August 6, 2007
Where to start. It’s been a couple of days since the last report. I am now in Fargo, North Dakota and it is cold up here. Only mid 50s in the morning!
There were a couple of stops between here and Marquette. First of, Marquette, the little place right on Lake Superior. I walked around town for a while and marveled at the restored old brick buildings. This used to be an iron ore and lumber town in its hay days. The road called and I intended to make it to Duluth, Minnesota. There, I would stay with a friend for a day to just relax a little and map out the rest of the trip.
I drove thru more forests and past a bunch of lakes, some small other quiet large. I flew thru Wisconsin, took only 2 ½ hours to cross thru the northern part. However, I stopped in Montreal. As mentioned before, something had to give and it was Wisconsin, sorry.
I made it to Duluth somewhere around 6 PM. My friend has a house right on Lake Caribou inclusive of canoe and paddle boat. Got some rest and enjoyed the company as well as not having to drive for a day.
All good things have to come to an end and on Sunday off I went again. More forests and lakes. Minnesota has over 10,000 lakes. I was in luck, in Grand Rapids I stumbled across a street fair with a little parade. Looked more like a NYC block party, but size is not everything. Made a minor detour to Bemidji to see and photograph the giant statue of Paul Bunyan and his bull Babe, call me crazy.
I think I am ready for some flat land. Just east of Fargo the landscape started to change. The crops were low growing and the trees were almost entirely gone and replaced by shrubs.
I stayed the night in a Motel 6, super clean and surprisingly quiet. The motel has only data ports and I don’t have a cable, so I have to make my way to a Kinko’s to send the e-mail.
I am heading to the western border of N. Dakota before I drive south to South Dakota. It seems that I make it to Sturgis just in time for the big Harley rally and the Joan Jett concert on August 8.
I will skip Montana and instead drive thru northern Wyoming to Yellowstone. I have campsite reservations for 2 nights inside Yellowstone.
From there the road takes me to the Grand Teton, a stay in Jackson Hole and somehow thru Idaho to Washington State. Hope to be in Bellingham by
August 18. A few days there. Some more sightseeing in Washington State and than down via US 1 to San Francisco. I think I will be in SFO around August 24.
I don’t know how much e-mail possibilities I have, so don’t be surprised if you don’t hear from me for a few days.
Enjoy the day.
August 2, 2007
Michigan’s U.P. or Upper Peninsula. A thunderstorm in the morning decided for me that I would not be going to Mackinac Island. Instead, I drove up to Sault Ste. Marie to see the Soo Locks. Very interesting to watch big ships move through the locks. The traffic through these locks used to be busier than the traffic through the Suez Canal and Panama Canal combined.
West on route 28, nothing but pine forests. I started to wonder if it was a good idea to go all the way up north to get to Wisconsin instead of taking a ferry across Lake Michigan yesterday. In the end the U.P. route turned out just fine. After all that forest, I finally saw water, Lake Superior. Great blue water. What will I do when I am in the middle of this country and there is no water in sight? After I got very annoyed with some drivers, I had to pull over at a scenic outlook to get away from them. What a great spot to pull over. There it was a beautiful empty beach right on Lake Superior. Got my swimsuit and went for a swim. Ah, what great way to end the day. I made reservations at a motel in Marquette, not far from where I was swimming. It is nice to have the toilet within 10’ again. Great view onto the Lake from my room, unfortunately, also great traffic noise.
Tonight I splurged. I went to dinner. Food at a table with linen tablecloth. What a difference to eating in a tent by flashlight. I think we all need to be deprived of the basics for a while to really appreciate the little things in life.
With a little luck I make it thru Wisconsin into Minnesota by tomorrow evening. Why didn’t anyone tell me that this is a REALLY big country?
Until next time.
P.S. Pictures will follow soon, haven’t downloaded all of them yet.
Separate e-mail to Carol who lives in Michigan.
just a quick hello from the road. I am right now in Marquette on my way to Duluth.
I just had to tell you how beautiful Michigan is.
I drove from Emmett west on M-21 to Covert (there was a KOA camp ground) via Kalamazoo. The drive on M-43 was stunning. Hilly roads, lots of trees overgrowing the road, wow. Up the west coast, stopped in Saugatuck, nice, but
almost too many tourists. Drove past the Sleeping Bear Dunes, saw the giant dune, but didn’t climb it. Opted to go for a
swim at Glenn Haven. There were a lot of beautiful spots in between. The landscape is ever changing. I did drive over the Mackinac Bridge, unfortunately, in pouring rain. Skipped Mackinac Island and headed for the locks in Sault Ste. Marie, very interesting. I have to admit that the drive from there to Marquette for the most part was a little dull, too much forest. But it paid off, I pulled off the road 10 miles east of Marquette and went for a swim in Lake Superior.
Everything is taking so much longer than I had thought. I am starting to make short cuts. Crossing thru the northern tip of Wisconsin instead of driving down to the Wisconsin Dells. Guess I have to take another trip to see everything I by-past.
Not sure if it will be worthwhile to drive up to Hancock Houghton to see the mines. What do you think?
Thanks for your tips.
August 1, 2007
First of all, thank you for all of your support and well wishing.
I am writing this from my tent at the KOA spot in Mackinaw City, northern Michigan. With a little luck I might even be able to send this update from my tent as well, amazing.
Let’s go back a couple of days to NY State. I left Rochester on Sunday morning heading for the Niagara Falls and Niagara on the Lake, Lake Ontario that is. All went well until I missed the turn off right after the Canadian border. Not so bad, I just go to Niagara on the Lake first.
Past through a bunch of vineyards, strange to see them on flat land, I am used to seeing wine/grapes grow on the side of mountains. The little town was cute, too many people, the view over the lake was great. I asked for directions back to the Falls and headed south again. Bought some peaches on the way. What a nightmare. I don’t want to offend anyone, but the town of Niagara Falls is ghastly to put it mildly. It could be a Disney production.
There is no way to just stop and catch a glimpse of the Falls, people everywhere. I was very frustrated and disappointed. I was on the verge of leaving without having gotten a good look or even a photo of the Falls. Decided otherwise, stopped illegally, jumped out of the car, took two shots
and drove off, a cop car right behind me. Thank God, they didn’t do anything. I do not ever want to go back.
I made my way thru Canada west towards Michigan. I didn’t really have any interest to explore Canada at this time any further, sorry. The big bummer came at the US border. It took two hours until I finally got to the customs booth. No problems there.
I had put it into my head that tonight would be the night I would camp for the first time ever!! There was a KOA not too far from the border. I just made it in time to set up the tent before total darkness fell. I was not scared, but it did not feel comfortable. I didn’t have any time to get the lay of the land during daylight. Don’t laugh, but I was very glad to have Buddy. He stayed with me all night in the sleeping bag! The “bed” was pretty comfortable. Thanks James for recommending a rectangular sleeping bag.
Breakfast at a local place, standard three eggs, toast, hash browns and coffee. Got talking to the local folks and they gave me some tips for photo ops.
Michigan is beautiful. Farmland, corn fields (sweet corn) and out of nowhere adorable little towns. Some look very modern, saw even a cyber café.
I was headed for the Michigan west coast. The landscape changed from flat, straight roads with farmland to the left and right to hilly, curvy roads lined by big trees. The tree tops were so large that they formed a canopy over the road, wow. Made it to the coast with enough time to set up tent in daylight this time. KOA sites might not give you a true nature feel, but I am fine with that. Wouldn’t be too thrilled to be out in the woods by myself. I think my parents wouldn’t be either. It takes a little getting used to brushing your teeth next to a handful of strangers. The shower facilities are tiny. I have the feeling that my NYC studio will seem really big when I get back.
I didn’t get far the next day, very tired. Can’t fall asleep at night right away. Stopped in a town called Saugatuck, right on the mouth of the Kalamazoo River and Lake Michigan. Very nice, I like places by the water and Michigan has plenty of them. Spend the afternoon there, eating and drinking coffee. My coffee consumption might also be responsible for my not falling asleep problem, I am cutting back. Drove a little further north to Muskegon where I again camped. Unfortunately, the site was within earshot of the highway. Ear plugs only helped a little.
This brings you to present time, August 1. I panicked in the morning, when I realized that it would take me two more days before I am out of Michigan. I have to stop doing this, I’ll get to where I get when I get there. I have the feeling I will be back just a day or two later than I had planned. The drive up north to Mackinaw City was beautiful. Drove thru forests, cherry & apple orchards, past huge blueberry bushes and shoreline towns and I even took a dip in Lake Michigan, very refreshing. My favorite time for driving is after 6 PM when the sunlight gets warmer and everything looks even more beautiful.
My drive thru Wisconsin will be a little abbreviated. I’ll cross thru the upper, narrower part of Wisconsin, instead of driving further south. Something got to give, better to see fewer places than to loose my sanity.
July 28, 2007
Today was a driving day. Even though I am trying to break the habit of having a schedule, I just have to get out of NY state. Continued my drive thru the Adirondack Mountains over to Watertown near Lake Ontario. Thru a fluke I ended up in the small historic town of Sackets Harbor, right on Lake Ontario. Very nice, little sail boat harbor, Main Street with a handful of stores and restaurants. I had the best lunch in a week at Good Fellos, linguini with artichoke, sun dried tomatoes and pine nuts! Yummy.
After a sufficient break I continued thru upstate New York farmland. Very green and beautiful. I was hoping to get a good shot of a grain silo with the sun reflecting on the sliver roof, didn’t happen. It has been very hazy and the light has not been ideal.
I managed to make it to Rochester, where I am spending the night at the Wellesley Inn. Finally, a hotel that accepted the coupon from the Room Saver brochure, $29 + tax.
Tomorrow, I’ll be leaving for the Niagara Falls and thru Canada to Michigan. I think I am ready to pitch my tent. I called the KOA campsite just across the boarder in Michigan, and they do have space available. If I like it and I continue to camp, you will be getting fewer updates due to the lack of internet connection. Not all campsites offer wi-fi.
Until the next time.
July 27, 2007
Ok, my new travel companion is very cute, not very tall, light brown complexion, big brown eyes, cute ears and just a little on the hairy side. No, not to worry, I did not pick-up some strange mountain creature. I past the Vermont Teddy Bear
Company and I just couldn’t resist. Better talking to a bear than to a truck.
By the way, the jury is still out on a name for the truck. Betty, Betsy and Priscilla are in the race. I thought maybe Dodge, it is a Dodge truck and it sounds kind of fun to say “let’s get out of Dodge, Dodge.” Don’t have settled on a name for the bear either, Pooh is an obvious one, or just Buddy.
Anyway, back to the traveling. Decided to take a ferry across Lake Champlain to Essex, NY. What better way to relax than on a little boat ride. Caught the
12:30 PM ferry, just missed the 12 o’clock ferry, but didn’t mind one bit to wait 30 minutes for the next one. Sitting on the dock in the sun, writing in my journal (still trying to catch up to present time), looking out onto the lake, what bliss.
Once on the NY side I had to get the truck inspected, it didn’t have an inspection sticker and I did not want to run the risk of getting a ticket. I had researched a Mobile station which does inspections in Westport, close to the ferry landing spot and on my way to the Niagara Falls. As it turns out, there was no Mobile station. Luckily, the woman at the grocery store pointed me in the direction of a Dodge and GM dealership which perform inspections. Unfortunately, both would only do inspections by appointment, crap. Thanks to a wrong turn I ended up at a Ford dealership down the road and they did it right away, only 10 bucks.
It had started to rain and a couple of big thunderstorms had moved thru the area as well. All this created this neat mist/fog in the mountains. Sorry, no photos couldn’t pull over. The drive thru the mountains, the Adirondack, was really nice. There was a stretch of road which was lined by two rows of birch trees in front of pine trees, the white against the green was amazing. Again, no photos. Went thru Lake Placid, cool to see the old Olympic installations. One hour later, I stopped and got
a motel room. It was only 5 PM, put I had zero energy. The town is called Tupper Lake. So much for making it to the Niagara Falls, still over 300 miles away. As the saying goes, it is not the destination, but the journey that takes you there, or something like that.
Sorry, I am rambling; I tend to do that when I am tiered.
July 26, 2007
Lobster traps, lobster traps everywhere. I spent Tuesday exploring Deer Isle, little island due south of Bangor, Maine. After a good breakfast at the Pilgrim’s Inn I started my drive around the island, camera in hand. It was foggy most of the morning which made for quite beautiful pictures, even though I wouldn’t have minded a little sunshine on the rocky coastline from time to time. After lunch at a little local place I headed towards Acadia National Park. The 50 mile drive took me over 2 hours, stopping taking pictures. At this point I am suffering from lobster trap fatigue. They are everywhere piled high like the garbage in NYC.
I took a drive through the western portion of Desert Mountain Island. The weather changed constantly, sunny inland and totally foggy by the water. Nevertheless, Maine is beautiful. I will have to come back to spend more time actually hiking in Acadia.
Spent the night at a Motel 6 in Bangor, clean and quiet.
I had a very late start on Wednesday. I felt very tired despite a good night’s sleep. Started heading west on highway 2. Passed thru a lot of small towns/villages. If I had stopped at every possible photo op I would have never made it to Bethel, just 170 miles west of Bangor. The landscape, including the old cars and other junk in the front yards, reminded me very much of upstate New York.
I drove thru Rome, past Peru and took a break at the Belgrade Lakes. Wow, that place is beautiful and so peaceful.
I spent the night in a motel just off highway 2, very clean and extremely quiet, the humming of the fridge was the loudest sound around.
Contemplating if I should drive to Paris or Sweden before I head over the border to New Hampshire. Hoping to get out of New England soon, feels like my back yard and I would rather spend more time in the mid west & west.
So far, the hardest thing has been to let go, not following a schedule. Making sure to have a place to sleep at night is still a little stressful. I picked up a directory for Motel 6 as well as a directory of the KOA campsites. I am not camping until my cold is gone.
Off to breakfast. Not sure when I’ll be able to send this update.
OK, I made it to Burlington, Vermont. I didn’t go to Paris, instead I visited Berlin and Milan in New Hampshire. Driving thru the outskirts of the
White Mountains was nice. The mountains don’t seem very high. They are, however, very rugged compared to the rolling hills of Vermont. Didn’t pass thru too many small towns in NH, more winding mountain roads. Drove thru a covered bridge crossing into Vermont, very neat.
I drove the last 40 miles to Burlington on the interstate. It was nice going 70+ mph (65 is speed limit) after driving on average 45 mph for the last days.
I am staying at the Econo Lodge, the first and last time, I hope. Couldn’t get anything else that would not have broken my bank. It is time to start camping.
Off tomorrow to the Niagara Falls, hopefully I find a place to stay. Not sure if I even make it all the way. It is a very long drive from Burlington. Can’t wait to get to Michigan in a couple of days.
Sorry this e-mail went on a little longer than planned.
P.S. Let me know if you prefer not to receive any further travel e-mails.
P.P.S. I need a name for the truck. Have to call it something when I talk to it. It’s a white Dodge Dakota. Suggestions please.
The other day I was rummaging through my bookshelves when I came across a booklet with collections of e-mails I had written during my first road trip in 2007. That 10 week, 12,000 mile trip was the inspiration for my extended road trip in 2010. These e-mails were only shared with a small circle of friends back then. Now that I have this blog I thought I’ll share them with the rest of you. Just reading a few pages made me nostalgic for the road. One of these days I’ll be back in my camper traveling the little roads of this country. By the way, I didn’t have a camper back in 2007. Only a truck, which my boss loaned me, and a tent.
July 24, 2007
Wow, after a weekend in Provincetown I finally arrived late last evening at the Pilgrim’s Inn in Deer Isle, Maine. What a beautiful little place.
Leaving the Cape yesterday took a little longer than expected due to a flat tire. The hole was tiny, but in a bad spot. It got plugged, however, the mechanic suggested that the tire should get replaced. After a quick phone call to the NJ dealer it was decided to put on the spare, which is not a donut, but a full size tire. Found a very nice mechanic in Chatham who switched the tires, for a mere $10. I would have never figured out how to remove the spare.
Off I went, it was after 2 PM and I still had 7 hours ahead of me. Unfortunately, the weather was less than nice. North of Boston it started to rain, heavy from time to time. The pick-up handled it nicely. Due to the time of day and the weather I missed the beautiful Maine coast. I am glad that I don’t have any further reservations, it is too stressful trying to be somewhere on time.
I passed South China on my way to Belfast, only in Maine.
Today I will take it easy, walking around Deer Isle
and driving up to Bangor, where I’ll stay in a motel over night. Not sure yet if I skip Acadia Nat’l Park altogether and save it for another trip or if I just drive thru it. It is still misty and rainy and I don’t feel like setting up tent under those conditions. I tested the tent when I was in Provincetown, easy set-up and the tent felt almost larger than my NYC apartment.
Don’t know when and where I have internet connection again, but I’ll try to stay in touch.
Thanks for reading to the end.
P.S. I am considering to get “Depends” sounds better than having to find a rest stop. The side of the road is OK, but not when it is raining
After living for two years, 23 months to be precise, in my little camper I have moved back into my apartment in Manhattan.
As with most things in life there are pros and cons. It is great to be back in the middle of things; no train schedules and long commutes. Everything is right at my fingertips. I very much enjoy the convenience of the city.
I have shed the layers of clothing I wore while I lived in my camper and traded them for shorts and t-shirts thanks to a notoriously overheated New York City apartment.
However, I could do without some of the sounds and smells of the city; the banging sound of trucks hitting potholes, idling diesel truck engines at night and the lovely aroma of garbage. But who can beat a front row seat to the filming of a TV show.
Over the weekend I bid farewell to my camper. No, I did not sell it instead I put it into storage.
I left Westchester, just as I did almost exactly two years ago when I started my journey, and drove to Pennsylvania; same route, but much nicer weather. The 3 ½ hour drive made me nostalgic for the open road and for about five minutes I contemplated if I should just keep on driving. I think for now my traveling days are over.
I am beginning a new chapter. In two weeks I am starting a new job that will keep me in the city for some time; very exciting.
I am very grateful for all the support I received from my friends since I returned to New York; my friend who let me camp on her property for six months and for her help during my job search. I am grateful for my friends who gave me short term work and for those who gave me moral support. Thank you, I am very lucky.
In all my travels I never have left my camper due to bad weather, not during tornado warnings and not during hurricane Irene. It took this nasty Nor’easter to get me out of my camper and into my friend’s house. A very wet and heavy snow started to fall around 11 am and it is still coming down at 10 PM. All this snow, 5-6 inch at this point, wouldn’t be so bad if it would be December and the trees wouldn’t be bearing any leaves. Unfortunately, it is October and plenty of foliage is left on the trees. All afternoon I kept hearing the cracking and breaking of tree limbs all around the property. One big branch came down a few feet from my camper. Just walking from the house to the camper I have been doused by snow falling from the trees. Usually the snow is followed by some branches. The thudding of snow on top of the camper and just the notion that the big oak tree next to it could lose another branch was too much for me, I had to leave, I was scared. It doesn’t help that I am home alone. Lets hope that the branches remain were they belong and all will be well tomorrow morning.
I had hoped to write a very different post today about my time at Crater Lake. Maybe tomorrow.
P.S. The camper and I survived the night. However, a branch did land on the roof, but fortunately, only damaged one of the vent covers. It was a beautiful morning. The sun was shining, blue skies and everything was covered in snow. You just had to look past all the downed branches. By now the trees are snow free and only a slushy mess remains on the ground.
By now you probably have figured out that I must be back in New York, even at my slow pace.
The last stretch of my journey, I like to call it “Alternative Lifestyle”, took me through Pennsylvania from the Bald Eagle State Forest thru Lewisburg, looked like a nice small town, to Centralia. Centralia is considered a ghost town; only nine people live there at this point. Originally Centralia was a town with a population of roughly 1,100.
An underground coal fire that has been burning since the 1960s! is a cause for the exodus. The fire emits unhealthy fumes; even I had difficulties breathing when I went up the hill where you can see smoke and steam coming out of the hillside. However, I had no problems breathing when I walked around the deserted streets of Centralia. In the 1980s the government bought out most of the homeowners and dismantled the homes. All that is left of the town are streets with no names going nowhere, a cemetery and a handful of homes.
You can only imagine what this town must have looked like judging by the wide side walks and stone walls, very sad. There are several sites online which give you more details about the local and federal governments’ failures to put out the still burning fires.
Next stop, Pottstown where I visited my cousin Bill. The closer I got to larger towns the less I enjoyed driving. The streets are not build for trucks, they are too narrow and most of the time don’t have a shoulder. Drivers are getting worse too, making left hand turns right in front of me thinking that I can just stop on the spot. Never mind that they don’t let me merge even in stop and go traffic; I was cursing like a truck driver. Did I mention low clearance bridges? There have been several occasions when no bridge height was indicated and my stomach contracted and I stopped breathing as I made my way under the bridge or overpass.
My last stop was a visit to a friend in Princeton. I knew that the last stretch of the drive would not be easy. I remembered coming home after my seven week long cross-country trip. This time I was coming home to a lot of uncertainty; would I be able to hold on to the truck, would I find another job, would this be the end of my traveling days? A lot of questions with no answers. I wasn’t really thinking about any of this when I approached the Tappan Zee Bridge and I was not prepared for what was to come. About two miles before the bridge my eyes started to well-up and by the time I reached the bridge I was experiencing the worst possible anxiety attack. I pulled over into a parking strip right after the toll booth. My arms and legs started to cramp up, I couldn’t walk, my fingers were tingling, I was breezing rapidly, my body was tingling all over, leg and arm muscles were contracting, nothing felt right.
It took me an hour to recover and feel well enough to drive the remaining ten miles to my friend Bettina’s house in Westchester. I was relieved when I arrived.
I have been back for about two weeks now and I am still settling into a new routine. The first brief trip to the city was a bit overwhelming. The crowds and noise on the train were more than what I could deal with after all those months away from large cities and mass transit.
My good fortunes have not stopped since I have come back to NY. My biggest concern has been to find a way to hold onto my truck. Thanks to Bettina I might be able to do so. For the time being I am camping in her driveway. It is a very nice driveway surrounded by woods and chipmunks on a dead end road. I was able to sublet my apartment within three days for the next couple of months taking away the burden of having to come up with rent money. I am still looking for additional part-time work.
I spent four days in the city and fell in love with it all over again. I walked around the Village, Midtown and the East Village. It was great to walk home in the evening up Fifth Avenue, hearing music drifting from Central Park’s Summer Stage concert out to the Avenue. I thought I might see the Alexander McQueen exhibit, a retrospective of the late British designer’s work at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It was the last day of the exhibit and the Met had extended opening hours until midnight. When I got to the museum the line was out the door and half down the block at 10 PM!, only in New York.
I marveled at the Empire State building from Houston Street looking up Bowery, just great and a bagel with veggie cream cheese never tasted this good. Best of all, I now have the wonderful Fairway grocery store in my neighborhood. No need to trek all the way to the Westside anymore.
There is no greater city than New York City. Granted it is nothing like the open spaces out West, but the city has so much to offer.
For the time being I will be one of those commuters traveling to the city to work.