Almost Leaf Peepers

One of our bucket list goals while living in Northern Virginia is to visit New England in the fall, to see the foliage. Locals in New England sometimes call people like us "Leaf Peepers" and while the tourism is appreciated, the slower traffic is not. As much as we wanted to get up there in the peak foliage, we decided, for several reasons, to head up north and explore the last two weeks of August. I took a job as an educational consultant, and there was the possibility of work in Providence at the end of August, so with that in mind, we took to planning our trip. Plus, the August weather in the mid-atlantic is mostly disgusting: hot, humid, depressing heat where you just don't have the energy to blink. Having been to Vermont earlier in the summer with cool temps, Brock and I both looked forward to some cooler weather. Turns out I didn't have any consulting work, but we decided to hit the road anyway: we were sort of sick of the suburbia fog that surrounds us. Our route took us as such:

Day 1: Lancaster, PA

Day 2: Southern NY State

Day 3: Hartford, CT

Day 4: Southern MA

Day 5: Boston, MA

Day 6: Northern MA

Day 7: Coastal ME

Day 8-9: Acadia NP, ME

Day 10: Northeast MA

Day 11: Northwest NJ

Day 12: Northern VA (home)

Whoa. 11 nights, 12 days on the road....that is a LONG trip, longer than some we took when it was BR (before Ruby) and we lived in the PacNW. Any hesitation I had was squashed by the desire to explore and the yearn of adventure, so we packed up and hit the road.

Ruby was a total CRANK the first day, and we ended up in a little park in Lancaster, PA to let her blow off some steam. Turns out the kid had to poop, and was much better after that! We also went on a short drive through Amish Country and Ruby LOVED seeing the horses outside. We finished the day with the Strousburg Railroad and Ruby LOVED the trains. The rest of the trip she wanted to see the "choo-choos."

If you follow us on Instagram, you'll know our first night was a happy little freebie! We camped at The Buck Motorsports Park, because my father in law is friends with the owner. Not a real campground, but a free parking spot that wasn't a Walmart, on grass, and room for Ruby to play, so we were pretty stoked. We parked, Brock popped the tent, set up the gray water, filled our Berkey travel filter, and got the grill out to start dinner, and Ruby and I were just playing (she was pooping...again), and as we got settled, there were bees starting to show up everywhere. Not honey bees, but some sort of waspy thing that sort of swarmed the camper and truck, and by default, us. We couldn't even get into the camper without letting some in with us... so we got in the truck to move to a different, bee free spot, and completely forgot the water filter was full. Yes, full of two gallons of water, and it all went EVERYWHERE. Just water, right?

Wrong. My husband LOST HIS S***. Seriously. I've known him for over 15 years, and been together the last 6, married 4, and I've never seen him go this crazy. He was ready to sell the camper, pack up and come home and never go on another trip again. He was beyond any logic or reason... I couldn't talk any sense into him. He was in a different world, full of anger and choice words... lots of choice words. I'm all like... "Hey, can we just cook some burgers and get Ruby to bed and sort it out tomorrow?" And he's like "NO! EVERYTHING IN THE WORLD IS RUINED AND I CAN'T BE SENSIBLE."

For real: there was some water damage we had to sort out. Wet cushions, wet clothes, and a fried thermostat all had to be figured out. And we did... found a laundry mat the next day, the cushions dried, and Brock was able to order a new thermostat and have it Amazon drop boxed to a place in MA. All was well in our wet little world, and we planned to continue.

Next was another bucket list item: Philadelphia's Magic Gardens. I was stoked to check out the art, and I loved it. I want my yard to look like that one day! It was $10 to get in ($8 with military discount) and while I thought it was worth the $16, Brock probably didn't. Ruby was free, and really loved all the cool stuff to look at.

Then we drove... to Harriman State Park, just off the southern end of the NY Thruway. The next day, we ventured north and east, toward CT, and as we drove along the bumpy old concrete Palisades Parkway, we both heard a small clatter in the camper. I was driving, so I pulled off as soon as I could, and it turns out, one of the tie down bolts snapped right off. Our camper was now attached to the truck at only 3 points, and boy, was that sort of nerve racking.

We cautiously drove to the closest small town, and found a NAPA auto care where someone generously helped Brock get the broken bolt out of the eye nut and then we hit the local Home Depot to get repair items. Brock had it fixed enough that we felt OK getting back on the road, and while we debated coming back home then and there, we also knew we had made it that far north, and to quit after these two road bumps would be silly.

This trip turned out to be the best one yet! I was able to check off a few more capitals, so now I've been to 27 of them!

Hartford, CT

Providence, RI

Boston, MA

Augusta, ME (Ruby sick of posing for photos)

We sampled donuts along the way: in Providence (pictured below) at Knead Doughnuts, in Boston at a farmers market, and the best were in Allentown, PA at Mary Ann Donut Kitchen. They had these croisnuts (croissant and donut get together and make a baby: the croisnut) filled with a mixture of whipped cream and bavarian cream that were INCREDIBLE. We got some to go. I ate only donuts that entire day. Seriously.

We made a detour to Cape Cod National Seashore for a few hours, and it was beautiful. Ruby always loves the beach!

We stopped and saw Plymouth Rock, which is not as exciting as our photo makes it out to be.

We putzed in Boston, walking the Freedom Trail for Brock, and went to Lexington and Concord for more history stuff he wanted to see. Ruby clearly embraced the history lesson more than her Mama did.

We stopped in Salem, to see the Salem Witch Trials Memorial, thus causing me to add a new goal to my bucket list: Halloween in Salem. Note: this photo is NOT the memorial... just a funny one of Ruby. Salem was kind of hokey and touristy, which I didn't expect, but sort of loved.

We stopped and walked through the original LL Bean in Freeport, ME. Ruby looks sort of dazed here, but I just love her tiny tummy sticking out in the photo!

We drove up coastal Maine, and had hotdogs and ice-cream for dinner in Rockland: a picturesque coastal town, one of many to visit.

We explored Acadia National Park, our 26th park (out of 59). Bass Harbor Lighthouse was as quaint and charming as you see it online, and Jordan Pond really is stunning.

We didn't hike too much, because Ruby is so young, and we didn't really plan on it, but Brock and I fell in love with the park. The rocky coastal shores and the smell of pine warmed by the sun... reminded us of days spent hiking and camping in Washington State. We felt a pull to the park, and both decided we can't wait to plan our next trip back, maybe this time to do some hiking.

We checked out Bar Harbor, did some laundry, and had the best coffee ice-cream at the Mount Desert Island Ice Cream Shop.

We had lobstah rolls at a total dive joint in Augusta, just to say we had tried them. Honestly? It was like chicken or tuna salad, with lobster meat (not what I was expecting) and while I'm glad I tried it, I don't really think I need to eat it again.

We had perfect weather almost the whole trip. A bit of rain the evening we camped in CT, and a bit of clouds and rain camping in northeast MA on our way back, but overall, we couldn't have asked for better weather.

We have a little girl who did amazing, other than her first grumpy day. She rode well in the truck, slept well at night (with her little bunny, "Bun Bun" that she started sleeping with: almost NO screaming at bedtimes!), she took showers in campgrounds that had them and laughed and asked for "wa wa again" and she got filthy dirty exploring and adventuring and learning. She (her parents) overcame the mild hysteria that occurs with a tick bite (right behind her sweet little ear!) and continued to adventure, oblivious to any potential dangers, big or tiny. Occasionally we let her watch a nature show on the iPad in the truck, but when we did, she often colored, or read her books, or played with her toys instead of watching the show. We have an 18 month old who has been to 15 states already. She did so much better than any other trip... we can't figure out if she's used to it, has gotten older and better with it, or a little of both. Because she loved it, we have decided to squeeze in one more trip this fall before retiring the Toaster for the winter.

We developed a routine. We stuck to our meal plan, and didn't waste any food at all. We got breakfast set up the night before, so mornings became smoother. Brock let me set up camp some nights, and tear down camp some mornings, so I got better at all the "stuff" that needs to be done with the camper. We got so good, we could wake up, and be on the road 45 minutes later, breakfast in our bellies, wind in our hair, and memories in our hearts. And more stickers on our camper!

Camping tip: Prep breakfast the night before. Get it all set up, whether thats in your camper, in your car trunk, or what, but it made the morning with a toddler go much smoother.

Expenses

Gas: $368.75

Camping: $310.75 ** Side note: review on New England Camping to come. We stayed at 10 different campgrounds, and that would have made this post far too long!

Misc: ~$250.57 (souvenirs, tickets to philly magic gardens, donuts, ice cream, meals out, camper repairs, new PJ's for Ruby bc the ones I packed didn't fit, etc)

Total: $930.07

Was it worth the money? Yes. Did we spend more on Misc. Items than I wanted? Yes. But camper repairs and Ruby having a growth spurt and not fitting into her 18 month p-jams (she turns 18 months in 2 days)... items beyond our control. Next trip, my goal is $500 or less. We'll see!

Best part about this trip? Acadia NP. Finally finding a place on the East Coast that we WANT to go and visit again, and felt connected to. Where is that for you? What is a place that you LOVE and can't wait to go back to?


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