FINAL TRIP REPORT

I got to bed Friday night at 1:00, got up Saturday morning at 7:00, and spent yesterday unpacking, organizing, and sort of bouncing from one little task to another. The weather here is not much different from what I saw a lot of days on my trip…cool, cloudy, and some rain.

This was not my best road trip. I seemed to encounter problems of some sort everywhere I went. Too many to list, but they included bad overpriced hotels; poor service; obnoxious drivers in Boston; rainy and cold weather; and higher prices for many things (except gas) than I am used to. I won’t elaborate more on all of my computer problems but they resulted in a total meltdown…of the computer…and almost me. {:>)

BUT, I really enjoyed the New England and Berkshires scenery; the interesting and friendly people I met; the good weather days; whale watching - a very unique experience; visiting Hemming’s and Watkins Glen; and the free and comfortable nights I slept in Interstate rest areas.

The Kia performed like the veteran champion she is. Other than one burned-out headlight bulb on Day 13, she shrugged off her 123,000+ miles and 8 1/2 years of “experience” as the most dependable vehicle I have ever owned.

I totaled up all my receipts by groups:

Gas - 155.32 gallons = $559 = 20.28 miles per gallon = $3.60/gallon average

Hotels (9 nights) / sleeping in the Kia  (5 nights) - $1,096 = $78/day

Food and misc. - $200 = $14/day

2 Car washes & tolls = approx. $125

Whale watch, museums = $55

TOTAL = $1,910 = $136/day

Note: The total does not include some personal expenses such as computer repair and a couple of minor souvenirs.

That’s it. I’ll spend some time decompressing at home and then do a bit of fishing and take a few short trips around Wisconsin this summer.

Thanks for “riding along”.

Mark

DAY 14 – Long day, Home at Midnight

Off to a bad start this morning. Awake at 6, I made a mug of coffee in my room, read the internet news, showered, and headed down the elevator to the breakfast room, which is listed as open from 6-10 am. Well, it was already 7 and there was only some suspicious looking bacon on the “hot bar”. There were only two other guests there looking confused at the lack of offerings. I got some coffee, but there was no cream available so I opened a ½ pint carton of milk that I found in the refrigerator, and grabbed a little container of yogurt. As I was leaving there, a hotel person came out with some very strange looking scrambled eggs, but this was a very poor excuse for an expensive breakfast. No donuts, hot cinnamon rolls, just some bread and a couple of bagels to toast. The good news is that there was no one to take my room number so I did not have to pay for it.

I checked out at 8, carried my stuff to the parking ramp a block away, and found my Kia. It was 460, cloudy and windy. The Rock & Roll Museum does not open for a couple more hours and it would cost $32 to park and see a “Rolling Stones” display and the other attractions there, so I am going to pass on that and head west along the YT. I lived the history of rock & roll, so I don’t need to re-live it, I guess.

Once out of downtown Cleveland, the old road hugs the shore of the lake, with the mansions that line it between the road and the lake…nice places but a bit out of my price range. {:>)

About two hours later, I passed through Toledo and followed the YT southwest across the rest of Ohio to Fort Wayne, Indiana. By the time I got there after a big detour, it was 3 pm Friday afternoon on Memorial Day weekend. Traffic was bad and the weather continued to be lousy, so I kept going until I got to about 60 miles from the Chicago area. I really do not want to tackle Chicago during that rush, so I cut a short distance north to South Bend, hopped on the Indiana Tollway, and went a short way to a Service Plaza Rest Area. It was a nice one so I found a good place to park and then crawled into my Kia bedroom for a nap. Two hours later I woke up, went into the Plaza and had a fine McD’s meal. I am ready now, so I cruised through Chi-town area on the Interstates 94 and 90 with no problems…well just one…my Garmin tells me to “stay left”, “stay left” as I approach a toll plaza. I did it and ended up going through the “Open Road Tolling” lane rather than stopping to pay. That’s a big violation and I could expect a nasty letter and fine coming my way. At the next tool booth, in the right hand “cash lane” even though Garmin kept telling me to “stay left”, I asked the attendant what I could do about the violation. He gave me a card that says that if I pay online or mail in the toll charge in seven days, I’m OK. I paid $3.80 by VISA this morning and I hope I am now out of trouble. Whew, I dodged that one!

Oh, did I mention that tonight is a “Full Moonand a “Lunar Eclipse”?

Double whammy?

Other than 45 mile per hour road construction for 54 miles from Barrington to Rockford, I easily cruised home and was in my condo by 11:45.

DAY 13 – May 23 - All Along Lake Erie

It stopped raining, but it’s cool (420) and overcast at 6 in the campground. I headed into Brocton for ice, coffee, and a sweet roll. The YT continues on US 20, so I was off for a nice drive through what is called the Chautauqua Wine Region. There are grapes planted everywhere here, I saw mostly small plots of a few acres each. Traffic is light with a few folks going to work and I later saw school kids walking or riding with mom and heading for their first class. No one looks very enthusiastic, and I suppose the coming Memorial Day long weekend is on everyone’s mind. I encountered rain off and on through Erie, PA, many more small towns, and eventually into Cleveland. I had reserved a room at a hotel in downtown Cleveland but got there early and was not able to check in right away. I had an hour to kill so I drove around past the Rock and Roll Museum, the First Energy Stadium, and Burke Lakefront Airport, the site of many Indy Car races over the years. Back at the hotel I checked in and mellowed out, took a short nap, and went for a great roast beef sandwich at a place named “Potbellies”. I had a quiet evening, no rock and roll for me tonight. The hotel is a classic old brick building nestled in among the banks and office buildings right downtown, and was recently completely refurbished. It is impressive with 10 floors, and my room is very large with a 12 foot ceiling, very tall windows, wet bar, granite countertops and hardwood floors. Quite different from the cookie-cutter chain motels I am used to, and I am very comfortable. The downside is that my room is a bit expensive, I have to pay an extra $14 for parking in a nearby city ramp, and breakfast will be added to my bill. After three nights in the back of the Kia, I deserve a bit of luxury…I could get used to this.

DAY 12 – May 22 - Driving the Old Race Course and by-passing Buffalo

A quick coffee in the Service Plaza and I was off to re-connect with NY 5 through Syracuse and on to Auburn, where I found US 20 and continued through one small town after another on the YT to Waterloo. There I began today’s side trip south into the pleasant and rural “Finger Lakes” vineyard region along Oneida Lake to Watkins Glen, home of a world-famous road-racing track of the same name. Watkins Glen is named for a narrow gorge, or glen, where a river flows down to Oneida Lake from the high ridge to the west. A Park Ranger there told me earlier that there are ten waterfalls in the one mile length of the Glen. Because of the rain, I did not hike up there.

They started racing in the village in the late 40s on public roads and opened a dedicated track in 1955. This is New York’s version of Road America, the road-racing track in Elkhart Lake, WI near my home town. It was raining lightly all the way down there from Waterloo, but by the time I got to the track entrance it was coming down pretty heavy. I found a guy at the main gate who told me that they had started practice and testing this morning for eight Grand Am series cars (big and fast prototype road racers), but had called it off earlier because of the rain so there was no point of my going into the track area. He suggested that I instead visit the International Motor Racing Research Center in town. I found it easily, and it is a very nice, separate portion of the city library, a place with a dedicated staff and with historic artifacts, books, and records of many old races. I had a nice visit with Kevin Hughey, the Archival Associate, and we chatted for a while, I told him about the YT, and moved on…the sun was out! Back to the track for a few photos and then I drove the route of the 6 ½ mile original course on the public roads. Those drivers were definitely very brave to drive pre-war and early post war sports cars flat out on these hilly, curvy, tree-lined roads and then right through downtown on crowd lined streets. A photo of the 1949 race shows spindly wheeled MG type cars. The pit area and Start / Finish line was in front of the Courthouse. I even got a sticker from Kevin to prove that I drove it…a nice guy and a very worthwhile side trip. 

With the sun now shining I drove back north along the western shore of the lake and re-joined US 20 / NY 5 for a leisurely drive towards Buffalo. I had already traveled about 70 miles of the YT through the Buffalo area on Sunday, May 12th, the second day of my trip. I am glad I did as I avoided heavy traffic by doing it on a quiet Mother’s Day. About 20 miles least of Buffalo I entered the NY Thruway (toll road) for a hectic trip through rush hour and continued on to the Brockton exit and to Lake Erie State Park. There were only about 8 campsites occupied out of about 100. I got a nice one with a view of the lake, free electric access for my laptop, nice shower rooms, and they even have individual private bathrooms…there were eight for men , all with heat, lights, and exceptionally clean…very classy for a park, and all for $22. I slept well, woke briefly to another rainstorm during the night, and got up at 7am.

 

DAY 11 – May 21 - Side Trip and into New York

I followed the TY route to Pittsfield and then took a side trip straight north about 30 miles to Bennington, Vermont. That’s the home of Hemming’s Motor News, the publishers of a number of great automobile magazines; Hemming’s Classic Car is my favorite. There, I was very fortunate to meet and visit with Terry McGean, the Editor in Chief. I gave him a packet of YT info I had prepared at home and intended just to drop off for him, but the receptionist called him and he came to the lobby to chat. The people here are very friendly and have a small town casual attitude. We talked about the Yellowstone Trail for a while. Terry was not familiar with the YT but was quite interested. He told me he would review the materials and probably assign a writer to follow up and write an article (or more than one, I hope?). Terry is a soft-spoken and polite guy who appeared genuinely interested . we talked about a number of things, mostly related to the YT and the “old car world”.

I also got a private tour of the Hemming’s Garage, even though it’s closed on weekdays until Memorial Day. It is a neat old building that houses their collection of about 20 very nice collector vehicles; cars, panel trucks, a fire truck and a 1930s race car that are all licensed and inspected. They are all driven and “exercised” regularly. After that, I made a quick stop in their old gas station for a genuine “full-service” fill-up and souvenir t-shirt and it was back south to continue on the Trail through upstate New York.

It was easy going and hot (low 90s) on NY 5 with some heavy traffic through Albany and Schenectady, and then, with heavy rain off and on, through many smaller towns westward to Oneida, where I jumped on the NY Thruway and went to the nearest Service Plaza, where they allow overnight sleeping. This was a rather small one, with only two choices for food…convenience store items or a pizza by-the-slice place, which was closing in 15 minutes. I had one slice, a pint of milk, and curled up in the Kia Chalet. I was far enough away from the trucks coming and going that I slept pretty well. It was still raining. I was asleep before 11.

DAY 10 – May 20 - Westbound on the Yellowstone Trail

I slept pretty well in the Rest Area and woke about 7 am. A quick coffee and Danish, and I was off to the east side of Worcester to find the MA 9 turn-off from US 20, where I lost it last night. Along the way, I stopped at a McD’s to use their WIFI and I entered my Mozilla Thunderbird backed-up files for my e-mail accounts. I recovered all 4 accounts and all files saved before I left home last week!). I made my first post to my blog…for the first seven days of my trip plus some trip notes. The sun is shining and it’s in the 70s. I then easily found MA 9 and followed it through Worcester and beyond. I continued following the YT maps through the eastern Berkshires on US 20, MA 9, and MA 53. Then back on US 20 where I explored the “Jacob’s Ladder” route, although it is not as difficult or as scary going up and over the top as in the old days, before they cut a huge path for the road through the rocks. The further I drive, the prettier the scenery gets, and I must comment on the Berkshires in general. It reminds me a lot of Western Wisconsin near the St. Croix and Mississippi Rivers; big hills, deep valleys, and rocky outcrops. I like this area a lot.

I found a smoker-friendly motel in Lenox, popped down the road for a de-lux burger, used the hotel WIFI, and hit the sack.

DAY 9 – May 19 – Waiting in Maine

Best Buy could only tell me that the computer was fixable and that it would be done by store closing time of 7:00pm. I messed around the motel until almost 11, when I had to check out, then I cruised past the large cluster of Outlet Mall stores. I stopped into the Kittery Trading Post (since 1933 but a gigantic new store now now). They have a large selection: fresh- and salt-water fishing equipment, boats, kayaks, bicycles, and everything you could possible want for hunting, all kinds of upscale clothing for men, women, and kids, and lots of nice souvenirs. Like a large Cabela’s or Bass Pro. After walking through most of the store, I could not resist a small bag of genuine Maine blueberries covered in dark chocolate. I then then drove down to the Kittery Town Dock and watched the boats go by, ate some of the choc/blub treats, and puttered around killing time. I washed the Kia windows, straightened out my clothes and sleeping bag, and walked around a bit. There was not much going on there for a Sunday and I enjoyed the peace and quiet.

By 3:00, I was getting antsy so I called Best Buy…they said that they were still working on it but it would be done by 7. I drove to the store, hung around the large bookstore next door for a while and sat in the car people-watching. The geeks pushed it right up to the deadline and I was standing there watching him still working on it at 7, when the store closed. He turned it over to me at 7:15 Sunday night.

I immediately took off for Boston. I wanted to get through there before Monday morning rush hour and then find a place to sleep. Traffic was horrible, probably everyone going home from where they spent their Sunday or weekend. About one hour before I got to Boston it started raining, got dark, and somewhere along there I got lost by taking the wrong exit. My nerves were sizzling from the Starbucks large I had earlier and the stress of driving in this mess. Then I hit heavy stop and go traffic (Sunday night rush hour?) in road construction areas so I decided that I really, really just wanted to get out of the Boston area as soon as possible, so I skipped some of the city streets the YT follows and took US 20 westbound. It probably is a pretty drive, but a dark 2-lane blacktop shining in the rain is a challenge. It was hard to see signs as I drove to Marlborough, about an hour west of Bean-town and again got lost…really lost. I finally found a Wal-Mart but they had city ordinance signs: no overnight parking or sleeping in the lot. Damn!
I used my GPS to find I-90 and drove until I found a rest area west of Worcester. It was now 11:30, very dark and raining steadily. A quick bathroom break and it was into the back of the Kia, where I fell asleep in minutes. What a day.

 

Revised: DAY 8 – May 18 – MAINE

After struggling with computer problems, I took off to explore a piece of Maine’s beautiful ocean shores. I decided to stay another night at the motel in Kittery. I stopped in at the very pleasant Visitors Center on I-95 and a very helpful woman marked up five different local maps with routes that would best provide me with a true taste of New England…and they sure did. I started in York and followed slow, winding, and wooded roads through mostly tourist oriented towns with pristine beaches and rocky shorelines, picturesque bays, and many very large and fancy old hotels that are very well-maintained. There are, of course, also many restaurants and shopping opportunities as well. And some of the estates must cost untold millions. This is a long-time vacation area for the wealthy population of Boston and New York City. I really liked the scenery and enjoyed the drive a lot.

I drove north as far as Kennebunkport, waved a hello to George and Barbara Bush’s “cottage”, and returned to the motel. I tried to access their WIFI but had weird things going on…I got a MS Windows warning, followed the directions for a possible fix, failed at that, the machine did what’s called an emergency “DATA DUMP”,  and ended up with the dreaded BLUE SCREEN OF DEATH. That is a Microsoft screen that says, basically: “You are done, and you cannot fix this, take your computer to a professional”. I did a quick search on my phone and found that there was a Best Buy only 2.7 miles away. That’s good news. Bad news, it’s going to cost me a lot to have it repaired in one day.

I spent the rest of the night reading magazines I picked up at the bookstore next to the BB store.

DAY 7 – May 17 – MA to ME…Massachusetts to Maine

I was up at 6, went to the lobby that has bullet-proof glass to protect the desk clerk, found a coffee machine, filled my mug with some vile tasting instant coffee and ate two stale powdered sugar donuts. I am out of here!

Well, after one hour and twenty minutes I was able to drive twenty-five miles through downtown Boston during rush hour. Wow, these folks sure do not look out for anyone but themselves, and they drive even worse than those guys in Chicago. I am not in a good mood.

But, the bad coffee, bad donuts, bad drivers, and my bad attitude all sort of melted as I approached Gloucester Village Seaport, home port of the boats written about and shown in the movie titled “The Perfect Storm”. I wandered around town, stopped in a few places, and was overwhelmed by how friendly folks here are, and was stunned by the people who stop in the street and wave you to go ahead to let you turn left or pull out of a drive or side street. Wow, very polite, and Boston’s already just a bad memory.

I had arranged to meet up with a YT fan for a coffee and we had a pleasant conversation about the YT and the local area. I will follow up on that when I get home.

I then took back roads north along the coast, going through Rockport, a tourist version of a fishing village, and continued north through many small towns with lots of New England character.  When I crossed the state line into New Hampshire I noticed large crowds of shoppers everywhere because NH has no state sales tax, so MA folks go there for bargains…that “low prices” store and many others were packed. I reached Portsmouth, NH in short order and then crossed the Piscataqua River into Maine, found a decent motel in Kittery, and explored the area. This is a real fishing town and is also home to the Portsmouth Naval Station, home port to a lot of US Navy ships. I topped off the day with a “full clam dinner” at Bob’s Clam Hut, a local favorite since the 1950s. You order at an outside window, they give you a number and call it out when your order is ready. Find a place to sit down and eat more fried clams and sweet potato fries than you should and you are well-set. It was a very good way to top off my first week “on the road”.

 

Coming soon, The YT through Boston and westbound through Massachusetts and upstate New York.

DAY 6 – May 16 – Cape Cod Area

I had originally planned on meeting up with a guy just north of Boston today to talk about the YT, but he called me and put it off until Friday morning. So, 1I was off to explore Cape Cod, that long hooked-finger-looking (and expensive) sand spit that curls out and up towards Boston. It wasn’t a bad drive but Rte. 6 is through the center of the Cape and there is no chance of seeing any water whatsoever! I finally took a side road into Chatham and found the harbor area and a park across from the old lighthouse. I parked and got out to look out at the ocean and various sand bars that are visible, when I spotted, way out there, a large number of big black things laying, swimming, or moving on the beach. My guess was that they were Elephant Seals, and after dropping a quarter into one of those pay-telescopes, I confirmed that they were indeed, and there were probably over 200 of them. Wow! I took a photo, but my little camera does not have enough lens power to show much more than a black line of something on the white sand. I continued along back roads for quite a ways up the ocean side of the cape and really enjoyed what scenery I could see when large private estates were not blocking my way. Hey, it’s Cape Cod, summer home of the rich & famous. I waved at the Kennedys when I drove past Hyannis Port, and kept going…I wasn’t invited for lunch. When I reached about the 2/3rds point, I cut back towards the mainland on the bay side. There are a lot of small towns all along the way and offer a lot of shopping and restaurants, and a small harbor full of boats. I did stop for a visit at the Cape Cod Museum of Natural History where I enjoyed the whale, shark, bird, and other wildlife displays. I especially liked the small aquarium area.

When I got back to the mainland, I went back through Plymouth, past the “Rock” and officially began following the route of the Yellowstone Trail towards Boston, through lots of towns but not very interesting. I covered about 30 miles before I cut off to another overpriced “budget” motel conveniently squeezed between a biker bar and a busy expressway and showing the wear and tear of 40 years of one-nighters. I am going to get some sleep and then get out of this big city / tourist / overpriced area for a while.