So we've been back for three months now... as long as we were on the road, we've now been home. It still feels strange, like a dream, like the trip never really happened, and yet I feel the experience like an imprint on my everyday existence. I've been in the midst of a bit of a personal crisis since we got back--I feel like I yo-yo between absolute happiness and contentedness and complete confusion on a daily basis. Some days I feel like everything I thought I wanted has been thrown into question, but I resist it. I guess I'm not prepared to face the idea that comfort isn't enough.
The trip wasn't life-changing in the way I'd expected it to be--it went too fast, felt too temporary. I've traveled before--I had those profoundly challenging experiences when I was younger, and this time around I was struck by how much I valued my little luxuries. We didn't have any major mishaps, because I planned properly. I didn't want to sleep in the car. I wanted to be clear-headed and calm heading into each day, not clouded and cranky. We just had fun.
Well, here we are! Niagara Falls was our last stop on the trip, because we wanted a big finish! It was definitely an appropriate way to end such an epic adventure, though it felt a little bittersweet because both of us were in a weird place where we were feeling ready to be home but not ready for the trip to end. We decided to cross into Canada (because why not??) to see the falls from that side (I'd heard it was less touristy, but I don't see how that's possible). What a disaster! The border crossing took forever, and then when we explained our road trip to the crossing guard, he was totally skeptical and we ended up being held and searched! That's never happened to me before! We were like, "seriously, Canada?" It was a major setback, and we wound up driving several hours in the dark and rain in a foreign land (I know Canada is hardly "foreign" to us, especially Vermonters, but they just do things a bit differently and the signs are confusing... oh yeah, and we neglected to change our money so we didn't have any of that, and my debit card was turned off after my first purchase--a map--so that was a bit of a disaster). I had planned every detail of the trip for so long and suddenly at our last stop everything was unraveling. We ended up having to buy donuts and coffee at Tim Horton's to use their wifi for directions to our hotel...
Anyway, we finally arrived, safe and relatively sound, and settled in for the night. The next morning we went into historic Niagara-on-the-Lake to explore, had breakfast al fresco, and spent a few hours wandering around the quaint little town. Then it was time for the falls! We drove into town and parked a little bit out of the way so that we didn't have to deal with the crush of crowds, then walked back to view the falls. They really are spectacular. We were going to go on the Maid of the Mist or walk behind the falls but the lines were totally out of control so we decided to skip it and just go to dinner instead (eating is our style). I also kind of wanted to take the elevator to the top of the tower (above), but it was way too expensive. Soooo anyway, we just walked around for a while, had some dinner, looked at the falls as much as we could stand, and then went back to our hotel to regroup before the long drive back to Vermont. Crossing back into the U.S. was a lot easier--we were just waved on through. We stopped in Brattleboro for dinner at the Indian restaurant there that we'd been to once before, and then started the long trip back up I-89 to my parents' house, where we would stay for the next week or so while we searched for an apartment.
After we left the Dinosaur Park and Wall Drug, we of course had to stop and see Mount Rushmore before we continued on to K's grandmother's house! It was a pretty quick stop--we just paid, parked, walked as far as we could walk, looked at it for a while, and then left. It was definitely just one of those "AMERICA!" things you simply have to see, and of course it is impressive, but I didn't need to spend a lot of time gazing at it in contemplation. We took the long way out of town through the Black Hills (up a mountain), which probably wasn't the best choice, but we did get a nice view of the region from a scenic overlook with a bunch of bikers (we were in the area right during Sturgis, so there were bikers EVERYWHERE). It was actually kind of insane how many there were...
We FINALLY got to K's grandmother's house about an hour after we were scheduled to arrive, and had a huge dinner that was like Thanksgiving. K's uncle and wife were also there for the weekend, so we got to spend a bit of time with them as well. It was a really great stay! We played a lot of cards, ate a LOT of food, and mostly just hung out and chatted for the weekend. One of the days we were there we drove around looking at the historic houses in Pierre (for the historic preservationist among us) and then visited the Capitol building, which was beautiful (especially the ceilings and windows). I also thought it was pretty great that there was an exhibit for all of the inaugural dresses of the governor's wives through the decades, recreated in minature and accompanied by photographs--just my style! Some of the dresses I would still totally wear :)
K's grandmother is such an awesome lady--I kept saying the whole time that I hope I am just like her when I'm in my eighties. She loves to travel, she goes out dancing every Friday night, she's incredibly active and intelligent and witty--quite a spitfire. I'm seriously aspiring to be her in fifty-some-odd years.