The time came to leave Michigan, and I wasn’t overly sorry to be leaving. It was great to be there, of course, and see a few people, but I played it low-key. I just am not emotionally in a place where I can see a ton of people and spend hour after hour explaining being trans. That’s not the way to pack a vacation.

We drove south, planning to hit up the mall in Appleton on the way, maybe grab a pizza (spoiler alert: we skipped that last part). This was also a chance for J to see some family she doesn’t get to see very often: living in Arizona most of her life, and now in Nevada, seeing midwestern family is kind of rare.

Most of them live on the Oneida reservation near Green Bay, and that’s where we met them. I think it was a healthy experience for me to be the one who stands out (for racial reasons this time) to get a better sense of what racial minorities in my community feel. I’ve had similar experiences in the past, teaching at predominantly black colleges and one with a notable Middle Eastern population, but there I inherit an authority position being in front of the classroom. This was more about equals, and that’s healthier.

It was very much a multi-generational house we were in, too—I couldn’t keep track of who was whom, but Jess’s cousins were there, along with their extended family. It was a comfortable place to be.

As we drove south, too, the weather finally cleared from all of the rain we had in the Keweenaw. By the time we hit Appleton, it was much warmer, too. And smelled like cows.

I was hoping to stop at either Glass Nickel, a pizza restaurant in Appleton that I love, or Fox River Brewery and Restaurant, which is oddly part of the food court in the mall (but with their own entrance and stuff). We spend longer than expected with the family, though, so we grabbed goodies from Kwik Trip and moved on. Also, we did stop at Ulta, and I was able to get that big bottle of Kate Spade Live Colorfully Sunset that I’ve been trying to order forever. You know, the one where Ulta told me I wasn’t allowed to shop online with them? Yeah, that.

We were into Tinley Park, Illinois, a few hours after sunset, and I was relieved to get there. This trip had a lot of hours in the car, and while I was mentally prepared for the four big days of driving, that fifth one of 8 hours is more taxing than you might think. It was also a good transition day between sections of this vacation, and it was good that I didn’t get harassed or bothered that day. A shame that that’s my standard, right now, but it is what it is.