocked, which was equally as entertaining to watch. My stomach hurt from laughing by the time we actually set sail.
Our first stop on the island? The NPS store so we could collect our lapel pins from the journey. Shortly thereafter, we made our way around Lady Liberty, pausing for photographs of both the landmark itself & of the New York City skyline in the distance. After exhausting all of the photographic opportunities, we landed ourselves in another shop bursting at the seams with souvenirs. We were finally able to quench that overdue ice cream fix by helping ourselves at the ice cream vendor, conveniently located just before getting back on the ferry boat to New Jersey. Statue of Liberty, lapel pins, & ice cream? Check, check, check.
We relaxed on the boat ride in to New Jersey, savoring the ice cream & the views from the boat, finally having a few moments of peaceful solitude to digest everything we had seen in the past few, short hours. I still look back on the photographs in disbelief. Wait, we were really there? ... Are you sure?
Upon landing in New Jersey, we had about a one-mile walk through the marina & city streets that eventually lead us to the train depot where we would ride our last train into the city to connect to the Newark airport. Taking into consideration that we went through security for our flight to Newark, again when we went through the World Trade Center Museum, & then again when we visited Lady Liberty, we were well-versed for our last encounter with metal detectors & x-ray machines by the time we arrived at the Newark airport.
We gave ourselves ample time to arrive at the airport, so we took our time meandering the terminal, stopping for a drink & for a meal. I also seized the opportunity to get my frizzy mane into a somewhat-tame-and-less-disastrous mess. When we arrived at our assigned gate, the standby list for the flight to Denver was filling up quickly. I was calculating available seats against the boarding seniority that we were quickly losing. John was convinced we would be sleeping at the airport, but I was holding out hope -- I was completely exhausted, spent. The last place I wanted to sleep was at the airport.
But lo & behold, I heard my name over the intercom, so I practically ran to the Gate Agent. The party of six that was ahead of us on the standby list hadn't appeared yet, so the Agent had moved down the list to John & I. Praise hands, it pays to arrive early! Our seats weren't side-by-side, but we never care where we sit -- we just care that we get a seat at all, even if they were the middle seats (that were practically impossible to sleep comfortably in). We landed on-time in Denver, took the incredibly slow shuttle back to Chuck in the Pike's Peak Parking Lot, & made the drive back to Colorado Springs, only hitting standstill traffic once.
I thought about the trip the entire drive home, thinking about all of the places we saw, people we met, food we ate, & experiences we shared. My favorite part about this trip in particular was the spontaneous visit to New York City, a place I hadn't been to since I was a two-year-old in diapers. That part of the trip happened completely by chance, thanks to the flight schedule from Newark to Denver (which made me all the more grateful that we had to fly out of Denver instead of Colorado Springs on Sunday). Every trip I take fills me with more wanderlust than before. In fact, I'm now convinced that my wanderer's heart will never be satisfied, because the more I see, the more I want to see. Every trip I take also reminds me how grateful I am for my job, for my dear friend, & for this life. Blessed? That's the biggest understatement I ever heard.
Megan Elizabeth is a storyteller based in Kalispell, Montana. Take a peek at her blog & portfolio, drop her a line, & follow her story on Facebook & Instagram.