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Holy Homecomings! We Made It Back! (8 Weeks and 12,592 Miles Later…)

Yowza! I can’t believe we did it! I’m amazed that 1) our car actually made it, and that 2) I’m sitting at home writing up the last blog entry.  It’s hard to find myself at the end of LEMONADE MOUTH ACROSS AMERICA!, my family’s audacious, summer-long road-trip adventure across America and back in our little minivan. But here’s proof that we really made it all the way back:

And here’s the final tally:

Miles traveled: 12,592
Days on the road: 57
States visited: 38
Bookstores visited: Somewhere between 50 and 60*
Trips to the Honda Dealer: 3 (two oil changes, one $600 exhaust job)

*It’s hard to be sure of the exact bookstore count since, in addition to scheduled events, we also did a bunch of unscheduled drive-bys.

We’ve been home for a couple days now, and to be honest I’m feeling a little sad to be writing this last dispatch. But we all know what they say about all good things… Below are the following:

· “Oh my God! Did We Really Just Drive 13,000 Miles in a Bright Yellow Lemonade Mouth Minivan?”

· “Holy Crap, Was It All Worth It?”

· Closing comments from each of us

· What’s next?

· Stuff people have told me I ought to have done a while ago

But first: Let’s catch up:

MASSACHUSETTS

So, on Monday we drove south from Manchester, VT and after 56 glorious days away we finally found ourselves crossing the line into our very own home state (it’s a commonwealth, actually), Massachusetts! It was a strange feeling. We’d been gone so long and had visited so many beautiful places, and yet I think it made us appreciate our own corner of the country all the more. Before going to our own house, though, we thought we’d stretch out the fun one extra unplanned night to visit my family in Otis, MA in the Berkshires. Here we are with my parents, my sister Jennifer, and my niece and nephews – Sophie, Myles (our godson!), and Leo. 🙂


KAREN’S SIDE-TRIP TO THE GARDEN STATE
On Tuesday, the kids and I hung out while Karen took a side-trip to visit her mother and to pick up our much-missed doggie, Wendel.



Here’s Karen:

Karen: While the others stayed in Otis I took at 7-hour side-trip (3.5 hour each way) to New Jersey to visit pickup my Mom, and to pick up Wendel, our dog (MARK: For those wondering, he’s a wild mountain cockapoo) and to celebrate my mother’s birthday before coming home to Massachusetts. Wendel spent the summer with my mother. Here are my mother and Wendel. Happy Birthday Mom!


HOME AGAIN! HOME AGAIN! JIGGIDY-JIG

And then, late Tuesday night after eight weeks, a zillion miles and a crazy number of states, we finally pulled up at our very own little white cape house! To our amazement, our friends had decorated it with a huge “Welcome Home” banner for the occasion…and even had a cake for us! Thanks Sylvia, Jay, Megan, Tia, and Grace! 🙂 What a wonderful surprise!

(By the way, all summer long while we were away Sylvia took care of things for us, checking in on the house, collecting our mail, sending us care packages, and doing countless nice things—including surprising me by cleaning out my little green Toyota. She’s a wonderful friend. A very special THANK YOU to Sylvia!)

Okay, so that was our trip. After such a long and amazing adventure, I now feel the need to add a few end-of-trip comments, musings, and other stuff; and of course—“what’s next?” So here they are:

END OF TRIP COMMENTS, MUSINGS, AND OTHER STUFF—AND “WHAT’S NEXT?”

QUESTION: “Oh my God! Did We Really Just Drive 13,000 Miles in a Bright Yellow Lemonade Mouth Minivan?”
Answer: Yep. (Well, 12,592 miles, actually.)

QUESTION: “Holy Crap, Was It All Worth It?”
Two Answers:

Was it all worth it financially?:
Well, I don’t know. I don’t think I’ll ever really know. But to be honest, we didn’t really spend that much on this trip, considering. After all, we mostly stayed with friends, plus we did some camping. In fact, out of 57 nights we stayed at hotels only 10 times (11 if you count the youth hostel in Taos, NM). That’s not so much, really. And we kept the eating-out to a minimum by going to grocery stores, which we would have had to do at home anyway. And as far as visiting bookstores as a promotion for Lemonade Mouth, well, it can’t have hurt, right? And meeting book people sure is a lot of fun!

But, was it all worth it in general?:
Oh god, YES! We truly just had the family adventure of a lifetime. The kids will remember this for their entire lives—and so will Karen and I. The five of us saw the country, visited friends and family, met lots of new people, and had a country full of new experiences. It sounds shmulzy, but we really did have a great time every day. So, no question about it, it was so, so worth it! 🙂

COMMENTS FROM EACH OF US

EVAN: My favorite parts of the trip were the roller coasters in Disneyland, especially the California Screaming, which is a super-fast, super fun roller coaster. I liked riding in the car because I got to read, I got to watch TV, and listen to music. I liked Texas a lot. There was a fun swimming pool in Fort Worth and it was a lot of fun walking around the cowboy stores and stuff too. I liked the twin cities. I liked the aquarium in Atlanta. I liked seeing the buffalos in Yellowstone Park. It was just a scary fun experience. I liked the rodeo in Wyoming, too. The trip was a lot of fun. I would probably do it again.

LUCY: I remember the Grand Canyon, Count Mushroom (that’s how Zoe says Mount Rushmore), Lake Huron. I’m sad it’s over but I’m happy to be back home.

ZOE: I liked swimming where Gigi took me
(MARK: a lake in Ft. Worth, TX), I also saw Buffalos. We were going to see wolves but we couldn’t because they were hidden (MARK: She’s talking about Yellowstone Park). Also the beach Dylan took us, too (MARK: She’s talking about Lake Huron). That water was so, so cold. We have a dog, he is crazy and hairy.

KAREN: First thought, I had no idea the US was so big, so vast and so different. Corny yes, but it made me proud to be an American. New Mexico and Wyoming were my favorite places. Second, I had a chance to spend time with wonderful people (long time friends, family, new friends, and people we met on the way)….that was the best part of the trip. Third, I have never been to a rodeo, ridden in a Sturgis bike rally (driving “Penelope” – our car- does count!), worn a cheese hat, ate southern food, and slept with bears and rattlesnakes! It doesn’t get better than that. I wish I could keep traveling!!!!

MARK: I don’t want to sound too gushy, but I loved everywhere we went for different reasons. Here are a few random highlights off the top of my head: the sunset in Cedar City, UT; the rodeo in Cody, WY; the longhorn parade in Ft. Worth, TX; reading on the porch next to Lake Huron in Ontario; screaming like a little girl on a scary high-speed roller coaster loop-de-loop with Evan and Lucy in Disney’s California Adventure (years ago I swore I’d never go on a ride like that, but the kids convinced me), Zoe grinning on a mechanical pony in Taos, smooching with Karen at the Grand Canyon…I could go on and on, but I’ll stop there.

THANK YOU:
Thanks to all the family and friends, old and new, who we saw along the way. Thanks to the many wonderful bookstores that hosted us. A thousand thanks to Susan Green and Sylvia Rodgers for all your help. Special thanks to Karen, Evan, Lucy, and Zoe for being such terrific adventure partners. I’m so glad we had a chance to do this together. Big love to you all. And finally, thanks to you for coming along with us on this journey—I’m thrilled by the great response and the many, many kind emails I’ve received. What a great feeling to know that so many were interested in my crazy family’s audacious trip! And the response to this blog truly added to our adventure. Thank you!


WHAT’S NEXT?

It’s Saturday morning as I type this, so we’ve been home for three full days now. For years, Karen and I have been planning to switch roles eventually, where I’d quit my full-time day-job working for other people and instead stay at home with the kids while she goes back to work. And so that’s what we’re doing. As you know, I quit my job this past March. Two days ago Karen started working full-time again after more than ten years at home with the kids—she’s a Spanish teacher at Shrewsbury High School. (Yes, I’m a lucky man. Big love to you, Karen!)

Here’s Karen home from her first day of work.

The students aren’t back at school yet until next Tuesday, and so it’s been teacher-prep stuff so far. Yesterday (Friday), the kids and I went in to help her decorate her newly-assigned classroom.

And here I am two days ago (Thursday), my first-ever stay-at-home-dad day, walking back from Starbucks with the kids and Wendel. (The kids got hot chocolates, I got a tall Verona, and the dog got a nice walk).

STUFF PEOPLE HAVE TOLD ME I OUGHT TO HAVE DONE A WHILE AGO

A few people have emailed saying that I haven’t talked specifically about Lemonade Mouth, the novel, much in this blog, and that unless I do, I’m wasting a good opportunity. So, if you’re interested, below is a link where you can read the first few pages. The book is about five high-school outsiders who get in trouble, meet each other, and form a very strange rock band that changes the world.

Lemonade Mouth
Click on the image to read the first few pages
 


HOW YOU CAN HELP
:
Another thing people have often asked me is “How can I help you? Is there anything I can do?” Well, it’s a generous thought, and yeah, since I’m not J.K. Rowling or Philip Pullman I sure could use a little help getting the word out about my books. So, if you’re willing,
click here for some ideas of how to help


ONWARD TO THE NEXT ADVENTURE!

But hang on…we’re nowhere near the end of our adventures!

Next up: Being a stay-at-home dad, taking care of three kids and the house, and trying to write my next novel whenever I can find a moment. So…fasten your seatbelts! Off we go!

Best,
–Mark

LEMONADE MOUTH (Delacorte Press, 2007)
I AM THE WALLPAPER (Delacorte Press, 2005)