Back on the road (again) to finish the drive across PA. Destination: New York. But we had a stop to make along the way, in Bloomsbury, NJ, where my husband spent several impressionable years of his childhood.
Driving across Pennsylvania, you mainly see PA license plates, and even more than that you see semis. It makes me think about what a major achievement the interstate system was and remains, how much work is put into keeping it running (and there's that pesky bridge maintenance problem, and the silly gas tax holiday two of the candidates are pushing right now), and how central trucking is to the national economy. There must be thousands of little trucking companies out there alongside the big carriers, moving every kind of thing imaginable from here to there. What they're going to do in this energy climate I have no idea.
The other thing we tend to think about as we cross PA is the graphic novel Fun Home. It's a fantastic book, and the author grew up in a tiny little town just out of sight from the interstate.
We stopped for lunch at a Perkins in Buckhorn, a small town attractively situated in a shallow bowl, surrounded by hills. Just east of it, the land started dropping; though we still went uphill part of the time, we were clearly coming out of the heights (I can't call them mountains, sorry).
An interminable drive later, we were in Bloomsbury, an attractive town full of flowering trees, well-maintained homes, sidewalks, creeks, and other things that make life worth living for a boy. The place is tiny; a single small school holds eight grades worth of kids. We walked around the block, admiring everything, and then returned to the school.
I took L out onto the playground while D talked to those few of his old teachers who were still around more than twenty years later. We had been out there for maybe 10 minutes when she came over to me, scratching at her arm. I saw the rising welt of a sting there, and a few minutes later she was wailing, so I took her back inside. When I found D., JJ was also in full cry and hungry. It was one of those parenting moments that you just have to laugh about. I was in a girls' room in a tiny school in New Jersey, nursing the baby and trying to give L a hug with my free arm while D tried to apply the ice pack one of his old teachers rustled up with impressive speed. Eventually the tears dried up, the baby subsided in contentment, and we got ourselves sorted out. I took L back to the car, and we sat in the shade and had juice and Teddy Grahams as a restorative while D and JJ walked around (the invention of the aseptic juice box being one of the great moments in parenting history). D took the wheel and drove around the town for a few minutes, pointing out landmarks, and then turned north for NYC.
Once in the city I took over driving again, D being better with maps than I am. Traffic in Brooklyn turned out to be crazy due to protesters about the Bell verdict (we didn't know that was the cause until later); we eventually made it onto the Beltway and crawled toward our exit, and of course JJ woke up hungry. Every minute spent with a wailing baby feels like ten. We found a handy pullout where I could feed him, while D and L looked at the ocean, rollerbladers, dog-walkers, etc.
Eventually we found out way down to where we were staying, which turned out to be in a touristy area, with lots of hotels, marinas, and restaurants, and several condo complexes under construction. We checked in and went back out in search of dinner. It was nearly 8 pm by then. We walked a few blocks and came across an Italian restaurant. It didn't look very busy, but it also didn't look like the sort of place that often hosted small children (or people in jeans and t-shirts, for that matter). We didn't want to keep walking through strange neighborhoods and maybe not find anything better, so we went in and asked for a table out of the way.
The food was all right, though overpriced, and the house merlot was pretty good. I had a salad with walnuts and strawberries, and some reasonable tilapia. In between the two, JJ started wailing again, which was most unlike him and also very poor timing. Eventually D took him outside and walked him around until he fell asleep. L, on the other hand, was astonishingly well-behaved. The girl who had thrown a thrashing fit about being fed yogurt in her own Nana's dining room sat cheerfully in this restaurant, ate bread, and scooped ice cubes out of the glasses. It was 9 by the time we left. Back at the hotel, I went to bed while D took advantage of the wifi to find out what we had been missing for most of the week.