If you've looked at my bucket list, you know that one of my goals is to visit all 50 states of the US. And even though it's not spelled out, I intend to complete that goal before the end of next year. Well, I just returned from a whirlwind journey through seven states in 3 days... so after this weekend, I've now been to 34 of the 50 states.
Friday was a work-from-home day for everyone in our office. We moved to a new office over the weekend, and workers needed to move furniture on Friday. So I took advantage of the extra day out of the office by booking a flight out of town! (Work from home doesn't have to be from home, does it?)
This whole trip was organized on very short notice, and probably could have been done better, but it was still quite fun. On the whole, New Englanders are mostly pleasant people, and the region is beautiful.
Here's how I did it. Maybe some of you will adapt what I learned on my trip and make one of your own.
Thursday after work, I flew from Chicago to Manchester, NH, where I then rented a car and drove to Montpelier, VT.
As I mentioned, Friday was a work day, so when I woke up, I drove into town and looked for a place that both serves breakfast and offers Wi-Fi. I found The Skinny Pancake. Street parking in downtown Montpelier has a 2 hour limit, which matches up well with a business's tolerance for freeloading Wi-Fi users, so after 2 hours I moved the car, and then went to a the Capital Grounds coffee shop and worked another 2 hours.
Afterward, I wandered through town and looked in a few gift shops. Honestly, it's kind of boring. Without a doubt, the draw in Vermont is nature. You don't go there to hang out in town, you go there to get away from towns.
Next I hit the highway toward Albany, NY. Both Vermont and New York offer Wi-Fi access at highway rest areas, so along the way to Albany I stopped twice for an hour each time get some more work done while people were still online. Crossing the border from Vermont into New York feels like leaving the garden of Eden and entering the industrial revolution.
In general, I found Albany to be mostly uninteresting, though the suburb Latham was very pleasant. I found a wonderful diner in Latham, where I got an epic Monte Cristo sandwich. Then I went to my hotel and put in my last two hours of work for the day.
I knew this would be the busiest day, so I left early. From Albany, I drove through Springfield, MA and Hartford, CT before stopping in Middletown, CT to eat at O'Rourkes Diner. There, I ate Brian's Breakfast, a mystery plate the the subtitle "you have to believe!" Apparently, it's different every time. The waitress said I was very brave. But it was amazing.
Next, I continued through New Haven, CT - a coastal city with a skyline of cranes. It's exactly what I imagine Odessa looks like. I would have loved to spend an hour there taking photos, but a massive rain storm had been following me all morning and there was no way I was going to get a shot I liked.
On the coastal road from New Haven to Providence, RI, there are lots of little scenic stops along the side of the road, but the come up with almost no notice. If you happen to make this drive, I suggest you drive in the right-hand lane - even if it's slower - because you'll want to pull off and get some beautiful photos. Also, with a little more time, there are some more stops I'd have liked to make along the way.
Providence was quite uninteresting, not to mention a bit frustrating. In general, I felt like everything about that city was poorly maintained. But the people are nice. I had authentic New England clam chowder and johnny cakes at the Liberty Elm Diner. The chowder ("chowda") wasn't much different than any I'd had anywhere else, but the johnny cakes are something special.
From Providence it was onward to Boston, a city that's impossible to navigate without a GPS. Fortunately, my iPhone served that role adequately. I didn't see any sights in Boston, because the only item on my agenda was a chance to catch up with my friend Trapper Markelz. We talked about computers, languages, iPads, travel, untemplated lifestyles, and Tuscany. It's always nice to see an old friend.
Finally, Sunday was my easy day. I slept late, and didn't hurry. I took scenic Route-1 out of Boston, rather than the expressway, so I could see a bit more of the area. Here's what I learned: if you want to start a suburb of Boston, just tack -ham or -chester onto the end of any word, then go to the intersection of two busy roads and put in a rotary. Now you've got a Boston suburb.
Eventually, route-1 meets the expressway, and the next 90 minutes into Portland, ME are the most beautiful I've ever driven. Once again, there were several places I'd have loved to stop, but I was in the left lane and there was really no warning. That's when I realized the reason why driving in New England is so pleasant: there are no billboards! All you see is beautiful landscapes.
If you're in Maine, there's one thing at the top of your food agenda: Maine lobster ("lobsta"). I found the Portland Lobster Company, and ate my lobsta, then found a friendly tavern nearby that was showing the World Cup final. I was surrounded by Dutch (everyone paid for their own meal, lol!) but I was secretly rooting for Spain. In truth, I would have enjoyed the game no matter who won. Over 110 minutes without a score!
Finally, it was back to Manchester for some sleep before my early flight back to Chicago, and back to work. I still haven't been home since I left for work last Thursday. But I had a great time, and I've crossed of six more states on my way to 50!
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