A lone gull--a black, swept-back silhouette against a cloudless sunset--soars silently upriver towards the city, the St. Lawrence River beneath us like antique amber glass, and I sit on the DIY deck observing them both, thinking back fondly to a time when I thought this trip was a good idea. Henry has run away from the Airbnb again. It's the fourth or fifth time he's done it so far. Slamming the door behind him for emphasis, he has declared that he's going back to Asheville, but right about now he's in the middle of the gravel driveway up to the not-quite-done Airbnb that looked a whole lot more finished in the professional photographs that I should have been more suspicious about, and realizing that walking from Quebec to North Carolina is not such a good idea either.
He's probably stomping up the unpainted two-by-sixes masquerading as front steps as we speak, and any second now will be slamming the door behind him again, pissed off that he can't actually accomplish the revenge he feels like he wants.
I know how he feels.
Quebec has been wonderful in the true sense of the word--especially the remote hamlet of Stanbridge East where we spent one night more than we planned. Stanbridge was initially appealing because it was only about 45 minutes from Montreal, where we had hoped to spend a day or so.
But we never made it to Montreal.
We spent our last night in Stanbridge cooking dinner with our host and his two small girls, having gone biking with them daily on impossibly beautiful farm roads virtually free of traffic except for the occasional white-tailed deer and ubiquitous red-winged blackbirds flirting with the roadside. On one of those trips, he led us to an even tinier hamlet-let called Mystic, where the chocolatier we were aiming for was--tragically--closed. But all was not lost; we ended up at an outdoor ceramic festival across the street. We had a good lunch together, and I wasn't even slightly annoyed with either George or the old lady who told him off for getting too handsy with the terra-cotta candelabras.
It was hard to leave.
But of course we did, and everyone is mad at me because of it. Including me. It was time to move on to the next place, which is great and all, but there is no friendly host whose adorable little girls just walk up to you one morning and want to introduce you to the family alpacas.
"It's a lot to ask," my wife said to me in the car on the trip from Philadelphia to Fishkill, New York, during which I firmly consolidated my status as persona non grata. "Taking four kids on a cross-country road trip, I mean. And it's hard on the adults, too." She went back to looking at her phone, which she did for most of that leg of the trip. She said she was just looking at her Facebook, but I'm starting to think she was searching google maps for "nearby divorce lawyers."
It's not the first time I've uprooted my family and dragged them across the country. At least this time we are all going back to where we started from. But the last time, five years ago, we packed up everything and left a place we had been for ten years, a place that never felt like home.
There was a time when I worried that my kids would resent me for transplanting them like that, that they would not come to feel like Asheville was home for them either.
So when Henry angrily tells me that he wants to go "home," and by "home" he means Asheville, I feel for the first time in 1500 miles that at least one of the two big road trips I have led my family on has turned out to be a good idea.