The trouble was that, although my GPS estimated a 3 hour and 40 minute trip, I would be driving straight through the morning commute of what seemed like the entire East Coast, including cutting right past New York City. How much extra to allow for this? One hour? Two? I finally decided on a one hour estimate, because, frankly, it would be easier for Matt to hang out at the airport an extra hour to wait on us than for us to hang out at the airport an extra hour to wait for him.
With that settled, we packed up the car, said goodbye to Mac, secured his promise to mail us all the things that we had surely forgotten under couches and behind bookshelves, and found our spot in the bumper-to-bumper traffic slowly edging its way down the East Coast.
It was by far my most stressful drive, sure, but I kept myself going by thinking, "I'm going to pick up Matt; I'm going to pick up Matt," and at one point Syd said from the backseat, "I like it best when you drive, Momma, because you let us help you look for exit signs!" I do, too. Even though a child has never actually been the one to say to me, "Oh, there's the exit there on the left--half mile!", somehow it makes me *feel* like I'm getting some navigational help when I tell them both to help me look out for it.
But in the end we made it! I didn't rear-end or get rear-ended by anybody, I DID make the wrong turn around New York City that I feared I'd make, but that wrong turn didn't then send me through the streets of Manhattan as I'd feared it would, I did have enough money for all the tolls (we avoided all the turnpikes before and after this one trip, but I was afraid to take the time to detour on this leg), I did figure out where the pick-up for Matt's airline was, and, running more like an hour and a half past the GPS estimate but about ten minutes out from the airport, I did get a call from Matt saying that he was off the plane, headed towards the exit, and could meet me out front in, oh, ten minutes?
And yes, I did pull up to the curb, get out of the drivers's seat, give Matt a hug, and then hop my butt right into the passenger's side. I felt a tiny bit guilty about throwing Matt into the deep end of city traffic right after his early morning flight, but oh, did my neck and shoulder muscles need to de-stress!
So that's how poor Matt, after a short night's sleep, an early morning trek to the airport, and a long plane flight with a layover, found himself driving his family minivan into downtown Philadelphia. I knew that I wanted to see some history, but I hadn't been certain enough of our timeline that day to actually make any reservations, so we only got to see Independence Hall from the outside across the street--
--but the Visitor's Center did have reenactors (Willow flat-out refused to walk up to the patriot and tell him that she was tired of British oppression and wanted to enlist), the most boring film about the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution ever made (seriously, it was so boring that it almost cycled back around to interesting, because you kept thinking, "HOW could this movie be so BAD?!?"), and a gift shop, where a certain little girl could continue her stuffed animal acquisition crusade by purchasing a stuffed bald eagle:
We were able, by waiting in line for a bit, to see the Liberty Bell up close:
--and fortunately, there's a lovely, grassy park right next to it, facing Independence Hall across a street closed to most traffic--
--and it was a lovely place to run around, catch up on all the accumulated gossip of a week apart, and, of COURSE, eat Philly Cheesesteak Sandwiches:
There's a ton more to do in Philadelphia, of course, but we chose an early night of it, heading to our hotel for a swim, a movie, a take-out dinner, and an early bedtime, because tomorrow--
--we were headed back to Sesame Place!