Friday, August 24, 2018

We Went to Canada! (But First We Stopped at Lowell National Historical Park)

Once again, what I thought would be just a pit stop at a convenient point along our route turned out to be bigger and better and WAY more fascinating!

When the kids asked me what Lowell National Historical Park was about, I was all, like, "I don't know. Factories?"

Indeed. Factories!

But also navigable canals that were built to divert water to power the factories:

And a super-fun trolley to ride around on to see everything while a park ranger sat up front and told us all about it:

The girls and I got the most enjoyment out of a large exhibit on the mill girls, the young women who left the countryside and their family farms to come live and work independently, living in boarding houses with other women from all over:

 The kids and I had a lot of discussions about the trap that this was--of course the wages and opportunities looked amazing to someone just arriving with hay still in their hair, but over time they'd eventually have to see that the wages were barely livable, the workload and hours and tasks completely unsustainable. But what could they do? Even if they quit, there were plenty more young women arriving every day with hay in their hair, gazing around in wonder at the big salaries and full shops.

The exhibit covered what they DID do, which was all kinds of peaceful protests until finally the sea change of labor laws was attained. Sort of, more or less, but that's the subject for many, many more exhibits!

Here's Will in the kids' area, happily weaving on the exact same loom that she takes no interest in at home.
Jack Kerouac was from Lowell, but I was struck by this excerpt from his memoir not because of that, but because he mentions the Anzio beach head, where my Pappa also stormed.
You should always know the location of your local fallout shelter!

 When we were finished seeing all there was to see (for free), the kids earned their Junior Ranger badges--

--back we went to the car for sandwiches and then 5+ hours of the WORST traffic that I have ever driven in. New England highways were just not built to support the number of vehicles that they were seeing on this day in August. First of all, everybody was on vacation, in their overstuffed cars so they couldn't see out the back window, bicycles and kayaks strapped on every which way, or in their giant RVS careening around every curve, driving too slowly and towing cars and forgetting their turn signals. Everybody else was in a semi, taking up acres of lane, inching up every hill and then speeding back down, not letting anyone so much as relax into their cruise control for a full minute. Zipping around all this mess were the locals of every area, cutting people off and changing lanes with no warning and honking their frustration at their regional highway system.

And that's when traffic was actually moving. Mostly it was stalled, or crawling along, because of course everybody has to run their road construction projects during the height of tourist season.

I am completely OVER Massachusetts. And New Hampshire. And great swaths of Pennsylvania and New York. By the time I was finally safely in our cottage in Bar Harbor I was just about beside myself, the closest that I have ever come to a panic attack while alone with the girls. It was... not great.

But our cottage was adorable, run by a lovely old couple. The sandwiches were sauced with the happy tang of being able to eat them while laying on a comfy bed and reading the next book in the Young Wizards series, which Will has gotten me hooked on. And little did I know it, but I was going to be okay, because the traffic would never be that bad again...

...until Toronto, that is, but that's another story for another day!

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