The plan was to drive from our place near Lansing to Holland, Michigan, which is on the coast of Lake Michigan. It's about a 1.5 hour trip without stops, but we spent Friday night mapping a route that avoided freeways, followed rivers, and meandered through small towns. We needed enough of a plan so that we didn't waste time getting lost and backtracking, but something loose enough to accommodate impromptu stops at whatever looked interesting. We then meandered through Holland with the same "stop when desired" mentality, and when the clock ran out, we took the freeway home.
We let the Abigail alarm wake us up and spent the morning rather leisurely. A mom friend from church, actually, my first ever friend in this new town, agreed to envelop Abigail into her family for the day (10 hours total). It wasn't the longest I'd ever been away from Abigail and certainly wasn't the longest Matt had ever been away, but it was the longest Abigail has ever been away from both of us at the same time. I was very worried about how difficult it would be for me to leave her behind, but the truth is, I wasn't worried when the day arrived. I trust the family she was staying with and I was ready for a break. A vacation that doubled as my last real adult-only time before the baby comes. But from what I hear, Abigail never cried and scored some cake for dinner, so I'm pretty sure she enjoyed herself too.
Anyway, the drop off went off without a hitch and we were back in the car and cruising down a backroad reminiscing about "what we were doing 6 years ago today right now!" We realized that this year is the first year in which all the days of the week match up with the year we got married. So we were married on Friday, April 25, 2008, and this year, April 25 happened to be on a Friday as well. We shared our memories of falling asleep and waking up together for the first time. The first time we drove away from the town where our parents live without having to drop anyone off. We made a long playlist of roadtrip-able music, but never once turned on the iPod as we were so busy talking uninterrupted!
We stopped off at places that looked like they might have potential, like a candy store that reminded us of a place we went on our honeymoon.
We also found a really cool board game and puzzle store. It's one of those places you are almost glad is so far from home because otherwise you'd always be broke.
After a lengthy browse and several discussions with the incredibly knowledgable store owner, we settled on a cooperative board game that had amazing reviews. Matt and I have slowly been growing together as "board game people" and just recently learned of a genre of board games called cooperative games. The point is that everyone plays and wins or looses together. It is so much fun to play with my incredibly competitive and strategic husband rather than against him.
For those of you who weren't sure, Holland, Michigan, is a town settled by the Dutch. They are famous for holding an annual Tulip festival in the spring, for which we thankfully arrived one week too early (crowded festivals are not very conducive to day trips for very pregnant women). Anyway, we saw a lot of stereotypically Dutch things.
We choose Holland based on it's location (close enough to make a day trip, far enough away that we've never been. Okay, I went once as a toddler, but I have no memory of it), and it's reputation as a cute city.
As we trekked through the town, we kept up our mostly driving/stopping at interested places pattern, which was wonderful for me. Whenever I'd start to tire out, we'd take that as our cue to hop back in the car.
We also tried to take lots of pictures instead of buying souvenirs. I wasn't really sure how it'd work out, as I do love to buy things, but I found myself surprisingly satisfied by the click of the shutter. Plus I never suffered from buyers remorse. Although I actually am a bit Dutch, I don't really know anything more about Dutch customs than the average American. While I'm in the store in the heat of the moment, I'm in love with a pair of tiny wooden shoes. The sales girls dressed up like Dutch milkmaids, tourists trying on different sizes, I'm all "Oh, I want these!" But then I get home, and the glamour of the windmills fades away and I'm left with this $14 charm that clutters up space on the shelf. But photos? Now I get the shoes, but the only space they take up is a few MBs on my harddrive and I never need to dust them. We never did find anything made of iron to hang from the rearview mirror though. I guess the Dutch aren't known for their iron works.
We did opt to buy a magnet, though, because we have a collection of magnets from places we've been. Here is our new magnet next to two of our three honeymoon magnets.
We cruised strips, we visited parks, we stopped at tulip beds that totally didn't look like they'd be ready for their big reveal next week.
One of those little parts of the trip that contributed to the sum was getting to focus solely on each other. There was no divided attention between what Matt was saying and what Abigail was about to get into. There was ample hand-holding. There was lots of meandering into stores and having lengthy discussions about whatever the heck we wanted because we were the only ones who could get irritable about taking too long.
As much as no one aspect "made" the trip, I think one of the most enjoyable parts of the day for me was dinner. We went to a restaurant based on a recommendation from a visitor's guide that turned out to be a way great call: an awesome atmosphere and great food.
I loved the freedom of placing my drink and silverware wherever I wanted. I loved the pleasure of eating my food while it was hot. I very much enjoyed being able to follow the conversation between Matt and I because there were no distractions. I loved not having to pick up thrown things on the floor. I loved browsing the crowded gift section and watching Matt try on hats without stopping to pick up sweatshirts and stuffed animals that tiny hands were re-arranging. I loved not sitting down to dinner with sore feet from standing to cook and having to wash dishes and wipe the table afterward. Ah, the bliss of dinner out as a couple.
One of the great joys of exploring a new city when you are nine months pregnant is that every store has public restrooms available. No clerk tells you to mosey on over to the city restrooms at 5th and Maple when you waddle up to the counter with a giant belly.
And because we did so awesome at staying in budget, we were able to end the day with a splurge at Kilwins. Word to the wise: a mocha at a store that specializes in chocolate is always a good call.
"Absence makes the heart grow fonder," definitely held true for us when we returned to pick up Abigail. We were so excited to see each other. She randomly hugged us all day Sunday and I found myself abounding in patience. It was a good little break for everyone, I think, and an amazing marriage boost for Matt and I as we prepare to re-enter into the mega stress that is newborn baby.
This anniversary road trip will definitely hold it's own against all of our other exciting adventures. One that we will look back on each April and say, "Remember that one year?!"