Friday, November 25, 2016

NEW ENGLAND!

For our (presumably) last travel trip of the year, we decided to finish up most of New England. With that in mind we flew into Manchester, NH on a Saturday morning. After renting a Chevy Malibu we immediately headed west into Maine. Before hitting our first new county we took a few side trips along the coast. Our first stop was in York. We visited a park on the coast called Hartley Mason Reservation, where we found some unusual metal figures that were attached to a big rock. What does it all mean? I don’t know. But it was cool.






We then headed north, getting off the interstate once again, this time near Portland. We went right to the coast again, this time to stop and see the famous Portland Head Light in Fort Williams Park. This is probably the most-photographed location in all of Maine.



Once we’d left the famous lighthouse, we set off in search of new counties. North of Portland we got off I-295 and drove a few miles northwest to cross into Androscoggin County – our fist new county of the trip. We were only in it for a couple of miles before we headed west on HWY 1 – which we stayed on for quite awhile. We followed it for a few hours, crossing into Sagadahoc, Lincoln, Knox, Waldo and Hancock Counties along the way.


After finally getting off HWY 1, we headed north into Bangor, and Penobscot County. While there we had to stop and take a picture of Stephen King’s house. It was after dark – which made the pictures of his home look all the more spooky.




Under the cover of night we continued north on I-95 again. We got off at HWY 6 and went west for about 30 miles in the middle of nowhere. As we crossed into Washington County, there was not a sound to be heard anywhere. Are those bullet holes in the county sign? From there we backtracked about five miles and went north to the city of Macwahoc, crossing into Aroostook County along the way.


Having reached our northernmost point of the day, we headed back south towards our hotel, the Hampton Inn Waterville. But of course we didn’t take a direct route. We got off the interstate onto HWY 155 so we could go through the city of Lagrange. A few miles later we very briefly crossed into Piscataquis County. From that point on it was a straight shot to our hotel. And we picked up Somerset and Kennebec Counties on the way. We arrived around 11:00 at night. We’d been up since 3:30 in the morning to catch our flight. So needless to say we were exhausted!


On Sunday morning were out the door shortly after 9:00. Our first destination was the city of New Sharon. A few miles before arriving we crossed into Franklin County – our last county in Maine. We then went west, staying on HWY 2 for the next couple of hours. A little while later we crossed into New Hampshire and picked up Coos County – which was also our last county in the state. We then continued west and soon after crossed into Vermont, and Essex County.




We continued west and found ourselves in the small city of Hardwick. From there we had to branch out in two directions. First we went north about five miles and entered Orleans County. Then we turned around, went back, then went west for about two miles and entered Lamoille County.



Our next county proved to be a little more difficult. Our unseasonably warm November weekend suddenly went cold. Where as it was 60 degrees the day before, the temperature dropped to 30. And the snow began to drop as well. As it began to accumulate, the roads became a little more treacherous. They eventually got so bad that as we tried to climb a steep back county hill, we began to slide backwards. We had no other alternative but to find another way around. We did it, fighting snow all the way. And eventually we landed just outside the town of Hancock – and Addison County. We immediately turned around and head south – eager to escape the snow, knowing that it was much clearer in that direction.



Before we could escape the snow completely however, we had one final stop to make. In the tiny community of Plymouth Notch lies the graveyard where President Calvin Coolidge rests. In order to get there we had to cross into Rutland County – our final county in Vermont. By this time it was a full-blown blizzard. And locating the grave under the cover of night seemed like a tall task However as luck would have it, we spotted the grave right away. We took our pictures quickly and got out of there.


Our hotel was in Connecticut. So we still had to drive through Massachusetts to reach it. As we headed south and got onto I-91, the snow stopped completely. And we had clear roads all the way. Crossing over Massachusetts we drove through both Franklin and Hampshire Counties. Once we got into Connecticut we entered Hartford County. We stopped for dinner at the Buffalo Wild Wings in Windsor, which was about a block away from our hotel – the Hartford/Windsor Marriott Airport.


The next morning we got in our car and headed east on I-84, picking up Tolland County – our last county in Connecticut. We continued east into Rhode Island and Massachusetts, where we got off the interstate to go south into the Rhode Island city of Bristol – and Bristol County. We passed through it quickly, crossed the bridge and found ourselves in Portsmouth, which is in Newport County – our last county in Rhode Island, as well as our last new county of the trip.






With our county collecting finished we had one final task before heading back to the airport. We drove to the city of Quincy and stopped at the United First Parish Church. Even though the touring season was done for the year, we had called ahead. And we were given a private tour of the church – which included the crypt of both President John Adams and his son, President John Quincy Adams. We also got to sit in the Adams family church pew. Once we left we traveled a few blocks to the east and paid a visit to the very first Dunkin’ Donuts restaurant. And yes, we bought a few. We ate them on the way back to the airport in Manchester.












All in all we visited 25 new counties, finishing five states in the process. So what’s next? We have nothing planned for the rest of 2016. So we’re probably done for the year. But we do have a trip to Texas planned for January. So stay tuned!

                                                NEW COUNTIES - 25
                                                TOTAL COUNTIES FOR 2016 - 256
                                                ALL TIME COUNTY TOTAL - 1521

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

MAMMOTH CAVE!

The third weekend in October found us taking a short road trip with the kids. Our destination was Mammoth Cave in Kentucky. On Friday night we drove to our hotel in Indianapolis – the Hilton, Downtown. With the time change, we arrived pretty late. Unfortunately we ended up sleeping in too late on Saturday morning. We ended up missing our free breakfast. And south of Indianapolis, I-65 had some major construction which cost us about 40 minutes of time. Suddenly our Mammoth Cave tour was in jeopardy. Our tour was at 1:45. And with three hours to go, our GPS said we’d arrive at 1:41. Considering that we still needed to stop and get gas, as well as check in to receive our tickets, we decided to call and change our tour to the following day.

Once we’d changed our tour date, we decided to completely reverse our trip. We immediately went east and headed towards the Cincinnati area near the Indiana/Ohio border. Since we were so close, we decided to stop and visit the grave of President William Henry Harrison. After visiting the president we headed in a southwest direction towards our hotel in Louisville. But as county collectors, we of course took a less-than-direct route.

Our road paralleled the Ohio River for awhile until we crossed into Ohio County – our first new county of the trip. About 10 miles later we entered Switzerland County. These two counties are two of the rarer counties to reach in Indiana. So it was nice to finally get to them. We then stopped for gas before crossing the river and entering the state of Kentucky – and Gallatin County.




We drove past the Kentucky Speedway on the way to our next stop, the city of Sparta. It was a tiny little town. But once we arrived, we drove through it and crossed a little creek, entering Owen County. From there we turned around and went back. We then found I-71and went southwest, all the way to Louisville. This portion of our trip was direct. And we drove through Carroll, Trimble, Henry and Oldham Counties.




We arrived at our hotel (The Embassy Suites by Hilton Louisville East) at a reasonable time. We relaxed the evening away with some Jets Pizza (fantastic and highly recommended) and a swim in the pool.

On Sunday we got up at 5:30. We had five hours before our scheduled tour. But we also had over three hours of driving to do to get there. Our first step was to go south through the cities of Taylorville and Bloomfield, picking up Spencer and Nelson Counties respectively. From there we tried to find the city of Manton. It showed up on maps. But it would not show up on our GPS. And Manton is very close to the tri-County area of Nelson, Washington and Marion Counties. We never actually found a city sign for it. In fact the city may not even exist. Because although we found the road, we saw know evidence of Manton. Our maps didn’t even seem to match the roads in the area. But we found the county signs to verify we were there.



From there we headed mostly south towards the city of Campbellsville and Taylor County. At that point we drove through some windy backwoods roads to another tri-county area of Green, Adair and Metcalfe Counties. We drove through Green County to get there. And in the spirit of “no county left behind,” about five miles south of the town of Exie, we turned onto a road that looked like a driveway. We drove through it (which looked like we passed through the yard of the house next to it) and found a gravel road beyond it. There were no signs. But we entered into Adair County, thus completing our new counties for the weekend. From there we drove west through Metcalfe County and headed right towards Mammoth Cave.



We did the “Domes & Drips” tour – which was very cool. After we were done we began our long drive home. But we made a stop a few miles north of the Cave to see the “Kentucky Stonehenge” – a Stonehenge replica that a guy constructed (with real rocks) in his yard. It was quite a sight to see.








Before heading home, we had one final stop. We stopped in Louisville to drive through the Cave Hill Cemetery for a visit to the gravesites of both Colonel Harland Sanders and the recently-deceased Muhammad Ali.





After that we had about 6.5 hours of driving in front of us to get home. Since there were no new counties to hit along the way, it was a straight shot all the way – which is highly unusual for us!

County-wise we added 16 new ones to our list. That’s relatively small for us. But for a regular two-day weekend, it’s not bad. Now what’s next? Well next month we have a small trip planned for the northeast where we hope to finish off several states. Stay tuned!

                                                NEW COUNTIES - 16
                                                TOTAL COUNTIES FOR 2016 - 231
                                                ALL TIME COUNTY TOTAL - 1496