The storms had passed. Coming and going along our route of nearly 1800 miles, we managed to miss the worst of the weather over the holidays.
Considering the snow and deep chill blowing across the country today, I’d say we fared extremely well on our Midwest to East Coast U-Turn to Chicago Odyssey, December 23 to January 3.
As empty-nesters in Detroit with married children and grandchildren in Cleveland and in Chicago, we now spend holidays in a gentle negotiation and navigation between families with in-laws located from coast to coast. We must share.
Though Christmas isn’t our holiday per se, we have taken to spending it lavishly, leisurely, deliciously: traveling. A favorite spot the beach at Kiawah (Charleston, S.C.) Two years ago we spent our most venturesome and memorable Christmas ever with friends. . . in Delhi, India.
Where to this year? A last-minute, impromptu plan: We mapped out a two week trek – setting out for points of interest on a route we had driven many times before but never taken the time to stop and explore.
Now with cameras in hand (and no young children for whom to break for feeding and bathrooms) we were free to wander at will . . . and meander all day. A rare luxury, indeed.
Day One: Northville MI. to Fallingwater, Mill Run, PA, approximately 350 miles.
A gentle rain along the way hardly deterred us, by 2:00 in the afternoon, the winter sky and light were perfect for pictures taken from the lookout points on public trails leading to Fallingwater, Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterpiece. Built between 1936-1939 for the Edgar Kaufmann family (of Kaufmann’s Department store in Pittsburgh), this mountain retreat is a wonder to behold with every changing season. Our timing couldn’t have been better. Closed January and February, Fallingwater will open again with the spring thaw.
Day Two: Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, approximately 150 miles
A bit of history here: Harpers Ferry, at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers, is the site of John Brown’s Raid of 1859 - considered the precursor of the Civil War. In 1785 Thomas Jefferson described the view, standing on “a very high point of land” (now known as Jefferson’s Rock) as “perhaps one of the most stupendous scenes in Nature.” A haven for hikers today, this beautiful historic town is considered the psychological midpoint of the Appalachian Trail. If you’ve never been to Harpers Ferry, go… visit, take a turn on the trail.
Day Three and Four: Washington D.C. about 70 miles
My husband’s hometown, with his alma mater nearby in Baltimore. There’s no family to visit in D.C. any longer, but we had the good fortune to reconnect with friends. Choosing places we had never been, we particularly enjoyed the National Portrait Gallery and the Newseum.
Day Four Christmas Day and Day Five: Chadds Ford, PA, 120 miles
About 30 miles from Philadelphia, Chadds Ford is “Wyeth Country,” home to the Brandywine River Museum which houses an extensive collection of the paintings of N.C. Wyeth, his son Andrew and grandson Jamie. The area is also DuPont Country, home to the vast estates of the once über-rich of the 20th Century. With the expectation of nothing open on Christmas Day, we were delighted to find Longwood Gardens in resplendent holiday display within its 4.5 acres of heated greenhouses. The property once owned by industrialist Pierre S. DuPont is open to the public 7 days a week year round.
Day Six: Cleveland, about 420 miles:
Grocery shopping and dinner with our son and family— preparing to drive westward together for New Year’s in Chicago
Day Seven: Northville, 180 miles
A quick “rest” to pick up steam, heading for a family reunion in Chicago.
Day Eight through Day Twelve Chicago, 240 miles
2 nights in Evanston with my nephew’s family, New Year’s in Lincoln Park with the grandkids. . . worth every mile of the trip.
Day Thirteen : Return to Northville