About Me

Tired of the mundane and craving an adventure, on Saturday, May 22nd, 2010, I embarked on the ultimate American road trip through all fifty states. After nearly a year and a half on the road, on a budget of less than 50 bucks a day, this is my story...


Saturday, August 28, 2010
I'm in Philly!  This afternoon I got into the bustling city and found a [free] parking spot about a million miles away from the action.  That's how I roll, lol.  I walked around the city and into Independence National Historical Park, where I saw the famous Liberty Bell, a symbol of freedom for the colonists of Philadelphia, and Independence Hall, where the two documents, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, on which the foundations of our country rest, were written.  I wasn't moved like I thought I should be.  Was I too rushed?  Was I too distracted by the handsome guy and his comical friends next to me?  Am I too far removed from the hardships endured for these documents to come to pass?  I've known freedom my whole life, and I am very thankful for that.  I'm not blind to the fact that these freedoms are not known throughout the rest of the world, and that life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are often taken for granted.  Independence National Historical Park serves as this reminder.  I guess the fact that I get that is enough.

After feeling like I was about to get mugged on the dark, empty, dirty street where I realized I had earlier parked, I exhaled a sigh of relief as I spotted my nearby car.  Phew.  After a couple failed attempts at getting out of the congested city, I found a McDonald's where I knew I would be able to surf the web as I waited to hear from my host.  It was the kind of McDonald's in the kind of area that had a security guard attending the front by the cash registers.  This actually made me feel safe, lol.  I finished my salad and got the lovely call from my host, giving me directions to his place, and an ETA when he would get back to his place.

After a couple passes around the block I was pleasantly surprised to grab a parking spot a driver was just leaving, (like Chicago, Philly is not very car-friendly unless you have wads of cash or park a million miles away) and I arrived at Angelo's, who very graciously welcomed me into his home. 

Sunday, August 29, 2010
Angelo was happy to show me around the city.  We started by getting acquainted over the most delicious breakfast I may have ever had in my life, at a restaurant just around the corner from him.  I was very quickly understanding why he loved his neighborhood.  Those were the best eggs benedict I have ever tasted, bar-none!  We walked through the Italian Market featured in the movie "Rocky" (the pride of Philly), where we walked by a Chinese market where I could actually buy my own live chicken (among other things), lol.  Then we walked by an awesome courtyard lined with glass mosaic of miscellaneous things, a place where Angelo said a guy had just started making his art that before too long became a showpiece of the neighborhood, and when the place was going to be sold, the local residents came together and bought it.  Next I jogged up the "Rocky Steps," the 72 stone steps at the entrance of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and took in the awesome skyline of Philly.  I said my goodbyes to Angelo, who I felt I had really made a great connection with, before he took off for the train.

Monday, August 30, 2010
This morning Viola accompanied me to Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, only a thirty minute drive from Newark, Delaware where we were both couch-surfing with Joe.  The Italian Water Garden and the fun sculptures in the Topiary Garden were our favorite outdoor amusements, but the Conservatory stole the show, especially the guess-the-scent sniffers throughout, the mix-your-own-perfume exhibit, and the seven foot-wide lily pads (with razor-sharp spiked sides).

Tuesday, August 31, 2o10
Today I received a call from Laurel, an old friend of mine from Minnesota!  Back in May I was talking to her parents at a potluck we were at, and they told me to look her up and she'd be happy to see me in Philly.  Well, a few hours after hanging up the phone I was on my way back into Philly for dinner with not only Laurel, but also her sister Jamie who was visiting!  This was an awesome week to visit!  I met them in Chinatown at a place Laurel recommended, called Penang.  I arrived first and the very peppy Asian hostess sat me at a nice table in the back.  I sipped my tea and a few minutes I saw Laurel and Jamie, NOT making their way to my table, but instead being lead to a different table, where apparently the hostess was playing a trick on me (aka forgot about me), lol.  I approached their table where I was well-received with huge hugs and big smiles from a pair of girls that I knew way back in the day.  

The memories flooded in, and we exchanged our stories; we found that romance would be the main topic of conversation.  I found that Jamie had gotten married and is living only blocks away from my old place in Minneapolis, MN!  We laughed at Laurel's HILARIOUS blind date experience (she had to sit through 3 hours of Harry Potter with her neck craned up at a sloped screen, eventually excusing herself to go out and get some air, lol), and her engagement that wasn't meant to be, and I told them about my period of a year and a half of over 50 first dates, not a single one of them getting past a third date.  

We ventured on to a favorite dive bar Laurel frequented.  I got there first (am I a speed demon or something?), and when Laurel walked in she had everyone in the place acknowledging her.  The place ought to be called "Laurel's."  All of her friends were laid-back and kind, and it was easy settling in.  I had a, what was it called Laurel?  Hmm, forgot the name, but it was a shot of whiskey and a beer for only $3!  Thankfully I do not like the taste of alcohol (who really does, right?), so it was easy resisting ordering more, lol.  Otherwise I really could've gotten into trouble, lol.  Laurel talked to us about an awesome charity bike-ride up the West Coast she's considering.  I hope she goes for it.  Life is short - do what makes you happy.  It was awesome and surreal seeing the 3 of us crowded around that table in the bar.  We're all grown up now.  It doesn't seem so long ago that we were just kids goofing off in a cabin on a youth retreat.  Wow, how the time flies, and how cool it is that you can just slip right back in where you left off with old friends.   Happy trails Laurel and Jamie - until we meet again!  =)


Joy-zee Shore!

Thursday, August 26, 2010
Early this morning I left Kevin and company in Connecticut and entered Jersey.  The first city I passed through was Jersey City, which unfortunately I got turned around in for 30 minutes, all simply due to missing one turn, and getting lost in the mish-mash of endless one-ways centered in a tangled web of interstates.  My GPS decided to temporarily crap out on me.  Grrr.  I did, however, leave Jersey City on good terms, thanks to a very delightful, very grateful pedestrian lady who endlessly acknowledged me for allowing her to cross the street.  I guess it's the little things, lol.  Does no one let people cross there or what?

On the way down to Atlantic City (big money, big money/blowing on dice...) I got a load of Mighty Joe (you big gorilla!) , a tribute statue oddly placed in a gas station parking lot.  One doesn't really expect to see gorillas in Jersey.  

Entering AC was cool.  Suddenly out of nowhere you see skyscrapers reaching up out of the seaweeds along the ocean shoreline.  A Las Vegas on the beach.  Now I haven't yet been to Vegas (I'm thinking late November-ish), but I can tell you that as I walked the famous boardwalk it felt like a sad, old, worn-out, once-great glitzy city.  Which, going off of the numerous city restoration project signs, is precisely what it is.  The Trump Taj Mahal was a cool sight to see on the boardwalk, and the sound and light water show in the mall was neat.  Imagine water from below and above you dancing to music from genres, then add color =)  One cannot leave AC without trying some famous Saltwater Taffy, so I loaded up a bag with all kinds of flavors ranging from peanut butter to blueberry to root beer.  Then I made my way further south into Wildwood Crest, to meet my host Ray.

When I pulled into the driveway of Ray's wonderfully placed sea-side condo, and took in the sea air, I smiled big.  I love the beach, and I can't believe this guy is going to open his home and his life to me, a complete stranger.  Ahhh, the wonder of CouchSurfing.  Upon ringing the doorbell, I was immediately greeted by a very loud, very excited puppy dog.  Ray put him in the crate to settle down, and he welcomed me into his home offered me a beer, and showed me to an immaculate guest room with two blue twin beds and bathroom.  It felt just like a well-maintained hotel room.  I had to comment to Ray how impressed I was with his clean and tidy home.  I mean, this guy's a bachelor!  After a long day of driving I took a shower and went to bed.

Friday, August 27, 2010
I woke up refreshed in my seaside guest bedroom this morning.  I couldn't wait to start my day.  I got cleaned up and headed out for the day.  I went to the boardwalk, a wonderful wooden walking path with miles and miles of fun souvenir shops, wacky foods, and attractions.  I passed by THREE different carnivals!  My eyes got the best of me, and soon the yummy fair food got the best of me.  Oh, and did I mention how oddly under-priced the food was?  I mean this was after all a hub of tourist fun, so $2.25 for a slice of pizza dazzled me.  After grabbing a slice of delicious cheese pizza I stopped into the 50's style doo-wop diner - oh yeah, by the way, Wildwood is famous for it's blocks upon blocks of Doo-Wop architecture and style - and had a delicious apple pie shake.  Mmmm....  

Then I continued on my way down the boardwalk and spotted something glorious:  Pizza topped with cheesy french fries.  Could it really be?  Has Wildwood combined two of the world's best guilt foods?  It was true indeed.  And as I took that first bite of wonder, my taste buds cheered for joy...a triumph.  And what could possibly add to this calorie-bonanza?  Well, I am after all a self-proclaimed Condiment King, or "Sauce Man," as I also like to call it.  "How 'bout some ranch," I asked the German waitress behind the counter.  Not bad.  It wasn't long before I was having a heyday squirting ketchup and mustard all over the darn thing.  I mean, c'mon, this little slice of heaven was a creative genius; it begged me to push the envelope even a little further!  

After killing myself with the three meals I had just consumed in a little under 30 minutes, I happily walked on, my mad food-child beating the walls of my belly.  After browsing all the cool shops, I grabbed the beach gear (chair, umbrella and towel) thoughtful Ray had lent me, and took to the miles of sand laid out before me.  I found my spot, did a little reading in my travel guide book, "1000 Places to See in the US and Canada Before You Die," then slathered on some sun screen and hopped in the cool water.  The waves were huge, and I loved letting them try and hurl me to shore.  After getting in my swim I lowered the joints of my beach chair and caught some sun.  What a a perfect day.

The day was about to get even more perfect as I showered up and walked downstairs to find Ray preparing the most amazing shrimp dinner, and over some delicious white wine, I got to know this awesome man who was without any motivation of profit, giving me the most wonderful memories of a lifetime.  We laughed as we talked about the crazy couch-surfer he once had, and how they really put an interesting twist/damper on some quality time he and his now ex-wife were trying to enjoy.  We talked about my trip, and where I am in my life.  

After the last bit of crazy-good shrimp was devoured (by yours truly, lol), I stepped outside and said hello to the very friendly, very polite neighbor girl and her dog that she was walking, or the dog that was walking her rather, lol.  Then I said a hello to her mom who stepped outside.  Not much later Ray took me out for a night out on the town, and I got a great sample of the local nightlife as we hopped on and off the trolley into bars and clubs, and we oohed and ahhed at the weekly Friday night fireworks blasting above the boardwalk.  Ray got to know me better as I let the alcohol take my guard down, and we talked about some good, personal things.  It was late into the night (or should I say morning) before my head hit the pillow. 

Saturday, August 28, 2010
This morning, LATE this morning, lol, I gratefully accepted coffee (which I usually don't favor) and grapes from Ray, then said my goodbye and departed from this wonderful man's house.


The Mark Twain House and Kevin in Connecticut

Friday, August 20, 2010
Political thriller writer David Baldacci answered the question "How would you describe Mark Twain's legacy?" with these thoughtful words: "Never before or since has a writer so completely owned and shared through his writings the soul of a nation that had yet to find itself."

Mark Twain House
Kevin at Gillette Castle
Today I drove up to Hartford, Connecticut to visit the Mark Twain House & Museum.  The sixth of seven children, Samuel Clemens (aka Mark Twain) was born on November 30‚ 1835 in the small rural town of Florida‚ Missouri.  "During his lifetime‚ Sam Clemens watched a young United States evolve from a nation torn apart by internal conflicts to one of international power. He experienced America’s vast growth and change – from westward expansion to industrialization‚ the end of slavery‚ advancements in technology‚ big government and foreign wars. And along the way‚ he often had something to say about the changes happening in his country.  As Twain’s books provide insight into the past‚ the events of his personal life further demonstrate his role as an eyewitness to history."

Sam Clemens found the details of building and decorating a house frustrating. He complained of being “bullyragged” by plumbers and carpenters. His wife‚ Livy‚ however‚ enjoyed the challenges of domestic life and much of the house reflects her tastes and sensibilities.

Their home measures 11‚500 square feet‚ and has 25 rooms distributed through three floors. It displayed the latest in modern innovations when it was built in 1874. It was lit by gaslight; it had seven bathrooms with hot and cold running water and flush toilets – and at least one bathroom had a shower. Rudimentary ductwork carried warm air from the furnaces in the basement‚ and in 1878 Clemens had an early model of the telephone installed in the kitchen. There were also two features that ran on batteries: a burglar alarm system and an "enunciator" bell for calling the servants.

The couple spent $40‚000 to $45‚000 building their new home‚ so once they moved in they kept the interior simple. Over the next few years Olivia sought advice on what to do with the interior‚ made plans and shopped for the new home. 

Mark Twain and his family enjoyed what the author would later call the happiest and most productive years of his life in their Hartford home.  It was in this home that Twain wrote his most famous books, such as "Tom Sawyer," and the ever controversial "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn," which I learned in the museum is still to this day being banned and challenged all over the world to this day.

After the museum I enthusiastically drove to Shelton to visit Kevin, a good friend of mine I met when we were both living in Los Angeles years back.  We've kept in touch through the years, and visiting him would be a highlight of my trip.  

After a big hug from Kevin's he introduced me to his awesome roommates, Chris and Marissa, and he showed me around.  After only room number 1 I wanted to take pictures!  Chris has a movie collection that could stock a small video store!!!  

After the tour we headed right out and to catch the new Piranha movie in 3D where more of their friends joined us.  It was AWESOME, and the most magical movie moment ever occurred, after the most ridiculous (and probably planned) movie line "That's the longest one I've ever seen," we all with perfect rhythm and timing churned out "THAT'S WHAT SHE SAID!"  Ahhh, as Meryl Streep said in Death Becomes Her, "these are moments that make life worth living."  When we were done wheezing from laughter and able to catch our breath, and got every penny worth from the rest of the movie, we headed over to Longhorn Steakhouse, where I got more acquainted with everyone and shared some more laughs over my huge dessert platter I ordered, lol.

When we got back to Kevin's, Chris asked me if he could get me anything to drink.  I replied, "I'd like a margarita."  He was thinking a glass of water, lol, but sure enough he powered up his awesome Margaritaville professional-grade blender, and in moments he whipped up my delicious drink and we all kicked back and watched Chris' #1 favorite movie of all time, "Airplane."  When the movie was over and we couldn't laugh anymore we went to bed. 

What an amazing night!!!

Saturday, August 21, 2o1o
After some yummy pancakes Kevin cooked up we went to Gillette Castle State Park, where after a fun little ferry ride over the Connecticut River, we snapped some photos of the exterior, and when it was time to go inside, we approached the entrance to the castle, and were stopped by a very serious female ranger who directed us to the Visitor Center to purchase tickets.  Several closed-doors and keep out signs later, we found the entrance to the Visitor Center, lol.  I asked the clerk behind the ticket counter if they gave any discounts.  The replied "No, but it's worth it."  Kevin got quite a kick out of my reply, "We'll see."  LOL.

Before entering the castle, the same serious ranger very explicitly warned us, "You cannot backtrack to lower floors.  When you are ready to go up a floor, you go back down, so take your time, and when you're ready to go up a floor, keep in mind that you cannot go back down.  Again, you cannot go back down to lower floors once you arrive at a new one."  Okay, we get it already, LOL!  We entered the low-lit castle and read a sign "Use railing when ascending the staircase."  My, my, they sure have a lot of rules here, lol.  We explored the low-lit castle, and found all sorts of interesting secret doors and levers, and my curiosity got me into trouble with the staff once or twice.  Hey, with as many Keep Out and Do Not Touch signs they have displayed, I figured I should take advantage when I could.  It kept Kevin entertained anyway.

We took a scenic route on the way back and tried the notorious Frank Pepe's in New Haven.  Finally a place that's worthy of it's stellar reputation and long lines!  It was arguably the best pizza I've ever had.  The sauce was awesome and plentiful, the cheese was greasy and gooey, and the wood-fire prepared crust didn't have any burnt taste.  After that, we walked down the street and attempted to try it's rival pizzeria, Sally's.  With a THREE hour wait just for take-out, and already satisfied bellies, we decided to move on.  Chris and Kevin and I went to a huge Bingo event, hosted by Joan Crawford (drag queen, lol), all proceeds going to the Gay Men's Choir.  Between Joan's hilarious jokes, endless free pizza from our table neighbors, and oh yeah, 20 games of bingo, we had an awesome time.  We went back home and watched an episode of Dexter (they have great taste!) and turned in for the night.

Sunday, August 22, 2010 
Today was one of those terrific rainy days to stay inside and relax, so Kevin and I just hung out did our own thing.  In the evening, Kevin and Chris and I went to Kevin's mom's house nearby for a dinner party, celebrating the return of Kevin's younger brother from working at a summer camp.  She prepared a full spread of salmon and swordfish, salad, rolls, asparagus, backed potatoes, cookies and more.  It was fun meeting some of Kevin's family, and seeing his childhood home, and after stuffing ourselves silly, we went back to his place and watched Death Becomes Her, my all time favorite movie, and a favorite of Chris' too.  After laughing our guts out and quoting nearly every line, it was time for bed.

Monday, August 23, 2010
Today I did my own thing around the house, and when everyone was home from work we went out for a good time at Chili's Happy Hour.  

Tuesday, August 24, 2010
After everyone was back from work we went to Two Boots in Bridgeport, an old-school diner with a funky Italian twist, and creative pop-culture named pizzas.  Marissa and sampled the Deep Fried Mac n' Cheese appetizer, then I was presented with my half Larry Tate, half Tony Clifton pizza.  We had great food, great conversation, snapped some photos and I had a sensational time with old and new friends alike.  Back at Kevin's I was introduced to a whole new world when watching the cult-classic "Showgirls" movie, an over-the-top, so-bad-it's-good type of movie, that, when with the right people and in the right mood (such as we were), kicks some serious movie butt.  Its crazy characters, bad writing, and unforgettable musical numbers makes for quite an unforgettable experience, lol.  It's one of those movies you just have to watch if you're an adventurous movie buff.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010
I was planning on leaving today, but alas, I'm having way too much fun here and it feels like I would be leaving a day early.  After Kevin was back from work we got some Chinese food and then later all of us went to Rich's Farm in Oxford, a 300 acre farm serving over 30 flavors of ice cream made fresh daily.  My "kids" serving of Black Cherry Vanilla had at least two big scoops overflowing the regular-sized waffle cone!  What would I have been served had I asked for an adult size?!  After finishing every last glorious bite, we went back to Kevin's and enjoyed the hilarious film, "Overboard," which would end this amazing stay with Kevin and Co.  I had such an awesome time with Kevin and his awesome roommies I didn't want to leave, and I can't wait til' we get to see each other again someday. 

Newport, Rhode Island

The Breakers
Cliff Walk
Thursday, August 19, 2010
This morning I got cleaned up at McDonald's and headed into Newport, Rhode Island.  I toured The Breakers, the grandest of Newport's summer "cottages," it's a 70 room Italian Renaissance- style palazzo, and a symbol of the Vanderbilt family's social and financial preeminence in turn of the century America.  As I toured the 65,000 square feet of lavish living space, I couldn't help but grow a bit disgusted.  I mean who deserves a "summer cottage" like this?  I know it's not the point and I am supposed to just enjoy the tour, but it erks me when I hear about people talk about doing things way over the top "for their family."  Be honest.  If you want to do something for your family, spend some time with them.  They would be quite satisfied with that.  You did it for you.  For status.  For your legacy.  To throw parties.  To show off.  No more mansion tours for me; I'd rather give my money to someone who needs it than throw it away on a foundation meant to preserve the "dignity" of the super wealthy.

Next I went to the Visitor Center to make sure I don't miss out on anything here in Newport.  I got a map and went down to Bannister's Wharf to try the award-winning clam chowder at The Black Pearl Restaurant, a chowder that makes the locals go nuts for it.  I ordered a cup, stirred my spoon around in it and couldn't help but notice how watery the consistency was.  I was expecting something more thick and hearty.  I took a sip - after getting past the saltiness of the soup I thought it was alright.  Maybe I was expecting too much?  It wasn't bad, and I'm not hard to please.  Just wouldn't win any awards from me is all, except for maybe saltiest clam chowder, lol.

Then I went for one of the most beautiful hikes I've ever been on.  The 3.5 mile Cliff Walk along the eastern shore of Newport, RI is world famous as a public access walk that combines the natural beauty of the Newport shoreline with the architectural history of Newport's gilded age. One side with backyard views of the stunning mansions, the other side displaying the ocean, wildflowers, birds, geology.  Parts of the southern half of the walk are a rough trail over the natural and rugged New England rocky shore line.  What makes Cliff Walk unique is that it is a National Recreation Trail in a National Historic District.  I ended up at Easton's Beach (aka First Beach), where I rewarded myself with a swim.  When I came ashore and allowed the sun to dry me off a local fellow struck up a conversation with me, he knew I was a tourist for some reason, lol, and we had a nice conversation about his travels and mine.  I've noticed the locals on the East Coast have been notably friendly, and it perhaps has something to do with where I am at the time - vacation spots that inspire rest and relaxation, and people are happy when their kicking back :) 

After the Cliff Walk I took a drive to East Greenwich, where I would meet Daniel, a guy who would let me surf his couch for the night.  I oohed and ahhed at the houses I drove past as I entered the neighborhood estate as I approached his family's house I made sure I had the right number, lol, and sure enough I was at the right place.  Daniel was a cool young guy who along with his parents were happy to host me for the night, and after grabbing a shower, Daniel took me into a trendy college part of Providence, the capital of RI, where we had a great meal with his friends at a favorite Indian restaurant of theirs.  His friends were hilarious and we all had a great time chumming it up.  We all went back to his place where we goofed around with his fun Irish parents and when they went to bed we took it outside for some more stories and laughter, and later we entertained ourselves with a video games and a funny Scientology outreach video, that kept us laughing and wheezing into the night, lol. 

Friday, August 20, 2010
The next morning I said my thank you and goodbye to Daniel as he left for an appointment, and his cool dad Matthew (his name was easy to remember, lol) offered me breakfast, and sent me off with soda and potato chips (mmm munchies!).



Gloucester Monument
Sunday, August 15, 2010
After leaving Portsmouth, NH, I entered Massachusetts, where my first stop was The Clam Box, a nationally recognized landmark, located approximately 30 miles north of Boston in historic Ipswich, where they've been serving legendary fried clams for over 60 years.  The line was that of Red's Eats - loooooooooooong.  Having already experienced the grueling wait for a lobster roll in Maine, I skipped the line, and offered a patron $1 to try a fried clam.  With their plate of fried clams piled sky high, he gave me fried clam free of charge :)  As I walked the the car I placed it in my mouth, and whadayaknow?  It tasted just like a fried clam, lol!  It was a good fried clam, and so are the ones at Red Lobster, where I don't need to wait in line for 90 minutes.  Glad to have tried it, and very glad to have learned my lesson at Red's Eats, I hopped in my car and headed onward.

My next stop was the village of Gloucester, "America's Oldest Seaport," established in 1623, and maybe better known for the location where the movie "The Perfect Storm" was shot.  As soon as I got to the harbor, traffic was stopped, the bridge was up, and they were letting the boat and sailing vessels in and out.  It was noticeable cold at the harbor, even in August, and one might even want long pants and a light jacket.  The sailboats, fishing boats, and jet boats were fun to see.  They proud to show off their toys, and they waived at the crowd of onlookers as they passed by.  I walked along the harbor, taking in the views and reading the inscriptions on the memorials.  Then I entered the "Crows Nest" bar, where Perfect Storm based the set for the bar scenes on.  The small, hole in the wall bar was full of locals chattering and laughing in their noticeable East Coast accents, and the walls were covered in photographs of locals and celebrities (mostly from the movie).  

Next I ventured into Salem, where even though it was obvious I had stumbled into the little town off-season, plenty of Halloween (the emphasis on witches of course) shops and amusements could be had.  I tried out the Salem Witch Museum, "both interesting and scary, the main draw of the museum (a former church) is a three-dimensional audiovisual presentation with life-size figures. The show takes place in a huge room lined with displays that are lighted in sequence. The 30-minute narration tells the story of the witchcraft trials and the accompanying hysteria. The well-researched presentation tells the story accurately, if somewhat over-dramatically."  I really enjoyed the show, and being educated on how the Salem Witch hysteria began (basically after hearing a story from their slave woman, a few bored girls thought it would be entertaining to make up a series of lies, each one creating more harm than the last, until it obviously got insanely out of hand), and I also very much enjoyed hearing a segment afterward in the other parts of the little museum that educated us on the Wicca religion (Salem having a community of about 2,000 Wicca people), arguably the very first religion, originating long before the Pharaohs.  

Next I arrived at Carol and Marty's in Newton, a community just outside of Boston.  They were the parents of my friend Jane, and though I had never met them before, they welcomed me into their home with big smiles and even bigger hearts, and I would soon find their warmth and hospitality winning me over, and becoming like Grandparents to me.   Nearly the first thing out of Carol's mouth upon my entering their home was if I had eaten :)  The three of us sat down and got acquainted, all over tea and the most amazing homemade pie I've ever tasted (a German plum pie recipe Carol made).  Carol showed me the room she had made up for me, and all the other things I would need, and then we made our way back downstairs to the  family room, where the 3 of us watched the movie, "The Messenger."  None of us had ever seen the movie, but soon after pressing play, we encountered quite the steamy sex scene.  The room grew quiet, and to help break up the awkward silence I jokingly stated, "What the heck kind of movies are you guys showing me here?!"  We all laughed and enjoyed the rest of the movie, one which really paints a needed portrait about the sides of war that no one ever wants to talk about - delivering the painstaking news to strangers that their precious loved one has died, seeing the loved one deal with the grief, and there are other very poignant story lines the film highlights. 

Boston Visitor Center
Monday, August 16, 2010 
After Carol served me a wonderful breakfast of toast, jam, cereal, and the best sharp cheddar cheese I've ever had in my life, Marty happily drove me to the nearby train stop, where I boarded the train which took me into downtown Boston.  I spent the whole day walking around.  After exploring the grounds of the beautiful Public Gardens, I walked the African American Heritage Trail, a walking tour through the beautiful Beacon Hill neighborhood, that explores the history of Boston's 19th century African American community, then walked the Freedom Trail, a 2.5 mile red-brick walking trail that leads you to 16 nationally significant historic sites, including the Boston Massacre and the Bunker Hill Monument.  Along the way I had real Boston Cream Pie at Durgin Park in Quincy Market, and had yummy cheese pizza at the historic Pizzeria Regina in Boston's Italian district, the "North End."  I bet you didn't know this, but I went to Harvard!  Yes, I took the subway to Harvard Square, and explored the prestigious university grounds, lol.   Oh, and I overheard a tour guide telling her group that the popular statue of John Harvard could be any one of three people, since they don't know what he looks like, because of a fire that destroyed any images of the founder.

At the end of the day Marty again happily helped me out with a ride, picking me up from the train stop and taking me "home," where Carol had their neighbor join us for a wonderful dinner party she had prepared, including a cold beet soup (heaven!), shrimp casserole, fresh salad, and plum pie :) 

Tuesday, August 17, 2010
This morning, after another hearty breakfast of scrambled eggs, toast, cereal, juice, etc., I went to Provincetown, or simply "P-Town" as the locals call it.  Located at the tip of Cape Cod, and having one of the largest gay communities in the country, Provincetown is America’s oldest art colony, the birthplace of American playwriting, named “best gay resort town”, and is a bike ride from two of America’s best beaches.  Additionally, they can be proud to be the number one destination for same sex weddings in America.  I explored the hip, happening, and quirky shops and art galleries of lively Commerce Street, ordered Tim's award-winning clam chowder at Lobster Pot (biggest chunks of clam I've ever had in a soup), had some great gelato at The Purple Feather, one of the street's many eateries, and ended the day driving down the rest of the coast of Cape Cod to two beaches:  Longnook Beach (awesome and not crowded1!) and Coast Guard Beach.

When I returned "home"to Carol & Marty's, Carol invited me to watch the movie "The Constant Gardener," while Marty focused on his game of golf.  Carol and I had a great time and good conversation after the movie was over.  I've enjoyed my time immensely with them over the past few days, and I know I'm really going to miss them when I leave in the morning.   

Wednesday, August 18, 2010
This morning I ate another delicious meal provided by the very generous Carol and Marty, who I think did a great job fattening me up for my journey on, lol.  Marty gave me a map yesterday, which he said for me to keep, which might really come in handy, and I just can't help but think of what wonderful, generous souls the both of them are, and how much I hope to see them again someday.  I said my goodbyes and left with wonderful memories, wonderful new friendships.

I boarded the shuttle from the lot where I left my car, arrived at Woods Hole where I got my tickets and boarded the Steamship Authority Ferry, which took me to to the village of Vineyard Haven on the island of Martha's Vineyard.  Phew, that's a lot of travel for day - and I get to do it twice, lol!  M.V. has 6 towns - Aquinnah (aka Gay's Head), Chilmark and West Tisbury, and the more populous towns of Edgartown, Oak Bluffs and Vineyard Haven - each with their own flavor.  I went to the ever popular Black Dog Shops, thinking there must be a something amazing about this place that has everyone and their mother wearing The Black Dog t-shirts.  I went to the shops, which today had a bunch of tents set up with table upon table of Black Dog t-shirts, as part of its Customer Appreciation Day.  I walked through all the tents and shops, stunned that every single shirt had the same simple image of a black dog on it - every shirt the exact same print!  People were going through the shirts like mad, snatching them up and grabbing their wallets!  Baffled, I scored some from free cake and got out of there.  

Cottages ready for the Grand Illumination in Oak Bluffs, Martha's Vineyard
I got an all day bus pass for only $7 and headed to the quirky, colorful village of Oak Bluffs.  As soon as I got off the bus and checked out the views of the ocean, the green lawn park surrounded by beautiful Victorian houses, and streets of lined with cool gift shops and ice cream, I wanted in!  After viewing "the world's oldest carousel" - small and indeed old, lol - I stopped into local chain "Ben and Bill's Chocolate Emporium," which graces Oak Bluffs with their unfathomable tribute to New England: lobster ice cream. Yes, LOBSTER ICE CREAM!  That is ice cream, people, with chunks of lobster and butter!  And the list of enticing homemade flavors goes on and on, and in addition to their wondrous ice cream, they sell "salt water taffy, gourmet jellybeans, gummy aqua life, and to-die-for homemade chocolates sold by the pound."  As I sat on the outside bench enjoying my FOUR scoops of ice cream - Peach, Grapenut, Orange Pineapple, and of course Lobster - my huge bowl of ice cream turned out to be quite the conversation starter, both sets of people telling me to drop by their decked-out cottages if I have time this evening.  With having to take the ferry back, I wouldn't end up having time, but I was able to check out the neighborhood of cottages they were talking about, and they were awesome!  Like something out of a fairy tale land, all the colorful cottages were decorated top to bottom with lanterns and decorations, showing off for the Grand Illumination - an event so great it has brought the First Family to Oak Bluffs for vacation the past two years.

Next I took the bus to Edgartown, "one of New England's most elegant communities, and M.V.'s first colonial settlement (est 1642)."  I took a stroll and snapped some photos of well-preserved handsome, stately white Greek Revival houses built by the whaling captains.

Pressing on, I took the bus headed for Gay's Head, and it was on that ride that I met Melanie and Danielle, friends on a trip, and we all got along right off the bat, cracking jokes and sharing stories, and the three of us went to Gay's Head Lighthouse together.

On the ride back, we exchanged information and parted ways.  I caught the last ferry out, checked my email at a McDonald's in Bourne, and slept in my car at a Hampton Inn parking lot not too far away for the night.

Cape Cod/Provincetown
Martha's Vineyard



Bar Harbor, ME
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
I entered Maine and knew I had reached the coast when the sudden scent of saltwater stabbed my nostrils.  I managed to fight the crowded streets of pedestrians and found my way to the Bar Harbor Hostel.  My first experience staying at a hostel - exciting!  I was greeted by a cool guy who had me read the rules of the house and fill out a couple forms, and before I could even grab my things from my car, I met a guy who was on his way to snap some photos of the sand bar between town and Bar Island.  The sand bar is only accessible/viewable during low tide.  I got acquainted with Jonathan as we snapped some photos of the sand bar and the awesome sunset, then explored town and grabbed some yummy local clam chowder.  REAL New England Clam Chowder, yay!

Thursday, August 12, 2010
This morning Jonathan chatted about last night.  We could hear a guy opening/closing the bedroom door all night long, this apart from my bunk partner who was yammering in his sleep, lol.  Before we parted ways, Jonathan gave me 3 day pass to Acadia National Park, saving me the $20 vehicle permit!  Sweet!  

Acadia National Park was fantastic.  I started the day with some much needed R&R, soaking up sun at Sand Beach, then I drove the 27-mile Park Loop Road, which offers outstanding views of the park's ocean shoreline, coastal forests, and mountain silhouettes; getting out for points of interests such as Thunder Hole and best of all - Cadillac Mountain.  At 1,530 feet, Cadillac Mountain is not only the tallest mountain in the park, but also the tallest mountain along the eastern coast of the United States. Rising high above the town of Bar Harbor, Cadillac Mountain offers magnificent views of the Porcupine Islands and Frenchman Bay.  

I stayed the night tenting in Susan's back yard in Camden, another couch-surfing host.  And what a perfect night for tenting - I got to watch the Perseid meteor shower!  With one shooting star after another, smiling, I rested my head and caught some zzzs.  

Friday, August 13, 2010
After getting cleaned up, drying my tarp on Susan's clothesline, and playing with Susan's boxer dog Ramsey, I explored the small village of Camden, then I headed to the nearby village of Rockland, what I would consider Camden's "Big Brother."

Shipbuilding, lime processing, granite quarrying, and commercial fishing and lobstering layed the foundation for Rockland’s industrial past, and still continues as a necessity for today's year-long residents.  The town was bustling when I arrived, with tourists and locals alike, mainly due to one of the many popular summer festivals it was holding.  My Rockland exploration included walking the 4,300 foot breakwater to the beautiful old lighthouse, followed by strolling historic Main Street, with its many shops eateries, and art galleries, and it was at Thorndike Creamery where I had the best pizza I've ever tasted (flavor-wise), along with one of their yummy Maine Blueberry shakes.  Then I walked around Rockland's working harbor, where I saw fishing boats being worked on, and chatted with a retired local worker, who told me that next time I have more time in Rockland I should check in with "Captain Jack" who for $25 will take me out lobstering with him!

Next I arrived at Jeff & Vanessa's, with Vanessa being a Minnesotan herself, she had insisted I stay with them for a night!  They were great.  Jeff offered me a beer as Vanessa grabbed the clean sheets from the dryer for the comfy guest bed I'd use.  They showed me around their home, then we enjoyed great seafood and conversation at Waterworks, a local bar and restaurant they favored.  Vanessa and I shared a gigantic platter of fried scallops, clams, fish, and more, and I tried a local Blueberry beer, with real whole Main blueberries!  After dinner we all went back to their place where we had even more laughs watching one of my all time favorite movies, "Waiting for Guffman," and I introduced them to the hilarious "Double Rainbow" youtube video and song that Adam in New York had shown me.  My way of paying it forward, lol.  It was an awesome night with awesome people!

Saturday, August 14, 2010
Before I left my new-found friends, they gave me a home-cooked breakfast (the first on my trip-so good!) and Vanessa told me I should give her a call before I visit Alaska, since she has family there and friends that run a dog-sledding venture she worked with!

My last stop in Maine was Red's Eats, where after waiting in line for over an hour, I tried their legendary Lobster Roll - a hoagie filled with nearly TWO pounds of lobster, drizzled with butter and mayo - HEAVEN!  A word of advice though - I could've followed Vanessa & Jeff's friends' advice advice and saved myself the hour wait and went right across the street to get an equally delicious lobster roll.  But I, however stubborn, wanted to see what all the fuss was about =)

After lobster, I went to beautiful Ogunquit Beach for a little R&R.


New Hampshire

Tuesday, August 10, 2010
You know you've entered New Hampshire when you're greeted by a giant moose head at the White Mountains Visitor's Center, lol.  The lady behind the desk gave a few maps and I made my way to the historic Mount Washington Auto Road.  I was so excited for those spectacular views from the 6,000 foot summit, the highest point in all of Northeastern America.

When I reached the gate for the auto road, I was greeted by a man who looked over my vehicle and asked me a couple questions.  Upon ending his inquiry, he said, "I'm afraid I have bad news.  Honda does good work and makes great cars; they've even come here to test them, but the one you have doesn't have a first gear and without that first gear you can't reliably get down the mountain.  Again Honda is a great company, and when this type of situation occurs, they give out a coupon for a free van tour up the mountain, free of charge.  Now the last ride up the mountain is at 5:00, what time is it now?  [Checks time].  It's 4:50, so you have 10 minutes, plenty of time to get over to the Visitor Center on the other side of this road and give 'em this coupon."  I thought to myself, "SWEET!  I can save my car the tough trip up and down the mountain, and take some great photos while someone drives and narrates!  All FREE of charge!  Thank you Honda!!!"  

I presented my coupon to the lady at the Visitor Center, and she said, "Okay, looks good, there's just one problem." Oh great, ANOTHER problem.  "It's just yourself right?  Well a minimum of two people are required for an eligible tour.  You can wait the next seven minutes to see if anyone else comes.  Sorry."  I waited, but alas, I was on my own.  Bummed out, I took a seat on the bench outside.  I couldn't come back tomorrow morning, because I'm going to Maine tomorrow, and the extra day would really set me back just for a trip up the mountain.  Then an angel approched me and said, "Hey, after the park closes Rick (correct name?) is going to do his rounds to make sure everyone is off the mountain.  If you can wait until around 7 you can go up with him."  HOORAY!  With the storm coming in that's even better!  Exciting!  With nowhere particular I had to be that evening, I quickly and gratefully accepted.  Oh, and a few minutes later, she came back out and reminded that I was getting a $29 value for free and that the drivers work for tips.

Rick appeared around 7:00 and after waiting at the gate house a little bit while he closed the entrance, we ascended up the mountain.  The poor guy had been working long days for two weeks straight, and it echoed in his raspy voice.  He provided facts and narration at each notable point of our ascent, and we started seeing stragglers.  He would stop them, get out of the van, and tell them what he needed to for them to get off the mountain.  I heard things like, "There's a severe storm coming with a warning of hail"- that sure got the motorcyclist down the mountain, lol.  

We approached the top and checked the parking lots, then he let me get out and run to the observation deck, so I could truthfully say I had been at the very top =)  We were covered in storm clouds with near-zero visibility, and with an experienced guy like Rick who carries with him 26 years of rides up and down the mountains, it was thrilling.  We continued warning stragglers off the mountain, and we picked up a couple hikers who would've been caught in the storm.  About halfway down the mountain we were out of the clouds, and Rick let them off where they could sleep safely, and continue their travels in the morning.  

We reached the bottom of the mountain and I shook Rick's hand, thanked him for everything (tip included, lol), and found my car.  Rick had told me that National Parks charge nominal fees of only a few bucks, so I should try campground nearby.  Well, I checked with the lovely old couple inside the camp office, and the $20 fee was not so lovely, so I drove to the nearby city of Godham, and parked it for the night in a lot overlooking a river, behind a McDonald's.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010
This morning I cleaned up at McDonald's and headed to Pinkham Notch Visitor Center, where I was greeted by a friendly fox, no I'm talking about a real fox, not a sexy lady, lol.  It literally came about 3 feet from me!  Then I grabbed a shower and some wifi, hiked around Glen Ellis Falls, took a nice drive through the village of Jackson, and stopped to snap a photo Cascade Falls.  

With Pinkham Notch behind me, I moved on to Franconia Notch, where I first explored "The Basin:  The beautiful waterfall at the Basin, has at its base, a granite pothole 20 feet in diameter. It is believed to have been eroded 15,000 years ago while the North American ice sheet was melting. It has been smoothed by small stones and sand whirled around by the Pemigewasset River."  Next, I visited The Flume Gorge, a natural gorge extending 800 feet at the base of Mt. Liberty, with walls of Conway granite rising perpendicularly to a height of 70 to 90 feet, and 12 to 20 feet apart!  I hiked the marked trails, which lead you to several points of interest, including the 19th century "Sentinal Covered Bridge," huge glacial boulders, sugar maples, the 800-ft gorge, two waterfalls, a bear den, natural pools, and a wolf den I was just barely able to climb through!  This was an awesome hike!

Saturday, August 14 2010

I returned to New Hampshire this evening, since I would need to pass through it to get from Maine to Massachusetts.  It was here who I met Ryan, a couch-surfing host in historic Portsmouth, settled in 1623.  Ryan had just begun watching "The 5th Element" when I arrived.  Sweet!  I love that movie!  It was an awkward start after my feeble attempt to break the ice with humor, which surprised me, since we're both fans of the show "The Office."  Embarrassment aside, the awkwardness subsided, and we got acquainted over a beer, and in between the laughs from the movie.  He was a thoughtful host, with clean bedding laid out of me, and the next morning he gave me a couple recommendations for exploring Portsmouth.

Sunday, August 15, 2010
I started my morning with a good bowl of organic oatmeal and coffee, compliments of Ryan, and headed out.  First I toured the USS Albacore submarine, a pioneering research vessel used as a test platform for experimenting ideas for future subs.  It holds a place in history as the first Navy-designed vessel with a true underwater hull of cylindrical shape that has become the standard for today's submarines worldwide.  I had never been inside a sub before, so it was a lot of fun.
I then stopped into Annabelle's for some of their award-winning ice cream, which has in fact been served at The White House!  After sampling a variety of flavors went with Yellow Brick Road, and Black Raspberry, YUM.  I walked around historic downtown and bumped into some notable places like a pub which is built on the site of the oldest bank building in the United States, established in 1782.  After a fire it was rebuilt in 1803, and now it's the most unique Irish pub I've ever seen, with dining rooms in safes behind bars!  And I checked out the North Cemetery, whose underground contains the coffins of important people like signers of The Declaration of Independence and The Constitution.


This morning Adam helped bring my things down to my car, and we said our goodbyes.  I felt like we had been friends a lot longer, like friends you make at summer camp.  It's been an awesome 3 days; I hope I have the opportunity to return the favor for him someday.  Thank you New York!

I spent the next half hour battling the construction detours before I finally found a gas station and filled up, lol.  I then made my way to Vermont, my first destination being Mount Equinox, with an elevation of nearly 4,000 feet, I put my car to the test, and made it up and down the mountain with no problems.  On the road up the mountain, one can spot the first monastary built in the Western hemisphere, built by the Carthusians.  At the top of the mountain, you can follow lookout trail that provides awesome views of Manchester, VT - my next destination.

I entered Manchester, settled in 1761, and stopped for a glance at "Hildene," Robert Todd Lincoln's summer home (Abraham's son).  It was was at the gift shop where I spotted the true gem - the 1928 Franklin Roadster, which won Best of Show by the Sports Car Club of America in 1973.  And where else but Manchester can you stroll the sidewalks and find marble below your feet?  Thanks to their own marble quarry, it is common.  Fly-fishing is popular here, and I stopped to watch people taking lessons at a local spot.  On my way out of town I couldn't help but notice a body of water surrounded by big boulders of marble, where the locals were swimming and sunbathing on this gorgeous summer day.  It was the marble quarry, the first one in the U.S. (1785) in fact.  And while it looked out of commission, it was serving as the perfect place to throw on your swim suit and play which is exactly what I did =)

Taking the back-roads I sampled a bit of the local life as I passed by all the little farms that comprised the towns on the way to Burlington.  In Waterbury I visited the Ben & Jerry's factory, where for only $3 I read up on its history, got a tour, and sampled the day's free flavor - mint chocolate chip.  As our group looked over the workers running the equipment that make this delicious stuff, a woman to my left turned to me and said, "Kid, you got movie star eyes."  [Insert BIG SMILE here.]  You wouldn't happen to know a good agent, would you ma'am, lol?

After helping myself to a leftover second helping of mint chocolate chip and joshing around with some fellow Minnesotans I met on the tour, I went to David's house in nearby Burlington to meet this person who was hosting me tonight.  It was about 8:30pm and he welcomed me with a beer and good conversation.  He pointed me to his travel blog and articles he's written for travel magazines, one of which I found out the hard way was only a draft as I accidentally deleted it! I felt HORRIBLE and couldn't apologize enough, all the time David assuring me it was no big deal, it was a work in progress that had taken only fifteen minutes to write.  David has traveled from Colorado to Mexico to Peru on his trusty motorcycle, and has couchsurfing.org to thank for some free lodging along the way, and like so many other wonderful people from the site, he gives back by hosting people when he's home.  I got to meet his girlfriend too, and together they made recommendations for what not to miss in Vermont and New Hampshire.

Like Cory in Albany, this morning David went to work, and allowed me to sleep in and leave at my own leisure.  These couch-surfing people are awesome!  I grabbed a shower, checked my email, and gratefully headed out.

Before leaving Burlington, I took David's good advice and explored a little.  It was a beautiful walk on the path along the lake, and I loved the charming brick buildings of downtown. 

Before entering New Hampshire, on David's recommendation I drove to Smuggler's Notch, "A narrow pass through the Green Mountains. Lined with 1,000-foot cliffs, the winding road is closed in winter. In the earlier days, only a footpath and trail for horses existed here.

In 1807, President Thomas Jefferson passed an embargo act forbidding American trade with Great Britain and Canada. This was a severe hardship for northern Vermonters, since Montreal was closer than other markets in the US. Many local people continued illegal trade with Canada, herding cattle and carrying other goods through the Notch. Later, fugitive slaves used the Notch as an escape route to Canada. During the Prohibition years, liquor was smuggled from Canada over the improved road built in 1922."  I had a great time checking out "Smuggler's Cave," and checking out the awesome cliffs and scenery.  

Afterward I went to Lake Willoughby,
a couple hours out the way from where I had originally planned to go - and man am I glad I made the trip!  Another outstanding recommendation by David, Lake Willoughby was breathtaking.  "Lake Willoughby, also known as the Lucerne of America, is considered by some as being the most beautiful lake in Vermont.  Located in the town  of Westmore, this body of water was formed 12,000 years ago, when glacier rivers of ice carved out 'U' shaped valleys and spectacular cliffs of granite in Vermont's  Northeast Kingdom.  The lake is known for its crystal clear water, natural sand beaches, great fishing and diving."  I felt like I was in another world here.  I took in the sights and found Devil's Rock, the perfect rock for locals to jump into the water, and unmistakeably marked with a devil painted on it, lol.

After making my memories, I trekked on.