It was like I busted out of the Rockaway State Penitentiary and hurried cross country as if bloodhounds were after me. I did both diddly-squat and doodly-squat this whole pandemic so when I finally saw an opening, I hit the road. I kept looking over my shoulder like I was being trailed, that I’d be called back, forced back to Rockaway.
Now, normally, I wouldn’t say anything about being forced back here but even Paradise can get a little old without a little change. Just ask Adam and Eve. They liked Paradise, they just wanted to mix things up a little bit.
I get it, you can’t get much better than Rockaway in September because the crowds are gone, and the weather is usually the best of the year. But this September? I was sick of seeing friends and beautiful sunsets over Jamaica Bay. It was time to get out of Dodge. So I did. And now I’m like the guy who insists on showing you family photos and keeps saying, one more.
We covered 4,816 miles and we shared the driving. I just happened to drive 4,816 of those miles. People cliff jumping into Lake Superior was cool. An odd-ball sculpture park in the Michigan woods was worth a stop. And another place, in South Dakota, had the work of a chainsaw artist which was insanely good.
Did I mention Watkins Glen State Park? It’s a New York gem. Who doesn’t like waterfalls? This place has eighteen legit falls and is so eye-pleasing it made me wonder what a glen is.
I’ll save you the google: there’s really no point in trying to figure the difference between a glen, a gorge, a ravine, and a canyon. You could probably throw in gully and gulch, too. Basically, whoever named places got to decide.
It’s like lakes. I wondered why some lakes had “lake” first and others had the name of the lake first. Lake George on one hand; Senaca Lake on the other. Lake Michigan on one hand, Crater Lake on the other. It’s not like that with other watery things. It’s the name followed by river; the name followed by bay; etcetera.
These are thoughts you have when you’re out on the road. Ya know, if you’re in Rockaway, you just don’t think about glens and ravines. Unless it’s a guy named Glen and a girl named Ravine.
Anyway, there were plenty of people at Watkins Glen on a Tuesday in mid-September. Which means it’s probably not a gem during the summer peak season. Don’t take my word for anything. Whether it’s a tourist attraction or an AirBnB, check out online reviews and start with negative reviews first. Added bonus: If you’re homesick, it’ll make you feel like you’re on a Facebook Rockaway page.
I’d like to think nobody likes crowds but that’s obviously not true. Even off-season, a lot of places had too many people for this misanthrope. And that’s without hordes of Chinese tourists who were everywhere a couple years back.
We stayed at a bunch of AirBnBs which are often better than hotels. And almost always give you more room. One place had a secret door to the bedroom and a Pac-man machine. Another had a pool and a sauna.
Once back home, some people didn’t care about where we went, they just wanted to know about license plates. Well, we spotted 46 states. Apparently, people from Mississippi, Louisiana, and Vermont don’t drive. Hawaii, the holy grail, doesn’t really count, does it?
Someone else asked me if the FBI might be looking for me. There was plenty of dead gnat and bug blood on the front of my truck. He didn’t fully believe my explanation and said I better clean it off good.
The North Dakota visitor center is really the only thing worth visiting in the state. If you’ve seen the movie Fargo, you know a woodchipper plays a prominent role. To its credit, North Dakota embraces the Hollywood plot point and displays the actual woodchipper in the visitor lobby. And because almost no one goes to North Dakota unless stopping in all 50 states is a bucket list item, they give out certificates, “Saved The Best For Last” knowing people have gone to all other states first. I told the lady giving out the certificates that I had a few more states to go and she looked at me like I was serial killer freak. Maybe it was the way I said I’d come for the woodchipper...
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