As the alarm sounded at four in the morning, Ed and I groggily forced our eyes open, turned on the lights, and began the final steps to be ready to leave on our big summer trip. We had taken care of most of the details the night before, but we still had to make our breakfast sandwiches, lunch sandwiches, and finish packing those last one or two things.
At 4:40, Ed's phone rang, letting us know that our shuttle was less than 15 minutes away, and before we knew it, we were on our way out.
About 4 minutes away from home, Ed turned to me. "So, I'm about 90% sure I forgot to pack my pants for the wedding," Ed said. Oops.
From the beginning, this was a trip about learning how to be flexible, especially when things were out of our control.
We picked up one other passenger (though our driver had trouble finding her at first). I was stressed out a little, as Ed had "doctored" our flight time when he booked the shuttle so that we wouldn't get there unduly early, and I worried we would end up cutting it too close. I could mostly make out the times the other passengers were due to be picked up, and the third one had the same time as our flight. Luckily, that passenger was picked up after we got dropped at the airport, and we had plenty of time before our lovely 6:30am flight.
The first leg of our trip took us from San Jose to Denver, Colorado and it wasn't a very full flight, so Ed and I got a whole row to ourselves. We were sleepy but excited to be on our way.
Not too far into the trip, we were already flying over the Sierras, and were gifted with a beautiful view of a lake (perhaps Mono?)
Once the flight landed, and most of the passengers departed, we were encouraged to grab ourselves some better seats for the 4 1/2 hour second flight. Needless to say, we moved ourselves up to the first row, where we had over double the leg room, and could still enjoy having the window seat without feeling "trapped" in.
Now, coming into this, we had 4 drink coupons burning a hole in our pockets that we had every intention of using on the flight. However, going on 3 hours of sleep, plus the early hour meant that neither of us felt like having alcohol. Ed will, surely have a use for them for some work travel, so we didn't feel too badly abstaining.
The second part of the flight seemed surprisingly quick, and before we knew it, we were flying over New Jersey - a surprising (to me) beautiful, heavily wooded state. Once we got closer to the airport, it definitely got more urban, but the part further out look gorgeous. As we began our descent, one of our flight attendents began serenading us with a song - pretty cool.
The next phase our our travel was via train and, after grabbing our bags, we headed to the trains. Now, we had two train times, the "goal" time of 4:37 and the "practical" time of 5:15. When we reached the ticket machines, we had a bit of trouble getting it to take our cards, and I became increasily stressed, thinking we were purchasing tickets for the 4:37 train.
We got our tickets and I rushed to board the "train" with Ed trailing behind. Once we got on and the doors shut, I realized two things. First, this wasn't the train, this was the tram that took us to the train station. Second, our tickets were not for a specific time. I took a few breaths, relaxed, and was able to see my first view of the New York skyline.
While it was super hot outside, the station had this great waiting room with air conditioning that made the wait more than comfortable. We called our friends, Steven and Hilary, to let them know that we were going to be on the 5:15, and before we knew it, we were on our way to Princeton.
Steven and Hilary are friends that Ed has known for a while, but I've only known since they've lived across the country, which means that I haven't gotten to spend all that much time with them, so Ed and I were really looking forward to spending three days with them.
Our first evening, we were treated to culinary delights that left Ed inspired (to the point that once we were home, Ed insisted that we try to partially recreate some of these meals). When we got there, we had caprese (mozzerella, tomato, basil, and a drizzle of olive oil), which was perfect after a long day of travel.
Once we got our fill, we went with Hilary to take her son, Phil to the pool, and after, it was time for a bit of rest, and then dinner. Steven made us a delicious meal of polenta, sausage, and kale (after this, Ed insisted we find kale at the farmer's market and recreate the kale and polenta at home). We ate outside, once the heat and humidity of the day calmed down, and I was treated with my first (and only) sight of a firefly! It really was magical. While I don't, as a rule, like bugs, fireflies were every bit as special as I imagined.
Our last event of the night was, as is typical among our group of friends, was a board game, and, for this night, I was taught a new one, "Settlers of Catan." While I very much sucked this first night, I had a great time, learned how to play, and enjoyed a delicious glass of chocolate raspberry wine. As the hour turned late, Ed and I finally headed to bed, very happy and glad to be on the East Coast.