I boarded train number 56, the Vermonter, at 9:59am from stairway 3. Most people consider arriving at the train station early enough to print a ticket or use the bathroom. I was sure to plan enough time for coffee and a bagel before my departure.
I somehow found space in my over-packed carry-on for a soft pretzel and apple slices, which added slightly more weight to my already unmanageable load. Chargers and headphones and scarves overflow from the top of the bag, but I of course find space for a snack.
30th Street Station was awake with business men and women hustling to and from their offices. Weekend travelers, escaping from the cold or perhaps, as in my case, heading towards even lower temperatures, sat on benches or stood in line waiting patiently for their turn to board. My eyes were tired, but my stomach full from breakfast. I stood with many others, anticipating the 4 hour ride to New England via train number 56.
From Philadelphia, to New Jersey to New York, into Connecticut, Stanford, Meridan and everything in between I waited patiently for my stop. “Hartford’s next!”
I hurriedly departed the train, 2:34pm, 24 minutes behind schedule, and headed straight towards my mother’s car. In the trunk, there was an empty spot for my luggage, right next to hers. An iced coffee waiting for me in the passenger side cup holder.
We exited Connecticut, zoomed through Rhode Island, into Massachusetts and over the Sagamore Bridge. We exhaled a sigh of relief and of joy as we sailed over the Cape Cod Canal. Although an hour from our house, we were “home”.
6:00 grows near, but we haven’t reached our final destination just yet. Our stomachs grumble. Dinner options are limited. Most of the peninsula’s population has flown south for the winter. The streets are empty, the restaurants are dark, boarded up until the first signs of spring.
Luckily for us, a new local (and personal) favorite, Rock Harbor Grill, remains open through the snowy season. Dim lights shine from within, every table is occupied.
Wild Mushroom wood fired pizza and Tuscan Kale salad to go. We spend the remaining 15 minutes of our journey to Eastham engulfed by the sweet aroma of mushrooms infused with garlic.
Rocks crunch beneath the tires as we pull into the driveway. We carry the pizza box and enough luggage for 2 weeks (despite our brief 48 hour stay) up the steps and into the frozen house. We dump each bag in the living room and place the pizza box gently on the counter.
6+ hours of travel, by train and by car. A joyride, a familiar route. From the heart of Philadelphia to the elbow of Cape Cod, all in a days time. Winter coats take the place of our summer sundresses but we don’t mind.
The wine is waiting, perfectly chilled by the basement which now doubles as an ice box. The pizza is hot, our toes are cold, the bags remain packed, abandoned in the small living room.
In the summertime we share every meal at the big round table on the porch. Rain or shine, dad sits under the umbrella with his chips on a napkin, roast beef sandwich on a paper plate. Inside, there is no kitchen table. Just a variety of wooden chairs from thrift shops up and down The Cape that mom has found and made beautiful.
Restricted by the frosty winter air, we are unable to take our usual places at the big round table on the porch. Inside, we stand. Mom by the fire, and I in the kitchen. Pizza in one hand, Pino in the other.
I’ve traveled 400 miles for this moment. For cold feet and Rock Harbor pizza. For dinner and a movie with my mom. And so we eat. Because at the beach house, we eat first and leave the unpacking for later.