The Maine Objective

Last week, the Voyager circumnavigated skyscrapers in NYC and soared with the Eagles in Philly before reaching a frostbitten New England. In week fifteen, the journey nears its conclusion as a momentous milestone draws closer.

Day 99 – Brattleboro, VT to Gorham, NH

Our final few days in America begun with a leaky water carrier and a damp night’s sleep in the dark forests of Vermont. We had every intention of delving deeper into Green Mountain National Forest today but the miserable, murky weather meant we simply did not want to. Instead, we would carve our way North-East through the state of New Hampshire. A slightly more encouraging option.

IMG_1824

IMG_1825

The state’s motto, Live Free or Die, is one I have been told that the people of New Hampshire are extremely proud of and live faithfully by. If you are not living free, expect a local to set their moose on you. Either that or they just shoot you, they do seem to love guns here. We arrived at New Hampshire’s creatively named White Mountain National Forest just before nightfall and skirted around Mount Washington to our camping location in Gorham.

Just a twenty minute, fifteen-mile drive is all that now stood between us and the Maine border, state number fifty. As we ate a cold $2.50 reduced-to-clear Walmart meat feast pizza, we started visualising the many different ways we could be stopped from getting to the border tomorrow.

However, even if the Voyager died or we were shot at by New Hampshirites for not living freely enough or we were struck down with a paralysing fit of the incurable American patriotism syndrome, we would crawl to the border if we had to. Nothing could stop us now… We think.

Day 100 – Gorham, NH to Skowhegan, ME

The hundredth day, by complete coincidence, would be the day in which we would attempt to fulfil our own American dream. The Voyager did not die during the night and neither were we paralysed with patriotism so we were free to fly to ‘Vacationland’. I highly doubt any human in history has ever been as overjoyed to see a signpost for Maine as we were, but today was not a day to contain any excitement. In crossing the border, Maine became the fiftieth state visited in one calendar year.

IMG_7294

From Hawaii in January to Alaska in April and all the other forty-eight states since, a year-long journey – and several more of imagining and plotting – was coming to an end with these final few steps in the middle of the New England wilderness. I am sure that some of you will think well why is it so important to visit all fifty? This border is just one of many lines drawn on a map by generals or pencil-pushers or politicians of an era not that long passed. Truth of it is, I can’t really give a momentous answer.

IMG_1858

For me, in my orderly brain, visiting all fifty states was the only way I could experience as many infinitely diverse cultures and climates, religions and political views, landscapes and national parks from the highways of a country that has a huge amount more to offer than just guns, fast-food chains and Donald Trump. The most astonishingly beautiful places and the most helpful and compassionate people I have ever met have been here in America. A country full of surprises, as I will write about next week.

IMG_1908

IMG_1919

Following the ceremonial champagne reception about a metre inside of Maine we continued along another fantastic road through the Appalachian Mountains to our final American resting place, Skowhegan. One final typical American pint, Guinness, in the only pub in town – where a British I.D drew more shocked looks than if I had stridden in on a unicorn – gave us a chance to catch our breath and reiterate many times over how fast the time has gone. Back to Canada tomorrow.

IMG_1930

20151120_185020

Day 101 – Skowhegan, ME to Quebec City

Another below freezing morn in another Walmart car park. If we owed thanks to anyone it would be to the Walton family – not that they need it having amassed a wealth greater than 48% of the poorest Americans combined – for providing us with most of our daily supplies and about ninety percent of our camping locations around the country, free of charge. How noble. Apart from the odd shoot-out in Nevada or play-fight in Arkansas we have felt about as comfortable as sleeping in a near twenty-year-old minivan can be.

IMG_1946

IMG_1968

Today was our ninetieth, and last, in the United States of America. So we prepared our passports and paperwork, got our stories straight and headed North to the Canadian border. Not before one last stunning drive through some illogically infinite wilderness, dodging mirror lakes and moose crossings; a taste of what beckons.

IMG_1975

IMG_1991

After a friendly introduction to the border staff we were positively waved into the country, a far cry from Aaron & Jess’ experience trying to go in the opposite direction many months ago. We were now in the Canadian province of Quebec which, not only was drastically dissimilar to the States, but to the Canada we were used to as well.

IMG_1992

We knew that French was widely spoken here but had no idea it was the only language spoken here. My brain, devoid of any lingual exercise on this journey, was now working in overdrive to remember something, anything, from GCSE French many years ago. Just buying petrol or asking where the washroom was located became instantly more complex. Combined with temperatures well below freezing, our two-week tour of Eastern Canada will pose a whole new challenge.

Day 102 – Quebec City

Our first morning in Canada in three months, felt more like three years. Having travelled non-stop since leaving Vancouver our memories of a year in British Columbia have quickly diminished, we could not even remember what Canadian currency looked like. A dramatically quick brush of the teeth and wash of the face in -8°C temperatures certainly woke us up though. Off to town.

IMG_2022

IMG_2043

We had an appointment with some friends who provided us with a tour around the oldest, and most touristy, part of Quebec City. This part of the city was more than thoroughly prepared for Christmas, which felt slightly premature given that there is still over a month to go until the ‘big day’, but I may be a scrooge. We then warmed our cockles and clogged our arteries with dangerously delectable poutine, a Canadian specialty consisting of potato, cheese, gravy & meat which, rather surprisingly, has not caught on in America just yet.

IMG_2051

IMG_7311

Having said our goodbyes, thanks again Abir, we then had to come up with a survival plan for what would be our coldest night of the journey so far, dipping below -10°C. Over a fifty-degree swing from our trip into Death Valley just a couple of months ago. We have no idea how the Voyager is still going. Outstanding effort Samwell.

20151122_164113

Day 103 – Quebec City

With frozen doors we almost could not get out of the Voyager this morn, but survive we did, just. With a lot more time on our hands since leaving America, we have started to adopt a far slower pace of life. With the climate the way it is that usually means staying in our warm sleeping bag cocoons until mid-morn or until the sun makes a brief appearance before it starts setting again. The joys of a Canadian winter.

20151125_082748

Today promised to be a thoroughly tedious sorting day in which we sorted our Canadian phones, sorted our Canadian banks and sorted our Canadian hockey jerseys to the top of our suitcases. Some surprisingly tricky tasks given our absence de la langue Française. We also had the sad task of creating a few online advertisements to sell our extraordinary Canadian minivan. We sincerely hope he has one more journey left in him.

Dreading another evening in our icy ossuary – it’s not actually that bad – we made for a sports bar to watch Monday Night Football and manufacture our beers jackets. With them donned we felt wholly primed for another night approaching zero degrees Fahrenheit. At least a polar vortex is not on the cards this year…

Day 104 – Quebec City to Montreal

Today, we faced a short drive South-West through the frozen tundra of Quebec province towards its largest city, Montreal. The slightly more Anglicised city, whilst providing some respite to our strained cerebral cortices, did not provide any respite from the onset of acute coryza, the not-so-common bloody-annoying cold.

IMG_2091

IMG_2100

Montreal, whilst appearing fairly glum and miserable under grey skies upon our arrival, fully transformed into a winter utopia by nightfall. After bumping into a French-Canadian TV show, and having had our first glance around the city centre, a laundromat needed to be found in order to one: wash our clothes; and two: sew my fingers back on to their frozen knuckly stumps. Better preparations needed tomorrow.

IMG_2109

Day 105 – Montreal

Trying to open the frozen doors of the Voyager is starting to become a rather useful morning work-out, certainly gets the blood circulating. Extremities warmed, we did absolutely nothing – bar a game of National Park Monopoly – until nightfall and the more charming, historique de Montréal emerged from the murk.

IMG_2150

IMG_2151

We parked close to the Old Port, donned seventeen layers of progressively warmer clothing, and began our mosey alongside the Saint Lawrence River. Imposing European-style architecture, swathed in the colours of the French tricolour following last week’s tragic events, line the riverside until you reach a rather surprising addition to the port.

IMG_2216

IMG_2223

A beach, with authentic sand that was almost impossible to differentiate from the surrounding ice, looked about as inviting as a hot tub in the Mojave Desert. Needless to say it was deserted but for two polar bears flouting the rules and sipping on sangrias – I am sure it is very nice in the Summer though. But two hours moseying outside was about all our bodies could muster before cryogenically freezing. Hope we awake in a sweltering Ottawa. It must be warmer there.

IMG_2241

Next week, the Voyager continues on a South-Western course to meet Trudeau’s extremely new cabinet in the capital before observing the might of an extremely old waterfall. The final province beckons.

Total kilometres: 27,397

J

JOIN JACK ON THE ROAD
I agree to have my details stored at MailChimp (click here for info)
Join the subscribers already receiving updates on the latest blog posts from me, and some of my favourite travel writers on the web. No marketing, spam, or third-party sales. Just articles, guides, and plenty of tales!
Join my road-tripping community. Never . Any . Spam

Leave Your Thoughts

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: