Up until recently, travel had always been about a destination. You go somewhere, spend time there, and go home. A flight or a drive are just a means to an end. I would have every tiny detail planned from the roads I would take to the places I would stay, even places to eat.
Then in April 2015, I suddenly found myself with two whole weeks of vacation time. It’s not that I had forgotten about it, I just lost track of time. It was too good an opportunity to pass up and sit at home; I do enough of that anyway.
So my options were to book a flight to some sunny beach and fry in the sand or throw the dogs in the car and hit the road. Guess which one I picked? At the time my pack was Jack and Piper; Leo didn’t enter the picture for a few more months. They had done trips with me to visit family in Manitoba which is a trip that I usually do in two days, three if the weather is nice so I was not concerned about how they would behave in the car or in strange places.
With no destination in mind, no route, no planned stops, no research on attractions or points of interest we left the house during the early hours of April 21, 2015. I had packed my camping gear hoping that as we drove, we’d be able to drive out of the rain and snow. I had the general idea to land at the east coast somewhere but that was a very loose idea.
To make things fun, I came up with a set of rules for the road:
1. No serious destination plans
2. Avoid interstates as much as possible
3. NO CHAIN RESTAURANTS
4. Road trip bottle is Forty Creek (more on the road trip bottle later)
5. Stop whenever I want
When we left home we started heading west and crossed the border at Lewiston. I had never been to Lewiston and when that was the first border crossing I saw, well that was the one I took. On a side note: when you’re crossing the border and they ask where you’re going, “wandering”, “wherever I end up”, and “wherever the wind blows” are bad answers to give. Now normally I have no problem talking to people in positions of authority but there’s something about crossing into another country and suddenly I’m a babbling fool.
I drove the smaller roads back east and stumbled onto Lakeside State Park. I imagine it’s a zoo when it’s warm but it was deserted when we were there. It was a small park and windy and the sun was shining and it was perfect. It was just what I needed when I needed it and it put me in such a good mood; it was the best way to have started the trip.
We were going to put in at Syracuse but when I looked at a map (for the first time) we continued to Watertown which put us much closer to launch to the Adirondack Mountains. I knew that the Adirondacks were close but apparently my geography needs a lot of work because if we had gone east and crossed at Kingston, well, we would have been there that day.
With Fort Drum just outside the town, I expected at the least maybe a little look my way. Nope. Apparently they like their girls German and four-legged. Piper was loving every second of it. My self esteem? Who needs it?
It actually took us forever to get anywhere because everyone had to stop and play with the dogs. We went for a stroll around town and walked to a local restaurant to get some seriously good grub. Watertown has some of the nicest people, from the folks at the restaurant who brought my food out to me where I was waiting with the dogs to the manager at the Best Western that we stayed at for the night. And some of the old buildings were absolutely gorgeous to look at.
Now about that bottle. I’m not sure how I came up with the idea, whether it was something that I had heard or read or just made up on my own but the idea is simply this: when you put in for the night, you toast to the day’s safe travels. The road trip bottle must last the duration of the trip. It has to be sealed when you stop for your first night and you have to finish it when you get home. It has to be something that does not have to be chilled and you can drink straight because you never know where you might be stopping and it’s a pain to have to worry about mix.
Now I’m not always a sound sleeper. In fact there are times when I’m lucky to get a few hours at a time. That night, after a wonderful day on the road and snuggled up with my dogs, I slept like a log.