It’s really great to be back here, living in the United States of America, even, yes, even though that super douche bag is President. Now that I am back I am sooo excited about traveling to all kinds of pockets of my own country and see and understand my country in a way that I never have before. This year during Spring Break, I did just that, I booked a car for a week and made the ambitious solo journey from Maine to Florida and back in 8 days. And I did it all by myself. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, life is too short to wait to find people to who want to travel with you. Grab the steering wheel by the balls and go.
My goals in this journey were pretty simply, reconnect with several wonderful people from my past lives, and see as much as this side of the country as 8 days would allow me to. The main thing I learned was that 8 days is not much time to see all the glorious things our coast has. Another thing I learned was that driving about 2800 miles by yourself in 8 days is kind of a silly idea. More on that later.
But let’s get into what I DID get to see. My first stop was in Thomaston CT. What’s in Thomaston CT? Two things that I am interested in. One of the first friends I made in college, Courtney, and the train station that is featured in one of my favorite movies, Revolutionary Road. Check out the pictures in the video to see what I am talking about. Courtney and I posed for photos at the same station you see Leonardo Dicaprio posing in during the movie. She also opened her wonderful, cozy home to me that had a gorgeous view of the mountains. Courtney was the first person who I met up with on this trip and got to catch up with for the first time in years. More on that theme later on.
Sandy Hook, CT
As I was heading out of Thomaston on day 2 I realized I was very close to Sandy Hook, CT. I set the GPS and was on my way to the grounds of one of the most infamous events in our country’s history. When I got there, I was truly in awe. It is a very pretty, quaint, well-to-do town. As I pulled up to Sandy Hook Elementary School, I saw it was extremely secured. It was really important to me to respect that, so I had to take my photos from a distance. Later when I was walking around the town, I noticed the way the locals were looking at me. They could tell I wasn’t from around there with my giant camera around my neck. They knew why I was there. Maybe it was just me, but I felt like I could sense the pain and distrust they still carried from that tragic day in the way they looked at this out-of-towner, coming to Sandy Hook to take photos.
As I continued on my journey, I was made sure to avoid the Baltimore/DC traffic area and veered way west, on my way to Knoxville MD, along the Potomac River for a beautiful pitstop on the journey. But before I got there, I needed to hit some other points. Road trips are amazing, but there are a couple of big problems doing them alone. One is that you drive past all this incredible scenery along highways, particularly in Pennsylvania, but when you’re by yourself you don’t really have a photographer to capture these beautiful sights for you. Somethings I can tell you about PA is the grass truly is greener there, and the Amish homes are an amazing site.
I managed to make it to Getttysburg, PA, walk around some of the grounds of Gettysburg National Military Park. It was nearly closing time of the museum so I couldn’t see much of the museum. But it was such a beautiful night, the purple flowers were all in bloom, that I didn’t want to go inside anyway. I asked a stranger to take a photo of me next to Mr. Lincoln’s statue. It is an incredible thing to wrap your head around the history of this country, and the significant changes Lincoln did to fight for equality. I wanted to look at that statue and just say, “Thank you so much, President Lincoln. We both know you weren’t perfect, but you made an incredible statement about equality in this world, and the world is a better place because a long time ago you were President of the United States. Thank you.”
After my moment with Mr. Lincoln, it was time to carry on the driving to get to Knoxville. I stayed in HI Harper’s Ferry Hostel along the Potomac River, and it was an awesome hostel, with awesome staff. I absolutely love the social environment of hostels, the people in hostels are always the kind of people who I want to be around and hear amazing stories from. Actually, I had the realization that some day, if/when I get sick of teaching, I’d like to open a hostel. That would be amazing.
On day three I set out the long journey to Charlotte, NC. Roanoke, West Virginia was perfect half way point. This is the day the driving started getting to me. I got to Roanoke, found a nice little diner to have a late lunch, and needed a nap in the backseat and a coffee to keep going.
On day 4 I woke up in Charlotte, at a beautiful Airbnb, hosted by a lovely woman named Althea, who I highly recommend. I was super excited because I was going to catch up with my friend Valerie, who took over my Au Pair job back in New Zealand. Valerie and I got started up at Starbucks with some good coffees and had plenty and plenty to catch up on as we hike up Crowder’s Mountain in Gastonia, NC, just west of Charlotte. It’s really incredible catch up with people you haven’t talked to a long time.
And just like that, my time in Charlotte was over and it was time to move onto the next destination, Jacksonville, Florida. I had a few items on the Jacksonville agenda – go to the beach, and catch up with three various friends from my previous lives.
First up was getting some food at Whitey’s Fish Camp, eating out on the dock, catching up with Erin, my lovely friend who was hosting me. Sitting on the dock on a warm Florida evening we talked and laughed while reminiscing on our fun times from back in Taiwan, particularly those pertaining to some camping and hiking trips. Good ol’ Taiwan and the wonderful people we spent time with in that neck of the woods.
The next day I caught up with my freshman college roommate who has three daughters now. We went to Neptune Beach with her baby. The sand was like flour, but even in Florida the water is a little chilly in April. It was a perfect beach day, something I never take for granted.
That night I also caught up with my best friend from middle school. We bonded so well so many years ago because we were both big WWE fans. We had a lot more to talk about this time around than those wrestling characters. One thing we noticed is that we both still eat in the very same opposite way we did back in Middle School – my food is gone a beat after it’s in front of me, and she slowly nibbles her way through her meal. Some things just never change.
It is quite funny catching up with old friends, people you once knew from so many lifetimes ago. Everyone has gone through their things in life, after catching up on all the things that happened over so many years of being apart, you see all the beautiful and ugly things people have endured and will continue to endure as we continue on in this very weird roller-coaster thing called life.
On the Road Again – Florida to Maine
Now as much as I love traveling, I am a very lazy travel planner. And I didn’t really have much of a plan for accommodation on my way back to Maine. So I left Florida and just started driving mostly non-stop (minus gas & food) until I got to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel.
Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel
After driving all day I was excited to stretch my legs and get some good shots on my camera. I had to pay $13 to ride on this bridge, but I would definitely say it was worth it. The weather was perfect, it was an incredible, warm, summer-like night. Often times when you are traveling by yourself you get to marvel at the beauty around you, it can make you feel a little bit sad that you are not sharing this amazing experience with another person, nomatter how independent you are. That is the reality. I took many pictures, got back in the car, and learned that after driving all day, I was only about halfway home.
An Important Lesson about Driving Long Distances by Yourself – Don’t be Like Me
So back to that lazy travel planning tendency I have – don’t try to drive from Florida to Maine with stopping somewhere to sleep. Don’t be that fool, googling accommodations in south Jersey at 10:30 pm because you just can’t take any more. Actually, my plan was to try to sleep in the backseat of the car once I got tired. But I got scared and found I was very close to a Budget Inn. I mean, just imagine what it would have come down to if we didn’t have smartphones. I would have had to like, go ask someone in a gas station for information and follow the directions they give me. How did people ever live that way?
Traveling always comes with unexpected, sometimes extremely frustrating challenges. But along the way, you are surely creating memories you’re unlikely to forget. I’ll never forget being free to run away in a car to anywhere I wanted to go during Spring Break.