Road Trip Debriefing: Stats, Observations, and Random Thoughts

Justin and I recently completed a 23-day road trip around the northeast United States and Canada. (Check out the previous posts: Update 1Update 2 Update 3Update 4) It was so much fun, an adventure unlike any of our previous, a cool mashup of AirBNBs, friends’ houses, and home exchanges. We worked part-time, ate out every day (which is more exhausting and harder on your body than you think it is), lived out of our suitcases, and shockingly never managed to get sick of one another.

I kept random notes on my phone and in a physical journal throughout the trip, and we kept track of some specific stats. The following thoughts, notes, and observations are in no particular order, but I wanted to share the final stats from our trip and some lingering thoughts that didn’t make it into previous posts.

Stats

Miles driven: 3004

Average MPG: 35

US License Plates Spotted:  31/50 (plus DC, Ontario, and Quebec)

Miles walked: 104.8

Museums Visited: NatGeo in DC, MIT in Boston, Montreal’s Historic Center

Photos taken: 3100+

Best restaurant: Zaytinya DC (A&J)

Best plate of food: the crudo at Mare in Boston (J), the lobster spring roll at Mare in Boston or the lobster beurre-blanc at Le Chien Fumant in Montreal (A)

Weirdest plate of food: horse heart carpaccio at La Palette in Toronto (A&J)

Favorite city: Toronto (A&J)

Least favorite city: Niagara Falls (A&J)

Best overall food: Portland (A&J)

Best cocktail: HMS Boxer (A) and Canon Fire (J) from Blythe and Burrows in Portland

Favorite Bar: Lockhart in Toronto (A), Bar Charley in DC (J)

Best Bar: Blythe & Burrows (A&J)

Most unique bar: Vena’s Fizz House in Portland (A&J)

Best bartender: Bar Charley (J), Barchef in Toronto (A)

Worst bar: Les Enfants Terribles in Montreal (A&J)

Favorite historic site: The room where it happened, i.e. the room where they signed the constitution at Independence Hall in Philly (A&J)

Most walkable city: Boston (A), Portland (J)

Favorite Neighborhood: Where we stayed in Montreal, in between Le Plateau-Mont-Royal and the Gay Village (A&J)

Favorite short stop: Salem (A&J)

Best fries: Saus (A&J)

Favorite unexpected find: Urban Farm Fermentory (A), Vena’s Fizz House (J) both in Portland

Best view: Niagara Falls from Canada (A&J)

Best accommodation: DC home exchange (A), Portland home exchange (J)

Best oysters: dollar oysters at Hen of the Wood in Burlington,VT (J)

 

 

Random Thoughts & Observations

There’s a lot of boring down time in a car on a road trip. Reading and working on a laptop or phone makes me carsick, so I have a lot of time to stare out the window and let my mind wander. It occurred to me that, maybe, one of the reasons I’ve always loved road trips is because I get the opportunity to practice mindfulness, relax, be present in the moment, and take in my surroundings, while still being productive (in going from A to B). Road trips give me permission to disconnect and turn my brain off for a while, and yet we still accomplish something at the end. The best of both worlds!

For someone who loves sending (and receiving!) snail mail, but often doesn’t want to take the time to track down postcards and stamps and mailboxes, TouchNote has been a lifesaver. It is a killer app that lets you create and send postcards from your phone. If you use my invite code when you sign up, you get $5 off your first credit pack 🙂 The code is: ASHLFZAO.

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Three weeks without any cats is too long 😦 Thankfully, we got snuggles from Purkin and Max, and my mom did send us lots of pictures of our babies having fun at Grandma’s.

Why do some women walk around in super high heels? Your stride is shortened, so much pressure is put on the balls of your feet, you’re walking in an unnatural position, and the shoes themselves do NOT look comfortable. I haven’t worn heels in nearly four years, and I was never good at it, but I just don’t get the appeal of wearing them when you’re traipsing about a place. Wouldn’t you want to be comfortable?

America is super behind on the public recycling efforts. We did spot some combo trash/recycling bins in the big metro areas of DC and Boston, and Vermont seemed super progressive in its eco-conscious efforts; our friends said that composting is becoming mandatory this summer. But it was Canada that made recycling easy and convenient. Every trash bin in Montreal and Toronto also had recycling, and most of the ones we saw in Montreal included a compost section as well. In fact, walking down the residential streets of Montreal, we noticed that most homes had not just trash and recycle containers outside, but brown compost containers that would also be picked up by the city.

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Always sit at the bar. If it’s just the two of us eating, we never get a table at a restaurant if we can avoid it. You get the inside scoop from the bartenders, and meet interesting people sitting at the bar. We met the most fabulous gay couple in DC who I wish we could have partied with (but we had to go meet some folks for dinner); a chatty drunk French guy in Montreal celebrating his 19th birthday alone; the super welcoming New Yorker we met at Elmo’s who bought our meal. Bartenders themselves can spare more time than table servers to chat and give you the scoop on the neighborhood, to recommend where to eat next, to tell you what streets to avoid. So sit at the bar and have a more local experience.

I’m loving seeing more gender neutral bathrooms! So many establishments that we visited had them, especially in Portland, and Canada. Give everyone the privacy of a full door and to-the-floor walls, little onesie stalls, and avoid the long women’s room lines and any issues over who gets to use which bathrooms. Gender neutral bathrooms are inclusive and a simple solution to a stupid problem, and offer everyone more privacy. Let’s do more of them!!

Always plan to be over budget. We aimed for a certain number knowing that we’d exceed it, so created a buffer zone and thankfully did not go over our max. But we were close. If we had had to pay for more than four nights of accommodations, we would have easily spent another 20% and either gone insanely over budget or wouldn’t have had to be uncomfortably frugal in our adventures. We spent a lot on eating out, and spent a bit more on tolls than my research had suggested, but ultimately, we did not end up out of our budget range for the overall trip. I think part of that was because 1/3 of our trip was in Canada, where our dollar went pretty far due to the exchange rate.

I met the coolest kids in the world in Vermont. We stayed with M, Justin’s bff from high school, and his super cool wife H, and their incredible kids, I and H. I, 9 years old and too smart for her age, was so well-spoken I forgot how old she was most of the time. We had some great conversations about books and school and kombucha and we nerded out hardcore over Harry Potter. I told her when she visits, we’ll have a Harry Potter sleepover party.

The little guy, H, only 5 and a bit sensitive, was the sweetest little boy. Justin and I slept in his room, so he got kicked out and had to sleep with his sister, but he left us his two favorite stuffed cat toys because he thought we might be missing our furbabies at home. (No, you’re crying!) One afternoon, when I wasn’t feeling well, he and I spent over an hour bonding just lying in his bed, talking about everything from cats and tacos to his dreams of being a scientist and his theory about wind. (In his words: “There are lots of tiny, invisible microscopic aliens. And they built portals to take them back to their planet. And every time they make a trip between planets, THAT is wind.” I stared at him, shocked, that he knew what microscopic meant. “It means it’s so small you can’t see it without a microscope.” And I marveled at his imagination. I hope that kid writes some sci fi one day, or makes it into space to find his alien friends.)

Anyway, these two incredible kiddos gave me major baby fever. :-p

We still prefer AirBNBs and home exchanges over hotels. While the Holiday Inn Express in Boston was nice, with a great shower, a king sized bed, and pleasant employees, it didn’t feel like home. It wasn’t in a residential neighborhood with interesting locals bars or coffee shops. We didn’t have the privacy of going home at night without seeing other people. Even the crappiest AirBNB (a cramped apartment from the 1970s in Montreal with a shitty shower and a small bed) was in a fantastic location and felt way more private than the hotel. We really appreciated having the opportunity for a more authentic, locals’ experience by staying in apartments and peoples’ homes. And now we know which areas we’d want to stay in next time 🙂

The Lockhart was SO AWESOME in its Harry Potter theme, I’m super bummed it’s so far away and not someplace I can visit often. The bartender/co-owner we got to chat with was friendly and helpful and so fun to nerd out with. The decor gave me all of the feels. And the drinks were tasty. Next time we go to Toronto, we’re going back!

I love living in Nashville and am so happy to have moved here; I look forward to watch how this city has grown and continues to evolve…. but damn, we are lacking so much diversity and culture. We have no Chinatown, no Gay Village, no Little Italy or Little Portugal. You don’t hear many languages spoken as you walk down the streets of downtown, and while we have pockets of diversity in specific neighborhoods, as a whole Nashville is still very white. It was utterly refreshing to stride down city blocks amongst a rainbow of skin colors, next to women wearing hijabs and others sporting natural afros or long braids, overhearing French, Spanish, Italian, Chinese, Hindi, Arabic, and a host of other languages, choosing between every kind of cuisine your stomach could crave. Visiting larger metro areas allows you to experience a microcosm of the world, interact with peoples you would normally never get to, talk to people about experiences unlike your own, and practice empathy in ways that you can’t if you never leave home. We had some really interesting conversations with Lyft drivers from India, the Middle East, Latin America. How they came to America, why they chose the cities they did, how they like it here. And some of them asked us how we felt about Trump (we got asked that a few times in Canada…) I hope that over time, Nashville is able to attract a more diverse population, and that we’ll be able to have more of these world-view expanding conversations at home.

I fell in love with Urban Farm Fermentory in Portland, ME. Please, someone, tell me WHERE is there a fermentory in the south?! I need one in my life that’s closer to home!!!

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Urban Farm Fermentory

When we stayed in Holland for a month, we were at first confused by the bed situation. We had a king-sized bed, that was actually two XL twins. We each had our own set of sheets and comforter… and after just a couple days, we understood. Since then, we’ve missed the two-bed approach, especially now that I use a weighted blanket (or my “metal cage” according to Justin), but we got to enjoy it a few times on this trip, at both of the friends’ homes we visited. Two mattresses, with separate sets of covers is the way to go, and when we are ready to upgrade to a King, we are going to go Dutch.

I have the most patient, kind, open-hearted, and loving husband, and there is no one else in the world I would have taken this trip with. 🙂 ❤

Overall, we had a blast and thoroughly enjoyed our trip. We didn’t get sick of each other, and only had a few tense moments caused by external factors. We know which cities we want to go back to (Toronto! Montreal!) and which ones don’t feel a drive to return to (Philadelphia, DC, Kennebunkport).

Have YOU gone on a long road trip? What do you love most about road-tripping? If you could road trip anywhere, where would you go and for how long? Any tips or tricks for road trips? Any questions?