Meetings for work took me to Baltimore for a long weekend in June that presented an opportunity to morph into a New England adventure by luxury motor-coach. I flew to Charm City and participated in my work events, all the while anticipating the reward for my hard work all weekend-long—the arrival of my partner, Sam Yoder, and his Mom, Geri, who picked me up at my inner harbor hotel in their tour bus after they stopped to visit Arlington National Cemetery on the way.
We began to blaze a trail living the RV lifestyle in their 45-foot Newmar Essex, as we explored the East Coast of America, traveling all the way up to Maine, crossing over to Vermont and returning home to Ohio through Niagara Falls. We covered an ambitious territory—over 3,000 miles—in just over a week’s time, making memories and laughing all the way.
An East Coast sojourn had been on Geri’s bucket list for a long time, so we loaded up the tour bus with our friends Candy Corbett and Mike Vernier, along with our four dogs and about 600 pounds of food to nosh on along the way—God forbid we go hungry. This was an opportunity to combine two of our passions, traveling and eating.
When I made my way through the lobby of the Renaissance Harborplace Hotel where my work events were held, one of the staff, Gary, was particularly helpful. I told him Sam and Geri were circling the block in the coach and that we needed to find a place to park it for the night. I asked him, “What do you do when celebrities are here in their tour buses?” He instantly replied, “You ARE a celebrity!” His kindness resulted in the bus spending the night prominently parked out front of the hotel prompting other hotel guests and pedestrians to turn their heads in speculation of what celebrity was in residence. Eat your heart out, Dolly Parton!
On Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, we dined waterside at M&S grill on steaks and seafood. Little did we know it would be dinner and a show, as two separate domestic disputes broke out before our eyes, leaving one gal’s hair weave lying on the sidewalk with cop cars dispatched. This made the experience uncomfortable and confirmed what I’d already experienced on previous visits—Baltimore is gritty. Despite its efforts to polish its image, Baltimore is still very much a blue collar town with an edgy vibe that makes me slightly uneasy.
From Baltimore, we made our way to Mystic, Connecticut, arriving in time for a sunset dinner on the water at S&P Oyster, followed by dessert at Drawbridge Ice Cream. Swab the decks, batten down the hatches and get ready to soak up adventure in this seaside city devoted to all things maritime. The historical atmosphere is highlighted by a multitude of unique gift shops. While most of Mystic’s attractions have a marine theme, there are a couple of exceptions: landlubbers may want to check out the Mystic Art Association’s galleries and studios, which showcase the work of local and regional artists. Or have a lunch at Mystic Pizza, the eatery made famous by the Julia Roberts movie of the same name.
Be sure to visit Foxwoods Resort Casino–the premier resort destination in the Northeast. As the largest resort casino in North America, Foxwoods offers a vast array of gaming in seven casinos, AAA Four-Diamond hotels, restaurants from gourmet to quick service, world-renowned spas, award-winning golf, state-of-the-art theaters, and exclusive retailers. Like a city unto itself, Foxwoods Resort Casino is owned and operated by the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation.
The next day we made our way to Newport, Rhode Island and toured The Breakers, which is the grandest of Newport’s summer “cottages” and a symbol of the Vanderbilt family’s social and financial preeminence in turn of the century America.
Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt established the family fortune in steamships and later in the New York Central Railroad, which was a pivotal development in the industrial growth of the nation during the late 19th century. An international team of craftsmen and artisans created the 70-room Italian Renaissance-style palazzo inspired by the 16th century palaces of Genoa and Turin.
The Vanderbilts had seven children. Their youngest daughter, Gladys, who married Count Laszlo Szechenyi of Hungary, inherited the house on her mother’s death in 1934. An ardent supporter of The Preservation Society of Newport County, she opened The Breakers in 1948 to raise funds for the Society. In 1972, the Preservation Society purchased the house from her heirs. Today, the house is designated a National Historic Landmark. The third floor of the mansion is still preserved as a private retreat for Gloria Vanderbilt when she visits.
From Newport we continued to Cape Cod. Hyannis is the largest town and economic center of Cape Cod. The limelight shone on Hyannis Port during John F. Kennedy’s presidency and the Kennedy Compound, although not open to the public, is still a popular sight to see from Hyannis Harbor, which we did aboard a ferry.
Hyannis is a good choice for those who want to be centrally located and enjoy a bit of everything the Cape has to offer in an upbeat, popular location. Hyannis Harbor is bustling with activity—ferries to the islands, fishing and sailing charters as well as visits to the JFK Monument and the HyArts Shanties. Main Street is home to shops, galleries, restaurants and night clubs. Hyannis Port, home to the Kennedy Compound, is a quiet and residential part of Hyannis. At the Black Cat Tavern, we enjoyed dining al fresco on scrumptious seafood options, including a lobster and asparagus risotto that Geri and I both thought was the best meal of the trip.
We overnighted in the charming town of Plymouth at the Hotel 1620 and visited Plymouth Rock the next day. Plymouth is a coastal town in Massachusetts, south of Boston. It is the site of the first Pilgrim settlement, founded in 1620. Plymouth Rock, a boulder in Pilgrim Memorial State Park, marks the place where settlers are thought to have landed on the shores. After driving through downtown Boston and around the Seaport area on the harbor, we made our way through Portsmouth, New Hampshire, stopping at the USS Albacore submarine before traveling into Maine.
Maine had been on my bucket list for some time. Our first stop was the town centers of Kennebunk and Kennebunkport, which are separated by five miles and two rivers, but united by a common history and a laid-back seaside vibe. Perhaps best described as the Hamptons of the Pine Tree State, Kennebunkport has been a resort area since the 19th century. Its most recent residents have made it even more famous: the dynastic Bush family is often in residence on its immense estate here, which sits dramatically out on Walker’s Point on Cape Arundel. Newer homes have sprung up alongside the old, and a great way to take them all in is with a slow drive out Ocean Avenue along the cape.
The Colony Hotel, also located on Ocean Avenue, is a recognizable landmark from land and sea overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, Kennebunk River and private beach. The 1914 resort is a picturesque getaway with guestrooms in five buildings each with its own distinctive style and ocean, river, or garden views. The Colony Hotel is ranked as one of the best coastal eco-resorts and is pet friendly. We made this hotel our home for the night, enjoying the spectacular pool and ocean views from one of only two rooms that feature oversized balconies. The guestrooms in the main building do not have air condition or television.
The sidewalks roll up early in Kennebunkport so be sure to plan accordingly. The restaurants all close at 9:00 p.m.—even the pizza delivery ceases at the same time. Breakfast concludes promptly at 10:00 a.m. and it’s difficult to even find coffee. Were it not for the food prepped and packed on the bus, we’d have starved to death, though we could afford to skip a meal, considering all the snacking we did on lovingly created noshes of chicken, pasta and potato salad, sloppy joes, and desserts of lilikoi cheesecake and peanut butter fudge brownies.
After driving by the Bush estate, we progressed toward Bar Harbor, driving through Portland and stopping in Boothbay Harbor along the way. The coastal town of Boothbay Harbor, Maine is a perfect destination for a reprieve from hustle of every day. Between its rich history, quaint local shops and boutiques, delicious dining and world-class boat excursions, there are all kinds of fun things to do in Boothbay Harbor, including whale watching cruises, clam bakes and simply enjoying ice cream while people watching on the boardwalk.
In Lincolnville, the Lobster Pound is a restaurant that is the place to go for great Maine Lobster, with impressive views and friendly service. You can eat your lobster dinner outback on the patio and even watch the sunset on the water.
Driving through the New England countryside, we were all impressed by the many beautiful homes and inns with perfectly manicured lawns and gardens. There are some enormous homes along the water’s edge as well as in charming neighborhoods. The flowers thrive in the climate of the northeast.
We spent the night at the Blue Nose Inn in Bar Harbor with impressive views of Frenchman Bay and friendly service. We shopped the boutiques downtown and had a lovely, relaxing lunch on the water at Fish House Grill. They had the best onion rings and delicious lobster rolls. Don’t skip the blueberry pie a la mode.
Adventure, romance, the rock-bound coast and soaring granite cliffs—there is a special mystique to Bar Harbor. Surrounded by Acadia National Park and located at the edge of the sea, Bar Harbor has welcomed visitors for over a hundred years.
If you’re considering a vacation in Maine or planning to travel New England, Bar Harbor should top your list of destinations, as it is truly one of the best places to visit in Maine and New England. Not exactly a well-guarded secret, but not overrun with tourism either, Bar Harbor is a Maine/New England vacation spot beyond compare. And of course one of its many attractions is its close proximity to Acadia National Park—over 50 square miles of mountains, lakes, hiking, biking, views and dramatic coastline.
We drove through Acadia National Park on our way out of town. It was near the top of our list for the trip and it’s sublime views did not disappoint. The waves crashed on the rock cliffs with beautiful pine trees and flowers perched atop the coastal edge serving as a framework as we made our winding way through the vistas.
On the way out of the area, we stopped at the LL Bean Outlet in Ellsworth before heading on to Burlington, Vermont. Driving through New Hampshire at night on a two-lane road with rain, fog and limited visibility was a challenge that Sam handled like a champ. We saw a deer, a black bear and, unfortunately, hit a skunk on along the way, but we didn’t see any moose.
Burlington is a city in northwestern Vermont, on the eastern shore of beautiful Lake Champlain, south of the Canadian border. Downtown, shops and restaurants line pedestrianized Church Street Marketplace—Vermont’s award-winning open air mall is a hub of activity where you’ll find historic architecture, year-round festivals, street entertainers, music and over 100 places to shop and dine. There’s even free wi-fi sponsored by LL Bean.
Halvorson’s Upstreet Cafe has been owned and operated by the Halvorson family for over 30 years. We stopped by to enjoy the great food and casual atmosphere, featuring unique sandwiches like a Texan short rib, tantalizing appetizers of prime rib egg rolls and more traditional fare, like burgers, chili and steak frites.
We visited the Ben & Jerry’s Factory in Waterbury, VT. From a renovated gas station in Burlington, to far-off places, the journey that began in 1978 with 2 guys and the ice cream business they built is as legendary as the ice cream is euphoric. We stopped at the original scoop shop on Church Street in downtown Burlington for a treat but you can tour the actual factory in Waterbury.
Shelburne, VT is home to the Vermont Teddy Bear Factory , which we toured. All visitors enter the building through the Bear Shop, which features stuffed Bears, Vermont-made products, and an area where you can create your own Bear. You’ll want to take a tour of the factory, with one of the Bear Ambassadors who will guide you through a fun, informative tour where you’ll watch the small group of craftspeople creating the toys by hand, one-by-one.
After Sam made us rough it overnight at a Super 8 Motel in Amsterdam, New York (we survived), we played good Samaritans and rescued a couple who were left behind by the Greyhound Bus at a rest stop. After some phone calls and u-turns, we eventually reunited the couple with their bus, on which they’d left their personal belongings, including their passports. They were grateful.
After a day-long drive through New York State, we finally arrived at Niagara Falls, which is the collective name for three waterfalls that straddle the international border between Canada and the United States; more specifically, between the province of Ontario and the state of New York. They form the southern end of the Niagara Gorge.
From largest to smallest, the three waterfalls are the Horseshoe Falls, the American Falls and the Bridal Veil Falls. The Horseshoe Falls lies on the border of the United States and Canada with the American Falls entirely on the American side, separated by Goat Island. The smaller Bridal Veil Falls are also on the American side, separated from the other waterfalls by Luna Island.
Located on the Niagara River, which drains Lake Erie into Lake Ontario, the combined falls form the highest flow rate of any waterfall in the world that has a vertical drop of more than 165 feet. Horseshoe Falls is the most powerful waterfall in North America, as measured by flow rate. Niagara Falls was formed when glaciers receded at the end of the last ice age. Niagara Falls is famed both for its beauty and as a valuable source of hydroelectric power.
Checking off an item on his bucket list, Sam said Niagara Falls was “absolutely the most awesome thing I’ve seen on this trip.”
As the only restaurant overlooking Niagara Falls, Top of the Falls Restaurant offers visitors to Niagara Falls State Park a one-of-a-kind dining experience. The Top of the Falls menu offers modern American cuisine and classic dishes, and every meal is accompanied by spectacular waterfall views. The venue, located within Niagara Falls State Park, on Goat Island, overlooks Terrapin Point, and panoramic views of Horseshoe Falls through floor-to-ceiling windows and outdoor dining decks.
After dinner we were treated to views of the falls at dusk illuminated by large LED spotlights in various colors. On the walk back to the bus, the Casino set off a spectacular fireworks display just in time for the Fourth of July holiday.
On the way back home to Toledo, we made our last stop to visit with my parents where I grew up in Liberty Township in Youngstown, Ohio, which is on the Pennsylvania border. Bringing our families together was a sweet finish to the adventure of a lifetime. I’m eternally grateful for the everlasting memories we made on this magnificent journey. It truly was an epic American adventure!