Working full-time and taking classes at night greatly limits my ability to travel. The last couple years I have made time between Summer and Fall semesters to travel. My girlfriend (Bonnie) and I have decided to make this a summer routine if it is feasible (financially and schedule wise).
Traveling is something most people enjoy but few have the opportunity to do. I am no different! I have been fortunate to have parents interested in traveling and to take their children with them on these special ocassions. When I travel today, I hope that my travels help me to shake the yoke of prejudice rather than fulfill a desire to subordinate the world to my prejudice (as Rousseau had once suggested). Perhaps out of my travels I will learn about the world and of myself.
You will find that I will ocassionally post news or stories about my meager traveling (I am no Rick Stevens!). Please, if you have any suggestions, let me know! I am definitely interested in avoiding tourist traps though I will always see those things that “must” be seen by the tourist.
With a refreshing sailing trip to the Dry Tortugas behind us, Bonnie and I decided to change the pace a bit and take a road trip. I believe the idea originated as a trip to Washington DC with a stop at my parents’ place in North Carolina. However, once we realized that we would have more time to explore, the trip eventually evolved into larger and grander schemes. Eventually, an almost too aspiring and confident travel plan took shape. Our plan was to drive from Tallahassee to the Bay of Fundy in New Brunswick, Canada. From the Bay we would drive to Quebec City, Montreal, Toronto, the Niagara Falls, and eventually make our way to Washington DC! Along the way we stopped several times to meet up with family on Bonnie’s side.
Our first stop, after leaving Tallahassee, was North Carolina where my parents have a house. We used this place as a starting point as it would mean we would have free lodging on our first and second night! Near their house there is the small town of Aurora which is mostly supported by a nearby phosphate mine. One of the interesting side-effects of the phosphate mine is that tons of fossils are pulled up from deep underground. The “waste” product of the mining operation is tons and tons of dirt packed with sharks teeth, bones, and fossils. A small museum in Aurora has an area where they dump some of the waste from the mining which allows visitors to dig through and find there own sharks teeth. In the brief time that Bonnie and I were there we found several dozen teeth and a few small vertebrae. I asked the museum what the largest thing that was found in the dirt pile outside was and they mentioned that some rather large sharks teeth had been found there but that the best place to find the larger specimens was at the mining operation itself which had been, unfortunately, recently closed to outside visitors (I imagine due to safety concerns?).
We stayed at a lovely place called the “Painter’s Tavern” in Cornwall-on-Hudson in New York. Cornwall on Hudson is a beautiful, small town that is the residence of most who work or attend the West Point military academy. The following day was one of the longest legs of our journey, north from Cornwall-on-Hudson through Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire (very briefly), Maine, and eventually into Fundy National Park in New Brunswick, Canada.
Fundy National Park is absolutely beautiful. We stayed at the campgrounds for two nights while we hiked and traveled through the area. We ate lunch one day in the sleepy town of Alma. Alma is probably as touristy as the area gets as they have some souvenir shops and places to take photos of the world record tides that make the Bay so famous. Driving to Fundy National Park was a bit exciting. The roads are not very well maintained and they are going through some of the rural neighborhoods in the area. Once you reach the park, though, the roads do get much better as the park area is very well maintained. Some of the roads run down the cliff faces into the bay area which make for awesome photographs. At one point you cross a small roofed bridge that fits only one vehicle at a time which makes for some interesting improvised traffic coordination among fellow travelers!
Our second primary destination was Quebec City. Although we did not get more than a few hours to explore the city proper, we did get a chance to have lunch at Vignoble de Ste-Petronille on the island lle d’Orleans (just outside of Quebec City) which is a lovely little winery/restaurant that overlooks the Quebec falls. From there we went to the chocolate store at the end of Rue de L’Eglise for some snacks before heading into Quebec City. The city, particularly the center area of the city, is simply gorgeous! It seems there is history everywhere and the city itself is very clean. Some of the narrow cobblestone roads, with small stores, seem like they were transplanted straight from Europe! While we were in Quebec City we saw the Dufferin Terrace, the Plains of Abraham, Battlefield Park, the old Fortifications of Quebec and Parliament Hill. Sadly we got a parking violation as we misread a sign that we thought said we were okay to park through at a certain time of the day. Interestingly, when we went to pay the ticket at the nearby police department, we were pleasantly surprised by how apologetic the police attendant was. She repeatedly apologized for the inconvienence of being ticketed! How nice! It almost made paying the ticket pleasant. Almost.
From Quebec City we traveled to Montreal where we took a walk through the Parc du Mont Royal and took some lovely pictures overlooking the city. Unfortunately we did not have time for much more in Montreal and hit the road for Toronto shortly thereafter.
We arrived in Toronto late in the afternoon and, once we checked in with our AirBnB.com hosts, we went to the CN Tower. I believe the CN Tower is one of the tallest towers in the world. Though I wish we had had the opportunity to see Toronto during the day from the observatory, the view at night was stunning!
The next morning we drove to Niagara Falls which is only a short few hours from Toronto. We did all the touristy type things you would expect. We went on the “Maid of the Mist” tour which is a boat-trip that takes visitors right next to the falls to get soaked by the mist! We also went up the Skylon Tower where we took some photos (and covertly took a video of the falls! See above for the results!). Also, we attempted to recreate a picture my father and mother took back in the 1970s on their trip to the falls (shortly after the Skylon tower was completed).
The final primary destination was Washington DC. Like all other visitors, we did a walk of the national mall. We stopped at the Natural History and American History museums, took a tour of the Capitol Building, stood outside the White House, and saw a number of the monuments including the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, and the Jefferson Memorial. All in all, Washington D.C. is a beautiful place! It was definitely a nice final destination for us on our road trip. Of course there was a lot more we wanted to see in D.C. before we departed but simply did not have enough time (and probably not enough energy!) to see them all.
The driving, of course, was pretty exhausting. However it did get noticeable easier to drive 8 to 12 hours each day after the first few days. The entire trip lasted 12 days and was required more than over 5,000 miles of driving! By using a neat website called “Air Bed & Breakfast” (www.airbnb.com), we were able to find lodging (when we could not stay with family or out camping) on the cheap and keep the entire trip under $2,000 total (including gas, meals, lodging, and incidentals). We had four days in the car which were 12 hours. Most days were around 6 to 8 hours.