Wednesday, August 22, 2018

We Went to Canada! (But First We Stopped at Steamtown National Historic Site)

We're baaaaaaaack!

There were so many firsts and brand-new-to-us experiences in our Great Canada Road Trip!

  1. This is the longest trip the kids and I have taken together--sixteen days of travel!
  2. This was the longest time that Syd has been away from her father--he joined us in Quebec City, after ten days of travel without him.
  3. This was the longest that I've traveled without Matt, with something like 40 hours of driving before he joined us. Frankly, it was too much for me, especially the long drives that I had to schedule to get us halfway across the dang country and back. Lesson freaking LEARNED.
  4. This was our first visit to Maine! It was also the kids' first drive through New Hampshire, but I'm not counting that as a "new state" for them, because all we did was drive through it. We don't count states unless we do something in them!
  5. This was the girls' first trip to Canada, and only my second. It was their first border crossing by car, and my first time driving in Canada.
  6. It was my first time driving in a French-language area! I am NOT functionally literate in French...
Even though I wanted our road trip to focus on Canada, we saw several US sites on the way there and back, primarily because it takes SO long to get where I wanted in Canada--over 20 hours of driving! I broke it down into 3-ish days, with the idea on the first day we'd drive 10.5 hours and get it over with, and then for the next days we could spend the morning somewhere interesting, and spend the afternoon and early evening driving to our next stop. 

So here we are bright and early, the day after a 10.5-hour drive into Pennsylvania, checking out the Steamtown National Historic Site:

By now you likely know that we visit these widely varied national park sites entirely because the children are obsessed with earning Junior Ranger badges, and we will go to ANY national park site that has one on offer. I am always surprised, however, how even the most dull-looking site (sorry, Steamtown!), one that I'd never consider visiting without the motivation of a Junior Ranger badge to earn, is always so much more than it seems--so much more interesting, so much more to do, so much more fun!

And so it was with Steamtown. Chosen solely because it lay directly in my path a good day's drive from our hometown, it was actually absolutely fascinating. It had tons of real TRAINS!

This, we learned, is a roundhouse, and when we saw one later in Toronto, Will and I were able to immediately recognize and identify it:

You can approach nearly all of the trains:

Notice the exhaust vent above each train's chimney in the repair area. Clever!

And explore inside several:

Can you see a tiny Syd? She's in there ringing the bell.
mail train
creeper outside of a dining car

The museum also had loads of interesting artifacts from the heyday of commercial train travel:

There's always something on-point when applied to current affairs. Those who don't remember history are doomed to repeat it...

The kids had a happy time earning their Junior Ranger badges and exploring the site--

Will's bemused expression is because Syd and I were standing on a balcony overlooking the first floor and quietly calling her name only until she heard us and looked around. Then we'd stand still until she thought she was imagining things and went back to her business, and then we'd call for her again. It took sooooooo long before it occurred to her to look up, and even then it was likely only because Syd and I were cracking up too hard to stay properly quiet.

Afterwards, I was even able to have some time to myself at a picnic table with an apple and a book while the kids geocached two or three caches that were in the area--bliss!

Of course, after THAT I tried to leave town and discovered that every single exit to the turnpike in Scranton was closed with no warning and no marked detours. We circled the city endlessly, griping about how Scranton was never going to let us leave, until I finally gave up and calculated an alternate, longer route to Lowell, Massachusetts. I was able to find an on-ramp for THAT path, until, safely out of city limits, joy of joys, there was again a sign for the turnpike! I took the exit, thrilled that I was back on track, could save myself that extra hour+ of driving, and maybe even make up all the time I'd lost wandering around Scranton.

Until several minutes later, when we recognized a billboard and realized that the path to the turnpike was doing nothing but leading us back to Scranton, where every on-ramp to the turnpike was blocked...

Welcome to driving in New England!

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