A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: Parsons123

Home is where my heart is in Maine ♥

The final blog about our cross-country journey

The song I loved listening to the most during Ryan and my cross-country road trip was “Free” by Zac Brown Band. The lyrics emphasized feeling free, “just me and you”, which is exactly how I felt traveling across America with my husband by my side. Ryan and I both agree we have never felt closer than we do now after surviving, and enjoying, each other’s company 24-7 for the past four weeks.

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In total, my car “Snooty” covered 8,683 miles and drove through 26 states. From Maine, we visited (in order): New Hampshire, Vermont, New York, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, Utah, Arizona, Nevada, California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and Massachusetts. Of those, the only ones we didn’t stop in while driving were Arizona and Massachusetts. We described our route as either an infinity symbol or a horizontal figure 8 which crossed in the very nice Kansas City, Missouri. Other than the false alarm of a funky-sounding belt when leaving the hotel in Iowa, my 2009 Hyundai Sonata toured the country without any issues.

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We arrived home sweet home late morning on Sunday, May 21 and could not have asked for a more glorious homecoming. Ryan and I were scheduled to be back in “Monkey Vernon” that Saturday but were having such a good time catching up with family that we ended up spending the night in Scarborough. It is so much fun to have my father Bill, mother Rinda, sister Alayna, and brother-in-law James as four of my best friends. All of them have been extremely influential in my life and each strongly encourages a passion for travel (and food). Ryan is also blessed with a wonderful family. Case in point, we pulled into our driveway and noticed a freshly mowed lawn thanks to his dad, Ralph. The house was clean and my friend Erin was gracious enough to retrieve the mail and care for our seven plants. As if that wasn’t amazing enough, our neighbor Greg had rototilled our garden for us while we were gone! Life is good.

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Now that we have returned, I frequently get asked, “What was your favorite part?” The answer is simple: the people. Ryan made a joke somewhere along the way that this trip was “restoring his faith in humanity.” I am already an optimist, yet I could still empathize with his feeling of comradery inspired by this vacation. We indulged in top-notch hospitality, meaningful conversation, incredible meals, and fabulous tours provided by our hosts. Reflecting on what I liked best about the accommodations (other than the people), I believe clean sheets, soft towels, quality soap, and a refrigerator stocked with beverages are key components to a comfortable stay. I even liked having my own toothbrush holder at multiple sites! As far as our favorite places go…Ryan says I am not allowed to use the word “favorite” in my blog since we really did enjoy everywhere we went. Minus Kansas, since I thought we were going to die in a tornado. Montana was our most pleasant surprise and we loved the dynamic scenery from Colorado to Washington. The four National Parks we saw were all exquisite gems. I now understand why the PBS documentary “The National Parks” has the subtitle “America’s Best Idea.” Ryan and I revel in the patriotic episodes and already started a list of other U.S. National Parks we hope to someday witness. Perhaps we will make it our next goal to visit all 59!

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It is bittersweet to be back to reality. Ryan and I have already experienced withdrawal from the road warrior lifestyle. We miss the ever-changing views, sporadic visits to breweries, and ample quality time with each other. Both of us have re-established our office habitats and are busy catching up on emails and work that has piled up. My personal “to-do” list quadrupled from 3 tasks when I left to 12 outstanding items (p.s. sorry if you have yet to receive your wedding thank-you card from September!) On the bright side, I am happy sleeping in my own bed, not living out of a suitcase, and getting back into my running routine. Ryan went “upta camp” for Memorial Day and looks forward to riding his motorcycle to work. I am teaching two new pharmacy students at my practice site and was able to attend my dear friend Sarah’s bachelorette party this past weekend. Although it is exciting to get away, home is where my heart is in Maine.

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Posted by Parsons123 19:32 Comments (0)

Homeward Bound

En route from Pennsylvania back to Maine

Our final night of camping took place on Wednesday, May 17. On our way, Ryan was adamant about stopping in Kentucky for a bourbon drink. I searched the web for the best Old Fashioned and found it on Whiskey Row in Louisville at a sophisticated pub named Sidebar. Our nice waitress told us that they age the Old Fashioned mixture in a barrel for 3 months before serving. Ryan was impressed and we were both thoroughly satisfied with our dining experience.

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We found a lovely spot to set up our tent in Cincinnati, Ohio called Winton Woods Campground. This was a detour from our original route east through West Virginia since it saved us 50 minutes of driving time. Only 20 minutes north of the city, the campground is set in a pine grove alongside Winton Woods Lake. It was the warmest camping weather yet with an overnight temperature in the 70s. We had our usual fire and ruminated about how we never wanted this vacation of a lifetime to end. Altogether, we spent 7 nights camping in our tent, had 5 hotel stopovers, and the rest of our stays for the month were with family and friends.

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Thursday, May 18 was spent driving east through the state of Pennsylvania. We ate lunch at a BBQ joint called Mojo’s on the Ohio/Pennsylvania border. Ryan and I arrived at our destination in Canendensis around 7:00 pm. Our friends Alan and Carol live near the Pocono Mountains in their beautiful retirement home amongst Lake in the Clouds. Reverend Shumway was the remarkable officiant for Ryan and my wedding in September while Carol was a behind the scenes helper, aiding the men to affix their boutonnieres. Ryan has known Alan and Carol since he was knee-high to a grasshopper because their son Tim is a long-time pal of his. They played little league baseball together and still keep in touch, even with Tim living thousands of miles away in Alaska. Carol is an exquisite cook who served us a scrumptious chicken casserole for dinner and a tasty brunch the following morning. We all engaged in pleasant conversation and the clock soon struck midnight, signaling it was time for bed.

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We enjoyed more delightful weather on Friday, May 19 and started the day with a walk accompanied by the Shumways and their two dogs. They led us to a gorgeous lookout where we could see the Delaware water gap. Ryan and I soon said our goodbyes and departed in the early afternoon to drive our next leg of the trip to Connecticut.

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Ryan considers the drive to Wethersfield, Connecticut the worst of the voyage. Traffic was congested the entire way, we had to take a winding detour on back roads to divert an accident on 84 East, and what was supposed to be a 3-hour drive ended up taking closer to 4 hours. He is an excellent driver but was not blessed with the virtue of patience. Several tips I would advise in order to avoid pissing him off include getting the heck out of the left lane if you are not passing another vehicle, driving a consistent speed above the posted limit, not giving him directions unless he asks for them, and suppressing the urge to slam on your brakes if you see a police car ahead.

Jason and Tasha live in a charming house with their vivacious dog and evil cat. Jason is a Fort Kent native whom Ryan met via their college fraternity Sigma Chi. Jason is an insurance guru and his wife Tasha is a OB/GYN resident physician at the University of Connecticut. We had a great time catching up over dinner at Lucky Lou’s in Old Wethersfield. Afterwards we returned to their place to play a rousing game of couple’s cribbage (Ryan and I won…we tend to be just a little competitive :) Tasha and I went to bed around 11 but the boys kept the party going for a while longer.

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Saturday, May 20 serves as the last official day of Ryan and my month-long road trip adventure. It got off to a good start when we were able to see the house in which Ryan’s grandfather John grew up. After that we had a filling brunch with Jason and Tasha at Kens in Glastonbury. From there, Ryan and I made an impromptu visit with friends Nick and Bethany in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Nick grew up one town away from Ryan and they have been comrades since their days together playing t-ball. Bethany is a smart, stylish, and sassy consultant for the Hershey Company who I loved at first meeting. Since Nick serves as a brewmaster for the Great Rhythm Brewing Company, the four of us went to the brewery to sample his beer concoctions which were all amazing. The time continued to fly and before we knew it we were on the road back to Maine.

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Posted by Parsons123 15:45 Comments (0)

Unexpected Visits to a Red Sox Game and Rooftop Bar

An overview of our stays in Lincoln, Nebraska and St. Louis, Missouri

Ryan and I spent Monday, May 15 in Lincoln with our friend Allison, a Nebraska native. Ally and I met when I started my job with Husson University School of Pharmacy in summer 2013. She was already a seasoned Assistant Professor who also specializes in ambulatory care. Ally later moved back to Nebraska to be closer to family and currently works as a pharmacist for Walgreens. She is smart as a whip, fearlessly fun, and tells it like it is. Ryan and I were happy to see her new house and meet one of her two dogs, Thia. Her other puppy, Thor, was staying with her mom since Thia is currently in heat.

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We started our day by shopping at a western apparel retailer called The Fort. Ryan bought a black George Strait-style Resistol cowboy hat and new shorts while I purchased a fabulous pair of skinny jeans. Ally, a shop-a-holic like myself, couldn’t resist a locally designed Nebraska sweatshirt. Our next stop was downtown Lincoln where we ate lunch at Lazlo’s Brewery & Grill. I tried lavash for the first time and was shocked by the gigantic pan in which it was served. Lavash is a very thin flatbread, so even though it was the size of a large pizza I could still eat half of the meal before I filled up.

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Downtown Lincoln was adorned with heart sculptures in celebration of the city’s 150th sesquicentennial. Ally served as our tour guide by showing us sites such as the capitol building and Memorial Stadium. She notified us that the stadium holds an ongoing NCAA record for consecutive sellouts, which I confirmed to be 354 in a row beginning in 1962. This is quite a feat considering the stadium holds over 86,000 people! The three of us spent happy hour at Longwell’s in the Haymarket district where they had 100+ beers on tap for $4 apiece. On our way back to Ally’s place we swung into the supermarket Hy-Vee to get steaks, potatoes, and sweet corn for dinner. Yum! We really enjoyed the home-cooked meal and especially liked sitting around her propane fire pit on the outside patio.

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According to Ally, a visit to Nebraska would not be complete without sampling a runza. Per the Runza website, it is a yeast dough bread pocket with a filling consisting of beef, pork, cabbage, onion, and seasonings. Ally and I ordered ours with cheese while Ryan tried the Swiss and mushroom option. It was just what we needed to fuel us to our next stop in St. Louis.

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The Maine road warriors arrived in St. Louis, Missouri at approximately 7:00 pm that Tuesday, May 16. Thanks to the wonderful world of Facebook, I re-connected with a fellow pharmacist named Misty who lives with her fiancé Frank in the heart of the city. While messaging on our way there, Misty casually mentioned that her place is located within walking distance of the baseball stadium. A quick Google search revealed that the Boston Red Sox were playing against the St. Louis Cardinals that very evening! This was too much of a coincidence not to attend the game, plus Ryan is a big baseball fan who played as a pitcher in his youth. We met up with Misty and took the brief stroll down to Busch Stadium. Since we didn’t have tickets, we bartered with a scalper outside the stadium who hooked us up with three for $60. It was the perfect night for a baseball game, warm and in the 70s. Ryan and I rocked our Boston hats and Misty wore her red Cardinals shirt. We drank Bud Select which is only available in St. Louis and tasted quite refreshing. Our trio had a blast and the Red Sox ended up winning 6-3.

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After the game, Misty escorted us to the local bar scene. She showed Ryan and I Ballpark Village, which is adjacent to the stadium and reminiscent of a college club with loud music, big screen televisions, and a large crowd of people. We were intrigued by the green illuminations on a nearby skyscraper, which Misty informed us was the lighting from a rooftop bar. Say what?! We made the short trek to Three Sixty, named so for its 360-degree views, and took the elevator to the 26th floor. What a spectacular sight! It was the perfect ending to an incredible night.

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Ryan and I would be remiss if we went to St. Louis and did not visit the Anheuser-Busch (aka Budweiser) Brewery. We started Wednesday, May 17 with brunch at Rooster where we chowed down crepes and Ryan indulged in a Bloody Mary. We arrived at the brewery upon its opening at 10:00 am and took their free 45-minute tour, which included the stables with Clydesdale horses. At the conclusion, visitors receive a free 16-ounce draft beer of their choice; I requested a Lemongrass Luau and Ryan tried the Kona IPA. As a staw-ber-ita enthusiast, I was ecstatic to see a frozen lime-a-rita slushy machine and had to try one with strawberry flavoring. Needless to say, Ryan and I were very pleased with our St. Louis experience.

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Posted by Parsons123 15:14 Comments (0)

Bozeman to the Badlands

Our tour through Montana (part 2), Wyoming, and South Dakota

Friday, May 12 was spent in Montana, one of our new favorite states. Ryan and I stopped in the capital city of Helena (pronounced “helen-ah”, not “hel-een-ah”) where a vigilante parade was taking place. After rerouting due to the parade, we found street parking so we could walk downtown to Blackfoot River Brewing Company. We quickly learned that breweries in Montana are limited to serving each customer four 12 ounce beers and they keep track with a quirky paper “honor” system, using a pen to mark each brew. It was later discovered that Montana breweries and distilleries alike must close shop by 8:00pm and that distilleries are even more limited to two drinks per person. Considered some of the best beer in Montana, we both enjoyed two pints of Blackfoot and then filled our new growler with their IPA. The chain known as Pita Pit provided a much needed lunch before we hit the road to Bozeman.

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The Bozeman area is a very cool place to visit. Per a Blackfoot employee’s recommendation (thanks, Alex!), we went to Madison River Brewing Co. and then MAP Brewing Company. Madison River Brewing Co. was obviously a local favorite with most people drinking from their custom glass-made mugs. We sat at the bar next to a friendly gentleman who called himself JD. A navy veteran, JD was very knowledgeable about the outdoors, dogs, and beer. MAP Brewing Company led to more great conversation, this time with Ryan and Tammy, a local couple who are both army Veterans (Tammy is still active). We could easily get used to the charming people, amazing views, and awesome beer Montana has to offer.

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After tenting for two nights in a row, we decided it was time for us to shower and get a good night’s rest in a real bed. I found us a cheap motel within walking distance of downtown Bozeman where we were happy to clean up and change into Friday night attire. It was getting late but we had yet to eat dinner so I “yelped” a spot that served the bison meat we were craving. Ryan and I walked downtown to Ted’s Montana Grill which received decent reviews. I ordered the braised bison short ribs while Ryan splurged on Ted’s bison filet. We were both impressed by the quality of our mixed drinks and meat. Ryan informed the waiter, “I don’t know who this Ted guy is, but he sure knows how to cut a good steak!” The server gave us a befuddled look and then smiled. “You don’t know who Ted Turner is?!” Durr… another tourist alert. Our waiter went on to inform us that there are 45 Ted’s restaurants all over America owned by media tycoon and philanthropist Robert Edward “Ted” Turner III. Silly us.

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We spent the morning of Saturday, May 20 touring downtown Bozeman and completing more souvenir shopping. After sampling the huckleberry vodka paired with lemonade at dinner the night before, I insisted on stopping at the Bozeman Spirits Distillery to treat myself to my own souvenir. We didn’t want to leave the 4th most populous city in Montana, but knew we still had many miles to travel.

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Since we were heading east, we figured Montana Brewing Company in Billings would be a nice place to have a late lunch. Ryan and I were surprised to find out that Billings is the largest city in the state of Montana. We sat at the bar and engaged in pleasant conversation with another east coast native who recently moved to big sky country. It appears that other people are seeing the same appeal as we did in the treasure state.

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Ryan and I didn’t get to South Dakota until late Saturday night. We drove for multiple hours in a row, neglected to eat anything for dinner, and it was dark and raining by the time we arrived at the KOA campground just outside of Mount Rushmore. This led to the perfect storm for Ryan and my first fight of the trip. We were both admittedly “hangry” and the last thing we wanted to do was set up camp in a downpour. To make matters worse, the Wi-Fi wasn’t working and it was too wet to have a fire. As luck would have it, the next day on Sunday, May 14 was the longest of our road trip with 10.5 hours of driving in store. We had plenty of time to reconcile our differences and were in much better spirits after our grumpy visits to Mount Rushmore and Badlands National Park. Ryan even indulged me by stopping for dinner at the Hard Rock Casino in Sioux City, Iowa that night where I walked away $130 richer. My luck was back! We continued the trip east and eventually made it to my friend Ally’s house in Lincoln, Nebraska at 12:30 am.

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Posted by Parsons123 13:19 Comments (0)

These Boots Weren’t Made for Walking in Glacier

Mainers in Montana

Ryan and I hit the road to Montana on Wednesday, May 10. It was a fantastic drive with a multitude of scenery, from the rolling hills of wheat fields in eastern Washington to the breathtaking lakes and mountains of Montana. We passed by a cattle drive in Washington and the mining regions of Idaho. The Oregon Trail audio book continued to keep us company during the long commute and made the time pass quickly.

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When it comes to camping, we have been flying by the seat of our pants. Ryan takes over driving while I peruse the internet on my iPhone for potential tent sites. Because it is considered the “off-season” before Memorial Day, we haven’t had any issues finding a space. Our only requirements are easy access to our route, a picnic table, and fire pit. Complementary Wi-Fi and clean bathrooms are a plus. The KOA app is my first go-to, followed by Good Sam Camping and ParkAdvisor. This time I found a top-rated place called Campground Saint Regis courtesy of the Good Sam Camping app. The website claimed this Montana facility has “extremely clean restrooms” (which it does), plus it boasted that all sites have electricity, picnic tables, and a fire pit. The $24 rate for a tent site was reasonable and on par with what we have been paying. Sold!

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The good news was that Campground Saint Regis was right off interstate 90. The bad news was that Campground Saint Regis was right off interstate 90. The loud traffic noise woke both Ryan and I up at least a dozen times, leading to our worst night’s sleep for the entire trip. We were not well rested when we departed for Glacier National Park on Thursday, May 11. At least it was only a scenic and “short” 3-hour drive to the park from where we were staying.

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After my chilly Crater Lake experience, I decided I was going to be prepared with my attire this time. I bundled up in my warmest leggings, two shirt layers, wool socks, and winter boots I borrowed from Shira since I didn’t pack any warm shoes. Tourist fail! Just because it is called Glacier doesn’t mean it is going to be icy cold. The weather was sunny and in the 70s. I was sweating as soon as I stepped out of the car! I can’t complain though because it was truly a beautiful day with some of the most remarkable views I have ever seen.

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Only a small portion of western Glacier National Park is open in May. According to the visitor guide, the first of April marks the target date for the start of plowing. There are over 70 avalanche paths along the roads, so avalanche spotters are needed to monitor the slopes and radio any signs of moving snow to the brave plow operators. Some sections of road are 60-70 feet deep in snow! Ryan and I were able to take the famous Going-to-the-Sun Road, which can take two months or more to plow. We were restricted to approximately 10 miles of access up until Avalanche Creek since the entire road doesn’t generally open to traffic until late June. That being said, the views along Lake McDonald were phenomenal. I can only imagine the other park offerings when it is fully open. Ryan and I had a nice picnic at Sprague Creek consisting of our usual grilled cheese and soup. We investigated the hiking trail options but realized there were only a couple available, including one that was 16-miles long with a substantial elevation gain. Ain’t nobody got time for that!

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After seeing all that we could at Glacier, Ryan and I figured we would get a head start to our next destination in Bozeman, Montana. We drove for a few hours before coming across Lolo National Forest which advertised signs for camping. Low and behold, camping in national forests is free of cost before Memorial Day! Thank you, U.S. Department of Agriculture. The Big Larch Campground was located next to the pretty Seeley Lake. Ryan and I pulled into a site right on the water, which I immediately dismissed as unacceptable due to the large amount of creepy flying ants swarming around the parked vehicle. We found a site further inland that was more fitting for this bug hater. Now the only thing we had to worry about was bears! Since Montana is home to both grizzly and black bears, campers must use special precautions, especially regarding food, when lodging in the great outdoors. I say “must” because there are notifications posted everywhere stating “when you leave camp or retire for the night, YOU ARE REQUIRED as per 36 CFR 261.58 to store trash and food (pet food and beverages included).” In case you are wondering, they both look very similar but can be differentiated by their hump, claws/tracks, ears, and facial profile. The grizzly bear has a pronounced shoulder hump, a concave face, small, rounded ears, and large, long claws. Conversely, the black bear has no hump, a flat face, larger ears, and smaller claws which create a dissimilar track. When I tried to figure out what one should do in case of an encounter, the common answer is “it depends on the situation.” Most information recommends alerting the bears of your presence by making loud noises and always hiking with another person. A lot of sources also encourage “preparation”, carrying bear pepper spray for example. Although I was hoping for something akin to the active shooter response training (evacuate, hide out, take action), there appears to be no set directions. We saw plenty of wildlife, such as deer, foxes, eagles, turkeys, gophers, and geese, but thankfully we did not bump into any bears and the road trip carried on.

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Posted by Parsons123 06:44 Comments (0)

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