Recently my husband and I took a 12 day vacation to parts of the country neither of us had visited. We are from Louisiana and were headed to the northeast and midwest so this was quite a big trip for us. We had spent a full year planning the trip but had no idea of what to expect from it. With a firm time limit of 12 days, we were fully aware of the time that we would spend in the vehicle during the trip in order to accomplish all that we planned to do during that time period. We had quite the itinerary planned and were determined to accomplish all of it. I am happy to report that we accomplished all that we set out to accomplish on the trip. In addition, we learned quite a few things along the way.
Before I get into what we learned, I want to give a few stats on our trip:
12 days, 4014.4 miles traveled (Ronnie drove every single mile), 73 hours spent in the vehicle, 2 countries (USA & Canada), 24 states (see below), 4 MLB fields, 2 MLB games, 5 Hard Rock Cafes, 2 of the Great Lakes (right by a 3rd but the trees blocked our actual view from the road)
States visited: LA, MS, AL, TN, GA, WV, VA, PA, MD, NY, NJ, CT, RI, MA, VT, NH, ME, MI, OH, IN, IL, WI, MO, AR
This trip was an awesome adventure but it was also a very big learning experience for us. We learned quite a few things along the way with many of those things surprising us. Most things were positive with only a few being stressful or downright negative.
So, on to the point of this blog post…the things we learned in 12 days:
- 73 hours in a vehicle together was tiring but it also was a great time for us to talk. At home we spend a lot of time on electronic devices or watching TV without talking to each other. On this trip we spent a lot of time talking…and it was wonderful!
- When budgeting for a trip to this area of the country, don’t forget to budget for toll roads. We didn’t budget for that and spent around $100 on tolls during the trip. We don’t have toll roads where we live so we were shocked at how much we spent on tolls.
- Prepare for road work in your timing of your drive. With all of the tolls, obviously it helps these states keep up their roads because there was road work everywhere! Louisiana might learn a thing or two from these states.
- Apple maps is very accurate. Very accurate. The traffic monitor that it has is also wonderful…not always totally accurate but very helpful in avoiding stand still traffic.
- No matter how much you try to navigate accurately, there will always be wrong turns. Not the maps fault, but the navigator’s fault or the driver’s fault. Sometimes those wrong turns actually turn out to be helpful, sometimes not. Regardless they are always adventurous!
- People in the northeast are so friendly! They have conversations with you, not just the passing smile or hello. Not just a few people here and there but everyone we encountered. Everyone!
- People in other parts of the country do not sound like they talk any different to us. They sure think we sound different to them! It makes for a great conversation starter.
- Being in a part of the country with low humidity means no sinus issues. I could actually breathe every day!
- We loved Newport, RI! I knew we would enjoy being there but I had no idea that we would fall in love with the area. We will be going back!
- We loved Chicago! Neither of us are “city” people. We both wanted to visit Chicago and felt like we would enjoy it but never expected to love the area. We will be going back there also. There is so much to do there and we can’t wait to go back!
- NY is a beautiful state. Literally beautiful. One of the prettiest states we saw. Tolls are terrible but the state is pretty.
- I don’t care for clam chowder. Tried it…not my thing.
- Drivers in the northeast are the most courteous drivers we have ever encountered. Merging traffic works perfectly. If there is a lane closure, people start getting over at the first sign and no one tries to fly ahead and get in way down the road. No one drives like they are in a rush.
- Drivers in Chicago are crazy! If there are 3 lanes, you might have 4 cars across. Everyone is trying to get ahead of everyone else. Just craziness!
- Drivers in St. Louis beat everyone in the crazy department. Crazy to the point of one jumping out of his car to yell and scream at us while waving his hands in the air. This was as soon as we got to St. Louis and basically ruined our time there.
- We may be Atlanta Braves fans but we both loved Fenway Park! Loved it to the point that we would love to attend a game there.
- We loved traveling by train in Chicago. (did I mention Chicago drivers?!?!) Since neither of us had ever used a train before we were not sure what to expect. Loved it!
- If you get to Gettysburg National Military Park, hire a tour guide. We did not and wished we would have. The price is very reasonable. If you don’t want to spend the money, you need to be really up on your history of the Battle of Gettysburg to get the full impact of the park.
- Gettysburg is a cool little place. We wish we would have had time to park and walk the downtown area.
- When going to Chicago in the summer pack long sleeve shirts. And pants. Fortunately I had packed one of each and had a jacket so the night that we were out and about I was covered. The windy city is chilly!
- You have to pay a toll to get out of the US and a toll to get back into the US. Crazy!
- Border officers have zero personality. Zero. I know this is probably how they are trained to be but really, a little personality couldn’t hurt anything could it?
- You don’t get a stamp in your passport when you enter Canada. I was disappointed.
- If you travel to Newport, RI, plan to see all five of the mansions. We only purchased tickets for two because of time. We needed at least another day there so we could visit the others. On our to do list for the future. Also do the Cliff Walk. The views are spectacular.
- We discovered that we loved sailing. This is major for me considering I have a little bit of a boat on open water phobia. We did the night sailing fireworks tour on Lake Michigan and we were amazed at the peacefulness of the sailing.
- If you go to Niagara Falls, plan to visit the Canadian side. It is worth it.
- Almost everyone in Chicago has earbuds and pay no attention to the world around them. You could basically tell who was a tourist…the ones who did not have earbuds.
- Another thing to budget besides tolls is parking. We spent a fortune on parking! At our hotel in Chicago we paid $65 per night just for parking.
- Hershey’s Chocolate World was pretty cool. Glad we went to it but it isn’t a place we would want to visit multiple times. It had a 4D show that was almost Disney quality. Very cool place.
- Hershey’s Chocolate World cupcakes are nowhere near as good Disney cupcakes. Disappointing.
- Chicago’s twice weekly firework show is the closest to Disney quality fireworks that we have found.
- Chicago’s skyline (day and night) from Lake Michigan was beautiful. Absolutely gorgeous.
- Chicago has so much to do. You could easily spend a week there and never be bored.
- A Hop On-Hop Off bus tour in a city is the way to go.
- Navy Pier was not what we expected. It did provide beautiful views though.
- Outside of the view from Niagara Falls, Canada, the town itself was just a typical little tourist town with with things like a wax museum. It wasn’t what we expected.
- Marie Force puts on a great Reader Weekend. This was the event that our entire trip was planned around and it was worth it!
I know there are many other things that we learned that I am not thinking of. What I do know is that this trip was more than I ever imagined it could be. We loved the places we visited and are both thankful that we had this opportunity. We have also found two places that we really want to visit again. This means future trip plans!
Ronnie and I love to travel. This trip showed us both that we can fall in love with places that we never imagined to enjoy so much. It has us looking at the future and other places within our beautiful country that we would like to visit.
I hope you have enjoyed reading just a little bit about our trip.