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Day 13: The end of the adventure

June 22, 2019

When in the planning stages, we had debated flying home from Washington instead of NYC if our rental car could be returned there.  But I really wanted to visit Fort McHenry which would be on our way back up to New York.  If I’d thought more about it (and if I knew more of what was in store for us this day) we probably could have flown home from Baltimore instead after visiting the fort.  Ah, hindsight!  But I’m glad we got to stop.  This was one of my favorite places of all.

But first (after getting Nana off to the DC airport to fly home to Ohio) we drove to Annapolis.  The Naval Academy is Colin’s dream school, and we decided we could do a quick stop and saw that there was a museum. There was no parking to be found however, and with little time to waste, Bill finally dropped Colin, David, and me at the museum’s side door.  It was cool to see items from naval history, but I think by this point, we were a little museumed out.  We made a quick trip through the ground floor exhibit, then went upstairs to see their model ship collection.  There were so many! And many very cool ones, but even Colin said, “You’ve seen one, you’ve almost seen them all.”  We did a quick tour and met up with Bill outside to set off for Baltimore.

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Flag from the Battle of Tassafaronga

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This one was carved out of bone:

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From there, it was a fairly quick drive out to Fort McHenry, but we were dismayed to find four school buses there.  Most of the students were out at the fort when we entered the visitor’s center though, and were on their way back to school by the time we were ready to explore the fort.  We got Jr. Ranger books for four kids, but Erik and Anya soon lost interest.  There was a short film just starting in the museum so we joined in that.  It was only about 8 or 10 minutes and gave a background on the fort and its relationship to Baltimore and just what strategic significance it had in the Battle of Baltimore.  

At the battle’s conclusion, Francis Scott Key could see the smoke clear around the fort and saw that the Stars and Stripes was still flying.  Then the national anthem starts playing as you gaze on the flag flying over the fort, then the screen raises up and you see the actual fort out the window with an American flag flying overhead.  It was the most amazing and emotional moment.  Completely worth the drive out here!  In fact, it was one of the most moving moments of this whole entire trip.

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We walked out to the 5-pointed Star Fort and spent a good hour exploring.  It’s really quite small, but you can see the barracks, an officer’s quarters, and the ammunition storage area, where a shell actually landed on that fateful night, but failed to explode. 

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One of the cannonballs fired by the British during the bombardment of the fort, September 1814:

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Most of the other big cannon around the fort are from the Civil War era:

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It reminded me a lot of the Citadel in Halifax, but on a much smaller scale. The little ones could have kept exploring for hours, but by 1:00 we really needed to be going.  Colin and David got their final Jr. Ranger badges and we got back on I-95.

We ordered Chick-fil-A on the way and discovered they sell their lemonade by the gallon!!!  So of course we had to get one, plus eight cups of ice to go with it!  It kept us going clear into New Jersey.

Now–long story short, we got stuck in traffic and almost missed our flight home.  If you want the much longer version, keep reading–

But first, the gorgeous sunset we were rewarded with as we took off:

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We found google maps to be extremely accurate at giving an estimated time of arrival factoring in traffic for all the different places we went.  We had an 8:27 p.m. flight out of JFK and we were projected to get to the airport about 5:40 when we left Baltimore. As we got closer to NYC, our projected arrival time was inching closer to 6:00.  We had wanted to be to the airport in time to avoid rush hour traffic, but there were massive slowdowns showing across Staten Island and on the Belt Parkway in Brooklyn after crossing the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. 

At one point google maps asked if we wanted to go clear back up to the George Washington bridge, across Manhattan, and down through Queens to get to the airport.  It was a similar ETA.  We opted not to choose that route, because who knew what would happen if we got any closer to Manhattan as rush hour loomed.  Then Google would say, “We have found a faster route; to confirm, click accept.” So I’d click and we would be rerouted.  Eventually that put us onto surface streets crossing Brooklyn to get around the slowdown.  And it was MASSIVE!

So we watched our ETA go down and down and down, then it started to go up and up and up as rush hour really and truly happened and more and more cars kept entering the traffic.  We were getting honked at on all sides, for trying to merge, for not trying to merge, for not hauling our 12-passenger van out into the intersection for a left turn before the light changed.  It was ridiculous! Bill asked me how much farther.  13 miles.  But the distance is irrelevant, because it’s still projected to take us almost an hour to reach the airport.  It was almost funny.  Almost.  

Then at the worst possible moment, as we needed to figure out which of three roads would finally put us onto the Parkway heading east past all the slowdowns,* Delta sent me a text informing me that our gate had changed, obscuring the map, and Bill chose the worst possible wrong road which put us on the parkway headed back to the west and directly into all the slowdowns we had been trying to avoid for the past two hours.  And our ETA jumped up 42 minutes even though we only had to go 1.5 miles to turn around.  I was beginning to stress out massively, but Bill told me it would be ok and I managed to keep my blood pressure down and sit patiently.  There was really nothing else I could do.  

With an 8:27 departing flight, we drove into the rental car drop-off about 7:35 p.m.  I admire all those people who can simply pull up, take their suitcase out and go.  We are not those people.  We have to unload 8 people, 4 suitcases, 7 backpacks, two carseats, a baby bed, a stroller, throw away garbage and double check the entire van for anything that still needs to get packed even though I had been fanatically throwing stuff away the entire car trip.  Then it was up to the air train and on to Terminal 2.  At 7:50.  

A very helpful Delta agent promptly informed us that there was no way our flight was happening for us.  But we explained our situation and he explained that baggage has to be checked in one hour prior to departure.  (And really, they give all the millennials who can’t get anywhere on time a 15-minute leeway, but they don’t know that.) But you can’t get on a flight and have your baggage come on a later flight.  So someone has to fly with the baggage.  So there was no way all eight of us would be able to make our flight.  

He conferred with a ticket agent to see what they could do for us–“Hey, Charlie, have I got a problem for you!”

Charlie said we could split up and I envisioned four of us on one flight, and four of us on another the next day, and my mind quickly went to having to leave the airport again with all of our luggage we’d just unloaded, finding a place to stay, more food, etc.  But Charlie said seven of us could all make our flight that night if Bill would agree to stay behind with the luggage.  We could get fast tracked through security and our gate was right over there.  He kept admiring Anya and Sam, and the other guy, said, “Yes, they’re beautiful children, but would ya hurry up?  They need to make their flight!” 

We had to make a split second decision, so we went for it.  They assured me that I could do it with all of my big boys to help me out.  Luckily we remembered to get the car keys from Bill before the original agent literally—in a fabulous Brooklyn accent—yelled at us to hurry, hurry, hurry and run, run, run through security and to the gate.  He was barking orders at all seven of us so we would get through on time.  I was at the rear and just trusted that all the little people were getting through with Colin and David as Andrew was helping me get the stroller and the two car seats and the pack-n-play through the x-ray machines.  We had no time to get anything for dinner.  We had to run right onto the flight with just minutes to spare!

Mercifully Sam slept for half the flight, which got in fifty minutes early, at 11:10 p.m.  We were so grateful as we still had to wait for the parking lot shuttle, find the Suburban, and drive home at what felt like 2:00 in the morning.  

One of my favorite moments came when Sam got out of the car and into the house.  He was so incredibly happy to be home.  From his perspective, he’d been schlepped all over creation, never knowing where he’d end up next, and finally coming to one last house in the dark, the door opens, and there is our dog, and his toys, and all of his familiar things.  He was so very happy! 

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Not so happy–

*The slowdowns on Belt Parkway that day (which we found out later) were due to a massive manhunt going on down by Plumb Beach after an NYPD homicide detective’s car was found abandoned. Literally a hundred officers were out searching, and he was eventually found under a tree, having shot himself in the head, just one day after another NYPD police chief had also committed suicide at the prospect of forced retirement next month and apparently had nothing to look forward to—no wife, no kids, no hobbies; police work was his life.  As bad as our “problems” were, they were nothing comparatively.

We’re happy to be home safe and sound, but our hearts are hurting for NYPD.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Anonymous permalink
    June 22, 2019 8:51 pm

    It made us tired just reading the whole story, but we’re so grateful our grandchildren especially benefitted from the sacrifice of their parents to take them on such a marvelous adventure. The little ones not as much as the big ones, but what memories you made together. We’re not sure we would have held up for 13 days, had we been invited. Kudos for Nana for enduring it well. After such fun for 13 days, one day at Lagoon certainly pales in comparison. Thank you for sharing your love of American history, art, and family, and especially arrnging it to be with us in Carnegie Hall.

    Love, Grandma and Poppa.

  2. Anonymous permalink
    June 23, 2019 5:05 am

    Yes, what an adventure. I’ve enjoyed reading your posts and really enjoyed participating in the adventure. I know my not being able to keep up was a problem but I had a great time with you, Bill and the kids. I think the kids got a lot out of it too and makes it all worthwhile.
    Love Nana

  3. Tamaran Woodland permalink
    June 24, 2019 9:49 am

    I loved reading about your adventures. I miss your family so much. I remember camping out on your living room floor multiple nights when you were hoping E was coming. I can’t believe how big A and C are (and even D!!). Time sure does fly.

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