Caren Hahn
Headless Horseman statue in Sleepy Hollow, NY

Capping off 2020 with a spontaneous cross-country trip

Ah, 2020. I have such conflicted feelings for you! You've brought sorrow, fear, uncertainty, disaster, health crises, unemployment, civil unrest, a nightmarish election, and now disappointing holidays.

But you've also brought our family closer together, opened our eyes to social injustices, given us a new perspective on education, and created some unforgettable memories. You've changed me. And I hope it's for the better.

With the prospect of my oldest kids leaving home soon, we began 2020 by planning a big cross-country trip for the summer, the kind of vacation we've dreamed about for years.

Then COVID-19 happened.

Everything closed down. Travel stopped. Events were canceled.

Spring was a series of one blow after another.

Summer was heavy with uncertainty.

But Fall? Fall was the magic time when stars aligned. School was remote, sports were postponed, and places were finally opening up. So we stocked up on masks and sanitizer, loaded up our 12-passenger van, and hit the road!

In 30 days we passed through 23 states and visited dozens of historical and cultural sites. We became experts on social distancing and portable sanitization. We made plans on-the-fly, letting things go when they didn't work out. And we met wonderfully kind people of all nationalities who reminded us of our shared humanity.

Some of the unforgettable moments:

  • Gorgeous fall colors in New England
  • Standing on the steps of the Supreme Court the day the newest Justice was confirmed
  • Touring the 9/11 Museum in New York City (Note to self: bring tissues.)
  • Mailing my election ballot at the site of the original Jamestowne Settlement (who knew they had a post office?)
  • Seeing a dead body in Nashville (I said 'unforgettable,' not 'enjoyable.')
  • Freezing in the sleet at the beautiful, even sacred, 9/11 Memorial in Shanksville, PA
  • Touring the recently restored Mayflower II in Plymouth, MA
  • Standing on an empty subway platform in NYC in the middle of the day and wondering where all the people were
  • A Haunted Ghost Walk in Colonial Williamsburg
  • Monument to the victims of the Salem witch trials
  • My first COVID test! (I learned my nasal passages are incredibly tickly.)
  • Seeing Washington Irving's grave in the cemetery where the Headless Horseman begins his nightly ride
  • Visiting extended family (Which we appreciate even more now that increased social restrictions are limiting holiday plans.)

After all of 2020's uncertainty, this trip felt like a gift. We rode the ups and downs of spending a month in a van together and came out stronger for it. And now that we're home, we appreciate having our own space so much more!

2020 has been rough. Even downright brutal. But there have been some bright moments too. I hope that as the year winds down, we'll all see some more bright moments before it's through!

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