It was another blazing hot day on the farm in Rhode Island. I was sitting in the still air of the dining room, trying to remember what air conditioning felt like and wondering how the hell I was going to get from Mt. Desert Island, ME, to Rochester, NY, without losing my mind.
From the beginning of this trip, I'd wanted to avoid long stretches of driving so I could actually enjoy the drive itself.
I'm the kind of person that likes a long road trip and has excellent stamina for driving hours on end. Too bad the same can't be said for watching ballet or learning to play new board games. (Any games I've already learned to play are subject to the rules of my memory, which are usually modified ad hoc according to how lazy I'm feeling at the moment. "Score? No, we don't have to keep score. I'm pretty sure I won, though.")
But on this trip, I needed short stints if I was going to make it around the entire country. I couldn't afford to start hating driving.
The Adirondacks in upstate New York was a perfect midway point, and I called a friend who generously offered to let me stay at the family cabin on Lake George when I asked for suggestions of places to visit and crash.
These little miracles happen often enough when traveling to make me never want to stop. They also make it far easier to ignore the inevitable disasters that make you never want to travel again.
Before I embarked on this trip, I mapped out all of my intended destinations, checking routes and, for the most part, securing lodging. I knew I'd have to wing some of it from the road.
I could not have anticipated the amount of constant communication required to find places to stay. With so many options open at once, it could take hours in one sitting to route and reroute itineraries until I was certain I had somewhere to sleep.
Never knowing where I was going until a few days out was fun for a few weeks. Then it grew tiresome. Longer runways were needed to confirm a couch. I had to start planning more in advance.
With Lake George more or less settled, I slapped shut my laptop on the dining room table and looked out the window at the dusty, hot farm. It all seemed eons away as I got up to check on the pigs.
The Adirondacks still felt eons away as I drove eight hours on no sleep from the Maine coast, showing up at the cabin mid-afternoon with my head completely done in from the drive. I stood in the living room and felt, for the hundredth time, my stuff slide like sandbags from my shoulders and land unceremoniously on the floor.
I was getting used to this twinge upon arrival, the one that glues your feet to the ground and says, "What do you really need to do outside of this room, anyway? Explore nature? You know what trees look like. Go sit down."
Much like pre-schoolers or bombastic men, these thoughts go away if you nod and play along at first; then you can do whatever you want once they're pacified.
Obeying the lazies, I found succor in cable television and the promise of going on a long walk the next day. Absorbed in the histrionics of The Real Kardashians of Project Survivor, my body and brain remained blissfully inert until the next morning.
I woke up the next morning thrilled that I'd actually slept, and spent the day walking around the lake for a few hours.
Lake what you see? Ha.
Found on a walk. Just don't bother making high-brow jokes or asking them for tax advice.
When I returned in the afternoon, a neighbor flagged me down and, after chatting for a few minutes, offered me full use of his kayak. (I don't know how to say that without it sounding like a euphemism.)
Within the hour I launched into the lake, blinking in disbelief at my good luck and the beatific weather.
I realized with smug satisfaction that this was the kind of experience broke-ass me in my twenties hated hearing about: "Ohhh, I went to this beautiful place and did this amazing thing and it was transformative and gorgeous and blah blah blah wine blah blah blah you simply must if you can."
The lake was stunning: crisp air and crystalline water on a perfectly sunny day. I weaved my way through the inlets, paddling around small, rocky islands rife with evergreens. It was after Labor Day, so only a few boats were out, and I rode their wake with my elbows bent and paddle aloft, taking it all in.
I hope you hate hearing about this, too. That's how I'll know it was really worth it.
Taken from the dock, not the kayak. A purebred klutz knows better than to bring a phone on the water.
That night I sat on the deck, half-naked and half-remembering the names of the constellations above me. Why yes, they were Adirondack chairs. Why do you ask?
The next morning, I went on another long, meandering walk before leaving for Rochester, NY, where I'd be staying with a friend's parents for a couple of nights.
I packed up, triple-checked the ineluctable shut-down list -- as unique to every cabin as a set of freckles -- and set off for Rochester, my brain doing double-takes as the weekend's memories were cataloged and began to gel, my eyes on the road and looking for more surprises along the way.