“I need to go out there and explore. I haven’t visited this village in a long time!” said Rudy as he put on his GPS watch and jumped on his bike and took off. 

For 15 years I’ve been coming out to the “farm” with my sweet Jared. I have experienced every season here, from the 97° with 110% humidity summer, to the cool, crisp leafy fall, the billowy, breezy spring with the flowers in Grandma’s garden in full bloom, to the absolute zero temperature degreed, deathly wind chill factor, and perfect snowman making snow. I have visited this paradise as several women. Jared’s buddy, Jared’s girlfriend, Jared’s fiancé, Jared’s wife, and Rudy’s momma. I have splashed in the river, walked beneath the stars, explored the woods, gone sledding down hills, caught fireflies and jumped in huge piles of leaves. I absolutely love it here. It’s safe and quiet and so beautiful, and I can’t even imagine growing up with such a mysterious and magical playground at my disposal. The closest I will get is watching my young one revel in all that Belvidere has to offer. We will spend the majority of our east coast swing of tour here, and I am not at all upset about it. 

Day 1 at the farm: “The Belvidere Way”

So, after a great night of sleep, Rudy was eager to get to visiting people. The problem was, the rest of the family that was coming for the holiday hadn’t arrived yet. 

“You mean to tell me we are ALL ALONE OUT HERE?!?!”, Rudes exclaimed. 

“Well, not ALL alone. Kevin is here. He lives here and takes care of the property. You’ve met him several times.”

“Oh! The one with the big beard?”

“That’s the one!”

“Ok! Then let’s go see Kevin with the big beard!” And, with a quick shoe change, Rudy hopped on his bike and rode over to see “Kevin with the big beard”…which he shall henceforth be called. 

While KWTBB was regaling Rudy with tales of bears and deer and farm life, Jared’s mom and dad arrived. Rudy made his second stop there and then things picked up! It’s sort of tradition to do a “walk” around and greet guests with a couple of cold ones and a hand getting settled in. With so many people scheduled to spend the 4th at the farm, there were plenty of greetings to be made. So, beers in hand and sandals on, we hopped on the The Belvidere “expressway” to start greeting! The “expressway” is a gravel road that circles the property and, if you follow it around, it will eventually lead you to each home on the grounds. There are 5, plus the “Big house”, a “Gone With The Wind”-esq historical home that towers at the top of the circular driveway, keeping watch over the rest of the residents. In the middle of the circle, you can visit the carriage house, Grandma’s flower garden and gazebo, Grandpa’s vegetable garden, several patches of huge trees, a vast lawn of the coolest and softest green grass, and a mini over grown forest, near the front to help block a full open view of the property. On the outside of the circle, you can stop by the old horse barn, a corn field, a huge work garage and, eventually you can walk down to the river. Kevin with the big beard lives in a house outside of the cornfield up a hill some ways so he can survey all of the land and have a better idea of what needs to be done at all times. I’m telling you, it’s a real drag to “have” to come here… a real dump. (Hahahaha!!)

Well, the rest of the night did it’s best to sink us deep into vacation mode. Cousins laughed and chased each other, dogs ran around, whiskey flowed like water (which we didn’t drink enough of), some of the men smoked cigars and stories were told well into the night. With more family arriving the next day, we all opted for a “kind of early” bed time and settled in. Yeah right! Rudes had become attached at the hip to his 6 year old cousin, Kennedy, (basically a little girl version of him) and begged us to let her stay at our place. Of course!! It’s summer. We’re on vacation. Well, even Kennedy said at one point, “It’s past midnight and Rudy is STILL talking and keeping me up!” Hahahahaha! Around 1:00am it got quiet for good and we all slept like the dead. 

Day 2: Fourth of July

Rudy asked us what today meant. Why is it special? What does “America’s Birthday” mean. After a brief history lesson, we got into the heart of the matter. Freedom. It was a great reminder, if not a bit jarring, to chat with our new friend in South Dakota from South Africa so close to our country’s Independence Day, and to really let his perspective sink in. Regardless of how “bad” or “good” people think things are right now, at least we are free to talk about it. We can voice our distain. We can protest and we can be loud. We can fight for our rights and we can fight for our fellow humans’ rights. We have the ability and choice to travel through this huge and beautiful country and tell our stories, speak our minds, sing our songs, and share our thoughts, and feel relatively safe while doing it. We don’t have to agree. We don’t have to believe. We don’t HAVE to do anything. We GET to. We have lots of work to do, but when will we not? There is always something that can stand to be bettered. But it really is nice to be able to sit back, take a break from so much negativity and hate, fear-driven decisions, prejudice and injustice, and to just be grateful. In whatever form that takes for you. Just choose your own “happy” for a bit before going back to all that other stuff. 

Rudy and his new bestie cousin Kennedy

It was a lot to explain to Rudy. But he got it…at least a little. “So can I go play with my cousins now?” Yep, you are FREE to. 

A million laps around the expressway in the golf cart, burgers, dogs, and all traditional Fourth fare consumed, several mini thunderstorms, family pictures, skinned knees, sweaty kids, hugs and kisses, distant fireworks, and a whole family of happy, exhausted and full humans, we said goodnight and happy birthday to our country, and all retired to dream land. A successful 4th shared by all. 

Day 3: Another Great Grandma and Grandpa. 

A couple weeks ago, we were talking with Rudy about how he was going to see this grandparent and that grandparent while on vacation, and the list was pretty long. He said “Boy, I have a lot of grandmas and grampas. I’m very lucky. That’s what eating all those Lucky Charms did for me.”

So, today we took Rudy into Jamestown, NY to have lunch with our cousins, Beth and Young and their kids, Yuna and Eden, and visit with Rudy’s great grandparents, Dee Dee and Gordy. Grandma was very quiet most of the time, just smiling and watching her grandchildren and great grandkids interacting, while Gordy shared stories of naps and puzzles, books and tv programs. It was sweet and worth the visit. Near the end while we were “good-bye” ing, Rudy leaned into Dee Dee and said, “Can I tell you something? I really like your skin.” I mean, either we have a mini Buffalo Bill, a future dermatologist, or he just had a weird thing about moles….either way, I love the way this kid always finds ways to compliment people! 

The rest of the day was packed to the brim with cousin play, s’mores and sparklers, more warm rain, definitely more whiskey, and some music playing. I’d say we did this holiday weekend right. Rudy stayed the night this time at Kennedy’s place, and Jared and I got the best sleep of the whole trip! Tomorrow, we play a show in Jared’s hometown of Bradford (Derrick City), PA. It’s gonna be one for the books, I’m sure! 

Rudy and his cousin Kennedy holding hands and listening to an unplugged family performance by Champagne Sunday in a living room filled with love and Legos

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