Stats: Driven 3,156 miles. Visited 9 states: Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois. Visited 1 Canadian province: Ontario.
General feeling of living on the road: the first couple weeks we felt like we were on any regular vacation. Staying with and seeing friends in the beginning of the trip, and also doing a lot of city exploring… it was all a bit normal and we found it hard to feel like we were living wild and free on the road. We both agree that we should have camped earlier in the trip – after our first night camping and first few stops that weren’t bigger cities, we started to adjust and feel like we were doing something different, more special. Scenery was very much standard to our everyday views until we reached Indiana, when we noticed significantly more farm land. It was nice to start feeling out of our element. I would say that by the end of May we were both feeling more like we’re living on the road and really appreciating what we're doing.
Notable moments: drinking sangria out of mason jars in Ann Arbor, MI – it was the first day it felt like summer and it was just perfect. Seeing the Great Lakes. They are so blue and impressive and it still blows our minds to see such big bodies of water and realize they’re fresh water. Holland, MI was great because it was our first night of camping... we were right by the lake and biked to go watch the sunset. Everyone in town was there watching it set and it was pretty magical. Biking into Canada at Niagara Falls and walking over the bridge to see the falls lit up at night. Watching a minor league baseball game in Fort Wayne with epic lawn seating. Seeing the Quabbin Reservoir - pretty exciting to see where your water comes from. Finding a beautiful waterfall during a random bike ride in Ohio.
Favorite discoveries: Beer – out of Toledo, Maumee Bay Brewing Company's Agave Chili Beer, tastes like chipotle; out of Wisconsin, New Glarus Brewing's Spotted Cow, a Wisconsin style farmhouse ale with a hint of corn; out of Chicago (or upstate NY, by way of Chicago), Goose Island's 312 Urban Wheat, perfect summer beer. I’m going classy on this next one: Oak Vineyards Merlot – a $3 wine that rivals three buck chuck (sorry, Trader Joe's). Nashville, Indiana. Route 46 from Brown County, IN to Bloomington, IN – a beautiful road with sweeping turns, making it a motorcyclist’s dream. Chicago. Oil Poached Tuna from the Purple Pig in Chicago. Death & Taxes cocktail at Sepia in Chicago. Italian tuna and arugula salad in Toronto. Kale salad in Ohio. Deep dish Chicago pizza.
Togetherness: We joked a lot before we left about how long it would take before we couldn't stand each other any longer. I'm happy to report that it hasn't happened yet! In all seriousness, we actually haven't had any big fights, only a few little spats that stemmed from my special time of month (you're welcome, gentlemen!) and Taras getting cranky from being too hot - true story. [Update: on June 1st it happened - we officially needed a break from each other!]
Thoughts, ramblings, etc.:
- Road kill is so sad - it seriously breaks my heart.
- It’s been a funny transition going from not owning a car to living out of a car. Environment, we’re sorry.
- We packed the car using multiple milk crates. This is good for storage and organizing, but after slamming on the brakes a few times we realized it was also a bit unsafe to have stuff thrown at us from the back. The crates are now all safely tied in with rope and rear seat belts - "Click-it, or ticket," as they say in Massachusetts.
- Birds are everywhere. Colorful birds! We both agree that the number of birds we see is impressive, even when we're on a highway.
- We love state parks. All the ones we visited have been so beautiful. It’s easy to forget that these parks are great, even to just go enjoy an afternoon picnic. And most have great road and mountain biking, as well as hiking, paths. All encompassed in so much natural beauty.
- We’ve also come to appreciate public libraries. Great to use the restroom and for free wifi. And they’re everywhere!
- We’ve named our GPS Gypsy. She’s feisty, that one. I can’t count the number of times she’s said “recalculating.” I guess that’s our fault, though! We just tell her, “calm down, Gypsy” when she starts saying “recalculating.” We have a love/hate relationship with her, you could say. We do love her no highway feature – we’ve seen some great back roads and little towns by avoiding the major highways.
- Every time we enter an establishment for a period of time (coffee house, restaurant, etc.) we immediately check for free wifi (we both have iPhones but want to be sure not to go over our data usage, so we love free wifi). If wifi is available we sit on our phones and hardly talk to each other! I’m sure all onlookers are totally judging us, and I feel guilty even as I write this! But, seriously, we are together 24 hours a day so breaking the no phone at the table rule is sliding for now.
- We call everywhere we sleep “home.” Whether we’re camping or at a motel, we just say “are you ready to go home?” “Do you remember how to get home?” It wasn’t intentional and one day we both noticed we were doing it and had a good laugh!
- We had planned to split driving responsibilities fairly evenly. But Taras has done most of the driving (I drove once from MA to Niagara). Most of our driving stints have been only a couple hours at a time so the driving hasn’t taken as much of a toll as we thought it would. I’ve been navigating, which we both agree is more difficult than the driving. The navigator doesn’t usually have to actually navigate (we have Gypsy for that) but does have to look up anything that strikes interest as we drive by it, social network, and plan what we will do at our next stop. There is the occasional true navigator need to, in a panic, figure out where to go if Gypsy seems to be confused. That is a lot of fun. When I’m not being a stellar navigator, I support Taras in spirit by taking naps. Seriously, it’s a problem. If I’m in a moving mode of transportation for too long (car, train, bus, ferry, plane) I zonk out. Every time.
- We’re watching more Boston sports than we ever did when we lived there. I think it’s because we’re eating out and the games are on, whereas at home we wouldn’t have put it on the TV unless we were particularly interested in a certain game. So that’s cool.
- We’ve discovered Meijer stores, which are basically like Walmarts. We had no idea another such thing existed.
- There's been a lot of country music playing in the car. There's always a station that comes in, not to mention it seems most appropriate when driving through Indiana farm lands.
Food: Ah, food. At home, we enjoy the Boston and Cambridge restaurant scene, but pay attention to what we eat (we try to eat organic and whole foods and watch our sodium, sugar, meat, and gluten intakes, etc.). It's difficult to want to try local cuisine and brews and keep that balance. We haven't yet camped as much as we planned on, so there's virtually no meals we're cooking for ourselves. We've been lucky to find some great vegetarian and vegan restaurants, but we are really only taking advantage of them when our body feels so run down that we need to detox. We're making more of an effort to eat out like this is a lifestyle and not a free for all vacation in which to over-indulge. More balance. I should say how frustrating breakfast is, in particular. We've been staying at motels mostly so far and a lot of times our stay includes "breakfast". Awesome, right? Not so much. Breakfast offerings are sugar cereal no. 1 and sugar cereal no. 2, except the few times when fruit or oatmeal is offered. We've struggled with not wanting to spend money on breakfast if it's included. Ultimately, I think we'll quit even trying to eat the included breakfasts. I should just go ahead and confess the fast food situation. Three fast food encounters this month - Dairy Queen blizzard, Chick-fil-a breakfast sandwich, and one late night Taco Bell run. This is probably more fast food than I've had in the past two years (seriously)! The food thing for us isn't just about the waistline, we like to eat and live healthily because it feels good - we just need to focus on getting back on track and limiting the indulgences.
Struggles: Food (see above) and just figuring out our balance of staying committed to some goals we made for this trip, along with the need to be a bit foot loose and fancy free. We wanted to make this trip about working out, being in nature, journaling (well, blogging), etc. So far we’ve struggled to make it all happen the way we envisioned. We assumed we’d be on a sun schedule – up early and to bed early – making it easy to do morning workouts and devotions. But staying in motels with all kinds of noises or at campsites with raccoons creeping through the woods – it’s hard to get to sleep, which means we’re late getting out of bed in the mornings. Making sure we sit down to write or edit photos each day has been hard – sometimes because we’re out enjoying a great place (which is fine and we don’t feel bad about that at all), but sometimes because we just turned on the tv in the hotel (fail!). We enjoy doing the blog and it’s important to us to have this to look back on... we just need to be a bit more structured. It also doesn’t help that I came into the trip needing to complete 70 hours of continuing education by June 30th to renew my CPA license (procrastination at its worse). This, unfortunately, has put an unnecessary layer of stress on the trip – it’s hard to say “yes! let’s camp!” when I need wifi to do my hours. But we’re getting better each day at figuring out the balance.
So, there you have it. A very long summary of May. Posts on the other places we visited in May are coming!