Category Archives: public transit

Car-free Touring with Family

Clawsons visit to Buffalo
Walking through the neighborhood to University Station with family.

Months ago, before we had even left WV, my sister Sara text asking to stay with us in Buffalo and borrow our car, so she could go to her bestie’s destination wedding in Niagara Falls. Sure, why not. Isn’t that convenient? Your best friend is getting married twenty miles from our new home and I benefit from a visit too? Sign me up.

Then that whole selling the car thing happened and she sends me another text, “Do we need to rent a car?” Now come on. If the seven of us can get around, the two of you can too. She’s my sister, I can heckle her a wee bit. I did offer to rent the car for her, but also laid out some alternatives. I wouldn’t be able to pick her up at the airport because she was arriving during school pick up time, so she could take the bus, wait for me to get her, call a cab, or again, rent a car. Come arrival time, she and her husband Micheal surprised me, they took the bus. $10 and about an hour later, they had arrived at University Station and walked down the historic University Avenue to our house. The weather was perfect. 70s, with a brilliant tint of autumn foliage.

Clawsons visit to Buffalo
Yes, we locked our little red wagon at the station.
Clawsons visit to Buffalo
Wings and pizza at the Anchor Bar. I think we counted 25 wing bones on Eiki’s plate at the end of the night.
Clawsons visit to Buffalo
Brent arrived to dinner by bike after work. We took the Mundo in the elevator at the transit station, to board the train.
Clawsons visit to Buffalo
This was our first attempt at getting the long tailed Mundo on the Metro train, and it fit. We were warned that at some stations the opposite doors for unloading, and it was our luck/lack of planning that is what happened. Yet, we get it out without incident. Had the train been fuller, we wouldn’t have made any friends that evening.

We started the sight seeing with a request from them to get wings. We obliged, walking with the trusty Radio Flyer back to the station, boarding the train (using the day passes they purchased to get to our house), and going to the Anchor Bar. The next day, while the children were in school, I took them sight seeing. We covered 18+ miles (map linked), down to the lake, and back again, taking in the tastes, smells, sounds and views Buffalo had to offer us. I wore them out. We started with breakfast at Sweetness 7, then headed to City Hall for a one of a kind view. We rolled out to the Erie Basin Marina, Canalside, and then looped around First Niagara Center and the construction to find ourselves out front of Coca-Cola Field. We worked our way through the city to Allentown, then walked the southern portion of Elmwood Village before stopping for lunch. We wrapped up our tour in the bike lane and on the sharrows of Elmwood Avenue, turning off at Bidwell Avenue to catch the path through Delaware park, our preferred route home.

Clawsons visit to Buffalo
Preparing for our first full day of adventures. Wheels for almost everyone.
Clawsons visit to Buffalo
Cinnamon roll at Sweetness 7.
Clawsons visit to Buffalo
Hug circle outside of the cafe.
Clawsons visit to Buffalo
A “far to the right” bike lane on Delaware Avenue heading to city center.
Clawsons visit to Buffalo
There is an inside and outside view from the top of City Hall, and it’s free during business hours.
Clawsons visit to Buffalo
Atop of the world.
Clawsons visit to Buffalo
I didn’t set out taking photos for the purpose of the blog…and I should have. There would have been some great snaps. This is the view looking south east toward the marina and Canalside.
Clawsons visit to Buffalo
Then we were at the marina!
Clawsons visit to Buffalo
I am feeling a bit like Family Ride here, gawking at boats.
Clawsons visit to Buffalo
Several water vessels at Canalside are open as museums.

The following day I promised less time in the saddle. We stayed in the Parkside and North Buffalo neighborhoods, covering about a quarter of the miles (map linked). We rode by the Darwin-Martin house, spent a couple hours at the zoo, then lunched on Hertle Avenue at The Global Market. We picked the boys up at school then headed home. That evening Sara and Michael walked the kids to the library and made a stop at the grocery. My sister thought she wouldn’t get any exercise on vacation, as it often is, and she later text me to say she lost a couple pounds. I didn’t starve her, but active transportation has many benefits.

Clawsons visit to Buffalo
Day two started with a ride by of the Darwin Martin house, a wonderful gem designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.
Clawsons visit to Buffalo
Zoo trip! A visit to the indoor replica of Angle Falls.
Clawsons visit to Buffalo
Global Market on Hertle Avenue. One of many food options for the afternoon. We were exceptionally happy we chose this one.
Clawsons visit to Buffalo
I was tempted to take this table home with my on the cargo bike. And the window, and the wall panels….
Clawsons visit to Buffalo
Micheal was checking out the old theatre marquee and fascade, next to Global.

When the wedding day arrived they decided to rent a car. I borrowed car share to take them to the airport for their car pick up, as the bus wasn’t timely, and then they had quick, convenient access for their 6AM flight the following morning.

All in all, we had a great time and I was able to take them places I had never been in Buffalo by bike. I really like to explore, and having company with me was empowering and fun. I hope they felt the same.


The Current Cost of Not Owning a Vehicle

We are approaching two months in Buffalo, without a car of our own. We spent $149.50 in August, and $249.11 in September on parking, bus, train, taxi, car share (gas & insurance included), tolls, and related memberships. The break out:

August $129.50

  • $96.00 Car share
  • $33.50 Bus/train

We certainly were more conservative with our transportation dollars our first month in Buffalo. We had a lapse in income and insurance to hurdle over, but we made it to the other side, without any significant financial surprises.

September $249.11

  • $137.00 Car share
  • $49.50 Bus/train
  • $30.00 Taxi
  • $12.00 Parking/tolls
  • $21.60 Membership/mileage overage from September

There was a week in September where I felt like it was “Monday” every day. I was making mistakes too frequently. I signed up for a car share to attend Eiki’s first soccer game, then left my keys with the fob in Brent’s bike, and he was at work. We took the public bus to London’s school on her first day and I bought a round trip ticket, forgetting those were only good on the train. Then I put the adult fare in the bus slot, instead of the reduced amount for a child. It was money spent, that we couldn’t recover. We attended Eiki’s second game, but then due to the substantial walking and waiting we encountered on that particular bus route, we decided to take a taxi back to our bikes waiting at the train station. It all adds up, but it didn’t amount to much when put into the perspective of car ownership, or did it?

Then there is the issue concerning the cost of convenience and quality of life. It takes a lot to leave me feeling like something wasn’t worth my time, or was a nuisance to my day. One of the reasons we choose to bike and walk is because we want the day to slow down. We enjoy the extra time rolling around the neighborhood, under scheduling, experiencing new things, and staying in touch with the weather. However, when London missed the bus to school last week, we didn’t hesitate to borrow the car share vehicle. It was the least inconvenient mode at the time, and we now know we need to work on a better plan B. So it’s all relative.

Had we maintained possession of our vehicle with our move, and used it instead of transit, car share and a taxi, what would our costs have been? That’s more difficult to calculate. I haven’t been tracking mileage, as we are spread in five different directions daily. I wasn’t sure if we should consider the cost of the yellow school bus, and how would you? Those miles are certainly accountable, it was just too much to consider, right now. Maybe another month I will take it on.

I maintain that I am uncertain about any future car ownership. The temptation is strong to buy another van, giving us the “walk out the door and into the car” convenience for out of town trips. I think the urge might be reduced if our local car share had a van parked in our neighborhood. Family size certainly affects our costs for the bus/train, but it also necessitates a larger vehicle, and that is a cost we pay in time to retrieve it.

While we could go purchase a car, I have been researching and dreaming about a bakfiets. We are staring into the frosty crystal ball that has winter white swirling all around, and wondering, could this be the vehicle that maintains our cycling lifestyle a midst colder/harsher conditions? It’s the vehicle of choice for so many with wonderful winters. My research has led to me to learn from the following (who also have resourceful blogrolls):

  • Modal Mom, Lana is riding a variety of bikes in Ottawa, Ontario with her son
  • Copenhagenize, a multi-contributor blog about building better cities, based out of Denmark
  • Chicargobike, this parenting pair write from the windy city about Chicago infrastructure and biking around with four children

For added good reads I took a moment to look up our neighborhood’s Walk Score: 77, Transit Score: 59, Bike Score: 55.

Right. That’s it for now. Cost break down of transportation for two months without a car, and some thoughts on how to proceed as we approach the fourth season. Cheers!

To the ‘Burbs

Quite Parkhurst street in the ‘burbs.

In Huntington, WV you had very few route options for getting out of town regardless of the transportation mode. We wanted to take our bikes to Barboursville, but it was either narrow winding hilly roads, wide faster state highways or the interstate, so we drove. It made the city of Huntington amazing for cycling. You had an oasis of level streets and all your needs met within a small radius. After a while I started to feel landlocked. It didn’t help to stack up our experiences to those of Tiny Helmets or Family Ride, those mamas pull mileage, but I think it comes down to them having access to miles to pull. They had more places to go and further to get there. Welcome to Buffalo.

All the locals say, “everything is 20 minutes away.” They are of course referring to driving, and the series of looping highways and diagonal expressways that get you around and through the town quickly. Those same loops and cut throughs make cycling navigation more…. interesting. However there is easier access to the towns around Buffalo because of the terrain and the way each adjacent city has grown to the point you can’t tell Kenmore from Amherst from Buffalo. It’s posted on a sign occasionally.

For example, last week I set out to get a New York state drivers license. The nearest auto bureau was about 2 miles away into Amherst, one of the largest suburbs, and in the middle of a strip mall.  The route was all residential side streets and stop signs, then a cross walk over Niagara Falls Blvd and around the back side of the shopping plaza. It was so uneventful and pleasant. Oliver and I had budgeted extra time for complications and used to make some Target returns/purchases before our second appointment at Panera with the Buffalo Mommies group again.

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The Auto Bureau bike parking option.

The two complications I had with the auto bureau were parking and the important detail of them taking my only form of photo ID while I wait for them to mail me a new one. The ID I need to show with my debit card, to pick up my children from school, to cash checks. It’s important, and they took it. I had plans to escape to Canada this week and those border patrol folks take their job very seriously. No photo ID, no entry. As for parking, we tied up to the faux pillar by the front window.

Target had a few bicycle parking spaces up front, as I have found all Target’s tend to do. Panera was lacking in anywhere to lock, so we locked the bike to itself in front of a window we could see from our table.

Early morning view from University Station.

These suburbs weren’t too shabby by bike. They also work well by bus. A couple weeks ago I was taking London to her new school using the Metro system. We rode the bus to school together, then I headed back to the University Station, a large bus and train hub in our neighborhood. For the sake of the damp cold weather, and time, I waited a couple minutes then took a second bus north to the same shopping plaza described above to do some school supply shopping. The bus let me off at Trader Joe’s, where there was access to shoe stores, restaurants, book sellers, baby warehouses, and oh so much more. If you need more. Same bus picked me up and took me back to the station where my cargo bike was waiting for me, inside.

The new Trader Joe’s to open in October.

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I can’t say I have strong desires to go shopping (or the DMV) often, but when I do need something, it’s nice to know I can get there easily, safely, and conveniently by many modes of transportation.

Five Weeks of Buffalo

Why do people keep calling us minimalists? Maybe *I* am, but those other five are clearly not.
LtoR: Oliver, Elliot, Avery, Brent, Eiki, London. Welcome to Buffalo.


We sold our only vehicle the weekend before we left West Virginia. It was a financial decision, but none less one we knew we can handle after two years of choosing to ride our bicycles and making efforts to live more locally. My dad came down from Ohio to help us with the move, so we packed five of us in his two door Civic and two rode in the cab of the moving truck with the crated cats. The short story goes like this….the children and I arrived, then a couple days later the truck, my dad, Brent and the cats arrived. The same afternoon we were unloading the truck, we picked up our Japanese exchange student, Eiki. We spent a few days unpacking, then we started to slowly get out and explore.

Biked to the car share. We took the train home after returning the van.
We were invited to pick blueberries.
Pedestrian/cycling ramps that bridge over the highway.
All day bus/train passes.
A single line subway/train from our neighborhood to downtown.

We have, since that day, used the car share a few times, taken a day to go downtown on the train and buses, spent a full day going downtown on bikes, and have managed trips to the zoo, science museum, grocery, bike shops and workshops, parks, schools, farmers markets, food coop, suburban shopping plaza, tool library, bookstores, and Brent’s office, all with our bicycles. The weather has been amazing. The rental house is serving us well. The distances aren’t ideal, although manageable. The terrain is mostly level with inclines here and there, that still have me yearning for an e-assist. Diversity of language, race, religion, age, and income is plentiful. Many things cost more and taxes are higher. C’est la vie.

Science museum. Meandered 7miles to get there and 5miles to get home.
1 of 4 neighborhood grocery stores within a mile.
Back to school picnic day. We were the only cyclist, and have been the only cyclists, however, there is a small bike rack. That’s something.
Children’s area at the Elmwood Arts Festival.
Our first dinner out, a tourist destination five blocks away from home.
Avery’s new yoga studio, 7minute bike ride through the ‘hood.
GOBike racks are offered up for free if you own a business. They even install. These were at the entrance to the zoo. We took the last spot and filled it up with five bikes for 8 people.
Canalside harbor and locks area has ships, markets, festivals, monuments, music and more. It’s also clear on the otherside of town. We took the train this day, but it would likely be an 8 mile ride, if I ever get up to doing it.
Allentown “bubble window.”
GOBike workshop in an old station building, 2miles from home! Used parts, free help, bikey people. Although we were still “outsiders.” Cargo bikes are not common. Our two Yubas make the total Yuba population a whopping 3 in the city. I have seen one Xtracycle and a couple tandems. We have yet to see any cycling families outside the park/recreation trail.

I haven’t been tracking expenses as closely this past year, but I did start tracking transportation costs after selling the van. Since our arrival, we spent $98.50 in August, not including Eiki’s personal transportation, for which he is responsible, and $126.00 thus far into September. We have been using the bus and train more often this month (and I have sometimes been overpaying when I am not paying attention), and we had one taxi ride ($30). I suppose that number could be about $50 more if you include the new locks we bought for the bikes. I should think about how I want to track these numbers.

Enrolling the children in school was a saga, for which I have a lot a confidence will bring about a positive and rewarding outcome. Or so I keep telling myself. Eiki will be going to private school 10 miles south of our home, but using bikes and public transit (passes provided by the school). The school was arranged before his arrival. He has already been selected for the varsity soccer team and utilizes this combo of travel almost daily for practices. We had no shortage of bicycles for his use. Oliver will be staying home another year, and the boys are going to a public preK-4 school about 2 miles from home. We biked to school for about a week, then the weather got a little wet and we let them ride the bus. London was accepted into a gift and talented public high school that serves 5-12th grades after a week of delays and “navigation” of the system. The school is 2.5-3.5 miles from home depending on how you want to get there. We test rode it and were not pleased, so she’s likely taking the big yellow school bus most days until we find a route we feel is safer.

As moves go, this one has been uneventful. There are still a lot of boxes in the children’s room to unpack. I am waiting to put together their shelving.  There is a stack of art in the sunroom, where we set up our office, and a stack in the garage.  I am forward with people walking down our street, introducing ourselves as new and asking too many questions, seeking opinions and ideas. It seems we have joined every business and organization that has a membership as some effort to get to know the neighborhood and save some money on entertainment. It was less expensive to pay $60 for science museum memberships than to visit twice with seven people. The tool library was a $10 annual fee, but we would have spent significantly more on a cultivator, grass shears and an electric voltage meter. Going there to check out rubber mallets and crow bars has been better than finding a toy store for the children. Interestingly, we haven’t joined GOBike Buffalo yet. We need to. They have a workshop close by and they have bike lockers at the nearest train station.

Although we haven’t found any bicycling families yet, we hear lore of them being in other downtown neighborhoods. It’s just a matter of time. And when I do find them, I think it will be time for Buffalo to have a Kidical Mass.

Our Summer Excursion: Days 17-20 North Adams, Boston

Welcome everyone! Our 2012 Summer Excursion series recaps our experiences from June 3-?? by time and location, and should follow up with more detailed topics about finances, family and finesse. Please let me know if you would like more details about anything and I will do my best to work them in or reply personally.

D17: On Tuesday June 19th, my birthday, we packed up our trusty HighSpeed van in Rochester and drove through New York state to North Adams, MA, to be the guest of Jay Walsh of the Northern Berkshire Transition and his family. We had only ever had contact through the (R)Evolutions Per Minute Facebook page, prior to us pulling in his driveway.

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There was a whole lot of looking through glass, but it was lovely in a quick, look now or you will miss it sort of way.

D18: Jay arranged a bicycle tour of North Adams for us all, along with interviews with two key contributors within their cycling community for the documentary. He treated us to an afternoon at MassMOCA and a wonderful break at the natural bridge. The hospitality of strangers has been overwhelming all along our journey, to which we shall always remember and be grateful.

North Adams had such a similar story to what was happening in Huntington. There were similar people powered groups and gatherings and attitudes. It was as if we had found our north-eastern sister city. I must look into this further, as I feel Huntington would benefit from a relationship with the NBT.

Jay led the way with his two girls in the trailer.
Downtown was a long stones throw from his house, but we took the bikes so we could go further faster. We used a parking space on the street, fed the meter, locked up to each other and walked away. The colored block building on the rear right was just installed the day before as a bus shelter. It acted as an installation art piece to introduce the new exhibit opening at MassMOCA's children space.
Down Street Arts had these painted on the sidewalks. I was taking notes to bring back to Huntington, as we just began having art walks monthly.
Public mural going up! Something, that according Jay, was discouraged under the former mayor, but embraced and encouraged by the current one. Fascinating how power and position work.
More public art! Creative crosswalks.
Logos for Down Street Art in business windows where artists are hosted. They also had clapboard like signs inside the stores that appear to come out to the sidewalk on art nights.
Riding single file through town. The children rode on their own, which worked out well most of the time. There were two moments to break the zen. First was Elliot slipping his foot through his pedal and falling from his saddle on a different busier street. Brent was holding up the rear and was able to get him up on the sidewalk. The rest of us pulled over too. The second was when Jay made a left, but I felt there was a car approaching too quickly for me to follow, but London was only watching Jay and began to turn left as the car approached. Some yelling ensued to keep everyone safe, and nothing but a few new grey hairs to show for it. This was our first time riding with our children independently, outside of Huntington. You can read about riding with our children on the Yuba in Columbus, in another post.
Our bike train was longer than a couple of trucks.
After had a look around downtown we rode to MassMOCA.
An art museum with a bicycle share program? Clever. Their gift shop also had bicycle accessories and inspired goods. Practical.
Mandatory Sol Lewitt photos of your children. Jay's girls with our crew. Handsome bunch?
Our first Airstream trailer experience was up three stories and remade into a crash landed space craft. It was a great first experience, despite the searing heat.
Pedal power was (is) the wave of the future.
The children had endured a lot of "look don't touch" for the day, so Jay showed us this underpass swing set. They also convinced maintence to turn on a sprinkler and they all enjoyed a bit of time in the mud.
The swings were still a part of MassMOCA by the way. Here is Brent, Jay and Katherine during another RPM interview. Everyone had given up a bit of their work day to make this happen, and we had the wonderful benefit of meeting so many amazing people.
We left the museum to check out the natural bridge. I noticed a lot of old warehouses in North Adams. I also took note that many of them were not what I would consider "eye-sores." This one had murals on the old bay doors.
I don't know what is in these now, if anything, but they were simple and beautiful to me. A bit fortressy. You can see we rode in the berm space here. A little tight for us and the cars, which were probably going about 40mph, but we carried on. I didn't mind it so much until we came up on a turn where I was never quite sure if we could be seen from behind with buildings and such so close to the road blocking a driver's view coming around a bend. Would you ride to the far right or take the lane when riding a turn as such described (berm or not)?
Views at the natural bridge park.
Water is incredibly powerful. I have seen the Grand Canyon, and yet it is these little works of art that feel more majestic. Perhaps because they are tangible and not infinite and life threatening?
Taking a swim in the creek. Wonderfully cool water after such an incredibly hot day.

D19: With 1447 miles on the odometer, we left North Adams, stopped at a co-op creamery/local market in Cummington, MA that Jay suggested, interviewed a couple of folks with the Pedal People in Northampton, MA, also from Jay’s suggestion, and settled ourselves on the doorstep of friends and strangers in Boston.

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It always looks a bit different.
The Old Creamery in Cummington, MA. They recently turned into a co-op. I was excited to see they didn't offer a trash bin, only recycling and compost at the little cafe inside. Ironically I had two bags of garbage under my feet in the van that needed to be disposed of.
We completely bombarded these folks at work in the strongest heat of the day. We were all melting. Melting. These folks were towing hundreds of pounds of recycling all over Northampton, MA. Pedal People. Check out their story. This is Brent interviewing Mikey.
Mikey's full and last load of his shift. Be impressed. We drove through North Adams and I had my jar down the whole way through. There were people crawling the streets everywhere and bikes all over. It was a vibrant community and I hope to go back for a proper visit.
Boston! Not shown, the cars we were sandwiched between at rush hour, or maybe it was just every hour traffic.

We intended to drive to my aunts in Connecticut, but she made plans to be in NYC. With our detour to Rochester, neither of our schedules lined up for the best, but this snag in our itinerary was a treat in many other ways. Our hosts (Becca, my sister’s best friend and her two roommates, Marie and Laura) in Boston were extremely accommodating with short notice and an in flux of children.

Laura and Marie, walked us to the grocery and harbor our first night and gave us the lay of the land for parks, transit and entertainment.

Train drawbridges.
Tunnels. Hey, there's some of that traffic.

D20: Marie and Becca took us sailing in the harbor on June 22. Under the power of the water and wind, we spent three hours memorized by the skyline and skills of our captain and her skipper. We had all biked to the harbor from their place in East Boston, and afterward, we took the T to the children’s museum (admission included as members of the ASTC, another thrifty investment for traveling I would recommend). Marie and Laura left us to our own, Becca headed for work and we let the children wear themselves out before marching off into our second rain, trying to find a specific pizza joint in downtown Boston, The Upper Crust…I mean, check out their logo.

Riding through East Boston toward the bike path that would take us to the sailing center. I rode with the boys on the Yuba, Brent and London rode their own bikes. Marie and Becca led the way. Anytime we had to get on the side walk, like when the road was closed, or entering a park, we dismounted and walked our bicycles. Cars were incredibly generous with yielding the way to us and we even got a police officer to help us through a construction zone, closed to traffic. What a great first impression of riding in a "big" city.
The bike path that parallels and circumnavigates all that traffic above.
The signs designate pedestrian and bicycle lanes. Oh, and see (barely) the murals on the underpass? I love public art.
We made it! That's Becca on the left. She was a fabulous skipper and gracious host, even if we did sort of force our way in to staying with her (thank you Becca!!).
This wasn't our ship, but similar. Can you believe some people get to enjoy this view every day? While I am not keen on the water, I love the skyline.

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After sailing we took the three little boys on their first subway ride. Laura, with her Dahon folding bike, joined us for this momentous occasion. Destination, Boston Children's Museum.
We walked what Marie described as "not too far" to the museum from the T station. This is where i realized that people without children, who do this on a daily basis have a walking tolerance we have not built yet. We were child-caring-device-less and every block seemed to add a pound to Oliver's weight. However, no one complained. There was just so much to see and hear. After we arrived at the museum, the children spent a great deal of time climbing this three story high structure.
Because the museum was a part of a reciprocal relationship (thrifty tip if you travel, get one of these memberships) with a museum we have a family membership for, we didn't pay for admission, and thus didn't mind that we were only there for about an hour. When we felt our stomachs growl we set out into the rain for the pizza shop Marie and Laura recommended. Again, we took the, "it's only a couple of blocks" to mean it wasn't nearly three quarters of a mile away. Yet, we persevered for pizza, and either we were just extremely hungry, or the pizza was really "that great."

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After dinner we had a very short walk to the nearest T station. Boarded a train without ever having to look at a schedule. The trains run so frequently there is no question one will be along quickly. The stations were also the brightest and cleanest of any urban transit system I have encountered. Icing on the cake...they were also very ADA compliant and therefore easily accessed with a bicycle (although probably not the unusually shaped cargo bicycles).
Maverick Station bicycle parking. It was also a bus terminal point. Three wheeled bicycle parking? Is it that common to have a trike?
Goodnight Boston. May we see your sun set another day. We walked from the station to the sailing center, then rode our bicycles back to Becca's. Long day.

Later that night we heard from my aunt Darcy that she would be returning home to Connecticut, so we packed up once again and drove south-west on Saturday June 23.

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