At 10 days in to our journey, we’ve started to realize how difficult it is to keep up with our various social media outlets. Not only because we’re so busy actually having these adventures, but because wifi and cellular signal are so hard to come by in the middle of the country! We tend to share more frequently on Instagram and Facebook, so if you’re interested in a more timely account of our travels, you can follow us there.
When all the months of preparation and dreaming finally brought us to Departure Day on June 1, we almost couldn’t believe what we were about to do. The road that lay before us was so different from anything we’d done before that we had no frame of reference for the scale or intensity of the experience. When I looked at Zorro curled up on Lizzy’s lap, I thought of all the places he’d walk, the smells he would smell, the plants he would pee on. The sense of excitement before such a trip is one of life’s greatest pleasures.
It’s a little sad to be leaving Maine right as summer is starting, but we’re very fortunate to be taking along some Maine treats as we travel. As we were planning our trip, we reached out to several Maine companies to introduce ourselves and our project. We were delighted to receive generous packages from some of our favorite local companies! Not to brag, but we think Maine is home to some of the best snack food in the country. Take, for example, Maine Coastal Popcorn Company, whose delicious blueberries & cream popcorn we were munching on before we even pulled out of our driveway. We LOVE popcorn, and MCPC makes the most adventurous flavors we’ve ever tried! They kindly sent us other wild flavors like smores and buffalo wing, which we’ll look forward to trying later in the trip (if we can keep ourselves from eating it all at once!).
Of course, the excitement of those first few miles usually dissipates as the odometer starts ticking and the reality of highway travel sets in. Fortunately, we know a great, simple travel hack that transforms a long drive into an act of discovery: Take the back roads!
We simply set our Google Maps route options to “avoid tolls” or “avoid highways” depending on the route, and instead of endless mile markers and exit signs, we drove through forest and farmland, seeing places even in our home state of Maine that we’d never experienced before. Is it weird to want to see the small town tire shops and grocery stores instead of booking it to our big “destination” stops? Probably, but adventuring rewards weirdness.
That first day, we drove through Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and upstate New York. Even though we’ve lived in Maine for five years, this was our first time in Vermont. Our route took us through the Green Mountains, a beautiful and, indeed, very green drive through mountains quite different from the Whites we’re used to in New Hampshire. We stopped at a gift shop overlooking a peaceful valley and bought some local aged cheddar (Flash forward: We’re enjoying this cheddar now in Utah and it is incredible), as well as a small magnet to commemorate our visit. We decided on a whim to purchase a magnet in each state we visit as a small, packable souvenir. This is an inexpensive and space-saving way of remembering the places we’ve been.
From Vermont, we passed into upstate New York. We were surprised how much this region feels like New England. The mountains and hills, forests and rivers all seem a million miles away from the City we usually think of when we think of New York. We would have loved to spend more time here, which surprised us a little since we expected this first leg of the journey to be relatively unremarkable. The road has already taught us this lesson: Travel is not about destinations.
Destinations are just abstract concepts, ideas we can never truly reach. How many times have we visited someplace and left wondering whether we truly experienced it properly or not? Sometimes we can get so preoccupied with checking off places on our itinerary, taking photos and buying the t-shirt, that we miss the experience itself. When we talked to people about our trip this spring, most of them asked the same question: “Where are you going?” meaning, specifically, what is your ultimate destination? But that was never the point. Sure, we’re going to San Francisco, because that’s not intended to be the big crescendo to our whole trip. The journey itself is the adventure, and we’re happy to take it as it comes, adjusting our plan as needed.
A good example of this is our second morning. As we bedded down in a Wal-Mart parking lot in Buffalo, NY, we realized that we were only about an hour from Niagara Falls. Since we had taken a slightly different route than we had planned, we hadn’t put this stop on our schedule. But to come this close and not see the most powerful waterfall in North America? We knew we would regret it.
We woke up super early the next morning and drove a little out of our way to the Canadian border. Approaching the falls, we could see the rising mist from a mile away. After driving around in confusion for a few minutes (it’s a very touristy area with numerous false “welcome centers”), we made it to the park and walked out to the falls. Upon seeing/hearing/feeling the tremendous natural beauty of the falls, we knew this was a sign to keep following our dreams and to create our own adventures. As six million cubic feet of water per minute went roaring past us, we gazed into Canada, wishing we had our passports and another few hours to explore. Instead, we reflected on how fortunate we were to visit this place before continuing our journey. From here on, we realized we can go wherever we want. To quote J.R.R. Tolkien, “The road goes ever on and on…”
In our next post, we’ll share our adventures from the Midwest, a region that held some surprises for us! We’re working hard to catch you up on where we are now, because SO much has happened. The best is yet to come!