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A State Shaped Like a Hand, Spanish Speaking Canadians, and a Whole Lotta Pigs: MI, ONT, NY, and VT

Sunday, Aug 19 4:20pm:
As I type, we’re roaring down the New York Throughway past Exit 31 to Utica, NY.Karen is blasting the Lemonheads album It’s a Shame About Ray, the album that gave us our son’s name (after Evan Dando, the singer/songwriter).Outside the window, it looks and feels like we’re almost home.So far our minivan has traveled almost 12,000 miles in 54 days, with only 2 sunsets left until we’re back at our little cape house in Wayland, MA. 🙂

Let’s catch up:

MICHIGAN

On Tuesday we arrived in Michigan, where we stayed with our friend and Karen’s college housemate Kelly McDonnell (no nickname—go figure).It was a quick visit of only one night, and Kelly made us a delish BBQ and we pretty much just hung out—just what we needed.Thanks, Kelly!

The next day we were off to meet the pastor who married us eleven years ago.We hadn’t seen Father Lew Towler since September of 1996, but we called and asked if he wanted to meet us for coffee—and he said yes!So…we were psyched to drop by and say hello. :-)First, some quick background on our wedding:

We were married in Wickford, RI in the Old Narragansett Church, a tiny, 200-year-old colonial church built in 1707.The wedding took place in a hurricane (Hurricane Fran) so it poured with rain and roared with thunder and lightning and was very dramatic.For our reception afterwards, guests dressed up as either something Latin (Karen’s family is from Argentina) or something English (my family is from England).So people came as burritos, teabags, mad cows, banditos—you get the idea.Anyway, here are a couple of pictures, including one of Father Lew dressed in some kind of British military outfit (he’s on the left, next to my father).Father Lew is a fun and funny guy:


So…here we are with Father Lew eleven years later—with his dog, Bella. Lew moved from RI to Ann Arbor, MI in 2000-ish.It was so cool to meet him again.Still a warm, sweet guy.Terrific to see you again, Father Lew! 🙂


By the way, Ann Arbor was great—a busy college town with a lot of coffee shops.We wished we could have stayed there longer.

ORIGAMI AND CRISPY NOODLE SNACKS IN WEST BLOOMFIELD, MI

That night we stayed with our friends Greg and Tomie, their kids Alex, Amelia, and Skyler.Here’s Evan:

EVAN:This was a very enjoyable part of the trip because we got to try Japanese snacks like chocolate covered macadamia nuts and crispy noodle snacks, and we played Japanese video games and it was very relaxing.Alex was very nice.He taught us how to make origami boxes and he played a lot of games with us.Greg and Tomie made us a very good dinner of roasted chicken and a great breakfast too.

Thanks, Greg and Tomie, Alex, Amelia and Skyler!

O CANADA!

We had a quick and easy ride passage through customs and then, on Friday, we arrived in Ontario, Canada.

LAKE HURON

We were lucky enough to spend a couple days visiting our friends Philippa and Steve and their son Dylan (Look, Daddy!Actual Canadians!) on their lake house near Bayfield, Ontario on beautiful, amazing, magical Lake Huron.It perfect and relaxing:

Here’s something weird about me:I keep a list of the very best years, months, weeks, days and hours of my life.Apart from the obvious births, weddings, etc., my list includes things like the day I spent writing in the shade overlooking a coffee farm in Costa Rica, and the three hours I spent in Tijuana in April of 1996 – these are some of the best, best times of my life.This trip will definitely go on the list, of course.But in particular I’ll also have a separate entry for the two hours I spent on Saturday morning reading on Phil and Steve’s porch.It was fantastic. I took a picture – here I am, enjoying Harry Potter 7 and just listening to the waves:

Thanks, Phil and Steve!

THE VILLAGE BOOKSHOP

The village of Bayfield, Ontario is home to a friendly independent bookstore with a devoted following of local readers.Right on the main thoroughfare of town, the store gets its share of tourist traffic, and it also hosts many author visits including big-name Canadian authors like Margaret Atwood and Jane Urquhart.Here I am with bookseller Mary Wolfe. Thanks for your support, Mary!It was great to meet you!


LUCY IS STUNG BY A CANADIAN BEE

In the park in Bayfield, Lucy was stung on the shoulder by a Canadian bee. Lucy was very brave, and screamed only briefly.  A pastry from the local bakery worked miracles.  Bzzzz, eh?  (Something to ponder:  Due to the exchange rate, are Canadian bees only 90% as painful as U.S. bees?)


TORONTO, ¿QUE PASA?

As it turns out, everyone in Toronto speaks Spanish.At least everyone I met there did.We stayed with Karen’s cousins Victor and Betty, and their lovely family—they’re all from Argentina, Venezuela, and parts thereabouts.Here’s Karen.

KAREN:Wow!I never expected to do a US road trip and to find myself in Toronto at a “Parrillada” with my extended family from Argentina!It was awesome!For those of you who don’t know, a Parrillada is a giant barbecue with beef, sausages etc (many types of meat are cooked in a special Argentine way and are very, very tasty!)I officially vote my cousin Victor as the Supreme Parrillada Chef!! I met my cousin Andrea who lives in Montreal (Victor and Betty’s Daughter…Ana, Andrea’s sister is in Belgium..hi Ana!).I also met Andres, a cousin that I haven’t seen since I was a wee little child!There were lots of other cousins there too.We all ate, drank lots of wine, and spoke in Spanish.Mark held his own really well, did you know that he speaks Spanish too?I can’t wait to go back!Besos a todos!!


Another trip through customs–including a looooong, sloooow traffic jam to get across the border–and we’re back in the U.S.A!
 🙂

NEW YORK


NIAGARA FALLS

We stopped in Niagara Falls this morning.It was rainy and crowded, and the surrounding streets looked disturbingly like Las Vegas.But you can’t see that in the photo:


This part was written the following day…Monday, Aug 20 6:30pm:
FLYING PIGS FARM

We arrived last night in Shushan, NY on the far eastern border of the state. It’s a green, hilly area that looks like something out of the old sitcom where Bob Newhart used to run a hotel.(I know, I know…that was Vermont not New York–but Vermont is almost literally a stone’s throw away!).It’s also the home of Flying Pigs Farm, which is owned and run by my friends Jennifer Small and Mike Yezzi—I grew up with Jennifer in Barrington, RI and have known her since kindergarten.We were lucky enough to spend a day there.It truly felt like something out of Dick and Jane Go to the Farm.There were pigs and cows and roosters and all the other usual suspects.Evan even got to do some chores, and we all stepped in plenty of animal poop.It was so much fun!Here’s Evan:

EVAN:There were lots of pigs and chickens and three cows.I got to collect the eggs from the chicken roosts.Some of the chickens were vicious, but I wore a glove to protect my hand.One of the chickens pecked at an egg in the egg basket and ate the inside.That chicken was a cannibal!Or was it a chicken-ibal?!

It was great to see you, Jen and Mike!Thanks for a memorable day on the farm!

VERMONT


NORTHSHIRE BOOKSTORE

We’ve just finished our final official book stop—Northshire Bookstore is a fantastic, big independent in Manchester Center, Vermont.They obviously had one heck of a Harry Potter event because in addition to having an entire “stone” entrance to Hogwarts, they also had a giant Sorting Hat and an absolutely humungous spider.Here I am with event coordinator Linda Ellingsworth and general manager Chris Morrow.Thanks, guys, for making my last official bookstore stop so much fun!

But hang on…we’re still not quite done with the trip yet! There’s one more day to go!

Next blog entry:The Berkshires, home, and deep questions like, “Oh my God! Did We Really Just Drive 13,000 miles?” and “Holy Crap, Was It All Worth It?”

Best,
–Mark

LEMONADE MOUTH (Delacorte Press, 2007)
I AM THE WALLPAPER (Delacorte Press, 2005)
www.markpeterhughes.com