Leaving my family is always difficult, but this time I wasn't being driven back to the airport for a quick flight home. Home would be almost a week away - hopefully - and the journey would have a few milestones to write home about.
Gas prices on Long Island are the highest I've seen the entire trip. Is it something with NY taxes, or just greedy station owners that are trying to squeeze every penny out of the seemingly well-to-do suburban dwellers?
I hopped on the Long Island Expressway and took the HOV lane until it ended, It didn't get me past traffic, but it kept a wider cushion between me and the crazy cagers.
After leaving I495 on the east end, the landscape morphed into countryside - wineries and asparagus farms abound. I passed Pindar, a local wine producer that I know my sister has always liked, but there was no way I'd be able to carry a bottle the rest of the way without breaking or mutilating it.
Land gave way to water, and soon it was on both sides of the rooadway as I headed all the way out to Orient Point.
I arrived at the Cross Sound Ferry in time to buy my ticket, take a few pictures, then board for the hour plus ride up to New London, CT.
Once parked, we were not permitted back down to the parking deck. I later thought that I should have brought the SPoT tracker upstairs with me to have the "blips" continue across the water. Oh well, next time.
It was a beautiful day for a boat ride. The water was mostly calm, the birds were hovering overhead, and the sun warmed everything it touched.
I grabbed an egg sandwich and some apple juice from the on-board cafeteria, then settled wandered the ferry decks looking for interesting things to take pictures of.
New London, CT
Spank says he's got a cough now. I shouldn't have left him down there with all the cars and fumes.
I wasn't able to get a picture of any "Welcome to Connecticut" signs because we crossed over the state line somewhere in the water. I did notice that CT smelled like cedar. Maybe that's just my imagination.
Before too long I was crossing into Rhode Island.
The "Ocean State" - ok, now I gotta pee.
The people in Rhode Island are rude, or at least the few that I met were. I stopped at a gas station to fill up and use the ladies room - but was told there wasn't one available to the public. Even for paying customers? "No restroom" was his repeated response.
Ok, so I went up the road to the next one and there was a sign on the door that there were no facilities. I don't see how the cashier puts up with that...
The third station didn't have a sign on the door and I spotted the powder room in the back. The door was open so I snuck in despite the "Employees Only" sign. Hey, it's not like I had to go through a stock room to get to it, but I reaaaaally had to go! I came back out, refreshed s ever, and proceeded to buy $5 worth of overpriced drinks and snacks as a sign of my appreciation. As I got to the counter, the woman behind it looked up at me, wwalked around the counter to the bathroom, and closed and locked the door from the outside. She came back up front and rung me up, told me to have a nice day (all the while giving me "the look") and I left.
Hey lady, would you rather I just drop trou behind your store?
Onward I go, past Purgatory
Through Massachussets, which I didn't see a sign for, but it smelled like pine trees. Or maybe Pinesol. Is it state-wide spring cleaning day?
Into New Hampshire I go.
Chugging along, I kept my GPS zoomed in so I would know when the crossing into Maine was coming up. I wanted to be ready! A I approached, I realized this would be another state border created by water. The bridge neared.
Did you see that? I bet you didn't. It said State Line - Maine - Vacationland.
Here's a close-up:
I was disappointed. I'd come all this way to get the sign and THAT was it?
I was (slightly) relieved when I got to the end of the bridge and found this, a larger sign welcoming me to the far northeast state. But there was also a small sign next to it that prevent a better picture.
Living in New York for most of my formative years, I'd traveled repeatedly to Vermont and New Hampshire for family vacations, skiing, hiking, and general "get away from the city" vacations, but I'd never stepped foot in Maine until now. As minor an occurrence it is for most, it was a big deal for me. I was smiling from ear to ear, the sense of accomplishment was almost overwhelming. I'd done it. And the naysayers (you know who you are) can all kiss my big, tired, sore behind.
I found a gas station with decent food and beverage offerings to grab some dinner and make a plan for the night. My sister and I have a friend from college that lives somewhere in Vermont, so I called her to get his address and phone number. I left him a message and headed his way.
I wasn't able to reach him but left a message with my ETA around dark:thirty. As I rode through southern New Hampshire, the setting sun was directly in my face and I put my sunglasses on under an already tinted visor.
Both are polarized. Now I couldn't see the GPS screen. DOH!
My shadow grew longer as it followed me west
I stayed on Hwy 4 and Hwy 9, which were fun. I spotted a Moose crossing sign but didn't get the camera out in time - but moose this far south? Really?
I found a small bridge traversing the creek/river I'd been following
And had to be VERY careful riding on and parking in the thick layer of sand that had accumulated on the roadway over the winter.
It sure is beautiful up here
Vermont! I'd crossed over on another bridge, then caught the sign on the other side.
I rode up the unpaved street and into his driveway, but Keith wasn't answering the phone or the door. I called my sister, the coordinator, to see if I was at the right house. Just as she reached for her cell phone to check his number two cars pulled into the driveway. Keith! ":long time no see!"
It had been years, literally. We determined the last time I saw him was at my sister's wedding back in 2001. Since then he'd moved up here to a small town just outside Brattleboro, VT and was working from home. Ah, the life.
I was afraid my last-minute overnight request might have been interfering with his plans, but he and his friend Bryan assured me they were just planning on hanging out for the night and that I was a welcome addition.
I guess they needed someone to beat at darts.
I'm glad I could fill that void.
Our old friend George showed up and we talked for hours about the past - good times, bad times, strange times. We eventually made our way out back and built a fire in the pit.
And as every proper Vermont homeowner should, Keith has a hot tub and coaxed us in. I made do with some Under Armour shorts and a shirt and relaxed away the miles. I must have been in there over an hour, my hands looked like prunes!
New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Maine
One HUGE milestone, and the turning point towards home again