For those of you interested in looking back at it, here is the ITINERARY (trip log version)
Fri. Feb. 14
NEAL REPORTING HERE!
We braved our first winter storm the morning of the trip and after a short delay were ready to role. After circling and prying students away from their loved ones on Valentines Day, we lined them up to get on board. Meredith reminded students to wear warm clothing since it was cooooold! Leaders were on first, “smurfette!” was exclaimed and Valentines Gifts were discovered in cubbies. We were on our way to our first stop: Boston.
The drive was filled with card games (though Rat Slap would be reserved for later) and catch phrase. Energy was high when we arrived in Hanover, MA at the church we would be staying in and the delivery of pizza insured that it would stay that way. After getting settled and putting away 8 pizzas everyone did their best Pterodactyl impressions during a game of the same name. Some were surprisingly realistic (Karly), while others were less so (Sienna). A quick circle followed and then it was lights out.
Sat. February 15th
Though a storm was approaching, it really wouldn’t be in the area until the later evening. So with hearty spirits we bundled up and headed into the city for a couple hours of history, cemeteries and (mostly) appropriate humor with the renowned Jeremiah Poope. Students were introduced in person to this staple of our Boston trips but we found out many had become acquainted with through tales from older Trekkers and by following him on twitter. Emma and Josh found themselves in the stocks to demonstrate the sorts of punishments used by early Puritans but as we had no vegetables to throw or nails with which to peg their ears, we quickly moved on.
Our lesson in history was highlighted by stories of the original Facebook (made with an actual face) & James Otis’ ironic demise as well as by a group chant in remembrance of the Boston Tea Party (Dump the tea – Into the sea!). Quincy Market was the ending spot for the tour and after saying goodbye to Mr. Poope a few of us headed into Newbury Comics where Zoltan predicted Sienna’s future.
We learned that the U.S.S. constitution may be Boston’s only undefeated team (grrrr, the Giants!), but Trevor had an impressive streak of his own with a lengthy reign as King Frog upon our return back to the church. Tactics varied little during the game as Twerkey (twerk, twerk), Sloth and Rabbit were common targets. Trevor was dethroned late in the game and would fail in his pursuit of the crown before it was lights out.
We were having so much fun we didn’t even realize that there was a full fledged blizzard happening outside!
Sun. Feb. 16th
The sun is shining and the air was calm this morning! Hard to believe we got hit by a blizzard…oh, except for you know, all that snow on the bus and on the ground! Good thing the Mumfords gave us all those cookies and brownies since they gave Mere the energy needed to dig out Daisy, scrape the windows and clear the roof rack. This bought Team Puma a little extra time to sleep in which was much appreciated after a late night of King Frog. Once awake everyone chipped in to throw bags on the roof, clean up the church and eat breakfast before collapsing on the bus.
We covered many miles and spent quite a few hours on the bus but energy stayed high. I made an attempt at teaching Hearts but realized I didn’t remember all of the rules…instead Rat Slap returned as the game of choice with catch phrase finding a home amongst a group of students with Hunter and Ben at it’s core. They really, really like that game.
We arrived to moderately warmer, but still snow covered, state of Pennsylvania near the end of the day and preoccupied ourselves with Apples to Apples. Caleb’s strategy of putting down antonyms for the card being played proved to be funny even if ineffective.
Mon. Feb. 17th
We would need to wait a few more days to actually see the Constitution, but today was our opportunity to see where it was signed and visit the Constitution Center. A stirring “like a movie, but with real people” awed and amazed with a powerful presenter, walls emblazoned with quotes and fancy light displays. It put everyone into a patriotic state of mind before exiting into the rest of the center which is filled with information about our country’s history. The groups would put what they learned on display later on in the trip as each group would attempt to stump the rest with difficult (sometimes impossible) questions.
Capitalizing on the information we’d just learned, we made our way over to the Liberty Bell (famous for being wrung from time to time) and then Independence Hall. This is where the founders met to write our constitution after suffering through a couple years of a government under the terms of the Articles of Confederation. There was quite a line to get into the hall but we kept ourselves busy with an impromptu Rock, Paper, Scissors Tournament. I won the tournament after going undefeated through 20 matches…Many of the students would cheat by changing the games to “best of 5” after losing “best of 3″…Right, Ben?
Delicious Philly Cheesesteaks were eaten at Jim’s (way better than Pat’s) and the night was ended with Galactic Bowling at Pinsetter’s. It was soon made clear that Hunter and Zach R. were on another level as they easily surpassed 100 on multiple games. It was close but Zack would eventually edge out Hunter as the true champion.
Tues. Feb 18th
We brought snow with us, yet again, as three inches came down on the Philadelphia/Camden area. It was still better than what the Northeast was getting hit with but it was enough to shut down our original plan of preparing the Children’s Garden for it’s March opening. After running the infamous Rock Steps – and listening to the first music (even if Mere accidentally downloaded the symphony orchestra version of the Rocky Theme!) in DAYSSSS we met up with Mark, Julia and a few others from Urban Trekkers had a new plan in place by the time we arrived which led to incredible conversation later on that night. The new plan was to do a tour of Camden, Urban Promise (the high school connected with Urban Trekkers) and their boat shop. The greatest part of the tour was the opportunity to interact with the Urban Trekkers that joined us and see all of the similarities between our groups.
Later that night, the trivia questions we created at the Constitution Center came out as cook crews did their best to outwit each other and win a “mystery” prize in the first ever Trekkers History Trivia Challenge. We discovered that Indiana has a Buffalo on it’s flag, Chief Justice Marshall kept mustard seeds in his vase and Sadie finds Alexis de Tocqueville impossible to quote without cracking up. Many more facts about less interesting things like which presidents won without winning the popular vote and who made the Louisiana Purchase.
Everyone was ready for bed by the time the games ended. At this point, the Rocky Steps had finally caught up with us and we were tiiiiiiiiirrrreeeedd.
Weds. Feb. 19th
MERE REPORTING NOW!!!
This morning we woke up, loaded the bus and hit the road with one extra person – Tom Kulp, volunteer with Urban Trekkers…and skilled relief bus driver for me! Our drive wasn’t toooooo long today (famous last words;-)) and we made it to DC just in time to visit the Jefferson Memorial. The memorial itself was amazing and locating the bathrooms proved adventurous. Also amazing was how good the sunshine felt on our skin. It was about 60 degrees so we lounged a bit in the sun in front of the Memorial, soaking in views of the White House (and the roof snipers thanks to Si Si’s supersonic camera zoom!), MLK Memorial, the Washington Monument and the top of the Lincoln Memorial. I’d say it was a perfect “WELCOME TO DC” moment! Then we hopped back onto the bus, drove over to Raegan International Airport to pick up the next infamous, talented and kind relief driver – Stu!
After picking up Stu and battling down town traffic, we bid Tom goodbye at Union Station and continued on to Alexandria to get settled in at the church. After unloading, cook crew did their thing and while Frisbee and kickball games were enjoyed in the parking lot – oh and also a MUCH needed bus clean. But the day is not yet over! I forgot to mention one VERY IMPORTANT thing about today…it’s SIENNA BARSTOW’S birthday!!!!! So after dinner and a really funny and competitive game of girls vs. guys catchphrase we hopped in the bus and after a stop at Stop & Shop to pick out a decadent cake courtesy of Alex (aka, AIR or Vineagar or A.Bar), we headed to the Lee Rec Center for….wait for it….hollllddd….SHOWERRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRS. Need I say more?
Thurs. Feb. 20th
NEAL REPORTING AGAIN!!!
We saw glimpses of the nation’s capitol on our way through to Alexandria, but today we would finally spend the day exploring the city.
We began our day on a somber note as we witnessed the changing of the guard at Arlington National Cemetery and toured the Holocaust Museum. It was an honor to witness this tribute to our soldiers alongside Green Beret’s that had come to pay their respects. After the ceremony we continued on to several memorials honoring the men and women who bravely served our country. These memorials included one dedicated to the U.S.S. Maine, whose sinking marked the beginning of the Spanish-American War as it was mistakenly believed to have resulted from a Spanish attack when in fact it was a result of an accident on board the ship.
The Holocaust Museum is always a moving experience. We broke into smaller groups and learned about the genocide as we walked through each floor. Rail cars used to transport Jews, Romas, those with disabilities, dissidents and many others to concentration camps. It was a powerful experience to walk inside the rail cars, hear first hand accounts of what took place and learn about complicity and collaboration by those not directly connected to the Nazis. Later in the day everyone shared a quote that spoke to them and taught the group something that they had learned.
Trekkers went international with a tour of the British Embassy led by Adam’s friend Zdenek. Students took a tour of one of the largest diplomatic centers in the world while learning about it’s inner workings. David gave us a presentation on crisis management before Pierre gave us an energetic tour of the grounds as well as nearby attractions such as the home of Vice President Biden. Our visit ended on the highest of notes as a British phone booth provided a great opportunity for a photo. Ben’s Chili Bowl followed shortly thereafter where we were treated to delicious chili bowls/dogs/fries and were introduced to the charismatic Mr. Brown who taught us about the important role Ben’s chili bowl played in the history of Washington D.C.
The night ended with a tour of the famous memorials scattered throughout the city. These included the MLK memorial, Vietnam Memorial and the “guy in the chair” (commonly known as the Lincoln Memorial). We learned a great deal about the Vietnam Memorial as a Park Ranger, who also happened to be a Mainer, taught us about it’s history. It was also a great opportunity for some students who found the names of relatives who served in the war.
Fri. Feb 21st
We geared up for our last big day in D.C. Wind and rain would not keep us from viewing the Constitution, Magna Carta and, though unplanned, Rob from The Educators. The lines were short and we had plenty of time to make attempts at reading our country’s guiding document. It is incredible that something written in 1788 is still able to guide our government. We also lined up to view the Declaration of Independence. Similarly hard to read, as the ink has faded with time, with the notable exception of John Hancock’s John Hancock which was written large enough for “Old, fat King George to read it without his spectacles”. As previously mentioned, I ran into Rob of The Educators. As many of you know they took second place at this year’s Trekkapalooza. Unfortunately we didn’t have time for a performance because we were headed to the capital and a storm was coming.
We received a Tornado Warning, but fortunately not a tornado, and made our way to the Capitol Building for our tour. We gawked at gorgeous statues sent from all 50 states and learned about it’s construction. destruction, reconstruction and the story of the morals within. We took off for the Air & Space Museum shortly thereafter where we found V-2 Missiles, stealth fighter jets, Saturn Rockets and a McDonalds! This may not have been the most impressive part of the museum but it certainly was the most filling. After many of the students (and, ok, leaders too) got a bite to eat we explored recreations of the Wright Flyer and learned about public and private space exploration.
We capped off this day with a delicious dinner and a whole assortment of games after parking in front of the rec. center we had showered at just a couple days prior. We made use of the space with Frisbee, races and a leaders v. students game of soccer. We didn’t have a real soccer ball (or clear boundaries), but we did have a good time playing with a very loose set of rules. It came right down to the wire. Dinner was ready and we were circling – next goal wins. Zach Miller went wide for the leadership, broke through the defense and scored the game winning goal. Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup was a great way to end the day.
Sat. Feb. 22nd
Today was an early one. Our destination was Ridgefield, CT and it would take all day to finish the longest leg of our journey back to Maine. We had finished with D.C., but we had not finished with learning. There were a wide variety of nationalities represented by the flags held within our church and after a few days, and a lot of reliance on Kat, we were able to name just about all of them.
Rat Slap, CatchPhrase, Scattergories and all sorts of other games kept us pretty well preoccupied. Lots of sleeping did take up the first leg of the drive but an interesting rest stop would leave everyone feeling alert. As many of us hovered around the Starbucks pick-up counter, lights started flashing and a robotic voice informed us of a fire within the building. Everyone remained surprisingly calm and this probably added to the reluctance to leave. After some convincing we began to make our way out to the bus, empty handed, but were saved by another announcement informing us that is was only a false alarm.
After arriving in Ridgefield we set up quickly as we were going on a surprise trip to the nearby recreation center. That meant showers, swimming and, for some of us, basketball with younger students from the neighborhood. Relaxed, clean and re-energized, we returned to the church and set up for dinner. A personal favorite, potato bar, was on the menu. We ate all we could before heading inside for our last circle. It was one of the more meaningful experiences of the trip because Stu (our driver/mentor/life saver) led us in deep reflection. This was followed by our journal pass, where everyone has the opportunity to write down how they feel about each member of our group as their journal comes around.
The consumption of a massive amounts of ice cream and a long day of travel had everyone to sleep within minutes.
Sun. Feb. 23rd
The ride home started off quite as we hand yet another early day for the long drive back to Maine. Energy was good, as it had been throughout the trip, and many students took the time to write down some memories from the trip in the anthology. As we came barreling down the Wiscassett Bridge it was time for Mere’s Eclectic Cafe. The dancing and singing carried us all the way to Oceanside West where parents were gripped with excitement to see the return of their children and children were gripped with the excitement of seeing their parents (and getting back their technology, sleeping in a bed, taking regular showers…). It was an incredible trip and Macklemore, Katy Perry and Dropkick Murphys insured it ended with as much energy as possible.
I just want to throw out a big shout out to parents and students for trusting us for the past three years. It is one of the biggest honors to be able to get to know students in such a unique way, through travel and exploring the unknown; to see them light up and become prideful of our country in a way they never have before and to also see how they roll with the punches when things aren’t perfect or don’t go exactly as planned. Thank you to students for all the important conversations, all the laughs, your compassion towards one another and your incredible patience when challenged with various things. Most of all I want to thank you for continuing to show up and commit to something that is not guaranteed to be comfortable all the time. It takes grit and determination, something that not all possess. YOU made this trip count, YOU made it matter, YOU (TOGETHER) made it important. Also, the leadership team made up of Neal, Sienna, Karly, Zach, Adam and STU (!) that gave up precious time with their families, jobs, or their couches to sit, instead, in a seat with you, to get to know each of you, to make sure that they did everything they could to make sure you were having the time of your lives…thank you epic Leadership Team. !!! See everyone at the reunion! Mere-cat