In the summer of 2009 the kid, my sister (referred to as the girl), myself and our travel spider Spidey took on an East Coast road trip of epic proportions, 11 states in 13 days! We started in Michigan and went to New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia.
I should probably first explain Spidey. I had a spider that lived in the passenger side mirror of my car. I believe I picked him up at work as there were several of us that had spiders living in their mirrors. Every night I would come out of work and he would be working on his web. Every night I would tell him it was time to go home and he would climb back behind the mirror. I had him for several months prior to this trip. To our amazement, Spidey continued his pattern of webbing during the night and crawling back behind the mirror in the morning for our entire trip. Sadly, he did leave me not long after we returned home.
I planned this trip over the span of several months. With the exception of Salem and Fall River, Massachusetts I had no specific destinations in mind. Night after night I sat with my Rand Mc Nally Kids’ US Road Atlas that I’ve had since our first Arizona road trip and my AAA tour books and plotted our route. Once I mapped our route, I began planning our stops. This is a tedious process, but one I still use. I sit with my mapped route and every city that we pass through I look up in the AAA Tour Book. I then decide if what’s listed for a city is something we’d like to do. Once the list was compiled, I went over it again with the kid in an attempt to bring it down to realistic proportions. We still took several notebook pages full of possible attractions.
Thanks to a very patient woman at AAA, we had our route (TripTik) and our list of attractions, what we didn’t know was when or where we were going to end up each day. This trip was a perfect example of what I call organized spontaneity. Not knowing our exact daily destinations led to a phenomenon that has never happened to me before or after this trip, and the kid and I fully blame the girl since she was the one differing factor. We got lost every single day! The TripTik’s took me to the center of each city we were stopping in, they did not take us to any particular attraction or hotel. One particular day we went in and out of Virginia and West Virginia at least three times. This same day we even managed to drive through Washington D.C., so we took a picture of the Pentagon!
Packing the car was an adventure in it’s own right. When VW made the Beetle, I don’t think they considered the amount of space three women require when going on a two week vacation. Somehow we managed to get it all in, but there was not a single area of free space. Now wrap your mind around this, every single night everything had to be unloaded and every single morning everything had to be reloaded. By the end of the trip, we had this process down to a science.
Day 1: We made our first and only not on the route stop at Niagara Falls. I had been to the Falls earlier that year, but the kid had never been, so it was worth the stop and it broke up what would have been our longest drive day. I drove until midnight that night not thinking we’d have any problems finding a hotel. How was I supposed to know there was a convention in the town we ended up at? After driving around for an hour and trying to find a room in countless hotels, we ended up at a Red Carpet Inn. I had never before and will never again stay at a Red Carpet Inn. Basically, I paid $100 to stay at the Bates Motel, except the shower didn’t even work!
Day 2: It rained this morning, the only time during the entire trip that we would see any rain. We woke-up in New York but it wasn’t long before we crossed the border into Vermont. Our first stop in Vermont was the Bennington Battle Monument. This monument is the tallest structure in Vermont standing 306 feet 4 1/2 inches. Thankfully an elevator takes you to the top. From the top you can see New York, Vermont and Massachusetts. We then made our way to the city of Bennington and the Old Burying Ground, resting place of Robert Frost. The city of Bennington had a moose festival that year, 50 painted moose throughout the city complete with moose tracks.
After Bennington we stopped and saw covered bridges in Woodstock and Taftsville. The last stop of the day was Quechee Gorge, Vermont’s deepest gorge, formed by glacial activity approximately 13,000 years ago.
Day 3: We hit the road and within a half hour we are in New Hampshire. Our first stop is in Littleton. Littleton is a very quaint town situated on the Connecticut River.
We toured the Littleton Grist Mill and walked Main Street. We also discovered that AAA does not put everything in their tour books. We very happily stumbled upon Chutters! Chutters has the world’s longest candy counter, Guinness verified at 112 feet.
Properly sugared, we were ready or so we thought for our next New Hampshire stop, Arethusa Falls. Arethusa Falls is described in the AAA Tour Book as simply a 1 1/2 mile steep hike. Having hiked to plenty of waterfalls in Tennessee as a child, I figured it’s only a mile and a half, how hard can it be? I had no idea! There was no real trail. There was blue paint on trees every so often in the form of trail markers. It was wet and muddy. It was steep, very, very steep. With only one water bottle each, we were completely unprepared. The kid struggled up the first quarter mile and decided she didn’t care what was at the end of the rainbow, she was going back to the car. The girl and I forged on and with many, many stops and proclamations of dying later, we made it to the top.
This is one of those times that no matter how skilled the photographer, photos will never capture its complete beauty. The falls were breathtaking. This was also the first time I discovered that the descent could be harder than the ascent. Three hours and completely exhausted later, we decided we had seen enough of New Hampshire and continued on to Maine.
Day 4: We spent the morning exploring the seaport and shops of Portland before moving on to Ogunquit, Maine.
Ogunquit is a small, 4.3 square mile coastal town. After strolling the downtown we went on our first boat. We spent the next hour and a half on a lobster tour. We learned a lot about lobsters, none of which I remember enough to share with you here. Having spent most of my childhood on the water, I was just happy to be on a boat. The kid not so much. When the boat is moving she does ok, but when it idles she starts to turn green. It was around dinner time when the cruise ended, so what else could we eat but lobster?
After dinner we found our way to the only lighthouse we would see on this trip, the Nubble Lighthouse. Sadly, you can’t go to the island and explore the lighthouse, but the girl was still happy to have gone.
Evening was upon us and we were all eager to get to our first scheduled stop, Salem, Massachusetts. We arrived in Salem just after sunset, most of the shops were closing for the day but we were able to sign up for a ghost tour and had time to tour the Witch Village and Wax Museum of Witches. I love ghosts, the kid loves ghosts, the girl does NOT love ghosts, she was out numbered. Whether you believe in ghosts or not I recommend the ghost tours. They are relatively inexpensive, you get a nice history lesson of the town you are visiting, and they often take you by places not listed in any brochure or tour book.
Day 5: We spent the entire day in Salem. This is what we saw:
- Witch History Museum
- Witch Dungeon Museum
- Witch House; last remaining building in Salem with direct ties to the trials
- The Burying Point
- Salem Witch Trials Memorial
- Salem Witch Village
We must have walked 20 miles that day, all in flip flops, but we left no witch unturned. The pace of the trip and the length of this particular day were starting the catch up with us, after dinner we happily returned to the hotel and spent the evening watching Shark Week.
Day 6: We spent the morning in Boston, Massachusetts. There is probably no way to fit all there is in Boston into one day, let alone one morning. However, Boston is a large city and therefore, held little appeal to me. This was also the one and only morning of the trip that any arguing took place. We did manage to stuff quite alot into our morning though. We started out at the USS Constitution, the world’s oldest commissioned warship afloat.
Navy men giving tours and you could touch the cannons! A short walk across the harbor took us to the USS Cassin Young, a World War II Destroyer. This time we got to play with the big guns!
From there we moved on to our tour of Boston. Helped out by a trolley, we stopped at Bunker Hill, but chose to not climb the 294 stairs to the top, the Old State House Museum and the site of the Boston Massacre.
We took a short cruise around the Boston Harbor and stopped in at Cheers. From Boston we made our way to Plymouth, Massachusetts. Had I not already been told what to expect, I would have been extremely disappointed by the Plymouth Rock. Compared to what I would have thought, Plymouth Rock is small, a small little rock.
As in Salem, we arrived in Plymouth in the evening with only enough time to eat dinner, snap a quick pick of the rock and sign up for another ghost tour. This was the best ghost tour I have ever been on thanks to our tour guide at Dead of Night Ghost Tours of Plymouth. The girl was not happy about being on another ghost tour, this one actually touring the cemetery. For the love of her big sissy and the fact that she was outnumbered again, she suffered through it and only hated us a little bit!
Our adventure continues in Three Girls and a Yellow VW Beetle (Part 2)