Over the past several weeks, our legions of fans have said to me, “Where’s the blog? Did you get lost in Maine?” Okay, it was actually three—three readers who have mentioned it. So it’s mid-December and at the rate I’m posting here, I’ll finish blogging about our summer trip sometime in 2023.
So I won’t do that.
I’m taking a time machine to the present. Oh, don’t worry, I’ll drop in a photo dump of our adventures through New Hampshire, The Berkshires and the stretch back home. Our journey was a series of spontaneous decisions. We met a family in Maine and then reconnected with them a couple of weeks later in New Hampshire. And the morning we left New Hampshire, we didn’t know where we were going. By afternoon we were touring a “cottage” (mansion) built by JP Morgan’s niece near Stockbridge, MA, (the same town where of Norman Rockwell did much of his work). We liked the area so much, we stayed three nights in the Walmart parking lot in Pittsfield, Mass.
It’s fun to be spontaneous. Spontaneous is usually a positive word, implying flexibility and a carefree attitude. For us, that word is more than that. When I was diagnosed with Vascular Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, it came with a lot of medical jargon, but the word that stood out—the word that resonated with my experience—was “spontaneous.” As in “spontaneous rupture or dissection of arteries.”
December 4, 2015. April 12, 2016. Those were the days that my body was spontaneous.
While we enjoy spontaneity in our daily lives, it’s something we’re trying to avoid with my health. Which is why I’m in Cleveland twice each year, getting a full work-up from the best cardiologists and vascular experts in the world. Generally, I don’t mind being told that I’m interesting, but when doctor says it, it’s less of a compliment. The very first doctor I met when I arrived there at 3am in June of 2016 said, “You’re a complicated case, even for the Cleveland Clinic.”
Earlier this month I spent three days in Cleveland getting multiple MRIs, ultrasounds, along with bloodwork, circulation tests, and a CT. Everything is pretty much “stable.” Stable is the good word that kept popping up in the reports. But, like tectonic plates, the reality is that someday, surgeons are going to have to open me back up and fix some of the things that have rattled apart since my major surgeries five years ago. I’m downplaying it a little. It’s a big surgery that no one wants to have and no surgeon wants to do.
Meanwhile, we live our life and hope that the only spontaneity in our life is the kind we control.
In New Hampshire we took the Mt. Washington cog train to the summit. You can hike 5 miles straight up (and 5 back down) but I don’t think my doctors would appreciate it and I don’t know if they have seats for corpses on the cog-train. At the top I realized the nice lady riding behind me on the train was wearing an FSU jacket. It turns out, she’s the wife of one of my professors, the illustrious Dr. Jim Gwartney. If you studied economics in college, you probably read a textbook that he wrote.
We strolled through Franconia Notch, which is one of the prettiest trails anywhere, even if the experience is diminished by the ticketed entry and steady stream of people. Although we were staying at the KOA, we spent an afternoon pretending to be guests at Bretton Woods. In 1944, experts from around the world met at Bretton Woods and agreed to the post-war monetary system that put the US dollar in the driver’s seat (thanks Dr. Gwartney!). Having explained that to my kids, I’m still waiting for them to help me understand Bitcoin. (It’s like Beanie Babies for computer nerds, right?)
I really wanted to visit the Berkshires because I lived there as a toddler. I knew I would convince Monica to make it our next stop when I learned that Ventfort, a home built by JP Morgan’s niece, was open for tours. The fact that it figured into an exciting episode of “Real Housewives of New York City” played no part in her interest. “You don’t touch the ****ing Morgan letters!” The mansion was also used in the film The Cider House Rules, but who saw that?
Lee, Stockbridge, Lenox and Great Barrington form a series of ridiculously quaint New England mountain towns. My childhood home for a couple years (first pic, with a woman who turns out was my babysitter) wasn’t far from Herman Melville’s home when he wrote Moby Dick (last picture). It was refreshing to find a Union monument commemorating the Civil War. We were so smitten with the area that we almost looked at a house that wasn’t incredibly overpriced. This is one of those places we’ll have to go back to.
In the era before everyone took off to The Hamptons in the summer, there was the Berkshires. Among the glitterati that made homes there was Edith Wharton, whose home later served as a girls school and home to a theater company before being restored and opened for tours.
Old homes, coffee shops and hikes. What else did you expect? (A 10 mile run, says Monica.)
On the way home: FDR’s home in Hyde Park, NY.
Visiting friends in North Carolina, Monica acclimates herself to training in the heat again, and we acclimate ourselves to socializing again—at a party in a barn!
How do you end a trip this magical? By telling the kids they’re getting a puppy, of course!
So now we’re (mostly) caught up! Follow our Instagram page for more action as it happens.
You’re enjoying the FOURTH summer trip of “Don’t Make Me Turn This Van Around.” This blog is written by Jonathan Kile, and approved by Monica Kile. In 2016, after series of major medical issues, Jon was diagnosed with a serious genetic condition called Vascular Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. With life completely altered, they developed a road-trip habit. Reach Jon at firstname.lastname@example.org. Monica is a non-profit consultant, grant writer, marathoner, baker, tour guide, and prolific bath taker. Also, don’t forget to follow our Instagram feed for stuff that doesn’t make the blog.