Week 36-  May 15 - 21 Week: The Grand Finale?

After an early departure from our campsite Sunday morning, we drove to Lexington to the Minute Man Visitor Center for our last historical site in the Boston area.  We had called our home church’s senior pastor, Joel Goff the night before, knowing that he had grown up in the Lexington area.  We ended up parking the RV at the National Historic Site headquarters so we could drive the van the few miles to the church his dad had pastored. 

Grace Chapel turned out to be one of the churches most similar to ours that we have visited on this year’s Tour de Church.  I found myself a bit emotional, especially as we sang one of the songs that I play my trumpet on when we are back home.  It kind of shook me back to the reality that we will be home in just a couple of weeks, a bittersweet thought. 

The service also gave us another flavor of the brotherhood and sisterhood of believers we have been experiencing this year.  Folks from the organization “Jews for Jesus” were leading the music and preaching for the day.  It was a fitting time for us to worship with Jewish believers after our past couple of weeks in the East Coast megalopolis with its large population of Jewish people.  The priestly benediction from Numbers spoken in Hebrew and then English at the end of service sent shivers down my spine. 

At the national park visitor center before church, we had watched an excellent multimedia presentation of the whole series of events as the British army marched west from Boston on their 1775 assignment to destroy weapons caches in Concord.  After church we stood on the green in Lexington where the first eight minutemen were killed as they faced the British garrison after its all night march.  

We drove a few miles to Concord to the North Bridge where a larger contingent of minutemen finally repelled the British advance, and the first military order was given by a colonist to shoot at the Crown’s army.  It was this exchange that Emerson’s famous poem Concord Hymn, coined “the shot heard ‘round the world”.  The colonists then forced a more than fifteen mile British retreat as they sniped at the troops along the road all the way back to Boston.  

Later Sunday afternoon, we started our journey to Maine.  I was very excited to get back to open spaces and lower population density!  We stopped in Freeport for the evening at the home of the Derek and Pam VanVolkenburg, who used to live across the street from us in Minnetonka.  Derek left his job as a corporate lawyer a few years ago, and moved the family to Maine so he could teach law at a college level.  Their idyllic hobby farm property is out in the woods and within walking distance of the ocean bays and estuaries along the Freeport area coast.  It was great to see them again, even if it was just for a short stopover. 

Our Monday travel day to Mount Desert Island, (home of Acadia National Park) took us through a foggy and misty Maine just as I have always pictured it.  Then with perfect timing after some Tuesday morning schooling, the weather dried for our first venture, a driving tour into Acadia.  We drove the national park loop road and finished with a drive up the summit of Mount Cadillac as the clouds thinned just in time for a sunset.  The summit view gave a beautiful panorama of the island and the surrounding coastal area. 

The Acadia area was once home to “cottages” of millionaire industrialists (Rockefeller, Carnegie, Ford, Vanderbilt, Morgan) like other islands we have visited as we have made our way up the East Coast.  These historical mansions were destroyed in a huge forest fire in 1947.  One of the best things left was the series of carriage roads that John D. Rockefeller II built in the area.  These roads were, and still are, designated for non-motorized vehicles only.   

We explored some of these scenic roads near Eagle Lake on our bikes Wednesday morning.  The day kept getting nicer and nicer, and Jenna, Nate, and I scrambled up the coastline on rocks near the Bass Harbor lighthouse in the afternoon.  The gentle ring of the bobbing buoy just off the shore where we climbed, and the fresh ocean air will be a sensory memory for a long time. 

We reluctantly left Mount Desert Island Thursday morning after one final stop at the National Park visitor center.  The kids earned what could be their last Junior Ranger patch of the adventure before we headed off across Maine to Jefferson, in the White Mountain area of New Hampshire. 

The mountains of New Hampshire and Vermont around Jefferson are some of the most beautiful we have seen on this trip.  There is a great balance between the mountains and hills and the rolling pasturelands they puncuate.  In the Rockies by comparison, we often felt closed in by the relentless mountain terrain.   

As Jefferson is quite close to the state line, we took a day trip into Vermont on Friday.  Vermont was the last of the contiguous 48 states that our family had yet to visit so we celebrated the milestone!   We haven’t driven through Ohio this trip, although we were there a few years ago, so it will officially be the last state on our U.S. map to get its sticker. 

Our main destination in Vermont was Ben and Jerry’s ice cream factory!  The tour got lower than average grades from our tour-savvy family, but we did appreciate the company’s beginnings.  Both Ben and Jerry dealt with failure and rejection in college, but persevered to start this quirky company.  It’s not quite the same now, as they sold out to the huge Unilever Corporation years ago. 

On the drive back from the tour, we stopped in Vermont’s Capitol, Montpelier.  It is a surprisingly small town nestled in the hills.  We ended up getting the van’s oil changed at a unique auto shop… and hunting store!  (The owner likes hunting, so he decided to do both in one place!)  Our unconventional schooling continued as the kids took math tests at the Dunkin Donuts next door while we waited for the van!  If you like Duncan Donuts, come to the Northeast.  Neighborhood franchises are around every corner! 

Saturday morning started out cloudless, and we drove to the nearby Presidential Range in the White Mountains for a trip to the summit of Mount Washington.  We arranged to take a cog steam train, the oldest line in the world, to the top.  The rickety and noisy ride provided grades of up to thirty percent on trestles along deep ravines.  It was a bit unnerving to some in the family, but we all made it to the top, better for the experience.  While we were on the summit, clouds enveloped us, and the weather turned to snow flurries adding another dimension to the ride back down. 

My favorite part of this area is that it is moose country!  I have always loved moose, and really wanted the family to see moose in the wild.  Our first couple of days in the area, we saw “moose crossing” and “brake for moose” signs, found tracks in the mud, but saw no moose.  Finally, by the end of the week, we specifically went out for a moose drive at dusk and were rewarded richly.  We found moose at a couple of different places, the best of which was where one young male was contently munching quite close to the road.  Apparently moose like to drink water near the roadways because of its higher salt content after winter. 

What an incredible week!  From historic Lexington, to Ocean islands, to mountains and moose, I don’t know if we’ve experienced a more diverse week on our whole trip.  What a climactic week to lead into our final week, the main objective of which will be to make our way back to Minnesota, and back to real life…