No one ever knows where Malone is. I sure didn't when I met D* . Most people think that by "upstate New York" I mean something around the state's midline, when what I actually mean is a place where, from a suitable height, you can wave hello to Canada.
Why go to Malone? High school reunions are strangely compelling things. I haven't been to one of my own, and probably wouldn't--the people I am most curious about are the ones who have dropped off the planet since graduation, not the ones I see on Facebook. But D* is different than I am, and since his parents moved away from the town this might be the only reason we have to visit it. So we piled into the car (again) on a Friday morning and drove north.
We stopped for lunch in White River Junction, choosing to spend our cash at the Polka Dot, a diner of ancient mien, well matching its personnel. It did have a wifi hot-spot, though! Across the street, no doubt in eternal conflict, was a much newer place full of young people with laptops called Tuckerbox.
Unfortunately, Polka Dot was not some lost foodie haven; my grilled cheese was orange cheese on square supermarket bread, and that was about the size of the place. On the virtue side, it was cheap and almost empty, so we weren't in anyone's way with the kids and all of our stuff. L didn't like that her fries were crinkle-cut. She ended up eating a granola bar.
We got to the ferry around three and found it waiting. This was the part the kids had been waiting for, and it does make for a very nice break in the trip, a chance to stretch legs and get some air.
We drove through a landscape common to small towns all over the region; acres of corn, cow pastures, auto shops, tractor dealers, antique stores containing a dozen unwanted attics, the occasional dentist or other professional catering to a shrinking population.
Some of the farms are renting out their land as windmill sites, and they make a striking and strange addition to the landscape, colossal structures breaking the gentle roll of trees and hillsides.
We got to our hotel (Super 8. Can't recommend it.) and headed out again almost at once in search of dinner. There's a place called Mo's at the Holiday Inn Express just up the road, and we settled there rather than subject ourselves to Pizza Hut. Pizza might have been a better option, as D*'s ravioli were still partially frozen (even after he complained about it). My pasta primavera included at least half a pound of pasta and was drenched in cream sauce. L had chicken fingers and french fries, which would merit a sigh from most parents, except that we have been praying she would venture to eat this ubiquitous children's item menu for several years now, instead of refusing to eat anything at all when we travel. JJ had graham crackers.
Then we had ice cream, went back to the hotel, watched Bolt on the TV, and went to bed. Overexcited and tired kids plus a ludicrously loud A/C unit made sleep long in arriving; the dog in the room next door and the baby made it interrupted.
Saturday morning we were all up early if not necessarily bright. It was a packed morning. Breakfast with some other reunion people, a trip out to Burke to see another old friend, a visit to High Falls.
Then lunch out at the Rec Park with D*'s sister and brother-in-law. There we took a much-needed time-out. The older kids played on the playground and in the water; a paddle-boat ride was taken; the baby played quietly in the grass, which seemed to take the place of nap time fairly well. No running around required for a few hours.
Then it was time to go back to the hotel and get ready for the reunion dinner. I can't say much about the reunion itself; it wasn't mine, so I was necessarily at loose ends throughout. I found a couple of people to talk to, but that was eventually shut down by the DJ (who seemed to think that playing hair metal would strike the right note--yes, it was from the right years, but you can't dance to it). D* had a good time, and that was the point. His sister and her husband watched the kids, and they all had a trauma-free evening.
In the morning we got back together for breakfast. D* went to church, the kids watched videos, and I kept the baby from playing with power cords in the hotel room. In the afternoon we drove out to the Almonzo Wilder Farm to pick up some postcards for a friend of mine.
Then we went back to the Rec Park for an hour, and then over to a BBQ held by the family of some friends of D*'s. Their place is right on Lake Titus, so there was more water play and even a boat trip for L. Eventually the kids were worn out enough that we headed back to the hotel.
The trip back on the 4th was trouble-free, aside from the a/c in the van being out. There was only one flare of temper (JJ threw a toy over the side of the ferry on our return trip, upsetting his older sister on behalf of his younger one). We stopped for lunch in Montpelior, at a little place not far from 89 that has been different every time we go through the state, but which generally provides a decent lunch (and this time, gelato! yum). Then we stopped again at a rest stop a little farther down the highway. It was a perfect afternoon, and we didn't really want to leave, but if you have to spend a day driving with the windows down, you can do worse than a summer day in Vermont. The state is ridiculously beautiful, and I89 is in excellent shape. There wasn't much traffic, just a few other homebound southern New Englanders.
We thought briefly about trying to see the fireworks, but everyone was tired, and the kids were in no shape for another late night. Some other year for that!