After the August 2nd Drive to New Jersey

We left at 0831. One minute past the time I wanted to leave. After loading the kids into the 15 passenger van, I rechecked the locks on the house doors and windows, then moved to the cockpit of the shuttle.

We arrived at the highway, 95 North, with little trouble other than traffic lights. The entrance I chose to the freeway, among three, allowed me to move into the HOV lane unabated. Leg One ended once we transitioned onto the Beltway.

I didn’t have my usual navigator on this ride. She took the lead role in the cargo area, meaning she was in charge of all the kids. To my right was my brother, who has not traveled with me frequently, though himself being a seasoned driver. Just days before this trip he arrived to our home in Virginia from sunny Florida. He had his own style of navigating, and it differed slightly from mine. Well, it was different than how my wife navigated with me.

We opted to skip the Baltimore Washington Parkway, 295, because there were GPS indications that the already shitty road had been reduced to one lane of travel for construction. We pushed another 7 miles or so to intersect I95 North again, the road upon which most of this trip would take place. We were on the Beltway for just over 20 miles, and it took nearly 45 minutes.

Our first stop was the rest area a few miles north of the Beltway on 95. We parked the shuttle in a large, curb-side parking spot, allowing us to gather our forces before moving onto the objective. I took charge of the littlest, while my wife maneuvered the path to the latrines with the twins. My brother followed with the three big kids. The baby had fun walking around the paths at the visitor center. I know she’s gonna spend the next few hours in her car seat, and I want to give her every chance to move her little legs.

We moved back to the van, settled the kids back into their assigned seats, and started issuing snacks and drinks to them. My brother and I stood behind the vehicle and smoked while we waited for the distribution of the in-flight refreshments. Once complete, we loaded back up and returned to the freeway.

Our next stop was at the Chesapeake Service Area north of Baltimore. The kids loved the tunnel under the bay by Baltimore, but this area was also prone to heavier bouts of traffic despite the usage of the EasyPass toll device in our vehicle. It was probably the best time to stop for lunch since I was mildly frustrated at the ridiculous drivers on the road at the time. Being in such a large vehicle, I am elevated above most of the other vehicles on the road. I am aggravated by the incessant use of cell phones by most of the drivers on the road. Some are watching streaming tv, others are texting; they are all endangering the lives of my children. I hate that.

At the Chesapeake house, we conduct another latrine drill, then moved into chow ops. Of the four restaurants in this service area, most of our family decided on Wendy’s because the Junior Bacon Cheeseburgers (JBCs) are the official cheeseburger of the Haynes clan. One dissident wanted a chicken leg from KFC. After a moderate wait in line, I placed our order for ten JBCs, only to find out that this location does not sell those. (What?!) I defaulted to nuggets and regular cheeseburgers for the family. Fifteen minutes and $63 dollars later, we had our food. Crazy.

There was not much else noteworthy from the Chesapeake stop, other than a creepy worker, probably mid-20s, who was eyeballing my 12 year old daughter. I didn’t see it, but my wife and brother were very vocal about the incident. My brother stepped in dog shit at some point and almost stepped into the shuttle with that crap on his shoe. I’m thankful he noticed before he got in. A few minutes later, we were back on the road. 1247.

At 1417 we stopped for fuel. By this point we were in southern New Jersey. I still don’t like that every gas station is a full service gas station in this stupid state. As we exited the NJ Turnpike, my navigator read aloud the law that mandated full service fuel stops in New Jersey. After this reading from Wikipedia, we pulled into an open fuel point and waited. I really wanted to jump out and fuel up like I did last time we traveled through this state. The attendant wasn’t happy, but once he noticed the Texas license plate on our command shuttle, he threw his arms up and walked away.

Once fueling was complete, we executed another latrine drill and got back on the road. It wasn’t our quickest stop, but we returned to the highway at 1441.

The rest of the trip took place in New Jersey, ending at our hotel in Dover, New Jersey. We’ve travelled here for a funeral for a dear cousin who has recently passed. Most of our family is converging onto this location for the services and to offer support to the immediate family members suffering from her passing.

As a closing note, and not addressed previously, the award for the stupidest drivers on the road between Washington D.C. and Dover, New Jersey for the date of 2 August, 2019 goes to the great state of Florida. At every leg of the trip, there was a vehicle tagged from Florida who was either blocking traffic by driving 15 under the speed limit in the fast lane; or they seemed rabid as they whipped in and out of traffic. I must concede that drivers of this sort are prevalent in every state, and it is likely that some of the vehicles were rentals as we passed a number of large airports. But being what it is and identifying behavior solely by state plates, Florida wins for this day. Close behind were those drivers from Maryland, but they’re just dicks all the time; so at least they’re consistent.

Once we arrived at the hotel, we spent the next couple hours getting the kids settled after a full day’s car ride. My wife and I made a quick trip to the local target to pick up some necessities and returned to the rooms. We finished the evening with a short trip to the indoor swimming pool and a visit from local family.

After the events of August 3rd

Most of the day was spent on the road to a family reunion, or at the reunion itself.

Breakfast at the hotel was nice. It has gotten easier to take all the kids to continental breakfasts, especially after all the times we’ve moved over the last five years. I enjoy traveling, but have never enjoyed traveling with children. I love them, but I do not like traveling with them. The bigs got their waffles, the ones that you make yourself. They love those waffles, and I remember standing in front of that waffle maker getting them ready, one at a time, for each of the children. We’ve gotten better about letting the big kids take care of those things themselves. Things that used to be a big deal are now not that important, at least to me. The littles still require much attention, especially the boy.

With breakfast over, we returned to the room to await our departure to the reunion party. We were to depart at 1245, but did not leave the parking lot until 1301. Not a big deal considering we were coordinating a convoy between three families originating in three different locations. We were to follow Aunt Debra, who knew a route to the party 53 miles away. She only knew the one route. My GPS had a different plan, and spent the entire trip trying to convince me to return to one of the missed turns 45 miles ago. Even upon arrival to the party, the Apple map app was trying to give me directions to one of the turns I didn’t take. Another example why I use Waze or Google maps; however both of my preferences were having issues loading the destination. So I opted for the third string GPS app so as not to be the hindrance to our departure.

Steph and I spent most of the party in the basement. We started outside in the back yard, which had a beautiful pond with fish, a full volleyball court, and some flowered walking paths under the shade of some trees. The temperature neared 92 and we retreated to the basement, which was set up specifically for entertaining children. An imposing ping pong table was the cornerstone of entertainment, but there were also many padded mats with alphabet inserts, legos, and numerous balls to entertain the smaller children.

The big kids wandered around upstairs at the party, traversing from volleyball and frisbee outside to grazing at the feeding tables on the inside. As much as I wanted to go upstairs, I spent most of the time in the basement helping to corral and entertain the littles. Steph and I thought fondly of times past when we had fewer to no children.

At one point the catered dinner arrived. We waited until the lines died down before we escaped the basement with the littles to the main floor. Sandwiches and various salads were on the menu, which was nice since the littles enjoy those offerings. Our peaceful meal lasted about fifteen minutes. By then, baby Madison had her fill of being sandwiched between Mommy and Daddy, and longed to regain her freedom of movement provided by the basement. We spent the next couple hours down there until it was desert time. We followed the same procedure with desert as we had with dinner.

We returned to the hotel shortly after desert. The trip back seemed quicker. We took the kids to the hotel pool, visited with family, and had everyone asleep by eleven.

August 4th. The Celebration of Life

I didn’t know Devon very well. I’d met her a couple times, but we didn’t communicate. Nearly four years ago, she was diagnosed with a type of brain cancer that I can neither say nor spell. Over the last few years, I prayed for Devon, donated to the Caring Bridge account that kept the family updated on her condition. I sent notes of encouragement to her and her parents, and to my cousin Adam, her husband.

I admit that I was angry with God for her passing. She was only 39, and she had two beautiful children. I vented my frustration to my brother, John, and to my wife, Stephanie. I don’t understand God’s will sometimes, yet even in those moments, I trust God.

There seems to have been more animosity between the Carbery family and Devon’s family, the Carvers, than I had previously known. The celebration of life ceremony was a tense back and forth between the families. From my stance, it seemed that the Carvers were unhappy that Devon had married Adam. It seems a Shakespearean relationship between two families with their own Romeo and Juliet issues. Through it all, the Carbery’s were very tactful, accommodating, and gracious in their interactions.

Once the ceremony was over, I stood in line to offer my condolences to Devon’s father at the loss of his daughter. Once I mentioned that I was Adam’s cousin, he moved on to the next person. I don’t know what I expected, but I did want to make every attempt to mend the gap between the two families. The reception of my offer was cold, but I don’t fault him. I mean, he just lost his daughter. I can not fathom the state I would be in if I experienced the same.

I met Stephanie outside to relieve her of her child care duties. We briefly ate some catered food, loaded up, and returned to the hotel. Despite the sadness of the event, I did get to see all of my cousins all at one time. Edwin, who always beat me at the 007 Golden Eye video game, was just as quirky as ever. I met his girlfriend, Molly (?), and got to chat with him for a few minutes. Alan John is about eight feet tall, which is an exaggeration, but he gets bigger every time I see him. Margaret, along with Edwin and Melanie, shared their memories during the ceremony, and you could tell they were making every effort to tie the two families together. I am unhappy that they are ostracized the way they are. I love them unconditionally.

August 5th, On the Return to Virginia

We took the kids to the pool until 10pm again. My hope is that they would be tired for tomorrows drive back to Virginia. My mom visited for some time, as did Aunt Debbie and my cousin Renee and her family. It really was nice to hang out with family. We have always declared that we should meet again before the next funeral. We want our kids to grow up with the strong bonds to their cousins that we had while we were growing up. Our most recent declaration is September 2020. We are planning to converge on Adams County to celebrate my moms birthday and her retirement. May God bless the time we are planning to celebrate and visit.

My plan was to leave the hotel by 0930. We left shortly after 10am. Outside of a glitch from the GPS which caused me to travel 4 miles in the wrong direction, we had very few issues on the drive home. The New Jersey Turnpike was just as bumpy as ever, and solidified my characterization of New Jersey as one big pot hole.

We stopped for lunch at the Biden Service Station in Delaware, which I’m assuming is named after Joe Biden, a former Vice President to Barack Obama and a current contender for the Democratic nomination for president on the 2020 ticket. It was a pretty nice stop, and we ended up getting chicken from Popeyes and Chinese food from Panda Express. There was some strange guy taking videos of everyone while they were eating, and as soon as he saw that we were staring him down, he rushed out of the facility. We noticed no presence of security on site, so no report was filed.

We hit the usual DC rush hour traffic in the evening, and returned home at 1735, earlier than I expected considering the late departure. We spent the next few hours getting everyone resettled back at home and following our usual bed time schedule. Most of the kids wanted to go swimming before bed, which sounded good. Maybe we should consider having a pool built when we build our forever home.

(Image by Michael Kaucher via Pixabay)