After four and a half months of van life, we have been through a lot. We have learned things about ourselves and each other, about our country and traveling. It has been an amazing journey and it is far from over! In fact, it is only half way over, in terms of distance, as we reach our half way point.
At long last, we have made it to my home. I have been eager for this moment since the trip was still in its planning stages. Finally, Eli would get to meet the rest of my big, crazy family and see the north-east, the coolest part of America.
So after our visits in New York, we made the four hour drive into the lower portion of Connecticut and arrived late in the night. We arrived at the beginning of the weekend but decided to take a little siesta instead of doing our usual exploration of the nearby cities and national parks. Since we started this trip, we really haven’t taken a moment to just stop and relax during our days off and after a while it becomes quite unbearable. As amazing as this trip has been, I have to be honest when I say that it’s very difficult and very exhausting. The weekend of rest was something we very much needed in order to maintain our sanity and health.
The following week was a blur of work and reconnecting with my family. My Auntie Donna and Uncle Pat, who we have been staying with during our time here, treated us to a Connecticut staple, Pepe’s Pizza. If you have ever seen one of those traveling articles online that lists the best things in each state, you can almost guarantee that Connecticut’s thing will be Pepe’s. And for a good reason, of course, this pizza has been voted the best in America. On any given day, you can expect around a two hour wait to be seated in the original restaurant and let me tell you, it is well worth the wait. Anything off of the menu is amazing, whether you’re into the classic cheese and pepperoni or the more unique clam pie. Seriously, if you’re in Connecticut, get you some of this pizza. Especially if you’re in New Haven, where the original restaurant is.
We spent some time visiting with my grandparents, who stopped by at one point to see us, and also got a chance to visit with my Auntie Madge. We ended up going out to eat with her and then to get ice cream and this really fun little dairy farm in Oxford where we came across another frozen dessert conundrum, how do you pick one flavor from a list of 20+ flavors?! It’s always such a difficult and painful process but it really didn’t seem like you could make a wrong choice here considering everything was delicious.
The rest of the week was spent working as we approached the next weekend where regular shenanigans and exploration ensued. Saturday, we met up with my cousin, Kelly, and her boyfriend, Jason. They were awesome tour guides and showed us around the more exciting places in our tiny state. Our first stop was one of Connecticut’s many summer festivals, the Oyster Fest. A critical analysis from any logical standpoint would conclude that a celebration of oysters in one of New England’s lesser known states wouldn’t yield much excitement. Who wants to go watch a bunch of guys test their oyster shucking dexterity in the sticky heat? It didn’t sound like it would be as cool as it ended up being. It was a rather large affair with numerous vendors, food trucks, performances, rides, and the main attraction, oysters.
We didn’t spend too much time there though as we opted for heading to the beach to cool off a bit. Now, mind you, this isn’t a real beach that has waves and soft sand and is connected directly to the ocean. This is a New Haven beach that is connected to the Long Island Sound, meaning no waves and painful, rocky sand. Despite these shortcomings though, it was beautiful and there were so many little critters. You really couldn’t take a step without smooshing a bunch of tiny snails into the sand and you’re almost guaranteed to find a hermit crab if you were to grab a handful of the miscellaneous beach debris. We even saw a baby sea robin zooming around the water. We spent a while wandering up and down the shores, hunting for crabs and pretty seashells that I could add to my growing collection of treasures.
A mad attempt was made at brushing the sand off of our feet as we made our way deeper into the city of New Haven, where a ghost tour had been booked for us. The two hour long walking tour lead us all around the city as the evening slowly faded into nighttime. Our tour guide, a local medium, lead us through parts of Yale, around cemeteries, and across parks, telling us of tragic deaths that had occurred, fun historical facts, and a little bit about how ghosts really work. Being in New England, you don’t have to go far for a good ghost story, considering the area has such a rich history and still has a lot of buildings that are hundreds of years old. The architecture is what really did me in though. Yale is composed of Collegiate Gothic style buildings that aren’t too far of a reach from the types of gothic cathedrals that you might see in Europe. The intricate details in the doorways and gates, the stained glass windows, the castle-like construction, it’s enough to give me chills. On top of that, we got to see the buildings that housed some of Yale’s secret societies and cemeteries that dated back to the 16th century. Having the opportunity to learn so much spooky history was awesome, even Eli, the ghost skeptic, enjoyed it.
The next day, we met up with another friend from Nevada, Sean, and went with him to Rhode Island. In order to keep this post from getting too long, I am going to do a separate post for it.
We spent another week working from Connecticut and visiting more family. We even took a break to do some eclipse viewing. I, being the intelligent and logical person that I am, tried to look at the sun with my naked eyes and did not see anything special occurring. Eli, on the other hand, viewed it through his camera and got some spectacular shots which I admit to being slightly jealous of.
On Tuesday, Eli got the full “big Italian dinner” experience when we went to visit My Auntie Pat and Uncle Charlie. We, of course, had a massive family meal where everyone from that part of the family was invited over to eat. The evening was spent recalling stories from our journey so far and catching up with all the cousins, watching my cousin Michael perform some magic tricks, and stuffing ourselves with amazing food. I knew I had been missing these family get togethers but I didn’t realize how much. They were always one of my favorite things growing up and being able to have that experience again was such a welcome change for me. It was loud and chaotic and filled with laughter, just like I had remembered.
The days that followed were a little more bleak, unfortunately. We did end up having to attend a funeral for someone who passed away far too soon. So, to Ronnie’s family, I am so sorry for your loss. The weight of his passing will be felt by the entire community and he will never be forgotten. The service was beautiful and we were lucky in the sense that we got to spend some time with my Arizona family, despite the unfortunate circumstances.
The week flew by and we found ourselves looking at another weekend. During the past two weeks we had been struggling to decide what major city we wanted to visit while we were staying in such a central state to everything. After lots of debating and consulting anyone who would talk to us, we decided on Boston. Again, I will be disclosing details in a later blog post.
As for now, we are doing what we always do; working, editing photos, writing blog posts, and apparently fighting off yet another illness…wonderful. But, we have a cute dog to pet and lots of exciting upcoming plans so everything is fine!