Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Driving our beast in the East

Moving fast is harder. We're already in New Jersey, with full bellies and a purring kitten, wondering how the hell we've gone something like eight states without writing. Oops. From Detroit, we headed to Cleveland to visit the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Sometimes, you have to be a tourist, right?

We wanted an east coast autumn, and when we sliced across the corner of Pennsylvania and headed into rural New York we got it — flaming red leaves as far a the eye can see. We took a beautiful day hike in the Adirondack mountains and took a long hard look at Lake George, icy blue and surrounded by more Fall foliage than we'd ever imagined and we realized we never really knew what autumn meant.

Then we headed into Burlington, Vermont, all expensive shops full of cute things we can't afford, pet every dog in sight, watched some lively street performers singing Hotel California with happy homesick hearts, and took a free chocolate tasting seminar at Champlain Chocolates. In the evening we drove to Spider Web Farm and met wonderful Will Knight, who spent two hours with us, chatting about his unusual business and his incredible collection of old sailor tattoos.

In Berlin, New Hampshire we stayed with a woman named Lynn, 60 years old and still traveling. Lynn had an enormous US map on her wall and had driven across the country four times. She pointed us in the direction of a Lumberjack festival, where we were quite impressed with the turn out of Lumber-Jills, and less impressed with the beards. As with many of our hosts, we wished we could stay with Lynn and her two sweet dogs longer, but soon we were in Portland, Maine, wandering the art galleries and coffee shops and the Lobstah themed souvenir shops. Our hosts were a house of good-natured boys that let us cook in their kitchen and were bemused by our frequent spells of caffeine induced laughter. The next day, we walked alongside the water and took in the oceanic views before meeting Wesley for a tour of the adorable hand-crafted distillery he works at and stocking up on stickers.

We planned to be in Boston next, but were intimidated by the city traffic so we spent the night in Salem and visited the old cemetery and the Witch Trials Memorial, eerie in the drizzly morning of the first day of October, and then attempted Boston once more, only to be thwarted by the slippery insanity of the city streets that managed to beguile even our GPS, full of angry honking drivers and panicky confusion. Nope, decided, Boston will have to be another trip, one with a more specific destination and no giant van.

In Providence, Rhode Island, we went to a karaoke bar that had $3 nachos and watched someone sing a flabbergasting rendition of With or Without You before meeting our Australian couchsurfing host and her local boyfriend at a Blue Grass show nearby. Sunara had also done some extensive van dwelling, so we had a great time sharing stories and tips over beers and then again over breakfast before we checked out the town. She directed us to a weird little storefront that had some wild puppets, and when we arrived we knocked on the door and were invited in by the owner and artist, who even let us try on some of the costumes and took photos with us! The weirdest suggestions are always our favorite.

Next stop: Hartford, Connecticut, for a dual tour of the Harriet Beecher Stowe house, which made us feel unaccomplished and lazy, and then the Mark Twain house, which made us want a cat. Afterwards, we were hungry, so we headed to a nearby park to cook some pasta, and as we parked, we saw a tiny ginger kitten rubbing against a confused looking Pitbull, whose owner looked equally, or possibly more perturbed. Kelsey hopped out of the van before it'd been parked, and offered to snag the kitten so the Pitbull and its human could continue on their way, and suddenly we had a skinny little furball purring in our van and snacking on canned chicken. Naturally, we named him Captain Huckleberry Finnegan the Second, and decided to see how he felt about being in a moving vehicle — he didn't mind at all! So now we have a van kitten, harness and leash and all.

We know we're crazy, guys, we know. We took our kitten to New York City, where we miraculously found parking with the help of Evan's sister, who lives in Manhattan. New York was overwhelming, so much to do, so little time, and so much expectation. We gorged ourselves on dollar pizza and sesame balls, people watched in Central Park, gawked at buildings and ran into people, we walked across the Brooklyn Bridge at night, stared at the skyline and the distant glimmer of the Statue of Liberty, the silvery expanse of water. We made breakfast with Carrie, drank beers in Williamsburg, waited for trains in the hot dirty subway, checked out the High Line, peeked at Times Square before running far away, met up with friends and for drinks at a wonderful weird old biker bar, and still managed to wake up at 7 in the morning on Monday to get out of our parking spot in time.

Kelsey's brother has a friend in New Jersey he told us to come see, with tales of a wonderful sassy mother that we had to meet, and before we knew it, we were being stuffed with delicious ravioli and salads and bread and sausage, and our kitten was being fed tuna and meatballs and romping around the house in awe (his first house ever!) We had a mellow evening playing foozeball with Matt's friends and for the first time ever we both slept in a house because Candace wouldn't hear of us staying in our van. "Shut up," she told us, "What, do you want to pee in the bushes, too?"

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