We finally made it to Vermont! Our sprint across the country took only nine days of driving: three from Salt Lake City to Lincoln (where we paused for a quick weekend breather), and then another six from Lincoln to Burlington, VT. Our route took us through Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Canada(!), and New York.
We probably could have shaved a few days off if we needed to, but it was much more comfortable for us to wake up late, drive a few hours, have a long lunch and read a little, exhaust Koa at a rest stop, drive a few more hours, pull off and see something interesting, drive a few more hours, find a place to stay for the night, and settle in for dinner and a few episodes of our favorite show(s) before bed. This schedule allowed us to make progress, but at a relatively sustainable pace.
Along the way we’ve become quite adept at working on the road, with either using a lapdesk in the cab or bumping around at the dinette while the other one drives. And best of all, we found a way to download tons of ebooks for our Kindle! You can buy them through Amazon, but I couldn’t find all the books in the series we were both trying to get through. Kali worked his technological magic, though, and downloaded the rest of the series, as well we a million more books that look wonderful. I love having time for leisure reading!
Koa was quite the champ through the whole process, especially considering how much he hates it when we drive. He gets frantic and nervous and if given free rein works himself into a frenzy, so we decided that he would stay on the ground between the two seats in the cab. This positioning helped to control his nervous behavior, but then he started whining… constantly. We’ve always found his whining annoying (and very difficult to train away), but it became unbearable as we drove. We tried all kinds of techniques, and finally just settled on giving him bones and bully sticks and other disgustingly tasty things to chew on to distract and calm him. Yes, plying him with treats does sound suspiciously like bribery, but we prefer to see it more as preserving our sanity. The progress has been slow (he still starts getting hyperactive as soon as we sit in the cab), but we’ve definitely made some improvement.
Outside of the cab, though, most of the midwest was relatively uneventful. One of our best finds was a small CSA (community sustained agriculture) organic farm and restaurant we stumbled upon just outside Des Moines. We were the only ones there, so we walked around the farm while the family who owns the place prepared our plate of food (it was yummy, with a strong Indian influence). The kids were running around and one was pulling a wagon with green stuff in it, and they were all very nice and answered our questions and told us that the strange green fruit that looked like a cross between an apple and a pear, but smelled sort of spicy, was actually a walnut. Huh, go figure. Overall, we actually had a very positive vibe from Iowa, which was unexpected; we didn’t have much to base it on, but they had the best rest stops of all the states we drove through (free wifi!) and the rolling green fields and corn fields kept us entertained on the road.
Once we got to Gary, IN, Google forced us to make a decision — do we veer north and go through Canada, or do we continue through Ohio and Pennsylvania? We were feeling adventurous, so we took the Canadian route! Which actually proved to be a huge mistake. We didn’t think to check international phone & internet roaming fees (wait, Canada? that’s international?), and it turns out they’re pretty nasty. We thought of this before we crossed the border (luckily), but after we’d driven too far to relish turning back. We didn’t like the prospect of two days without internet, though, so we made a hasty route change that took us through Canada for only a few hours before exiting in Niagara Falls, NY. Unfortunately, however, we didn’t take into account the hassle of border-crossing.
Apparently we look sketchy, or young enough to probably be driving a stolen RV, or maybe they got the vibe that we were smuggling in heroin or Americans under our bed… but for whatever reason, they made us stop so they could search the RV! When we pulled into the search area I took the camera from around my neck to put it down (yes, I was that dorky tourist hanging out the window trying to get pictures of the Canadian flag), and the immigration official who was walking up freaked out at me. “Why are you taking my picture?! Delete it immediately! Put your camera down now!!” Uhm, okay? They made us take our sunglasses off, put Koa on a leash, and stand outside while they went in and looked around. I’m not even sure what they were looking for, because they weren’t in there for very long, but they obviously weren’t effective because they didn’t find all the highly illegal things we keep laying around.
Afterwards they sent us inside to speak with another immigration official, who asked us why we would (stupidly, she implied) choose to drive through Canada for just a few hours. She also wanted to know if/why we owned the RV, where we lived, if we currently paid rent, how much money we had, where we had already traveled, and where we intended to go. They seemed worried that we were going to move to Canada and appeared willing to do anything necessary (including convincing us that Canadians are mean mean people) to prevent that from happening. Finally appeased, they let us go and we proceeded to drive through the country… which, to be honest, wasn’t really worth the hassle.
We unexpectedly ended up going through Niagara Falls, though (the town, not the actual falls), so of course we spent a few hours freezing our toes off while taking pictures and laughing at people in bright blue plastic ponchos. From there we meandered through upstate New York, which was perhaps one of the most beautiful drives we’ve had! We were on a small road/highway that took us through little villages, townships, and hamlets (seriously, that’s what they called themselves) nestled around more lakes and streams and rivers than I’ve ever seen in my life. It was picturesque and idyllic and surprisingly relaxing for our last day of driving. Upstate New York? You shall probably see us again.