At the time of writing, it’s a week since I left camp. With part of my plans not quite getting off the ground, I decided instead to stick with my closest friend from camp and hit the road: Eva wanted to go to Canada, and had always planned to meet me on the West coast so that we could go to Hawaii together, but instead I found myself on a slightly different route…
We left our arrangements very late, which has meant our plans have been very fluid and often re-arranged at short notice. Our employers arranged travel to Manhattan in the middle of Labor Day weekend (not the cheapest time to arrive!) and the US was our oyster. We chose to stay in New York City for two nights, booking a hotel on Madison Avenue in the Flat Iron district. It was predictably tiny, but sharing a Queen bed with one of my friends having spent 14 weeks in a very small twin bed seemed like luxury.
Our time in Manhattan was largely spent organising things for the following week of our trip, but we did get out and about a little – neither of us are huge fans of NYC, so we stuck to going to the Top of the Rock and 34th Street for a very quick shop. That and treasuring the simple joy that is eating off a re-useable plate with proper cutlery (all of the tableware at camp is disposable, I’ve spent my summer eating from Styrofoam plates with plastic cutlery).
We wanted to hire a car from New York all the way to Portland (Oregon, not Maine) and do a mammoth road trip, but thanks to Labor Day, New York was literally sold out of cars. So was Newark. So it was time for a new plan. Things became a little convoluted, leading us to take a bus to Boston, where we got car hire for eight days and headed further north.
The bus journey, of course, ran two hours behind, but the freedom when we finally got our car was fantastic – both of us missed driving and defining our own destiny when we were at camp, so hitting the highway was bliss. We didn’t manage to get into the driving seat in Boston until gone 5pm, but were ready to be on the road and aimed ourselves at Montpelier, Vermont for the night.
We backtracked the following day to a town we’d stopped in for dinner the previous night: Quechee is a word we’ve still not learned to pronounce, but is home to hidden gems – we went to Sugarbush Farm for a free maple syrup and cheese tasting (if you’re ever in the vicinity, leave the beaten path to find this place – not only is the drive gorgeous, but the produce at the end is also divine), and stopped to take photos at Quechee Gorge (“the little Grand Canyon”, as it likes to call itself) on the way back to the highway.
Next stop was the Ben and Jerry’s factory in Waterbury. This was my fault: we visited on a family holiday several years ago, and I remember (before the days of digital cameras, social media and smartphones) painstakingly sitting with my Dad and writing down the ingredients to one of the world’s largest sundaes. I wasn’t allowed to attempt eating one as a child, and had told Eva about it earlier in the summer – she was determined to finish my business. We made a beeline for the scoop shop as soon as we’d finished our tour, purchased our bucket of ice cream (no kidding – 20 scoops plus many toppings)… and ate half of it.
Disappointed in ourselves, but armed with our celebratory badges and bucket, we forged on to Canada. There followed over two days of tedious driving – as Eva kept putting it, “I think we’re on the wrong side of the country” – until we hit Prince Edward Island, which is stunning. I still haven’t quite forgiven the island for charging us $45 to get across the bridge which links it to the mainland, but we stayed at perhaps the best bed and breakfast I’ve ever stayed at. We took in some intriguing sights on the island, fantasy house-shopping as we drove around.
Our trip back into the USA was interesting to say the least (these days, immigration seem to have a problem with me wanting to enter the country and spend money), but we made it eventually. We took the supposedly-coastal route through Maine and were disappointed – Route 1 on the East coast is nothing like it’s Western cousin, and an evening rain storm didn’t help. The journey south continued, taking us to Cape Cod, where I ate my first lobster (with some pretty expert guidance from Eva). I love seafood, and can happily say that this lobster won’t have been my last. The weather hasn’t been quite warm enough in Cape Cod for us to fully enjoy the beaches, but as we’ll soon be in Hawaii, we aren’t too worried.
Over 2,000 miles later, our friendship is intact, the car is returned, and we now board a plane to the West coast, where one of my friends from the UK awaits, along with many other adventures.