When I left for Dublin at the end of last summer, I thought a lot about the idea of leaving and coming back. I spent hours imagining what adventures awaited me in Ireland. Everything became an adventure, whether I was walking on the Giant’s Causeway or walking across campus with my laundry in tow. Ordinary tasks became extraordinary ones because I was in Ireland.
My friends and I would often take a moment on our trips–Galway, Cashel, Dublin, Belfast, wherever we were–to pause, look at each other, smile really big, and just say, “Guys. We’re in Ireland.”
This typically led to all of us grinning rather goofily and jumping up and down at least once or twice.
Anyway, going home has been, while relaxing… a bit dull. Not because I wasn’t standing next to Lis on the Cliffs of Moher, or because my letters are addressed with Forever stamps instead of International stamps–more because of the small things, I think. Laundry isn’t an annoying adventure that takes me across a 400 year old campus, trains don’t drop me at Howth for hiking and seafood chowder. In short, ordinary tasks became ordinary again.
And that is one of the reasons I jumped at the chance to spend spring break of my senior year on a road trip with the lovely Meryl. Other reasons included: Meryl is the best, road trips are awesome, and Ithaca is gorges.
Yes, we did use that pun at least ten times a day while we were there. No, we did not get bored of it. We were still using it when we hit Michigan.
The decision to go on a road trip went something like this. I got a text from Meryl asking about my spring break plans (“What are you doing for break?” “Nothing, why?” “Want to go camping with me?!?” “Sure, why not!”). We met up later that day to grab some BLATs and head to our English class (children’s lit, entitled The Cat in the Sorting Hat).
“Hey, so, you realize everywhere’s still going to be a bit cold for camping?” I asked her. We discussed other options, comparing what our friends were doing for break, trying to figure out somewhere warm. I mentioned that someone had told me they were going to Niagara Falls.
“… Have you ever been to Canada?”
“I’ve never been to Canada, have you ever been to Canada?”
“I’ve never been to Canada. I have a passport, do you have a passport?”
“I have a passport, do you have a passport?”
“I have a passport!”
“Hey,” Meryl said.
“Yeah?” I said.
“Let’s go to Canada.”
“… Let’s do it.”
And that is how we found ourselves planning a road trip four days before spring break started.
As with any good road trip, there were sights to be seen, friends to be visited, adventures to be had, and songs from Wicked to be sung at the top of our lungs as we drove through Canada.
That’s right. I drove in Canada. Let me tell you, that switch from MPH to km/hr is rather terrifying at first, but once you get the hang of it, it’s pretty chill. Unlike some countries I could name, Canada still has people driving on the right side of the road.
We stayed with some of Meryl’s friends from her time in Seville, who are all super awesome. We also had a lot of delicious food.
Things were a bit frozen. We drove through a bit of snow… which was totally fine, because then we got to see KERRY!
Hey, Ker. Thanks for bringing us snacks and watching The Holiday with us and for treating us to dinner, which was super awesome of you.
After our snowy time in Rochester, we headed right to the original destination of the road trip: Niagara Falls.
Let me tell you, Canadian border control is intense. “What’s your name? How do you know each other? Are you staying overnight in Canada? How long are you going to be here? What are you here for? What time do you plan to exit Canada? Are you carrying any firearms? Pepper spray?”
That last one isn’t an exaggeration. Who knew they were so particular about pepper spray in Canada?
We stayed for about two hours or so before hitting the road again (after all, we had the entire Wicked soundtrack to sing through before reaching Michigan).
Canada might have been a first for us, but so was Michigan. I’d never seen Ann Arbor before, and I have to admit: I fell completely in love. Cute coffee shops. Amazing libraries.
and the bookstores!
The first one Sarah (Meryl’s friend from Seville who kindly let us crash at her place) took us to was a used bookstore called Dawn Treader Books. Unfortunately for me, neither Sarah nor Meryl have ever read The Chronicles of Narnia, and the reference was lost on them.
There were books everywhere. It was even crazier than my personal favorite used bookstore, Last Word Bookshop.
The next was not a used bookstore, and as such a bit less scattered. It was beautifully arranged, full of fun titles, staff recommendations, and even Out of Print’s awesome bookcover t-shirts. Basically, I wanted to move in immediately. Alas, it was not to be. I’ll be back some day, Literati.
Look at those new Penguin Classics. Lovely, lovely, lovely.
After marveling at the bookstores, we spent some amount of time exploring the University of Michigan Art Museum, which made me rather wish that Penn had a free art museum. Don’t get me wrong, I practically live at the Museum as is (I’m an anthro major. It comes with the territory.)–still, it would be nice to have a place to take visitors who don’t have PennCards.
In short, this road trip was one adventure after another that involved meeting at least ten of Meryl’s friends from her time in Spain (including her program director), staying in a hotel like Grown Up People, surviving a winter storm named Vulcan, the coolest bookstores ever, Meryl and Topanga (her camera) being awesome…
… and cherry flavored everything.
The night before we left this lovely town of Ann Arbor, Meryl and I couldn’t even figure out what time it was. As one might imagine, this led to a fit of laughter.
You know you’re on a road trip when you don’t know what time zone you’re in.
I love Philadelphia. I really do. It’s been a home to me more than any other place I’ve lived. Still, it was lovely to get out for a while, and to make those ordinary tasks (repacking suitcases, visiting new bookstores) just a little bit more extraordinary.