You did not think I’d stay put for long after repatriating, did you?
Actually, I did not expect myself that my first travel experience back in America would happen so soon.
My brother and his family never made it to London in the three years that we lived there. I did see them on a business trip to Chicago in 2007 and we crossed paths in New Jersey later that same year. But, Skype/MSN Messenger aside, we have not seen each other for almost two years. And then, he became a father again two months ago.
That was a perfectly good reason to travel to Chicago and see the family and meet its newest member. My parents wanted to go anyway, but weren’t too happy about the cost of air travel. So, when I offered to join them for a driving adventure, the trip was on.
We drove in two stages each way, stopping overnight somewhere in Pennsylvania (on the way back, that somewhere turned out to be Mars – that is, Mars, PA). Beautiful landscapes alternated with less attractive ones, but the vistas were generally pleasant. I officially added Ohio and Indiana to the list of US states that I set foot in (both feet, as it were, at several rest areas – the ones in Ohio are especially impressive). We spent 13 hours covering roughly 800 miles, and then almost 2 hours crawling around Chicago for the last 30 or so. On the way back, a zealous Pennsylvania state trooper pulled me over for ostensibly catching up with the car in front of me in a one-lane road-work zone (I was going 68 in a 40-mile zone while everybody else must have been doing 66), but after chastising me, he wrote me a no-points ticket for a “general speeding” (the fine itself is listed as $25, but there are surcharges and extra fees for another $80).
I met my newest niece, a cute tiny person whom I was more than a little afraid to hold. I have no recollection how small the newborn babies are… My other niece, who just turned five, for quite some time did not want to let me out of her sight… My brother and I went to play a round of 9-hole golf at the neighboring course; we both suck, but he decidedly less so… There was a visit to old friends who live in the area, a children’s party at the community aquatic center, a restaurant celebration of a family member’s birthday… For good measure, I checked into a hotel in downtown Chicago for one night and spent the following morning around the office, on a meet-and-greet mission that gave the trip a small pretense of being a business one.
We did not do any sightseeing – there was no room for that during a whirlwind 72-hour stay. No big deal; I’ve been to Chicago many times and surely will be there again before long. I did enjoy panoramic views of the city from the high floor of our offices in the recently-rechristened Willis Tower.
What about Natasha and the girls, you ask? They had their own adventure, planned well in advance, joining our good friends for a tour of Pennsylvania attractions centered on Amish country. Among their activities were visits to a chicken farm and a dairy farm, a day at the Hershey amusement park and chocolate factory, train and buggy rides, and tons of other fun.
We’d like to think we’ll continue to be actively seeking new journeys…