In 2012, Kyle and I took our first road trip out of necessity. We drove from DC to LA over the course of a week, taking the direct though kind of boring route across the middle of the country. Before this trip, I had sworn up and down that I wasn’t really a road trip person; the idea of spending days on end trapped in a car sounded kind of awful.
Four major road trips later, I’ve completely changed my tune. I LOVE being on the road, going wherever we want to go, seeing parts of the country I would entirely miss traveling any other way. We’ve now done the northern route and the southern route across the US in addition to our first trip across the center, but each time the trip was wrapped up in the fact that we were moving and our car was crammed full of basically everything we own (and did I mention our car is a two-door Yaris, aka Jelly Bean?)
This time our road trip was purely recreational, a loop that started and ended in DC, with no camping and no moving our belongings from one place to another. It was liberating. We got to stop and see friends, go to another country, and saw some truly beautiful scenery along the way.
We left after work on Thursday and were able to make a detour to Media, PA to visit my friend Ben. I haven’t seen Ben in a few years, even though he lives relatively close by. It was so amazing to catch up and experience a little piece of his life (and we also had some super delicious ice cream and saw a Trader Joe’s that is basically in a castle).
We spent the night somewhere in northern New Jersey, and then spent the next day driving to Burlington. We stopped in Albany (I have a thing about seeing state capitals) and in a little town outside of Albany called Troy that had an adorable main street and was full of a weird mix of senior citizens and rich New Yorkers furnishing their summer homes.
We’ve made a bunch of friends from Vermont over the years, and have had to listen to all of them wax poetic about how amazing Burlington is. After spending a beautifully crisp early fall day there, I see what they’re talking about. You can see Lake Champlain from essentially everywhere, it’s one of the cleanest cities I’ve ever been to, the food is delicious, there’s craft beer and cider around every turn, and it just feels like one big neighborhood.
Since I started planning this trip late last year, the thing I have been looking forward to the most is FINALLY getting to visit Canada. I’ve been to so many other far-flung countries, and yet somehow it took me 30 years to get to the Great White North. We were only there for a few days to see Montreal and Quebec, and I was excited to get to use my rusty French a bit and to eat piles and piles of poutine.
When we crossed the border in a middle of nowhere town, there was a looooooong line waiting to get into the US that didn’t seem like it had moved in hours. Everyone had turned off their cars, and there was a guy on roller blades skating up the street in front of us. When we got to the checkpoint, a beautiful male model/Canadian immigration officer asked us a few questions and welcomed us in (this would stand in stark contrast to our trip through US customs a few days later, BACK INTO OUR OWN HOMELAND, where we were interrogated about our work and our travel plans and our address in the US and had to throw out the delicious organic grapes we had bought before leaving Quebec. It was very uncivilized.)
Shortly after crossing the border, we realized that our cell phone plan does not work in Canada. Fortunately, even though we couldn’t map our way into town, we could follow the blue GPS dot on the map and direct ourselves the semi-old fashioned way. After we found our AirBnB, we went to see Mount Royal and the historic quarter of Montreal. It looks and feels so much like Europe that it was hard to believe we were relatively so close to home.
We woke up the next morning to a ridiculous rain storm. As we were leaving the city, it started to rain so hard that we could barely see the road, which was all the more terrifying since we didn’t have a working cell phone. Fortunately the rain stopped after 30 minutes or so of crazy downpour, and then we were able to see some of the rolling green hills and deep blue lakes off the side of the road. I kept my eyes peeled the entire time for moose, but I never did spot one.
As beautiful as the historic quarter of Montreal was, Quebec was completely stunning. The city was founded in 1608 at the top of a cliff overlooking the St. Lawrence river, and over the years traded hands from the French to the British. It is full of cobblestone streets and row homes that just ooze charm. We took a tour of the fortifications that surround the city with a Canadian park ranger, and we got to see some parts of the walls that are not accessible to the general public. At night, we ate poutine and drank beer from local breweries, and enjoyed wine on the balcony of our apartment.
Between Quebec and Portland is essentially endless forest. Even in early September, the leaves were already starting to turn. Around every bend was a view more perfect than the one that came before it. To top it off, when we pulled in to our AirBnB in South Portland, it was in the Victorian house of my dreams; the owner offered us sangria and then lent us beach chairs so that we could go enjoy the gorgeous day watching the water. Then we walked around downtown Portland and met my friend Sara for dinner. That was probably my favorite day on the entire trip.
The next day we had a full day in Portland. We took a walk to Bug Light Park, and there was a Rotarian there who was working on a club project maintaining the lighthouse. He let us go inside and check it out, and told us all about the history of the building and the area. Then we went to Cape Elizabeth to check out Portland Head lighthouse; just as we were starting to look around, the fog rolled in and it started to drizzle. Then the drizzle turned into a downpour. Fortunately, the rain gave us an excellent excuse to spend the afternoon sampling beers at Allagash Brewing Company and poking around some awesome architectural salvage shops.
We decided to take Route 1 part of the way south to Boston, since we weren’t in a hurry. After stopping at the trolly museum and a huge flea market/antique mall, we drove towards the shore to Kennebunkport, which is where I would like to summer from now on if anyone would like to buy me a large mansion house on the beach and become my anonymous benefactor.
We spent the afternoon in Boston at the house of a maker Kyle met on the internet (this was much less creepy than it sounds) and then headed south to Connecticut to spend the weekend with my friend Dawn. You know you’re good friends with someone when they let you crash at their house for three nights a week before their wedding. Kyle basically fell in love with the greater New London area, and I have vague plans to one day open a cheese shop called Rottin’ in Groton.
We packed a lot of fun and adventure into 11 days, and it definitely soothed my constant itch to travel and explore. I’m getting really close to having visited all 50 states (Not counting if I’ve just been in the airport or driven through a corner of the state, I still have 9 left: Oklahoma, Arkansas, Michigan, New Hampshire, Nebraska, Iowa, North Dakota, Montana, and Alaska). Now to take a few weeks to relax before we jet off to Seattle in October!