So… after we were finished with the Great Wolf Lodge, we hunkered down in Norwalk (Ohio) for a few days with Molly, Terry and Margie.

Norwalk… by the way… was the small town where I lived in 2000.

As is typical of small towns, not much has changed (since when I lived there).  The Bob Evans restaurant has moved to a new location… the manager of the Mexican restaurant was jailed for employing illegals… and… they’ve built a new cinema!

Okayeee, then…

Moving on…

We stayed with 3 of my favourite people:  Terry… Molly… and Margie.  We arrived to warm hugs, a roaring fire and hot chilli bubbling on the stove  (Chilli – by the way – is a bit like a bolognaise sauce… with added beans and spicy-things… and you serve it with nacho chips – not pasta).

It was awesome spending time with them and catching up.  You know the types of friends that you don’t see for years… but as soon as you walk through the door and see each other again, it’s like you never left?  That’s what it was like.  There was such an easy-going warmth between us (and that always makes me happy).

The next couple of days, we relaxed, I wrote blogs, the kids played… we watched The Hobbit at the new Norwalk Cinema (with Terry), we ate at Jim’s Pizza Box (same Jim… same pizza)… and we took the kids to Thomas Edison’s birthplace to peruse his various inventions.

That's the house where Thomas Edison was born (it has a little museum in there too). It's situated in Milan (which is down the road from Norwalk)...

That’s the house where Thomas Edison was born (it has a little museum in there too). It’s situated in Milan (which is down the road from Norwalk)…

Morgan standing in Edison's old kitchen...

Morgan standing in Edison’s old kitchen…

As it turns out – quite a lot of people have a lot of opinions about Edison – and many of them aren’t positive.  It’s alleged that he was a businessman more than an inventor… and that he treated his staff terribly and stole people’s ideas.  That said… one can’t deny the genius of the phonograph (apparently his favourite invention) – and especially since he was deaf when he invented it!  Did you know that?  I didn’t!

Apparently, he was such a brilliant lip-reader that few people realised that he was deaf – and, at dinner parties – if too many people were talking simultaneously (and he couldn’t simultaneously read lips… obviously)… his wife would tap the conversation in morse code (discreetly) on the table… so he could be kept abreast of the general conversation – even when focussing on only one person’s lips.

So – whether folk like or loathe Edison (and the jury is still out on the lightbulb thing)…  he certainly was a genius.

I liked exploring his childhood home too… a lovely little stone cottage on the banks of an old canal (the kids were given flashing lightbulb necklaces as gifts by a sweet lady who was very excited that South Africans had come to visit her tiny museum.  She even snapped a photo of us on her iPhone – as proof!).

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On our last night in Norwalk, a couple of old friends popped in for a visit.  Amy is a friend I haven’t seen in years… and we chatted for ages (so much catching up to do!).  Ashlea and Brenda were there too…. and Morgan and Joah had Ashelea’s 3 kids to play with – so there was lots of noise, chasing-games and screeches of glee… while the grown-up’s yakked away (and consumed way too much cake!).  Here’s pics…

Nick and Terry sitting by the fire...

Nick and Terry sitting by the fire… (her granddaughter did her hair)…

Me… Amy… Terry...

Me… Amy… Terry…

Terry's grandkids having fun with their "Nona"… (hee-hee!)...

Terry’s grandkids having fun with their “Nona”… (hee-hee!)…

The following day, it was time to go.  I really wanted one last coffee-and-conversation with Margie… but she was asleep and I didn’t want to disturb her.

So… we packed George… said our goodbyes to Molly and Terry – and drove off…  and… just a few kilometres down the road, we crashed George!

Yip.  It was rainy and foggy and there were a gazillion people on the roads in Sandusky doing their last minute Christmas shopping… and whilst trying to turn into highway 50 (after a coffee-stop at Starbucks), we drove smack into another car (trying to turn off highway 50).  It was a mild accident… the most damage done was spilling my newly-purchased Caramel Brûlée Latte all over my lap.

The man in the other car was shaken – and very concerned about whether we were all okay.  We were.  The kids weren’t even slightly phased – although Joah was concerned about George.  “Is George bruised?” – he wanted to know.

George – as it turns out – being an old, sturdy car… escaped with nary a scratch.  The other man’s car wasn’t as fortunate.  The front bumper was bashed in… the lights broken too.  Thankfully, everyone was insured… so after the routine exchanges of information… photos taken on cell phones… and curt, polite goodbyes… we were on our way again.

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We took it slow.  The weather was rainy, misty and miserable… so we ended up reaching Geneva (on Lake Erie)…. still in the State of Ohio… and we decided to call it a night.

We took this photo in Geneva… and I find it a bit tough to believe. Seriously? It's illegal to move chairs or close umbrellas?

We took this photo in Geneva… and I find it a bit tough to believe. Seriously? It’s illegal to move chairs or close umbrellas?

After driving around Geneva… we found a reasonably-priced place to stay:  a lovely little 2-bedroom cottage, right on the lake.  I imagine that in summertime, Geneva must be quite the holiday mecca – but it’s a bit of a ghost-town in winter (hence the good prices for accommodation).  We ordered in pizza and watched movies and tried to figure out WHERE we’d be spending Christmas!  At the time, we had no idea… we knew we wanted a white Christmas… we knew we wanted to visit the New England area… we knew we didn’t want to be in a hotel or motel… but we didn’t know where… or what… or how.

Look how amazing Lake Erie looks in wintertime!? All that ice mixed with sand… it felt a bit surreal - like we were on another planet...

Look how amazing Lake Erie looks in wintertime!? All that ice mixed with sand… it felt a bit surreal – like we were on another planet…

Another pic of icy, interesting Lake Erie...

Another pic of icy, interesting Lake Erie…

After browsing the internet and coming up with nought… we left the following morning and drove through Pennsylvania to New York State.  We spent the whole day in the car (rainy weather and lots of mist – so we couldn’t even enjoy the scenery)… and eventually ended up in a tiny town called Salamanca – which had a HUGE glass casino!  It was rather odd… driving through this beautiful, rural area… lots of mountains… and forests… and suddenly, in the middle of nowhere – there’s this ostentatious monstrosity!

We found a Holiday Inn nearby.  The kids splashed in the indoor pool (and bubbled in the jacuzzi)… and then we ordered Chinese take-aways and watched Home Alone on the TV.

We were about to hit Christmas Eve – and we still had no idea where we’d end up spending Christmas… and things were beginning to look a bit bleak!

The next day was spent entirely in the car (again).  We drove to Schenectady (which I still can’t properly pronounce)… and ended up staying in the tiniest hotel room we had experienced thus far on our travels.  The 2 “double” beds were only slightly wider than a single… so, in order to fit, Nick and I each slept with one of the kids (since we couldn’t fit 2 adults in one of those beds).

The next morning was going to be Christmas Eve… we had no accommodation booked… we didn’t know anything about New York – or which direction we should head… and our attempts to find accommodation online were looking spectacularly dismal.  Everything was either fully booked… or way too expensive for our budget…. and I began to imagine us spending Christmas cooped up in a tiny motel – somewhere along the highway… toasting with cheap wine in foam cups and watching adverts on TV.  I sent off one last e-mail request for a place that looked as though it could be what we were searching for (and waited for the inevitable “sorry, we are booked” response).

After the kids had gone to sleep, Nick decided that he was going to sneak out and buy them Christmas presents.  He said he’d found a Target store down the road which – apparently – was open ’til late… and that he’d be “back soon”.

Two hours later… and he was not back.  Three hours later… no sign of him – and I began to panic.  I had visions of him crashing George… visions of him lying dead in a ditch… visions of becoming a widow on Christmas Day (I’m one of those overactive imagination types).  Four hours later… I was frantically googling “Schenectady Traffic Incidents” sites… and when I saw that two serious accidents had occurred in that region, I began to feel sick with worry.  I sat at the window… staring at the parking lot… counting every car that passed… waiting desperately for a car that looked like George.   Eventually – a car pulled in (and it looked a bit like a cop car) and my heart jumped into my throat:  “It’s cops!  It’s cops!  Nick must have gasped out the hotel name as they carried him off on a gurney… and they’ve come to tell me some awful news!”

(Of course… it was NOT the cops.  Just a few guys… in a branded car… checking in to the motel)

I went to speak to the guy at the front desk (who had a piece of sandwich attached to his facial hair as he talked to me)… and just as I was asking him for the telephone number of the local hospital and police…  I spotted George… pulling in to the parking lot.

Nick relayed a frustrating tale of how Target was closed… so he drove to another Target… which was closed… and then he asked for directions to a Walmart… which was closed… and then eventually hunted down a Super Walmart (which was on the opposite side of town).  I was relieved to have him back… and he had purchased the prezzies (which I wrapped on the bathroom floor at the hotel at almost 4 in the morning).

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Christmas Eve… we woke to some wonderful news:  the owner of the cottage on Indian Lake said that it was available.  We could go!  (I wrote about our delight here)… Christmas was going to amazing, after all!

Okay – so this has been a long-winded post… trying to catch you up on so much travel-news because we’re due to leave the States in just a few days – and I still have so (!) much to share.

Thanks for reading! x