Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Home Sweet Home!

Shore Path - Bar Harbor, Maine
June 21, 2012

It was time to turn our hearts toward home!  We generally begin discussing the journey home a week or so before the time arrives.  One thing we've learned through trial and error, is that it's best to leave the return trip open-ended.  We just don't know how we're going to feel.   Will we be more than ready to be home or is there still some wandering mojo left?  It changes from year to year.  For several years, I made reservations at nice Bed & Breakfasts along the way home thinking of it as a "treat" for all the weeks we'd cooked our own meals and taken care of ourselves.  But once those reservations are made, they cannot be cancelled without penalty so there was no flexibility.  Also Bed & Breakfast accommodations usually include a very nice sit-down breakfast prepared by the host.  We found most did not want to serve this breakfast before 8:30 or 9:00, long after we wanted to be on the road.  

This year, I had made reservations at hotels in places I thought we'd be.  We are loyal Marriott customers (they were very good to me during my high flying corporate days) and love the fact that a) all their properties are 100% smoke-free, 2) there is a property in every budget category, 3) their cancellation policy is generous/easy, 4) the rewards program is excellent, 5) there are few places in the WORLD where a Marriott property cannot be found, and 5) the icing on the cake is their consistency world-wide!!  

Didn't tell you all that as a plug for Marriott (although that's o.k. too), but to say that yes, I'd made a plan, but it totally and completely changed the day before we left Maine.  We realized there was no more wandering left in us, we knew the heat in the south was going to hit us hard and we were just ready to face it and deal with it.  I had also realized that by changing the course of our trip home, we could snag one more state capital (Pennsylvania).  The original plan had us going through Providence, Rhode Island, a capital which we've already visited, but have no good pictures of because it was pre-digital camera days.  Since it was on the way home and since we'd loved Providence on our first visit, we had decided to swing back through, spend a night, get some good pics and be able to visit the inside as that had not happened on the first trip.  

Changing the itinerary to include Harrisburg, Pennsylvania did not decrease the mileage home significantly, but did allow us to complete visiting ALL of the state capitals north of Washington, DC!!  It also did not change the fact that once we traveled the 52 miles from Southwest Harbor, ME to Bangor, ME, we would be able to travel interstate highways the remainder of the trip.  With a few clicks, reservations were cancelled and new ones made!

So on a picture perfect morning, we walked our favorite Ship Harbor Trail one last time........

 It was very early, only saw a few lobster boats checking their traps,

no other walkers - just us and nature!!

................loaded the car and headed south!  The next few pictures tell the story of our day and illustrate precisely why we detest interstate driving.

 Welcome to New Hampshire..............
 Welcome to Massachusetts!
 Welcome to Connecticut!
Springhill Suites - Danbury, Connecticut!

And so ended day one of driving.  Earlier that afternoon, we entered Connecticut in one of the worst thunderstorms I've ever experienced in a car.  It passed on by, but then another formed just as we approached Hartford.  To insert a bit of humor here, let me say that I have now visited Hartford, Connecticut three times in my life.   All three times have been experiences from ________!  The first time was in 2006 as we were driving from Nantucket Island to the Litchfield Hills area for a couple of days on our way home from that year's Summer Adventure.  We got caught in a horrible traffic gridlock because of a major downtown concert (I think I remember that it was Madonna) that evening and then our interstate exit deposited us in one of the worst areas of town in which we'd ever driven.  We are pretty intrepid travelers, but this was SCARY!   Obviously, we made it out alive!!   The second visit to Hartford, you can read about HERE because it happened earlier in THIS trip!  Leaving the capitol complex, Bill and I had one of the worst arguments we've had in a long time (arguing is something we don't do very often) and once again, we found ourselves in an area of Hartford in which we were very uncomfortable.  All I will say about Hartford visit #3 is that because of severe weather, rush hour traffic and road construction, it took us 2 1/2 hours to drive less than 40 miles from the northeast to the southwest of Hartford!  We were starving, needed gas and stuck in gridlock with lightening dancing all around us.  It was a very difficult few hours and with still several miles to drive before arriving in Danbury for the night, let's just end this paragraph by saying Hartford, Connecticut will never evoke fond memories in our hearts!!  There was one beacon of light in what was otherwise, a horrible few hours........................

Just outside Hartford, Connecticut

We did enjoy a restful night in a quiet hotel in Danbury, CT.   Since we arrived two hours later than we'd planned and were exhausted, we didn't take time to do any driving around in Danbury, a city we'd never seen.  Given our frame of mind, they'd possibly have found a way to keep us in Danbury Minimum Security, so we thought it best to just go to sleep and next morning, get out of Connecticut as quickly as possible!

But all things looks better first thing in the morning.  We were able to laugh about our trip through Hartford and move on.  We saw this shortly after leaving Danbury...................

 I don't deny that a sigh of relief was heard when we exited Connecticut!

First challenge today?   Get around New York City.   This turned out to be as effortless as the prior days driving had been tedious.  It was a beautiful day for driving and traffic was light.  We crossed the wide Hudson River at Nyack via a gorgeous bridge.
 Tappan Zee Bridge - New York State

And the miles flew by....................

 Welcome to New Jersey!
 Welcome to Pennsylvania!

By capital city standards, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania isn't large (pop. 49,528).  We've been to and through it numerous times, but had never "officially" visited the capitol complex.  On a weekend day, the small downtown area was virtually empty so we enjoyed stretching our legs a bit.  We were already 2/3 of the way through the day's drive and so far, it had been a perfect day for driving.  

The Pennsylvania State Capitol is impressive!  This was our TENTH state capitol on this trip and I cannot tell you how much we've enjoyed seeing them so close together.  Each is unique.   We've each had our personal favorites.  

Pennsylvania State Capitol - Harrisburg, PA

There was a nice breeze blowing, lots of shade trees and no one else around!  We thoroughly enjoyed a restful hour or so meandering around the complex!   

Leaving Harrisburg bound for our final night in Winchester, Virginia, we decided to exit the interstate for awhile and enjoy some more relaxing driving heading south on US Hwy 11 which parallels I-81 sometimes within sight and often crossing over/under the interstate.   Yes, for those reading from my hometown, this is the same highway 11 which we fondly (LOL!) call Kingston Pike.  What you may NOT know is that highway 11 extends 1,645 miles north to south beginning at the US/Canadian border in Rouses Point, New York and ending in eastern New Orleans, Louisiana.  Getting off the interstate and driving these types of roads are the way to see our country.   But that's a soapbox for another day!!  

On this day, we enjoyed a 100 or so mile segment of highway 11 through rural Pennsylvania and were so thankful that we had.   It took us through beautiful countryside heavily influenced by the Mennonite culture, past some delightful little small towns and by a couple of lovely small college campuses.   Before we knew it, we passed these................

 Welcome to Maryland!
 Welcome to West Virginia!
 Welcome to Virginia!

Soon we arrived at our final "home away from home" for Summer Adventures 2012!

 Towneplace Suites - Winchester, Virginia

Next morning, we were up and away for the final 438 miles.  This is a stretch of I-81 we know well so quiet conversation, lots of silence, music and napping made them go by quickly.  We made only three stops and simply smiled when we passed this familiar sign................


Sometime in the next few days, I'll write one last wrap-up post with some trip statistics and answering questions you've asked along the way.   We have so enjoyed the feedback from you as we've traveled.   

As Always, Thanks so much for reading!

Sharon and Bill


  1. I am really sorry that your Connecticut experience was so bad! Although I've lived in many parts of the state (including the Danbury area), I have never lived in or near Hartford and would never want to. Next time (if there is a next time) check out the Southeastern CT shoreline.

    1. Karen, Lots of that was tongue in cheek and centered solely on my experiences in Hartford. Thunderstorms, traffic jams and road construction happen anywhere. My hometown is notorious for ALL OF THEM! It's just so ironic that the "perfect storm" of circumstances seems to happen if I come near Hartford, CT! We enjoyed two days in Branford earlier on this trip and we love the Mystic area which we visited in 2006. I particularly love Old Saybrook and although I can't remember the name of it, somewhere near Old Saybrook is an ice cream shop that was one of the best we've ever enjoyed!! No, we like Connecticut - there's just something about Hartford that doesn't like US!

  2. Boy you guys are sure making good progress, even with Hartford in the mix! ;)

  3. Welcome home! You're arriving just in time for near record heat. I hope you acclimate quickly.

  4. Welcome home and thank you for sharing your travels in such an interesting way. I feel curiously satisfied as if I was along as the invisible passenger. However, will definately be putting some of these places on our travel bucket list now.

  5. Welcome home Sharon... BUT --you two came home too early. It has gotten miserably hot here --and as you know by now, it's going to get even hotter this weekend... YUK!!!! Miserable.

    But (except for a few places), it sounds like a wonderful trip... Hope we make it to New England one of these days. We'll go for the covered bridges and lighthouses though....

    We don't like to drive on the interstates either --when we don't have to.. BUT--we love the Hol. Inn Express (like you do/did the Marriot)... Hubby is a Priority Club member and we usually get special privileges and upgrades.... NICE...

    Glad you made it home safe and sound and thanks for taking us with you on your wonderful trip.

  6. Can't even spell my own name.... ha ha

  7. Welcome home! Did that trip go by as quickly for you as it did for me? I wasn't ready to come home yet!

    In all my trips to MD, I had never really noticed US 11 until I traveled I-81 with my parents. Every time we passed an exit with US-11 on it, my mother said, "There's US-11." Every. Single. Time. (It was a very long day. :) )

  8. Welcome home! Love that last photo of you both. I've actually been to Danbury. I have a cousin who used to live there.

  9. Well, I am glad you are home! Loved the pics, and hearing about your travels, but its time to get back to those Smokey Mountains, right?

  10. Even with the heat, I am sure it is nice to be back home. I enjoyed your pictures of this trip so much. Brought back so many memories of our own travels.