The last day of our midwest trip was very leisurely. We spent the morning with the Tashimas, and we got to see the Mealys one more time before heading out. Also, I've mentioned food on this trip quite a bit, so I thought I'd include some of the pictures I took of our meals. And like usual, I have some final thoughts.
We were wondering how much we would sleep in on that last morning, but it ends up not very long. Like everyone else, Kathy made sure there was plenty of food. Knowing that we usually take a daily walk, she and Irland were talking about a trail that went from the sports fields near them to the quarry a bit to the south. They spent a bit of time looking at the satellite images to try to find the path, but the results were inconclusive.
Melody and I started off on the walk towards the fields. They're set up so there's a parking lot past the soccer fields but before the baseball diamonds. There's a road to the parking lot which splits the soccer fields into two sections. We first tried to go behind the baseball diamonds, but it was pretty muddy, so we decided to do a loop around the south soccer fields, which was most likely to have the path (the quarry is further south). We did see what looked like the start of a path, but it ended in corn fields (more corn!) and didn't seem like a path beyond that. While we were finishing the south loop, we were thinking that at home there would be few lawns that were still green, let alone the bright, lush green we were seeing. After looping around the north soccer fields, we got back to the house, having walked about an hour (our usual goal).
We finished packing, then Kathy put out an early lunch, since we were leaving at about 1pm. Fresh bagels, cold cuts, cheese, and all sorts of salads (fruit, potato, somen) were on display, so of course we tried a bit of everything.
Before too long, the Mealys showed up (the Tashimas were taking Toshi and Gus to Grandparent Camp); they were staying in the room where we were, so their bags went in as ours were going out. Unfortunately, we were going to just miss the Dave Tashimas, and the Brian Green family would be over for dinner.
It was time to head to the airport, so we said our goodbyes and started on the road. We didn't have a long wait at security, and our gate was right there after we got through. Unfortunately, the restrooms near there were out of order, so we needed to go several gates in one direction or the other to find open ones.
As early boarding began, people started coming off the plane. Ends up that the auxiliary power unit wasn't running (and thus no air conditioning), and the pilot couldn't turn it on because the cockpit door was locked. Since there wasn't a way for them to get in from the outside, they needed to wait until maintenance could arrive to into the cockpit through the window. After a while, a luggage conveyor ramp pulled up to the plane, the maintenance worker gained access to the cockpit, and when the pilot announced that they were in, passengers cheered.
The rest of the trip home was uneventful. When we got to the house, we did a round of watering in the yard (things actually looked pretty good, considering all the heat). We were a bit tired to do our nightly piano, but were able to stay awake long enough that we eventually fell asleep at a time close to normal.
I mentioned in previous entries about some of the food that we had, and that I had taken photos at a couple restaurants. Those photos were posted to Instagram, where I usually do light (if any) post-processing of the images. However, restaurants are usually either dark or have harsh light (or, if there are large windows, very severe side shadows), which make for tricky situations with a phone camera.
Fortunately, I was able to get better renditions after getting the photos to my computer, so they look closer to what we saw (and it's more obvious where I missed focus).
In the past decade or so, Melody and I have started to travel more. For either work or pleasure, those trips started out being a few days to a week. We did a couple years of traveling for four or five weeks at a time, and have settled into doing several shorter trips throughout the year. Sometimes we visit family, but most of the time our major trips are just the two of us going somewhere to do things. This trip was different, since it was a larger trip (almost two weeks) but was centered around visiting family.
The first part of the trip was more like a “normal” vacation, in Chicago for several nights and a bonus visit with the Dave Tashimas. After that, though, was an intricate itinerary of hitting several midwest relatives. Add to that meeting several dozen of Melody's relatives at once.
What we noticed most was that, since we were visiting family, we wanted to prioritize being with them over keeping up with other things (news, uploading photos, posting to the blog, etc.) We did have an hour or so here and there, so we didn't fall completely behind, but it was interesting to have a stretch of time when we chose to be online less than usual.
Having limited (or no) cell and wireless access at the family reunion really changed how we planned our days. We're used to checking things like the weather to know if we needed to change what we were doing. When I did find spots of cell data, it was useful (saved us from being completely drowned at Turkey Run State Park).
After the reunion, the trip was pretty much a whirlwind, staying with four different cousins for five nights. Staying for only one night at several places, we wanted to avoid showing up in the evening and leaving early in the morning. Luckily, we were able to either add some time in the afternoon, in the morning, or a little bit of each. Of course it would have been nice to spend more time at each place, but at the same time I didn't want to leave anyone out, and we had a set number of days we could be gone.
It was a lot of driving, but I felt it would be nicer to be able to see people individually. Also, I felt it would be awkward to ask people to drive several hours to a central place, only to be able to visit with them for not very long each. I'm extremely grateful they made time for us and were gracious enough to open their homes to us. We ate and slept great.
As you could gather by what I wrote about the other days, we fit a lot into this trip in addition to seeing family. We did a lot of walking, especially in Chicago (well over 20,000 steps for each full day there), and that's with only doing one main touristy thing each day, then filling in with other smaller things. We also fit in a major item each day we were with family. What was different from a normal trip is once every few days or so we would only do smaller things, to give us a day to recharge. Since we were driving between cities every day during the end of the trip, we felt that would be an enforced rest, and we would want to do something to stretch our legs. We mostly stayed inert the weekend after returning home, though.
This trip wouldn't have happened were it not for Melody's family reunion. There were a lot of people to keep straight, and I honestly couldn't identify everyone by sight, but for a good number of the people there, I was able to both remember who they were and how they were related by the time we left. They all made an effort to get to know us, and we were able to find common interests with each person there.
If you can't tell, we had a great trip, and thoroughly enjoyed spending time with everyone we saw. Up next is a few days in Portland later this month, so it's time to savor being home.