Day One: Spartanburg to Annapolis, MD
It seems like the hardest part of taking a vacation is actually getting on the road. When we hitched the van to the camper to finally leave town, it was very inconsistent starting. We swung by a car parts store and hoped it was just the battery, which turned out to be the case. Good news! Though we left hours later than when we had originally intended, at least the minivan was well enough to take the trip.
Our first leg was from Spartanburg to Annapolis, where we would be staying with family. We drove for about 10 hours, getting in around midnight. It is a little sad to stay with family and not have much time to catch up, but that was the way it worked out. We needed to get back on the road by 8:00 a.m. to give us time to get to Boston before the Red Sox game.
Day Two: Annapolis, MD to Boston, MA
We sat in a fair amount of traffic; that interstate corridor from Baltimore on up the Atlantic coast is just jampacked. It felt like we stopped every 15 minutes to pay a toll, which were all more expensive than for just a passenger car since we were pulling a trailer. We got to see the hazy edge of New York City, which was fun for the kids. Then we got to see part of NYC up close when I missed the exit for the interstate loop off of the George Washington Bridge (hard to zip through lanes when you’re pulling a camper) and Google Maps seemed just as flummoxed as we were. Next time we take a big road trip, I will renew my AAA membership and get some dadgum paper maps. It seems foolhardy in retrospect that we were just blindly following whatever instructions our phone gave us to get all the way up to Maine. Lesson learned.
When Google Maps finally extricated us from the bowels of NYC, we were on this lovely little four-lane headed up through Connecticut. Everything was great until a van pulled up beside us and motioned for Justin to roll down the window. “Watch out for cops! You’re not supposed to pull a trailer on this highway!” he said, and off he went. Justin started researching online, and sure enough, no trailers allowed. I had never seen any signs to notify us, so my inclination was to keep going, hope we didn’t have any trouble, and point to our out of state tags if we got pulled over. My more conscientious husband, however, wanted to get us off of the highway ASAP. This was easier said than done with no paper map. I sat down with the phone and did a lot of zooming in and out and with pen and paper, cobbled together a route to get us to I-91 and return us to our morally upright state of travel (though one could argue that my seven miles over the posted speed limit rule of thumb kept us in a perpetual state of condemnation, regardless of the road).
We chugged along and made it to Boston on the front edge of afternoon traffic. We went right by Fenway Park, but our hotel was close to the airport way on the other side of town. I could not find something close to Fenway that ticked all of our boxes in a place to stay. We finally made it to the most expensive Hampton Inn I have ever had the pleasure of patronizing, checked in and were told the shuttle to the subway left in 15 minutes. We literally put our bags in our room, used the bathroom, and came right back downstairs to wait for the shuttle. On the shuttle, bought our tickets, and began an extremely intimate experience with the good citizens of Boston. Every stop we were smushed together tighter and tighter. I am not sure how long it took us, but it felt like eternity. My claustrophobia and Jack’s aversion to loud and unfamiliar noises and places were well into play. Eventually we made it to our stop and got off and up into the daylight. I love that Fenway Park is very much in the city. I love the anticipation of going into a ball field; it’s such a fun vibe. I asked Justin to buy a souvenir program and the next guy down the street hawking them saw he had one and yelled, “Oh yeah, this guy’s wicked smart, he’s already got one!” I was absurdly pleased with the “wicked smart”. I loved that people actually had a Boston accent and it wasn’t something they just made up for tv. Our country today is full of chain restaurants and stores, which is nice because it is familiar and you pretty much know what to expect, but the trade off is a subversion of regionally unique experiences. But Boston still has a lot of distinctiveness left, and I was grateful.
The game was a ton of fun. Every time David Ortiz came up to bat, the crowd got crazy. The Red Sox ended up losing to the Detroit Tigers, but since we’re Braves fans, we’re pretty used to losing. (JK BRAVES! You know we love you.) As we left the stadium, we could not find the subway station, and every one I asked was from out of town too, so nobody knew. You would think it would be hard to miss, but we somehow managed, and I’m pretty sure we were not the only ones. My favorite overheard post-game banter was when one happy Detroit fan was yelling about how great his Tigers were, and a Boston guy turned around and said, “YOU’RE FROM DETROIT!” as if that was offense enough.Glad to know we Alabama natives are not the only ones with heart-felt rivalries.
So back onto our crowded subway train, back to wait for the hotel shuttle – we were one of the last ones to make it back from the game, and there was a pretty disgruntled group of Hampton Innites waiting. They said everytime they called about the shuttle, they got a different reply. “Oh yes, seven minutes!” “Oh yes, it will be just two more minutes!” By the time we got there, we didn’t have to wait very long. We crammed about 30 people onto the shuttle. The driver cheerfully said, “I have never had this many people on my shuttle at one time!” Back to the hotel, where we asked for blankets since Emma had to sleep on the floor. The night desk manager said he had no blankets; he ran (literally) to check, and motioned for us to come with him, so Emma and I were jogging through the hotel halls, hot on his trail. He gave us what he had (nine million bed sheets), which we made into a makeshift pallet for her.
Day Three: Boston, MA to Mount Desert Isle, ME
After two days of driving hard, we let the kiddos sleep in. I could not sleep because the floor pallet lady (aka Emma) had gotten cold and stolen our comforter in the wee hours. I woke up cold and couldn’t go back to sleep, so I lugged my plethora of travel books down to the breakfast area and ate and planned.
Originally I had intended for us to get up bright and early and take the train into Boston and hit some of the highlights of the Freedom Trail. However, sleep took precedence over sight-seeing, so the Freedom Trail had to be jettisoned. I had just recently read Six Frigates, a book about the founding of the U.S. Navy, and I was bound and determined that we would see the USS Constitution (built in 1797 and one of the original six frigates) before we got back on the road.
After we had given the kids as much time as we could spare to sleep, we woke them, sent them downstairs to eat, and left again. It was lovely to have the convenience of the shuttle and the subway system. None of us wanted to lug the car and camper all around Boston, looking for a place to park.
The Constitution tours began at 2:30 p.m. on that particular day; this was different info from what was on the website, so I was a little disappointed. It was a hot day, and we had originally gotten off at the TD Garden stop so the boys could step inside and visit the gift shop. We did not do the tour there, which costs money and takes an hour. I wish there was just a little window or viewing platform where they could just see the court without going through all of that, but of course it’s a hockey rink as often as it’s a basketball court since the Bruins and the Celtics play there, so who knows what the arena would have looked like on that day.
The walk from the Garden to the Constitution was a hot one, and the museum, while lovely, was quite crowded and we were a little over done by then. The Constitution is held in dry dock; I’m not sure why this surprised me, I just pictured it with all of its sails on and sitting majestically in the harbor. The dry dock did elicit some lovely Les Mis singing, but the masts looked forlorn and bereft without any sails, and while the ship is indeed historic, it looked a little plaintive, to tell the truth. I loved that it was in a Naval Yard; there were cannon and masts stacked about, and it looked like at any point another vessel could sail in and get all provisioned up for a cruise out to sea. And we also got to sign a piece of copper with this funky engraving pen that would ultimately be used to re-copper the bottom of the Constitution, which allowed my inner history geek heart to sing just a bit.
Copper signed, museum toured, lunch eaten, it was definitely time to get back on the road. We still had 5 hours of driving left. We detoured to a different subway stop in order to walk through the Bunker Hill area and see the obelisk there, if only from a distance. The neighborhood was delightfully old and historic, and I loved looking across the water to the skyscrapers of Boston proper while ambling through these vintage rowhouses.
Back on the subway, back to the hotel, back in the car…we had outstayed our time in Boston and got to sit in a little outbound traffic as a result. Justin had wanted to stop in Freeport when we got to Maine, but we weren’t sure if we had time. We decided to stop, but were worried that we would be getting into our campsite super late, so the visit to the LL Bean store in Freeport was a little rushed and not the fun side trip that it could have been. We just tried to cram too much in one day.
I loved that as soon as we got into Maine, we saw signs that said to watch out for moose on the roadway. I REALLY wanted to see a moose, but alas, they were not cooperative.
We got into Acadia right around 10 p.m. We had a little thrill of panic when the phone announced, “You have arrived at your destination!” and we were nowhere near the campground, indeed had not seen much signage to indicate we were even in Acadia Nat’l Park. However, we plugged the campground info in and Google Maps led us to the proper place.
The park rangers had all left for the day, but there was a little sign indicating which campsite was ours at the check-in station. A65, here we come!