Driving around the USA really makes you appreciate just how big this place is … And how stereotypes definitely don’t represent the 300 million+ population. Our stay on the east coast has been action-packed and people have once again been so friendly — even the supposedly stand-offish New Englanders!
This has also been the most “American” part of the trip so far, given we visited around 4th of July, and it was so fun to be able to take part in other people’s traditions.
Our Top 5 Picks from the East Coast
When there is snow on the ground for six months of the year, you really make the most of summer. Time at “camp” (a lakeside cabin) is a well-honored summer tradition in New England. We visited our friends Jane and Trev, who live in Portsmouth NH but invited us to stay in their amazing camp in Maine. Our stay on the lake (technically a pond since it is shallow but it’s so big I still think of it as a lake) included paddleboarding, kayaking, hiking, learning to waterski, quad biking, and chilling with friends, old and new. We also enjoyed scenic drive through White Mountain National Forest and witnessed some truly spectacular thunderstorms, which turned out to be a hurricane lapping the coast further south.
4th of July
After the planned party was rained out on 4th of July, we enjoyed round two on July 5th. Small town parades and flags on every house showcased the unabashed pride people have for their country here. We tagged along with Jane and Trev to their friend’s lakeside party, where huge fireworks displays, tequila shots, and some truly thick Boston and Long Island accents made for a fun night!
Old Towns with Charm
From there it was onto pretty Portsmouth. This town is seriously cute, packed with old buildings, a bustling Main Street and some great bars over the water. We even squeezed in some time (and a FREEZING dip) at the beach, marking the first time I’ve swum in the Atlantic. Thanks guys for an amazing break — it’ll be hard to top!
The worst part about New England was leaving — and hitting the traffic on the highway near all the cities! We skipped the big places like Boston, NYC, and Philly, since we have been to most before and really wanted to get south.
Civil War History
Our first stop was Gettysburg, PA, which I’d heard of but only knew about vaguely. It was actually a fairly somber experience to drive around the battlefield sites and learn about the 50,000 troops injured, missing, or dead after three days of brutal civil war battle. Reading Lincoln’s famous Gettysburg address here — a speech made at a cemetery built after every building in town was full of bodies — made it seem more eloquent and relevant than any history book ever could.
After the luxury of staying with friends for so long, it almost felt weird to go back to camping when we reached Virginia. We were definitely in the south — the air was thick and muggy, the tent too hot to put the fly on, and the accents laced with a lyrical twang.
We visited Colonial Williamsburg, where we decided to skip the $42 ticket for tours and activities and instead just wandered around the living museum/recreated village for free. Honestly, that was enough for us. We still saw actors dressed up in 18th century garb, wandered into old time shops and pubs, and saw grand old buildings from the cobblestone street.
Like I said, this country is big — and so varied! We passed from countryside to New England old money to big cities, colonial sites, and into the south in only a few days. Currently exploring the Carolinas, but that will have to wait until next time — it’s time to eat some barbecue now!