San Diego to Elk Rapids (MI) to Shrewsbury (MA)

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Well, we’ve been having so much fun driving across the country for the last few weeks that we have neglected the blog. Around the middle of December we finally traded in our Southern California t-shirts and shorts for Northern Michigan parkas and boots and drove 2,600 miles across the country in four days to visit Jenna’s family for the start of the holidays. We followed much of historic Route 66 along the way. Our overnight stops included Albuquerque (840 miles), Springfield MO (827 miles), and Chicago (520 miles) before arriving in Elk Rapids, Michigan (333 miles). Immediately after we crossed the country we had the pleasure of enjoying a Midwest holiday blizzard in a beautiful house by a frozen lake, celebrating the holidays in-style AND early-style with Jenna’s parents, grandmother, sister, brother-in-law, 2 cousins, 2 uncles, and an aunt. We had a great time, played a LOT of hearts, connected with family, and the kids got to experience a white pre-Christmas. Leo even had the opportunity to operate a snow blower.

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Although we pushed pretty hard to get across the country on our way to Michigan, including a couple of 12+ hour days with speeds that more than occasionally topped 100 miles per hour, the distance we’ve covered so far on this leg is less than the 3,000 miles we plan to cover on Sophie on the Marquesas leg. We live in a really big country, and the ocean we are about to cross is even bigger.

After a week or so in Elk Rapids, we decided to drive 890 miles in a single shot on Christmas Eve to Shrewsbury MA to visit with my parents and family. We left Michigan around 8:30 at night and pulled into the Utzschneider’s driveway 12 hours and 45 minutes later. Along the way we crossed a long stretch of Ontario, saw the mists rising off of Niagara Falls, and felt that pleasant sense of familiarity for both of us as we returned to the commonwealth of our childhood. I started to drop my “r’s and Jenna pretty much smiled the entire time we were on the Pike.

While in Mass for a week, we saw my parents, some more of my brothers and sisters (I have 8, you know … and I am the quiet, shy one), celebrated Christmas with my beloved older children Sara and Max, and did even more hanging out.

We then decided to do another road trip and spent nights in Kennett Square, PA (Mushroom Capital of the world), Baltimore, and NYC to visit with 2 of Jenna’s sisters, 2 of my sisters and one of my brothers. We are now back in Shrewsbury for another week before we begin our migration south and west to return to Sophie.

A key theme for this entire trip has been “Cousin-Palooza” for Leo and Hazel because they’ve had the chance to play/sled/bowl/dimsum with 10 cousins so far, and we expect to connect with another 5 before we take off next week. It’s really important for them to know their extended family of 21 cousins before all of the weddings start in the next few years.

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We’ve have traveled 5,080 miles since we left San Diego 3 weeks ago. What a big country.

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