The Trip Story: Part 3

by mssinglemama on August 23, 2009

John Bear jumped out of bed at 7:00 am to feed Fiesta Dave’s meter.

We’d parked in a haze of exhaustion.  After spending the entire day in New York City we hit a monstrous traffic jam on the way into Philadelphia. Between reading our iPhone maps and asking cab drivers which turn to take next we couldn’t help but notice the city surrounding us. Smartly dressed couples walked slowly down the sidewalks but it was the magnificent buildings, many of which bore witness to the birth of our nation, that commanded our attention. Our heads zig zagged from the left and to the right, taking it all in and feeling immediately humbled.

“Now this is my kind of city,” I had said as we pulled into our fortunate meter directly in front of the hotel. Minutes later we were fast asleep, barely able to roll over and kiss each other good night. In the morning I felt like someone had hit me square in the head with a sledge hammer. I knew this kind of headache. A smoker’s headache. It must have been the New York City smog or something. Or maybe the stale air in the hotel room. I wasn’t sure but I did know one thing – I needed caffeine, immediately.

“Can you grab me some coffee while you’re out there?” I mumbled to John Bear as he ran out the door.

“Yeah, no problem.”

That’s the thing about John – he’ll do just about anything for me at any time of day or night without complaint. Because of this fact, I reserve the asking only for special occasions. This was definitely one of them.

“We should get going,” he said when he came back in, the door slapping loudly behind him and the hot coffee in his hands.

“Why the rush?”

“You should see it out there. It’s awesome.”

And in less than 20 minutes later I was able to completely agree with him.



We found Philadelphia much slower paced, more our style and could have stayed all day but we had to get back on the road. My ex had called earlier to tell me Benjamin was really “missing Mommy.”

Just minutes after leaving the city I called my little brother, Eliot, to check in on his wedding. Just a few days away now, he was telling me about something pretty important when I hit a gargantuan pothole on the Pennsylvania Turnpike’s Toll Plaza. It wasn’t even a pothole, more like a chasm or a crater. I screamed and my brother heard it all go down.

“What the F*&% was that?”

“I don’t know,” snapped John, “Just get back over into the other lane.”

“Oh my God, that couldn’t have been good.” I said into the phone.


“Oh, sorry El. Listen, I gotta go. We’ll talk later.”

One hour later after John had been driving for a bit I took over again. But before we even got out of the parking lot I pulled over.

“There’s something wrong with the car,” I said. “It feels totally weird.”

I jumped out to check the tires and found the right front tire completely flat. After a few calls to Ford Fiesta Movement Mission Control they decided to put us up in a Bed & Breakfast in the nearest town while we waited for a new tire to be shipped over. My model of the Fiesta takes custom summer tires, not stocked readily at every Ford Dealership in the country — so, we were stuck, indefinitely, until the tire arrived.

The Fiesta had landed in Bedford, Pennsylvania – the home to George Washington’s headquarters during the Whiskey Rebellion but the place is best known for its healing springs. We made our way up into the Bed and Breakfast, Oralee’s Golden Eagle Inn. John knocked on the door, once, twice and then three times. A few slow country minutes later, Oralee herself greeted us at the door.

bedford pennsylvania

And led us up through the upstairs screened in porch

oralee's golden eagle inn

to our room

oralee's bedford PA inn

As soon as we dropped our bags John Bear cued up a scene from Groundhog Day on his computer and started laughing.

“Stop it, at least we have the Internet,” I said, “Besides you don’t have to be at work until Friday.”

“Yeah, but this place gives me the creeps.”

“It’s not creepy, it’s just old and it’s so romantic,” then I think I pummeled him with a kiss because he didn’t complain about our extra night of vacation again. And when Oralee whipped us up a breakfast fit for a King, I think John Bear came around to the charm of the Golden Eagle Inn.


Turns out the Mission Control people are just as awesome as their car because the tire arrived at Bedford’s Ford Dealership soon after our breakfast. The Bedford Ford guys there were so excited to see the Fiesta they had to test it out. Brian jumped in first.


But can you blame him? Really? Have you seen this car?

2011 Ford Fiesta

I forget sometimes how lucky I am to be driving one.

After whizzing by Cumberland, Maryland we zipped down to West Virginia and then up into Athens, Ohio where we found my little Benjamin. When his father handed him over to me he was barely even using words, just mumbling and crying out for me. My heart sank into my feet as the guilt fell over me. Once a year I leave him with his father for longer than his standard 36 hour visit and every time I do, I regret it terribly. His hair was a mess, his hands and face were covered in dirt. Back on the road again and on our way to a restaurant,  I looked at John Bear as this boy in the back seat growled and hissed at me, literally, and then said through tears, “Where is he? Where is my Benjamin?” I wish I was making this up.

His father loves him and Benjamin loves his father, but Jesus, when will he learn how to care for his son properly? When the food came Benjamin devoured every bite, actually filling both of his little fists and stuffing them both into his mouth simultaneously. His father is unemployed again, I haven’t had a penny of child support in two months now and I wonder out loud if he has money for groceries.

I continue in my thoughts, some in my head and some out loud. Maybe I’m just the mess and I’m being overly paranoid. Maybe Benjamin had been playing outside in the dirt and had also skipped his lunch. And maybe he was just acting like this because he was copying the actions of his six-year-old semi step-brother. Suddenly I remember John is bearing witness to this entire mess, my mess. The one I bear responsibility for every day of my life – wearing it proudly but also wondering, often, if I even know what I am doing.

Typically I would rather hide than allow someone else to see my scars so wide out in the open like this but unlike any other man I’ve been with, John has never once asked me, “Why were you with that guy? Why did you marry him?” He doesn’t live in the past or hold mine against me in any way, and for that I will always love him.

We arrived in Columbus as the sun set over the skyline. John Bear snapped this blurry picture

columbus ohio skyline

and then we were home, but not for long.

After only one full day back we were off again… this time to Athens and my brother’s wedding. Little did we know the snafu of all snafus was waiting for us, and that John and I would finally reach our breaking points.

Get a sneak peek with pictures in the wedding photo album. I haven’t labeled the photos on purpose.

Catch up:

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Haunted Bedford Pennsylvania
August 27, 2009 at 4:31 pm

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Mandi August 23, 2009 at 8:46 am

You’re Killing me with this!!!! Goodness girl. And if it makes you feel any better. My little Aiden is the same way after I leave him. He and Benjamin are the same age- Aiden has always been very independant, but in the past few weeks has become extremely clingy and even cries when I leave the house…which is not the norm for us. Don’t feel guilt. It’s a wasted emotion. You’re a great mother- with a beautiful boy.


Toni Bautista August 23, 2009 at 9:37 am

I’m soon going to purchase your book after two weeks of finding and reading your blog. Amazing writer! Cant wait to read the book!


Bobbi Janay August 23, 2009 at 10:16 am

I am glad you enjoyed your extra night


Glenda August 23, 2009 at 11:11 am

Sounds like an awesome vacation with John Bear. So happy for you! About Benjamin, well at least he can never hold it against you that you NEVER let him spend time with his father. At least know that when he gets older and he decides he doesnt’ want to do long stays with his dad, that’s the red flag. You’re an amazing writer! Thanks for the cliff hanger… can’t wait to hear about the wedding.


Kate August 23, 2009 at 11:52 am

This is like reading my own life story… My kids are older now but I lived this! My ex-husband almost seemed to enjoy not caring for his children proporly to spite me.. and I too met a wonderful kind man who showed me how gentle a truly strong man can be. I can relate to how wonderful it feels not to be judged by the man in your life but to just be understood and accepted. You keep going with your posts.. you are such a support to single mothers. We get no sympathy from other people as they think we somehow asked for or deserve this lot in life. You are a good mother.. stay strong and keep blogging!


Speedgirl August 23, 2009 at 1:00 pm

I totally agree with you that far too many other people think single moms “deserve a miserable life”. My neighbors drive by my house when I am shoveling snow or trimming trees by myself or wrestling with weeds that are taller than me, and they always give me that look – the “well, you asked for it lady” look. They have also stopped talking to me, because as we all know, divorce is contagious! This blog has taught me that there is an entire community of single moms out there in the world – and we are strong enough to break those stereotypes. Because we are not alone. We are all in this together!


Jenna Jean August 23, 2009 at 12:39 pm

Haha, that’s funny he pulled up a Groundhog Day clip, that has got to be one of the best movies of all time. I wonder what your breaking point was, can’t wait to read the next entry…


Karen August 23, 2009 at 2:08 pm

See, this is why I am unashamed that I am happy that Loe’s father has nothing to do with us. It has been 3 years and she is happier than ever. Nothing compared to the depressed and sad little 1yr old she was when he first left. It broke my heart the way she was when she came back from the visits. A 1yr old shouldn’t be depressed.
You have him back now so thats good. 🙂


Pick Up Lines August 24, 2009 at 5:28 am

I know you are grateful and praising “John Bear” for being the first guy who hasn’t insulted you with questions about why you were with your child’s father in the first place. If he is the first guy to act like this, I think you’ve had some bad luck in meeting guys so far. Any nice guy worth his salt would never question decisions in the past like that … not if they intend on having a quality relationship. I am new to your blog so I’ll have to go back and see where you met him. Believe me there are lots of other nice guys out there just like him waiting for a chance to meet a great woman like you.


mssinglemama August 24, 2009 at 6:58 am

No need here to try any more nice guys. I’ll take the one I found and there are a million other reasons we are together, that’s just one of them.


wyliekat August 24, 2009 at 12:34 pm

Honestly – the way kids act about transitions will make even the most superhuman parent feel awful. Just before our recent trip to San Francisco, after a full five days of concentrated family time whilst camping, my ex had to cave and call me with a sobbing Rosebud, who was hysterical because she missed me.

She always comes home tired, usually cranky and occasionally filthy. It really is part of the process, I swear. If there is/was truly something going wrong at his father’s house, you wouldn’t hear about it until several days later. Kids don’t think in a linear fashion.


Sunny August 24, 2009 at 5:19 pm

Post-visitation “decompression” is totally common. It’s hard for the little ones (and big ones) to bounce from house to house, different environment, different parent, different rules, expectations and enforcement.

Sebastian was with his father for 4 weeks this summer and I went through the same thing. He was a wild man for an entire week and me at my wits end. I even looked at him and said the very same words! “Where is my Sebastian? I miss him very much. I miss his manners, I miss his hugs..”

Sigh, all part of the process, I’m afraid.


Red Bottom Shoes March 13, 2013 at 9:48 pm

nice trip. i wish i could go there.


richard hark April 9, 2013 at 4:09 am

beautiful scenery, i will go on a trip if i have a long holiday,with my bag and my camera, just go.

Reply April 18, 2013 at 10:11 pm

i would also like to drive on my own.


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