On Thursday we left our friends in beautiful Connecticut and headed to another friend’s country house on the Hudson River, about an hour north of New York City. This is the same friend who generously housed us in uptown Minneapolis and has two dogs, Tess and Leo, who also summer in upstate New York with her. The drive was relatively short (less than two hours) but, as has been the case for most of our recent travels, quite mountainous and curvy.
Our time in upstate New York was very relaxing and would have been perfect if it hadn’t been for the oppressive heat and humidity. We spent our time swimming in a nearby lake, shopping at a farmer’s market, reading books, and helping our friend with household maintenance – and of course being entertained by Tess and Leo. We also had the great fortune of spending time with other neighbors in the area; people who go by names like Sal, Marvin, and Gloria and who represent a different time in New York’s culture, a past but very endearing time.
Our big excitement that weekend was the purchase of a GPS. We left on our journey with no intent of buying one, but we realized that far too much time was being spent planning routes to little-known places. That time could be better spent in other pursuits, such as eating, drinking, reading, and bathing. Erik selected the voice of a man with a British accent who goes by the name Daniel. Joe was hoping for someone like the Soup Nazi, (“I said turn right! You turned left! No route for you!”) but that was apparently not an option. (Note to Garmin…)
After a wonderful extended weekend, on Monday we drove through eastern New York, the northwestern corner of Massachusetts, and settled in for the evening in southwestern Vermont. Taking the Taconic State Parkway, our drive was very scenic and green. Although it somewhat resembled the countrysides of Minnesota or Wisconsin, it was the architecture of the houses that was the big difference. The buildings were more traditionally New England (such as colonial and saltbox styles) and were also taller. It’s a hard thing to describe, but the difference is noticeable.
Curiously, the national forest campground that Erik selected for our first of four nights camping happened to be closed for the summer. Very luckily, there was a Vermont state park campground right across the street. So, in the rain, we unlatched Maggi and settled in among the trees. Because of the cold and rainy evening, we spent our time perfecting our Rummy skills and making friends with Daniel, who will be very instrumental in our future journeying, as he came equipped with topographical knowledge of Canada and Mexico.
Our drive on Tuesday took us through southern Vermont and New Hampshire. We took our time and stopped off to check out some views and some sights along the way, admired both the Green Mountains of Vermont and the White Mountains of New Hampshire, and even bought some Vermont maple syrup along the way. We also made a special point of driving through Concord, New Hampshire, exploring along the residential areas and admiring the houses, and had our modest lunch on the lawn on the capital building, which is the oldest in the country. We arrived at our campsite on the southern coast of Maine, walked through the area to have dinner (lobster rolls and ice cream), and then called it a day at our No Kids Allowed campsite (which also had free showers – bonus!).
Wednesday we continued through Maine, driving mostly on the coastal highway, Route 1. The scenery in Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine is generally wonderful but there are some peculiarities. Firstly, since we try to accomplish most of our drive on country highways, we really did not see all that many fast food restaurants. In fact, if you added up all the fast food restaurants we did see in the past two days – I’m not kidding, I mean ALL – you would still not have one-half the number of Dunkin’ Donuts that we passed. These things are everywhere. In addition to Dunkin’ Donuts, there is also a disproportionate number of independently owned pizzerias (always with the owner’s name at the top: Frank’s Pizzeria or Jerry’s Pizza and Pasta), services for pets (like clinics or spas), antique shops (no surprise), small art galleries (nice touch) and signs for moose crossings (no moose were spotted by us – so far). Many of the small towns are just normal, quaint towns with few chain stores and more small businesses, but some of the “small towns” are tourist hotbeds and their boutiques, candy stores, and ocean-view restaurants probably do great business three months of the year.
One of our spontaneous stops was to see a lighthouse in Rockland, Maine. Literally, we saw a sign that said “Lighthouse” with an arrow, so we followed it. The lighthouse wasn’t tall, but it was at the end of a 4400-foot breakwater made of granite. The lighthouse itself was not open, but it was still fun to traverse the 5/6 of a mile on huge stone boulders that took 10 years to assemble more than 100 years ago. After stopping for lunch at a roadside diner (lobster rolls), we arrived at a campground in Sullivan, and our site was about maybe 100 yards from the ocean – although technically it was a bay.
Dinner was at a local place called The Galley, and it was time to get serious. Enough of the lobster rolls. For dinner we each had our first real lobster dinner. The only waitress was an adorable older woman with a great Maine accent (“lobstah”) whose son was the owner of the restaurant AND the lobsterman. In fact, while we were dining we saw him in his boat (with his dog) checking his traps. Since we were both newbies, we were offered a brief lesson in how to eat a lobster. Ours were new shell lobsters as opposed to hard shell. It was not pretty, we both wore the bibs that were provided, but we were successful and it was fantastic – and amazingly cheap! Now we understand why people like lobster, and in this case it could not have been fresher – from boat to kitchen. And as if that weren’t good enough, dessert was homemade blueberry pie, featuring those famous Maine Wild Blueberries, and made by the mother/waitress. Our exciting day concluded by catching the sunset on the bay before bed.
On Thursday morning we said “Au revoir” to the United States and finally made ours an international adventure, crossing the border into New Brunswick. After one night in St. John, we head to Prince Edward Island to begin our next Help Exchange. More excitement to come!
States visited so far: Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine (16)
Total miles driven: 3895