I love our van

One thing that made me a little nervous about our vacation was how we were going to get back. See, on the drive there it was only the boys and me; Leah had gone down earlier in a friend's car with the dogs and all the luggage she needed for a six-day trip where she also had to bring several computers and microphones. The boys and I packed light when it came to clothes and toiletries—that was easy—but we did bring a big bag of books and a big bag of games and snacks and a cooler... and all four bikes. So how were we to arrange everything for the return trip? I worried about it. In the end, though, it wasn't even that hard!

the van packed for the trip home, with bike wheels strapped to the right-hand wall

a thing of beauty

I did the packing while everybody else took one last trip to the beach. I knew the bikes were the main sticking point: two can go on the rack, but more than that is a little sketchy on the highway. But with the pedals and front wheel off Zion's strapped down beautifully on the roof, and with both wheels off Elijah's tucked very nicely agains the wall. I secured the wheels and everything else with tie-downs so nothing would fall on the dogs, and they had all kinds of space to lie down. Minivans are awesome.

It all went so well, I think we need to take another trip!

the van seen from the side with Zion's bike on the roof

adventuremobile

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two beaches

Basically what we did on vacation was go to the beach. As on past visits, we divided our swimming time between two beaches: one on the Bay side in Truro within easy walking distance of the house, and the other at the National Seashore in Eastham. Each had their appeal!

Zion and Elijah running from the waves on the beach in Truro

all beaches are best

The Bay side beach is easy to get to: a seven-minute walk away or, new this year, a two-minute bike ride (though none of us dared to stair-ride the giant multiflight wooden staircase down to the sand). It tends to be calm, and pretty empty since the only people who can access it are the ones who have houses in the neighborhoods above the bluff. This year there was actually a little chop the first day we were there, which was fun. When it's calm it's great for swimming, and it's always great for walking in the morning or evening.

the boys walking along the shore of calm Cape Cod Bay

peaceful

Our other favorite, Coast Guard Beach in Eastham, is far away. In fact, there are accessible ocean beaches much nearer to hand, especially in early June before the sticker parking restrictions kick in. But those beaches aren't accessed via the world's most fun bike path, the Nauset Path, that runs over the dunes for a little over a mile from the free parking at the visitors center to the beach. This year, on his geared bike, Lijah was able to ride the whole thing!

Elijah biking up the second-to-last hill on the path to the beach

almost there!

The main attraction of the beaches on the ocean side is the waves. This year they weren't particularly big, especially when we arrived a bit after 10:00, but that was alright: we had some intense experiences last year that may have soured one of us on even talking about waves for the past ten months. They were enough to be interesting to the boys! We were also not deterred by the cold water; I overheard someone saying that it was 57°F, but it felt at least 65° and Harvey and Zion at least spent two solid hours mostly submerged. Lijah and I had to take breaks, but we still had lots of fun.

Harvey and Zion playing in the waves

moderate breakers, immoderate fun

The only bad part about the outing, in fact, was how hard it was to find ice cream afterwards! The first three places we visited were closed (that's not counting Ben & Jerry's, which was too expensive to contemplate). We were saved by PJ's Family Restaurant who had reasonably priced cones and awesome flavors (campfire s'mores!); everything we could want, in fact, except shade. So we ate in the cemetery across the street.

Zion and Elijah eating ice cream

at least we weren't sitting on the graves..

That was an outing. Lots of fun, but also tiring. So that evening we were glad to make another visit to the quieter beach. And then again the next morning, and...

sculptures of tiny rocks we made on the beach

when you're on the beach for the sixth time in three days...

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to the Cape!

We were only away for three days—two nights—so I have no excuse for ignoring the blog all last week. There's even proof that I'm even able to blog from the road! But vacationing is tiring, and it took me the rest of the week to recover from all that fun. Now we're trying to get back to normal, so here's the tale of what we got up to on our delightful escape.

Zion standing on a breakwater looking at the Canal

new vistas

We left early on Monday morning. Not as early as the boys wanted, but it wasn't so easy to get everything ready and packed as a single parent (Leah was already on the Cape for her conference; we were going to join her). It was especially stressful because I was worried how all the plants would do: the extreme heat that made a trip to the seaside look extra appealing was also a threat to my poor seedlings. But we got everything squared away in time to hit the road before 9, which I think is pretty respectable. And with lunches packed, we had plenty of time to stop along the way!

Our first side trip was just after the bridge over the canal. All the years we've been visiting the Cape we've gone over it—and noticed the bike paths running on each side—but never stopped for a visit. No more! On the spur of the moment I took the exit after the canal and then followed the signs to the Canal Visitor Center. Which, it turns out, was both closed and not contiguous to the bike path, but it did have a parking lot and a gravelly path along the last little bit of canal to a beach, which is probably even better. I didn't let the boys get too wet, since we had a ways to go yet and no way to easily access the dry clothes in the car, but we still managed to have a good bit of beachy fun exploring, skipping rocks, and collecting shells.

the boys walking towards the calm beach

we haven't done this in a while!

At the canal it was still too early for lunch, so we got back on the road aiming to hit the National Seashore visitor center at lunchtime. We pulled in a couple minutes before noon; when the boys objected I reminded them that it *would take a little time to get the lunches out of the car and find a spot to eat and all. After lunch we took a walk on the trails around the salt pond. There's a short guided path stuffed with informative signs telling us about some of the plants and the history of the area, but what I mostly noticed was the proliferation of invasive species that were battling it out for control of the area.

Harvey and Elijah walking on a path towards the Salt Pond

oceanside hike

The walk was a little more than a mile, which felt too long for boys who were eager to get to Truro and the beach there. But they endured it, which I appreciated because I was really enjoying the chance to wander and explore. That's the best part of traveling! Well, one of the best parts. The snacks and the audiobook are also pretty nice, and the boys appreciated those unreservedly. There was also an unexpected treat: drinking fountains are open again! We really missed them last summer, and it was thrilling to be able to get a drink on the road again. And necessary in the 90°F heat!

Zion drinking from a drinking fountain

a long-awaited treat

That was just the drive there—after that we actually had a few days of vacation. But it was enough adventure enough for a post of its own. The rest will have to wait... maybe I can milk the trip to fill a whole week of blogging!

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moments from the week

the boys wading in the smooth water of Cape Cod Bay by the canal

a summer vacation!

Moments from the past week.

a red squirrel sitting on the side of a tree

this guy

the boys playing in the ocean

ocean fun!

the boys sitting together on the beach

vacation togetherness

Zion and Elijah with the little cannon in Welfleet

always play with cannons

the boys and friends looking at a plane landing at Hanscom

planespotting with friends

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reporting live from vacation

It turns out that going away is hard for me now! Like Sophie in Howl's Moving Castle I found myself coming up with all kinds of reasons why I shouldn't leave home, and despite the boys' excitement I maybe didn't hurry all that I could have this morning. Still, we got out at a very reasonable time, and after a couple delightful adventurous stops we arrived here in Truro a little after lunch, in plenty of time for a long and relaxed vacation afternoon. And while I didn't do everything I had hoped for at home, I did manage a lot of it. One glaring failure was forgetting to pick the strawberries: I kept putting it off as I ran around doing other things, then it slipped my mind before the end. It's disappointing, because they're doing really well and some of them will definitely go bad before we get home again. Is the time on the beach worth it? I'm not sure! As I say, leaving home is feeling hard! Two more days of the trip; we'll see how I do.