Reality Bites by James A. Norton

What do you get when you combine 6 days, 2500 miles of driving and some UFO-like synchronized windmills? A week of heaven with my family, of course.

You may or may not have heard that I became a grandfather recently. What you probably didn’t know is that my daughter, her husband, their newborn baby and my son all live in the middle of nowhere, Illinois. I’m not saying their town is small, but, you have to travel to the next town just to get to any kind of store. That’s rural, folks.

So my wife and I piled our SUV to the brim with stuff for baby Naomi Kiara Rose Harrison and her parents and headed off on I-90 determined to make it to Illinois by the end of the next day. That’s 1200 miles in one direction in case you were wondering. Do the math for yourself.

The first leg of our trip was to make it to Buffalo NY and spend the night and we left at 3:30 in the afternoon on a Sunday. Now I have to say that Buffalo is a really pretty city; however, no urban setting is warm and fluffy at midnight and we were met with homeless crackheads when we pulled up to the hotel. Thankfully the hotel staff displaced the riff raff and we were able to pass out within ten minutes of arriving.

The next day we woke up and teased ourselves with the possibility of driving to Niagara Falls, but, we had 666 miles left to travel. Yes, you read that right, let’s move on. So off we went at Noon on Monday and headed towards Illinois filled with the thoughts of seeing Princess Naomi. What happened over that devilishly long drive was not troublesome, just relentless miles that kept on coming and a hotel that was luckily able to check us in at sometime after 1am.

The next day we woke up ready to see the new addition to our brood and headed over to the Harrisons and my life changed for the better, once again. Walking into the room and seeing my little girl as a grown-up mommy now and her beautiful baby girl in her arms struck me like a lightning bolt. Not a lot of moments better than that have happened in my life, and I treasure each of them.

In the meantime, my son texted me asking where I was, but, I didn’t see my phone right away and although he lives only six houses up the street in a ridiculously small town, he didn’t look down the street when he went to work. If he had, he would have seen me standing in front of their house waving at him like a mad man. We had missed each other, but, he works in a store in the next town, and I figured we would go visit him at work. That was fun just popping into his work and surprising him. It was nice to see him with a huge smile and happy to see his father. Made me feel all warm and squishy inside, and I treasure those moments as well.

We spent the next day and a half as if we hadn’t missed a beat in each others lives – like no time had passed since we last saw each other. It was really something special, and almost impossible for me to describe and that’s really saying something. That baby has a ton of clothes and useful items we brought with us and it was really nice to give these things to my daughter and son in law and most importantly, their beautiful baby girl.

So the time came to head back home and as always, saying goodbye was just as heart breaking as it was when my kids were young and we they had to go back to their mother or go off to school, whatever the situation called for. Those feelings are not fun, so it was with a heavy heart we gave kisses, hugs and a few tears and hopped into the Mazda to go back home to Boston.

It was a dark, rainy and terribly windy day, which made driving at any reasonable speed incredibly difficult. It made the drive tremendously stressful and physically demanding, so much so that there was no way I was making Buffalo without crashing the car, so Cleveland was going to be our stop for the evening. We stayed at a fantastic hotel and woke up the next morning ready for the next leg in our journey, not expecting to be held up by anyone or anything. Well we didn’t expect the city itself to be such a pleasant distraction, but it was.

We drove around a little bit taking pictures of the beautiful downtown area, the buildings, the ball field, the monuments – and landed at Starbucks in the warehouse district. Nothing wrong with grabbing a peppermint mocha for the drive ahead. As we walked outside – the FirstEnergy Stadium – home of the Browns – loomed large in front of us and ahead of the lake behind it. It was then that I realized that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is somewhere on the same lake near the stadium and we drove in search of the building, if for nothing else, then to take some pictures.

Throwing caution and the ride that loomed ahead to the wind – we decided to park the car and head inside and make it an experience. It was far better than we had imagined and had a blast over the next three hours, but we had completely crushed any chance of making it all the way to Boston, so, we made reservations for literally the best room you could stay in on the US side of Niagara Falls – we could literally see everything right outside our window and after an utterly delicious Italian dinner, we made it to our room just in time to catch the fireworks that happen every Friday night.

The next morning, still tired, we woke up and grabbed a coffee and headed to the Falls – which were far colder and wetter than anyone could prepare you for, but it was worth it. We took selfies less than 30 yards from the Falls and had yet another incredible memory in this incredible journey we are on together. It was with a fair amount of happiness, tiredness and anxiousness that we finally were on our way on the final leg of our return trip – straight East towards the Bean.

We finally got home after about 15 stops to counter sleepiness and found the house was still standing, nobody was hospitalized and things were fairly normal, which has not always been the case when we have gone away for a night, nevermind six. We were back to our normal life – with yet another week of happy memories behind us and our lives changed forever. I miss my little Mocha Chip. #GMK

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