Monday, July 18, 2011

Weekend Shenanigans: Northeast Road Trip

This past weekend D, Leroy, and I hit the open road. The ultimate goal of the trip was to visit four different forests, the farthest located in Maine, so that D could take tree cores and other plant samples for his research. The other goal was to explore the northeast, somewhere D has never had the chance to travel. Road trips were a common occurrence during my childhood, and many summer trips involved loading up the car to explore a new portion of the United States. I am quite sure these travels during my formative years are a definite explanation for my constant feelings of wanderlust!

The route -- all 1600+ miles of it

Our route took us from Philadelphia to New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, and back. We passed by New York City and I could hear the skyline calling. I was quite tempted to have D take us through Katonah to visit Martha Stewart's estate as we passed by Bedford; but we had a schedule to keep.

Our first stop of the day was at Great Mountain Forest in Norfolk, Connecticut. While D went off to retrieve his samples, I stayed in the car and made use of my mobile broadband service and continued working. Working from the car wasn't that bad -- it's kind of cool that with just an a/c adapter to power my laptop and a USB mobile broadband connection, I can pretty much work wherever there's a cell phone signal. Gotta love technology!

Stop No. 1: Great Mountain Forest, Norfolk, Connecticut

Fern detail

The second (and last) stop of the day was at Harvard Forest in Petersham, Massachusetts. Research has been conducted at this forest since 1907, making it "one of the oldest and most intensively studied forests in North America."

Stop No. 2: Harvard Forest, Petersham, Massachusetts

The grounds of Harvard Forest include a museum that features 23 rather-detailed (and "internationally acclaimed"!) dioramas that provide information about how the forest has changed over the years.

On the first night we stayed at the dog-friendly Best Western White Mountain Resort in Franconia, New Hampshire. For his first road trip, Leroy did very well. I was a bit nervous as before this trip the farthest we'd gone with him was a day trip to the Poconos. Aside from a lone bark here and there, Leroy was a perfect gentleman at each of our accommodations. And though prior to this trip he'd only #1'd in our small backyard (and didn't go once during our trip to the Poconos), he quickly figured out that if he didn't go, he'd never go.

Following a good night's sleep, we headed back out on the road toward Bartlett, New Hampshire. We made a quick stop at the Mountain Bean in Twin Mountain to grab some treats -- coffee for D, a chai latte and (awesome) coffeecake muffin for me.

White Mountains scenic view

We made it to Barlett Experimental Forest, where D went off to collect samples, and I spent the time at work on my laptop. Quite fortuitously, everywhere we stopped, I had adequate mobile broadband service. Yea!

Stop No. 3: Bartlett Experimental Forest, Bartlett, New Hampshire

After collecting data, we headed back on the road toward Maine. On the way, we stopped off for lunch at Moat Mountain Smokehouse and Brewery in North Conway, NH for lunch. Tasty food and quick service -- perfect for us.

Our final stop of the day (and last collection point for D) was at the Howland Research Forest, in Howland, Maine -- which also qualified as the most northern point on our route. Since my day of work was complete, I acted as field assistant by labeling bags and vials. (Tough stuff!)

Stop No. 4: Howland Research Forest, Howland, Maine

D hard at work procuring a tree core

Once D's collections were complete, we were back on the road and headed back south to Bath, Maine, our destination for the evening. On the way we drove through Orono, where we checked out the University of Maine campus and stopped for dinner at the Bear Brew Pub.

That evening we stayed at the pet-friendly Bath Holiday Inn. Interestingly, I stayed at this same hotel during a family vacation to the northeast in 1994. I have to say it didn't look all that familiar. After getting in a jog on one of the hotel's treadmills in the morning, we headed out for breakfast at Mae's Cafe and Bakery, a breakfast and lunch joint. The baked goods looked amazing, but somehow I managed to resist the temptation -- gotta have an excuse to go back, right?

After stuffing ourselves silly, we got back into the car and headed out to Brunswick to check out the campus of Bowdoin College. From there we drove down to Freeport, as a trip to Maine wouldn't be complete with stopping at the L.L. Bean flagship store.

Freeport, Maine -- Home of L.L. Bean

Sadly, no purchases to report. I couldn't even find anything at the outlet store. What a bummer! From Freeport, we headed to our next destination -- the Ben & Jerry's factory in Waterbury, Vermont.

Waterbury, Maine -- Home of Ben & Jerry's

Tickets to the tour -- a childhood dream fulfilled : )

My first visit to the factory was during our family vacation in '94 -- unfortunately we only got as close as the gift shop, as my Dad didn't want to stay for the next tour (which I think may have involved an hour or so wait). Instead, we ended up taking a tour of the Rock of Ages granite quarry in Barre, Vermont. Which, okay, was kind of interesting -- but definitely lacked free ice cream samples at the tour's end.

Flavor graveyard

Jersey cows

After enjoying our free samples of Stephen Colbert's Americone Dream, D and I each got a scoop of ice cream, which we enjoyed while wandering over the grounds with Leroy. From Waterbury, we headed to Burlington, where we stopped for a quick bite at Church Street Tavern, before heading back on the road to Lake Placid, New York. If we had planned a bit better, we could have shaved some time off our trip by taking a ferry across Lake Champlain, but unfortunately by the time we were ready to leave town all ferry service had ended for the day. We actually did end up taking a ferry at one point, though, as the bridge we were meant to cross was under construction. After taking many curvy turns through the hills, we finally arrived at our destination for the evening around 12:30 a.m.

Our cute little cabin at Cobble Mountain Lodge in Lake Placid, New York

We stayed at a pet-friendly cabin at the Cobble Mountain Lodge, a quaint and (relatively) inexpensive accommodation in Lake Placid. After our late night, we gladly slept in, if only to delay our return to the Big City that much longer.

Delicious breakfast at Chair 6 Restaurant in Lake Placid

Once up and at 'em, we stopped for breakfast at Chair 6, a restaurant dedicated to using high quality organic ingredients. I think my extra-fluffy blueberry pancake may have been the best I've ever eaten -- perhaps particularly since it was served with Adirondack maple syrup. Yum. It appeared that several of the diners in the restaurant were in town prepping for next weekend's Ironman race, as many conversations seemed to be peppered with training talk.
Quick stretch break in Tupper Lake, New York

From Lake Placid we began our meandering drive down to Sharon Springs, the "major" destination of the day. I've discussed my love for the Beekman Boys before, and given our relatively close proximity while driving through upstate New York, D was nice enough to add a stop in Sharon Springs to our itinerary. On the way we checked out the Adirondacks scenery, opting to take the more scenic route.

D and Leroy check out the water

Once in Sharon Springs, I popped into the mercantile to check out their wares. I really wanted to purchase a small round of their Blaak Goat Cheese, but I didn't think the unrefrigerated four-hour ride back to Philly would be a very good idea.

A stop at the Beekman 1802 Mercantile in Sharon Springs, New York

Purchases made -- including a signed copy of Josh Kilmer-Purcell's Bucolic Plague
(albeit pre-signed; no actual Beekman Boys were present at the store)

The American Hotel in Sharon Springs

Drinks (prosecco) on the back porch of The American Hotel

Bag in hand, D and I stopped for a drink at The American Hotel. As it was a dog-friendly establishment, Leroy joined as we drank a glass of prosecco out on the back porch. (Leroy enjoyed a fresh bowl of cold water.) On the way out of town we drove past the Beekman Mansion, which I was surprised to discover was right by the roadside. On their show, it seems to be set back much further from the road. Regardless, it's still a lovely house.

The rest of the trip was rather uneventful. We attempted to eat dinner in Scranton, PA, but unfortunately no one seemed to be open on a Sunday evening. We ended up grabbing snacks at one of the rest stops on the Turnpike -- a definite signal that our mini-vacation was over.

All in all, a very fun trip, albeit way too short. I marked down several small towns I'd love to visit again. D and I are already thinking about planning a trip for the fall or early winter back up to the Adirondacks area. The whole area is quite beautiful and has a number of small towns that are just begging to be explored further.

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