In this time of thanksgiving we reflected on our latest five-month road trip across the US and Canada and celebrated all the wonders and hospitality we received along the way.
When we started planning the road trip it looked so easy. How were we to know how complicated the planning would be and how many choices we’d have to make. We questioned whether to detour our route to favorite national parks or nearby quaint towns. The trip we initially planned turned out to be many months longer than the time that we had available. Deciding how to cut back a well thought out trip is never easy.
Like you, we had read blogs and travel articles, so we had a clear vision of where we wanted to go. The reality of the destinations always differed from our expectations – some better and some worse. Through the process, we learned a lot about planning a road trip and how to get the best out of every day, but we’ll save that for a future post. This post is to share our best-of-the-best from 5 months of travel across the US and Canada.
Best town of the trip for sightseeing: Shelburne, Vermont. We planned to stay in nearby Burlington but found a quaint AirBnB a little further south in tiny Shelburne.
A lucky change of plans as Shelburne is home to both the Shelburne Farms (photo) and the Shelburne Museum. We spent three glorious days touring these sights, and it wasn’t long enough.
Best national or state park of the trip: Custer State Park, South Dakota. We thought Florida’s state parks were pretty terrific, but South Dakota wins for best state park by a long shot. It’s worth a destination trip.
Most memorable sight of the trip: For scenery, the mountains and the wildflowers of the Snowy Range of the Medicine Bow Mountains near Centennial, Wyoming are truly breathtaking.
Best scenic drive of the trip: A tie between Rte 1A, Cape Cod, Massachusetts and Route 240 across Badlands National Park. The two drives could not be more different, but, on both, we loved slowing down to get a good look.
Best motel of the trip: In the private motel category the winner was Mangy Moose in Grand Marais, Minnesota.
The winner in the chain motel category was the HI Express in Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada. This was the biggest surprise of all, as we almost never stay at a Holiday Inn Express (from bad experiences), but this one was a gem.
Best AirBnB of the trip: Our budget category winner was a studio apartment in Barnstaple, Massachusetts – a comfortable place where the hosts made sure you had everything you could need at hand.
Our winner in the moderately priced category was a cottage in Bath, Maine – a sweet and charming little place.
Best meal of the trip: Lobster Pot, Provincetown, Massachusetts at the tip of Cape Cod. We were seated on the second floor with a view to the harbor and shared a grilled halibut entree with garlic mashed potatoes and lobster, leek and roasted tomato sauce. Very, very tasty.
Honorable mention goes to a great road food stop – the Bedrock Depot in Dinosaur, Colorado. Their veggie burger on potato bun with lettuce, tomato, and avocado was excellent and the chocolate cinnamon ice cream was even better. Everything was homemade, including the ice cream. A simple – and memorable – meal.
Best dessert of the trip: We bought a whole apple pie at an upscale grocery store in Shelburne, Vermont. It was from a local orchard. Joe is a huge apple pie fan. We expected it to be reasonably good. It wasn’t just good – it was truly great! Joe ranks it as one of the best pies he’s ever had.
We learned so many new things on this road trip (the almost-extinction of the bison, Crazy Horse, Native American astronomy…), tried new foods (cheese curds, walleye…), and we saw 15 new species of birds. (a snowy bunting, pine grosbeak, Lapland longspur…) The trip was definitely an eye-opener and how lucky were we to get to take such an amazing road trip. Our advice for anyone who’d love to take a road trip, big or small: plan your route carefully and then take off on a road less travelled to enjoy a place you’ve never been. Stay awhile, be curious, learn, take photos, and enjoy the differences.