Like the highway lines rolling rhythmically under our wheels, the past 10 weeks since we left Boyne City for our nine-month trip around the country have sped by. At times, people, places and images blur like the passing scenery out our windows.
As we headed east to Maine and then down the East Coast, our pace was nonstop.
For example, in New York City alone we saw the Yankees’ ticker tape parade, the NYC Marathon, Wall Street, Times Square, two Broadway musicals, the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, Greenwich Village, Harlem, the Brooklyn Bridge, the Empire State Building at night, street performers, and more. We even rollerbladed through Central Park. After 12 days in “the city that never sleeps,” we felt like we never did.
The first major stop on our trip was Cleveland, which we loved. Then we traveled through New England, which lives up to its charming reputation, and to Acadia National Park, Maine. Heading south, we visited historical and significant places from Maine to Florida. On top of and in between all that, Donald, Kelly and Stacy have accomplished a lot of schoolwork and learning. It has been a brilliant beginning.
Finding places to park overnight (especially free ones) immediately became a challenge. We have slept at shopping centers, K-Marts, and rest areas. We boast of sleeping in parking lots of the JFK Library, Cleveland Museum of Natural History, University of Maine, the USS North Carolina Museum, and a couple of police departments.
Our campground experience is limited, but we have some favorites. We liked Acadia; Fairfax Lake County Park in Virginia (Buddy loved that one); and James Island near Charleston, South Carolina. It was 70 degrees at James Island, and the park had an ice-skating rink and the most spectacular Christmas light show we’ve ever seen.
We’ve had so many exceptional experiences it’s hard to pick a few to mention. The Great Lakes Science Center in Cleveland, climbing Mt. Champlain in Acadia, seeing a moose in Maine, driving through New England, finding starfish and other treasures during low tides, whale watching in Gloucester, a lobster dinner, New York City, and Washington D.C. are some; and the list continues to grow.
We lost count of all the museums we saw in less than eight weeks. One of our favorites was the Natural History Museum in New York City. Also, we saw most of the Smithsonian museums. Our favorites were the National Zoo, Renwick Gallery, Air and Space Museum, and the Museum of American History. Having seen some of the best, we have become a little snooty about museums and have used that as an excuse to take a short break from them!
Because time is so precious, we have found ways to simplify our routine. The k.i.s.s. method of preparing meals is one of them. This ‘keep it simple, stupid’ philosophy has meant a lot of sandwiches and chicken noodle soup. But we have had two unforgettable meals – the first was lobster and the second was fine Italian food in a New Jersey restaurant, compliments of friends.
The decision to bring our golden retriever, Buddy, has resulted in compromises but has worked out reasonably well. He is the target of jokes and the source of lots of laughs. Before we left, his favorite activity was riding in the van. Now that it’s his home, we have to bribe him to get in. He’s had a bit of bad luck, including ticks and drinking saltwater – big mistake. Some of his favorite things have been walking in Central Park, chasing squirrels everywhere, and camping. He’s making the best of things and happy to be with us.
Beaches and the seashore are popular with the whole family. Maine’s coast was one of our favorites for exploring, rock hopping, and wave jumping. During a four-day stay at Sagamore near Cape Cod we enjoyed playing on the long, wide sandy beach. One entire day was spent on Cape Cod, with stops at Provincetown and the National Seashore. Hampton Beach, Myrtle Beach, Charleston, Jacksonville, Daytona, and Florida key beaches also helped satisfy our appetite for sand and surf.
Both kinds of luck have journeyed with us. Most of the bad came the very first day. An unbelievable series of mechanical disasters delayed the start of our trip several hours into the night. Everything else seems minor compared to that afternoon and evening. More times than we care to admit we have found ourselves lost. Frustration is common during our attempts to read maps, navigate, and look for phone lines to access the Internet. Being in Boston during record-setting rains and flooding was unbelievable. Still, the good times far outnumber the bad.
Speaking of bad, we have started a “boo-hiss” list that includes: filling the motor home gas tank, paying road tolls (including three in a 10-mile stretch of a Florida expressway), dumping our holding tanks, finding LP gas, THE DELAWARE BRIDGE ($10 toll), finding parking places (especially in Washington D.C.), cold weather, getting Buddy back in the van, TICKS, mad motorists (never Mark’s fault), asking for directions, and bad road signs.
When we stopped in Sarasota, Florida, on Nov. 27, we had traveled 4,170 miles since leaving Boyne City. The third month of our adventure began with Thanksgiving and two weeks of rest and reorganization at Betsy’s parents.
We started traveling as novices with a vague idea of how our trip might unfold. Experience has brought us invaluable insights that will help us, and we are becoming seasoned travelers.
The next leg of our journey will take us across the Florida panhandle, through Alabama and Mississippi with a stop in New Orleans, then to Houston for Christmas. Though the East Coast was awesome, we head toward the Southwest anticipating equally grand experiences.
Stacy, Kelly, Donald, Betsy and Mark Blondin