Maria and Derek's Travels

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

US Roadtrip - Vermont - Route 100 and a hint of New Hampshire

September 4 and 5, 2017

States:  2 (Vermont, New Hampshire)
Capitals:  0 (--)
Distance Traveled: 195 miles in two days / 1,692 miles total
Time Traveled: 4.75 hrs in two days / 37.25 hrs total

Driving the beautiful backroads of Vermont, we zigzagged across the state, stopping off at waterfalls and overlooks along the way, mostly passing through rolling green mountains, fields of wildflowers and scenic farms with fields of green and the striking red barns.  Route 100 was touted as a scenic drive, so we took the long way to get across the narrow state, heading up to the Green Mountains and basically doing a big loop around the mountains and coming back down to end up in Hanover, New Hampshire, just across the border.  In Hanover (and back on the VT side of the river), we met up with old friends of ours, toured the Dartmouth campus and had a great time catching up and relaxing for a bit.

One of the ubiquitous beautiful views crossing over the Green Mountains

The rocky gorge of Warren Falls

Moss Glen Falls of Granville, not to be confused with Moss Glen Falls near Stowe (pictures of that one in a later post coming up)

The drive is full of beautiful countryside, so we never got tired of the views

Just as if a painter had set up the scene, cute red barns dot the farmland

One of the small towns along the way with their typical main street, a big church and not much else

One of the more famous covered bridges of Vermont at Taftsville

Looking down on Quechee Gorge from the bridge above.  We didn't even know about this place but happened to pass it on the way to see Looch and Tamara (our friends living near Dartmouth), so we obviously had to make a quick photo stop

The ninja kicks continue, this time with Looch right outside the main quad of Dartmouth.  The campus was beautiful, and as Looch had gone to medical school there, he was a great tour guide to show us the area and the stories of the school

Downtown Hanover, a few blocks away from Dartmouth campus

Making the best of a rainy day, we hid away in a quiet library in the tower of one of the main buildings in Dartmouth, feeling like we were in the archives of an old British library somewhere across the pond (or perhaps in a Harry Potter movie).  If you look closely enough, you can see Looch in his beloved white sweatshirt and Maria in her reading nook

Saturday, September 16, 2017

US Roadtrip - Southern Vermont - Manchester and Mt. Equinox

September 2 and 3, 2017

States:  2 (New York, Vermont)
Capitals:  0 (--)
Distance Traveled: 148 miles in two days / 1,497 miles total
Time Traveled: 4.5 hrs in two days / 32.5 hrs total

Vermont was one of our highly anticipated destinations, and after being greeted by open fields of yellow wildflowers (goldenrod) filling huge meadows, backed by thick forest and rolling mountains, our introduction to the state did not disappoint.  Dotted with small villages consisting of a main street or two with the city hall, tall church steeple and various supply shops, the rest of the area was basically farmland or forest, with an occasional red barn to add some visual interest to the scene.

We drove the toll road up to the top of Mount Equinox on our first day, giving us sweeping views of the entire area before heading down towards Manchester and spending a day there relaxing and catching up on some work (and taking advantage of some rain that came through on our second day).

Immediately upon entering Vermont, we were greeted by wide open fields of goldenrod and rolling hills.

Toasty passing through a covered bridge in SW Vermont.

The view from atop Mount Equinox, where you can see several states (which is not that huge of an accomplishment, given the size of Vermont).

The windy toll road up to the top of Mount Equinox, with some great lookout points along the way.

Toasty posing for a photo before ascending the steep hill.  In the very top right of the picture, you can see some buildings that mark the top of the mountain.

Beautiful wildflowers litter the state - these are from a bunch of black-eyed Susans.

Cute little Manchester, VT - like many of the villages around here, it has just a few main streets with quaint buildings and shops.

Outside of the small villages, the countryside is a beautiful mix of rolling farmland and small, rounded mountains stretching in every direction.  The area certainly felt untouched, with just a few old New England villages every once in a while.

Typical houses in some of the small towns with historic architecture and beautiful gardens.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

US Roadtrip - New York and Toasty Upgrade

September 1, 2017

States:  1 (New York)
Capitals:  1 (Albany, NY)
Distance Traveled: 67 miles today / 1,349 miles total
Time Traveled: 2 hrs today / 28 hrs total

After the upgrades to Toasty, we went down the road to Albany.  The outskirts of the city were nothing impressive - just some small 2-3 story blocks with restaurants and apartments, but the true center of the city was amazing!  Huge office buildings, castle type architecture and stately columns combine to form a sophisticated yet antique look.  The capitol itself is a Gothic type building that has a much different look from any of the capitols that we have seen.  Behind the capitol lies a huge reflecting pond, surrounded by other impressive buildings - four identical, tall government buildings on one side of the pond in a row and an oblong shaped theater on the other side called The Egg.  All in all, we were very impressed with the city and surrounding parks.

Grasshopper tacos!  We found a local Mexican place just down the main street from the capitol in Albany.

Instead of kicking, we took it easy in front of the Albany capitol.  Well, we actually did our kicks as well, but we wanted to change it up a bit.

The reflecting pond with the capitol in the background, The Egg (a theater) on the right, and 2 of the 4 identical government buildings on the left.  This area was really impressive and turned out to be one of our favorite capitols.

Down the main street from the capitol into the business district.

Some of the typical streets leaving the capitol and heading through the edge of Albany.

One campus of the State University of New York (SUNY) at the bottom of the hill in Albany.

The sleeping platform - it has many nooks and crannies with storage underneath, allowing us to sleep in the car while keeping our things below.  It was custom designed by RamblerDan, a Honda Element enthusiast that had to get rid of his car, so he wanted someone else to be able to use his creations. (Photocredit: RamblerDan)

With the newly installed sleeping platform and our bags stuffed underneath.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

US Roadtrip - Philly, New Jersey and into New York

August 31, 2017

States:  3 (New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York)
Capitals:  1 (Trenton, NJ)
Distance Traveled: 292 miles today / 1,282 miles total
Time Traveled: 6 hrs today / 26 hrs total

In the morning, we drove back into Philly, touring the city center a little more and making our way to the famous Art Museum.  Most people wouldn't know that the Philadelphia Art Museum is famous until you mention the fact that it is the location of the "Rocky Stairs" where Rocky Balboa had his famous scene training hard and running up the many flights of stairs leading up to the stately museum on the hill overlooking the city.

We took pictures next to the Rocky statue, saw his "footprints" (though I don't believe that Sylvester Stallone's feet are as big as portrayed there) and, of course, we ran up and down the iconic stairs a few times.  Unfortunately, a crew was setting up a stage for a concert at the bottom of the stairs, so we did miss the first couple of stairs, and the view looking back to the city was obscured.  After many photos there, we made a quick stop at Reading Terminal market - a converted area that is now full of food stands and kiosks with local sandwiches, ice cream and bakeries.

We then continued on, back into New Jersey and found the state house of Trenton.  To be honest, we weren't too impressed with the area, as it felt a little run down, and the capitol dome itself is nice enough, but even the capitol building had its issues, with lots of boarded up windows and construction.  Hopefully it'll be in a better state soon, but we simply took our pictures and kept moving.

Then, just as we crossed into New York state from New Jersey, the views began to pick up.  Long ridges of low mountains lined the horizon, rocky outcrops along parts of the road and endless views of green foliage covering the hillsides began, following us for a few hours until we reached our destination near Saratoga Springs.  We skipped Albany for the day, since we were in a hurry to meet a friend we met online that was getting rid of his Honda Element, so he had some parts to give us.  We got an amazing sleeping platform that is an elevated wooden platform on which we can sleep (with our roll up mattresses) with lots of cubbies and storage underneath.  In addition, we got some running boards to make Toasty look a little tougher and a tent that attaches to the back tailgate for when we want to do a little more open air camping in the car.

The classic Rocky statue outside of the Philadelphia Art Museum.  Very cool, but it seems a little odd that they have a monument to a fictional movie character, with that being one of this historic city's claim to fame.

Just like every other tourist, we had to run up the stairs and take our Rocky pictures on top.

Heading down to the beautiful city hall of Philly.  Though the city has some rough parts, the central part of the city is very pretty and full of history.

More cityscapes from Philly.

Although it does have history and some pretty areas, there is still an industrial grit to the city.  Impressive job by the graffiti artists to get all the way up there, though.  True dedication to their craft.

The Reading Terminal Market - a re-purposed area now full of shops and tiny restaurants.  I had a cheesesteak from Carmen's that turned out to be far better than the famous ones from either Pat's or Geno's.

To be fair to Trenton, NJ, we didn't have high expectations going on.  But arriving at the capitol building to find windows boarded up and construction that didn't look like it was going anywhere didn't help the situation.  Nevertheless, the golden dome is nice, and there's a nice war memorial just on the other side of the building.  The city didn't impress us, but on this street, there was also a nice looking museum and a few other government buildings.

Toasty looking tough with his new running boards!  One of the stops on the roadtrip was to meet up with a friend getting rid of his Honda Element, so he was kind enough to give us some great parts - a tent that attaches to the tailgate, a sleeping platform with storage underneath and the running boards. 

Saturday, September 2, 2017

US Roadtrip - Washington DC, Maryland, Delaware, and a hint of Pennsylvania

August 30, 2017

States:  5 + DC (Virginia, Washington DC, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey)
Capitals:  2 (Annapolis, MD, Dover, DE)
Distance Traveled: 215 miles today / 990 miles total
Time Traveled: 5.5 hrs today / 20 hrs total

Moving on from the state capitals, we first took the opportunity to visit the nation's capital.  We had been up in DC a few weeks earlier at the end of our Blue Ridge Parkway trip, so we did most of our sightseeing then and simply went straight for the Capitol this time.  Beautiful blue skies and warm sun greeted us as we took pictures in front of the Capitol and then got back on the road, heading over to Maryland.

Annapolis was a surprisingly quaint and cute city.  Full of brick buildings of 2-3 stories, small traffic circles, small restaurants and manicured landscaping, the tiny city is great for strolling around the streets with some outdoor patios and flat, walkable streets.  At the end of the city is the Naval Academy, and the ever-present waters of Maryland, with harbors and inlets around every turn. 

Heading across the impressive Bay Bridge, we continued through Maryland and soon enough, we made it to the tiny state of Delaware, where we found lots of open spaces, cornfields and other crops and even a few Amish riding their horse carts down the small roads.  Dover, as with many of the original capitals, is now a small city without a huge business center, so it made for a very relaxing stop.  Just a few miles from the center, there was still very little development and a few neighborhoods, but the area around the capitol is very well-kept and has a historic feel to it.  With big, open grassy spaces, large trees and a few clusters of old brick buildings, the area feels like a college campus or a boarding school.  Just around the corner from the capitol is a little grass circle surrounded by a small road and beautiful old buildings and homes.  On the street corner, we saw a sign saying that it was the location where Delaware ratified the US Constitution, becoming the first state in 1787, so there's obviously great historical significance there.

Moving on after a nice picnic lunch in Dover, we continued up the road, passing into New Jersey and then crossing the Delaware River into Philadelphia.  We had never been to Philly, so we explored the historic center, checking out the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall and the stately buildings around this neighborhood.  The rest of the city wasn't as scenic or pleasant, but we enjoyed our time there, and we made an obligatory stop at both Pat's and Geno's cheesesteaks to try out the two most popular spots for the famous sandwiches.  Both were good, with Geno's having better bread, but we preferred Pat's overall.  Not wanting to stay in the city, we went back across the border to New Jersey to spend the night.


Apparently, I'm a little heavier than Maria.  Good thing she works out!

Standing in front of the cute capitol building of Maryland, in Annapolis.
Annapolis is a very small town, but it was really quaint and attractive.

The view from one of the traffic circles of Annapolis.

Cobbled streets, cute buildings and open spaces - what more could you ask for?

The waterfront restaurants of Annapolis actually reminded me a bit of Copenhagen, though far less Danish.

Crossing into Delaware, we were met with lots of farmland and not much else.

The beautiful area near Dover, Delaware called "The Green".  Just around the corner is the spot where Delaware ratified the Constitution in 1787, becoming the first state in the US. 

Trying to time our jumps to a ten second timer on a tripod is not always the easiest thing to do.  That's the capitol building of Dover behind us.

Not to be outdone by Philadelphia, Dover has it's own historic bell, and it doesn't even have a crack in it.  Take that, Pennsylvania.

The skyline of Philadelphia, skillfully shot while driving through rush hour traffic on the freeway.  Do not try this at home.

The entrance to Independence Hall in the scenic and historic area of downtown Philadelphia.

We arrived after hours, so we couldn't go into the museum, but you can still see the Liberty Bell through the glass around the back of the building. 

Independence Hall at dusk.  And yes, we realize Philadelphia isn't the capital of Pennsylvania, but we couldn't resist stopping by such a historic city along the way.  We'll be stopping by Harrisburg much later in the trip.

Brief Bio

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Taking advantage of our laptop lifestyle and wandering this world together. Maria Renee is an online health and fitness coach, and Derek is an actuarial seminar instructor. Traveling together since 2015. Also see

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