…and I had a shockingly easy, helpful experience. (See?! There’s hope for everything!)
The license plate is always the first thing I look at when I see a car. Still. Since I was little, anytime we drove anywhere, I would look for plates from states I hadn’t seen before, and daydream about where the people inside the cars were going. I would wonder about what these places looked like, and fantasize about going to them someday.
It’s been about 10 days since the good madness began for Team Blue Lollipop Road soliciting votes in hopes to be chosen for the Rand McNally/USA TODAY Best of the Road 2012. I have worked my tail off already and can barely sleep at night because I want so badly to go on this trip with my Mom. The anticipation and excitement of it all (and we are not even on the trip yet!)- is the energy I live for. I love it. I love “meeting” new travelers on social media, I love watching the videos from last years competitors, I love reading about small towns I have never been to and daydreaming about going to to them.
This competition and rally is particularly important to me because it’s about Small Town America. The people, the food, the fun, the everyday life. This is what I have always traveled for and what the whole point of Blue Lollipop Road is: It’s about spending time with interesting and fun people in regular everyday places. My favorite travel memories are the ones where I’ve done nothing big or “important”, just the times enjoying coffee shop chats with people like Jack Burrows:
Jack sat down beside me as I typed away at my computer in July of 2010 and told me about his Inn that he owned on a little Island where I was in NC. Just a happy smiley guy excited to have a visitor to his town. (How could you not love that face?) Another one of my most favorite road times was meeting these little cuties near the VT/NH border in September 2011 when I stopped at their lemonade stand:
(It’s as if this was staged it was so incredibly adorable, but it was totally random.)
I was quite the lemonade stand entrepreneur myself when I was little. (Mom will tell you stories on that and how I tried to sell “rock pictures” at my lemonade stands too.) I always have to stop to support my fellow business ladies like these, and naturally I couldn’t leave without a photo, so I asked the moms and dads if I could take one and give the girls a blue lollipop which they happily agreed. I didn’t even have to ask these 4 to stick out their blue tongues. They were giggling and loving it:
This picture is one of my favorite I have ever taken in the thousands I have. The pure joy of a simple sunny day with a lemonade stand and a lollipop.
These are the kinds of moments I live for, and why I stay curious and travel. These are moments you can’t buy, force to make, or get anywhere else but on the road. That is why I want to go on this Best of the Road rally with my Mom. I want to share with her moments like these that are out there to be had because she is a huge reason why I’ve made such a rich and full life of adventure. She’s always encouraged me to go, do and be exactly what I want with no expectation or rule other than to work hard and follow my heart and that’s exactly what I am doing here.
So? In all the moments of butt-busting to get votes, vying for social media attention and nuzzling Team Blue Lollipop Road into a spot in the lead to be chosen as one of the finalists, my hope is that the authenticity of Mom, myself and the spirit of Blue Lollipop Road will always shine through more than anything else. Spending time in Small Town America and moments with people are where my heart and soul are. If I could choose how to spend a dream day, or a million dollars if I had it- being in a car on a x-country trip in the USA like the one that I am competing to get in on now, would be my absolute first choice.
Today was a bit of a catch up day. I went for a long run along the beach and around Portsmouth and did some trip planning for a surprise announcement I have coming. I hung out Â at a local coffee shop that was packed with regulars. (My favorite kind of people watching besides airports.) The weather was that fall coastal drizzly kind with a chill, so my original plan to sit outside on the patio got axed, and so did my hopes of having some beach time in York. Fortunately, it made a good excuse for me to drive around the coast. I crossed the bridge into Maine, and of course geeked out about crossing a state line:
I headed to Stonewall Kitchen:
…as you hear on my video I was thinking from all I read and heard, Stonewall Kitchen was going to be a paradise for someone like me to watch cooking demos, try some yummy foods, shop for a few specialty items, etc. The property was impeccably maintained, the company store and cafe’ were attractive, and certainly held that New England kitchen feel- but I am bummed to report that 1.) It turned out to pretty much be a touristy stop. 2.) They scolded me when I tried to take any photos. Otherwise I had a relaxing hour in the cafe’ on my laptop nibbling on my cinnamon sugar doughnut snack:
I had to try something while I was there! (They did have this dark chocolate sea salt carmel spread that I tried too. That was delicious!) The cinnamon doughnut was one of the specialty boxed mixes they sell for at-home baking. The doughnut was good enough to eat- but wasn’t near as tasty as the Blue Benn Diner or Apple Barn homemade cinnamon sugar ones I love. (Who am I, some kind of cinnamon doughnut connoisseur now?)
After Stonewall Kitchen I was off to York Beach to drive in the drizzle. Barely over the state line, and lobster-fest was on. Every mile there were oodles of restaurants, retail shops, and roadside shacks that had all things lobster related. I thought this one was funny:
I hit the first spot on my ocean stops for the day, York Harbor:
…then Lobster Cove:
The beach screamed of It’s the day after Labor Day Weekend. Closed shops, barely anyone on the beach or street, and that one lone paddle boarder.Â Beyond Lobster Cove was Cape Neddick/The “Nubble” Lighthouse:
(Hmmm…I think there might be a lighthouse theme brewing to this trip. I’ll keep you thinking…)
It was time for dinner and visit with a good friend from high school, who I mentioned before was an original member of the blue lollipop soccer crew from back in the Â day, so back over the border of NH I came. Tonight has been a special treat to see this friend again, meet her now husband (who I met as a boyfriend years ago) and her little boy. I have no idea how 13 years have passed with us not keeping in touch or seeing each other, but we agreed to never let that happen again. We have a natural hometown bond, but amplified from going through a time of great loss together that will never go away, so I was reminded of how much I have missed staying in touch. She had a great idea for an event blue lollipop inspired for next summer, that will bring together the rest of the old crew. (I guess you’ll have to keep following to see what it is!) It’s been a perfect night. There’s not much better than sitting on a couch with someone you’ve known for 25 years dishing on people you both know, filling each other in on life and what’s happened over the past 13 years, and going to bed too late.
I’d give up all chocolate, doughnuts, and any treat in the world to get time like tonight with special people. These times are the best treat to me. Thank you Kate Emma, Mike, Rowan and soon-to-be baby!
Tomorrow I am off to MAKE WHOOPIE! To Portland, Maine I go. This is guaranteed to be a wildly entertaining stop, and I can’t wait!
***Total miles driven today, day 5: 68
***Total miles driven since trip start (9/2/11): 645
***TotalÂ blue lollipopsÂ gifted/left behind since trip start (9/2/11): 8
I would usually cringe too, (photos in a bathroom?!) but the toilet seat had candy pieces in it. I had to take a couple. A candy filled toilet seat is just the beginning of how they roll at The Friendly Toast.
As you saw in my shaky and loud video above, the food at this quirky joint is enormous, and so is the personality. They call the bread a “slabs” of toast on the menu, and there are so many tchotchkes, it makes your head spin.
Why not have a naked doll in funny-looking helicopter hanging in the corner?
To leave no detail un-funkified, our coffees even came in these tall plastic vintage cups:
For eats we had a piece of the drunkards french toast (with grand marnier and raspberry sauce) to share:
…and for my breakfast I had grilled toast with a fried egg inside:
A delicious carb-fest it was. Before we left we had to visit the moving stuffed leopard in the back of the restaurant:
…which was totally entertaining for my friend and I as we were taking these photos, not to mention when I uploaded them tonight and we saw them on my computer screen. They look so ridiculous and creepy we just rolled on the floor for 10 minutes laughing. Usually these photos would go in the trash as unusable, but they are so odd and we laughed so hard looking at them- there was no way they weren’t going to be included here:
Seriously people: The Friendly Toast. Like no other. A must see. Thank you so much to reader Abby for the recommendation! I would have never known about this place without your input and that would have been a complete bummer. I love reader input!
After breakfast we walked around the perfectly quaint and picturesque town of Portsmouth.(Talk about two different world in one town!)
Historic and storybook New England towns, you charm me every time with all your character and beauty:
After a while wandering, we stopped for a cold beer in the sun by the water:
(It’s been very warm and humid since my arrival in the Northeast. it feels like North Carolina in August. So not September weather for here but perfect timing for me- I love it!) The spot we chose was where the locals hang out; Harpoon Willy’s. All the patios were packed because of the gorgeous weather and last day of the holiday weekend. We chatted and relaxed for a couple hours next to this oar sticking out over the water with information about tartar sauce:
We wondered the rhyme or reason, but never asked. Some of these completely random things I just snap photos of, let go, and giggle later like I am now enjoying the fact that I will never in my lifetime be bored or not have fun things to look at.
All that chatting and relaxing got us hungry for a treat, (I know you are so surprised) so we were off to the Portsmouth Baking Company for a cupcake:
…where we met Owner and Head Artisan Baker, the friendly and welcoming Harvey:
Harvey told us he went to pastry school in NYC and had worked there for years. He just opened up PBC with his partner about 3 months ago. What a fantastic place! Clean, sleek, just overall beautifully designed. I loved the giant communal table in the middle of the room with the glass display stands:
…and there’s a train track along the ceiling that carries out loaves of bread from the back when they are done baking!
So many good things to eat, but we were on a mission for the cupcakes. Oh the choices so perfectly displayed:
You know me, I’d usually opt for the double chocolate, but I have been on this chocolate peanut butter kick lately, so that was my choice:
Can we talk about the scene of 2 grown women (that would be my friend and I) in dresses, looking like appropriate touring adults walking around town, but each shoving giant cupcakes in our faces as if we were 5 year-olds who couldn’t wait? Yeah- that was us. Lets just say there was lots of laughing. The joy and entertainment for a few bucks. Little moments like those make me so happy. Thanks for the treat Kim!
After the cupcake scene, there was only one thing to do: Go for a late afternoon run. (Now that’s what I call balance!) Sure it as a little slower moving than usual, but as always, felt great to get out and pound the pavement making room for the next round of treats. After my run I took a ride to Rye Beach. Of course I passed by fish markets with lobster rolls and chowder:
…and there were plenty of places to pull over and listen to waves crash:
The sea air at the ocean in the Northeast smells like no other. Salty, salty, salty and heaven.
Getting cleaned up for dinner and dessert back down by the water was the last part of the full, fun day. Yet again I’m going to bed stuffed and smiling, thinking I should have had more fruits and veggies, but really being Ok with the fact that I didn’t. I’ve only got a couple weeks to blow this all out, so I am going to take advantage of all the amazing road food I can!
This is where I have to give a shout out and huge thanks to my host for the past 2 nights, and again all the other near perfect strangers who have hosted me over the years during my travels. I continually meet generous people, who open their homes and lives to me, share their friends and family, and often have have either met me once or never before. I am very appreciative always, and could never say thank you enough. The best part of being let into the home and life of someone you barely know when you travel, is there seems to be an instant bond that happens (you do dive straight into their life after all.) The one when you know even though you just met, you will see each other again, and probably stay in touch for many years to come. Thanks again Kim! What luck meeting that one time because of two guys two years ago eh? Until our next cupcake date…
Tomorrow I will go just over the bridge to Maine for some exploring in York, then back to NH to see an old friend and original blue lollipop crew member. It’s been 14 years so I am looking forward to us seeing each other again and reminiscing. This week I’ll be meeting and hanging with whoopie pie goddess Marcia and fellow Honda lover Million Mile Joe. Yeah! Stay tuned, thanks for following and keep voting and sending ideas on places for me to check out!
***Total miles driven today, day 4: 14
***Total miles driven since trip start (9/2/11): 577
***Total blue lollipops gifted/left behind since trip start (9/2/11): 5
***(I am averaging 43 mpg with this car currently, and have just now finally had to put gas in it after all the above miles since the kick-off of this trip. Whoop whoop! That means I can spend more money on cupcakes…:)
If you have followed here for any bit of time, you have definitely heard about this place before. I am a serious repeat offender. The Blue Benn has long been written up and praised in publications like the New York Times, countless magazines and a bunch of road food books, but even with all that mega-popularity, I love that it’s always stayed the same:
(Yikes. I’m also a bad hair day and outfit repeat offender! After watching this video I am thinking my no shopping and same haircut for about 5 years habit might need to be broken…)
I digress…back to the good stuff:
I asked Jeannie, one of the always friendly Blue Benn Waitresses if I could ask her a few questions before our breakfast came out:
…as we nibbled on a fresh made cinnamon sugar doughnut for an appetizer:
Finally, scrambled eggs, perfectly seasoned red potato hash browns, and homemade sourdough toast:
Of course I had to snap a photo of this sign that made me laugh:
Blue Benn breakfast builds strong bones and big muscles!
With a full belly, it was off to NH on a much different route than I would usually take. Detours a plenty because of Hurricane Irene which added a bunch of miles and time to my destination, but I am more than Ok with that. Detours and new roads mean new things to see and new people to meet. Like this super cool truck I spotted:
Unfortunately in this detour case, there was some damage to be seen:
A couple miles from the above sad scene, I spotted this lighthearted display on the side of the road:
…and once again had to whip out the video camera. (Boy, I am really digging having a video camera along with me this go- around!):
I saw a few people across the street, so had to ask them if they knew what the deal was with the above. Turns out, one of the women was the creator of the fun scene. Meet Kim:
We agreed making good out of a not so good situation helped keep spirits up and was needed for worker morale. Kim also talked about how her quirky set up had brought the neighbors together; They had started coming over and asking if they could add more to her project. (Yay! Neighbors banding together!) I wonder what the display will look like in another week! (Kim if you are reading this, thank you for the chat. I’d love for you to send me any photos in the coming days/weeks of the additions. I will post them here of course!)
I kept on my way, and was giddy to pass a lemonade stand with a bunch of adorable kids around it. I was a lemonade stand entrepreneur myself when I was a little girl, so I make sure always to support my peers in business (even the ones that are 25 years younger.) Meet Aeden, Anika, Ella, and Gwen
Would you believe I did not stage this? I mean, not only is this the most perfect looking lemonade stand structure, but these 4 girls were like the poster children for cute, and they were raising money for Hurricane Irene victims. (And did you notice that hat on Ella? Just precious.) The best part of all of this was that they were really working well together like a perfect team, and they were smart and organized.
There were a bunch of adults milling around (that I asked permission to take this photo) as there was a bbq happening and a wine and cheese shop open on the property. I spoke with several friendly women who turned out to be the girls Mother’s, Grandma, and Aunts. They asked if I was a reporter and were curious about my car and website name on the side of it. As I was chatting with this sweet group of kids and adults, it dawned on me; The blue lollipops! I have a couple boxes in tow, have had them for a few months now. I’ve never once given what I protect as the most special lollipops ever made- out to a single “stranger” yet in my travels. (I have racked my brain as to how best to gift these out to the special people I meet and spend time with. These blue lollipop are so much more than piece of candy to me.) So, as I was standing in the sun, sipping my .50 cent lemonade on this sunny and warm Sunday, I felt like the world went silent for a moment. Â This was the time to gift the first special lollies. A butterfly fluttered in my stomach, and I excitedly grabbed them to give the girls each one. (After asking mom of course.) They immediately ripped the wrappers off and in no time were sticking out their blue tongues to each other, not even being coached by me to do so. To you few women out there who will read this, and fully understand the overwhelming feeling of joy and memory I had watching this scene- hello! Remember these times? 🙂
As I look at this photo, all I can do is smile. (Really? Can I not get through this portion of the post without tearing up?)Â Such the perfect moment of pure fun and friendship.
I drove away grinning ear to ear as the girls yelled after me: “Come back soon, come back soon!!!” I am still grinning now, 8 hours later. Thank you girls. Driving past your lemonade stand on my detour today was serendipitous, and you gave me a precious gift I won’t forget.
After near 5 hours in the car, I rolled into Portsmouth to be whisked away immediately by a gracious host to a dinner bbq at an absolutely gorgeous Rye Beach house. I left my cameras in my purse as I was busy meeting new friends and having good food and conversation. A very late 2am night again now getting all the days photos, videos and stories uploaded and here to share and make sure I fit it all in. I have a feeling this will be my normal routine over the next couple weeks; full days and staying up much to late to post here, finally hitting the pillow fully exhausted falling asleep like a baby with a big fat smile on my face. Now that’s what I call a good day.
Up tomorrow: Exploring around the gorgeous NH coast!
***(Side note here to say I have been having a blast finally doing video posts starting a few days ago! I am clearly a rookie and don’t have a team of media peeps along in this particular ride, so thanks for being patient with my shaky hands and sporadic snippets. Next go around I am so bringing a videographer along! Ohh- that gives me a few ideas. If anyone out there is interested in talking about some Blue Lollipop Road video stuff, drop me a line!)
***Total miles driven today, day 3: 223
***Total miles driven since trip start (9/2/11): 563
As I am sure you all are very aware of, the Northeast- particularly the Southern parts of Vermont where I have planned to head to to kick off this Honda Adventure has been severely damaged by Hurricane Irene. This means a lot of things, one being there are several road closures, detours and spots that are simply off limits as the enormous clean up is underway. Considering my pre-planned route and meetings go from NJ, through NY and into VT then through NH into ME, I will essentially be attempting to go through the thick of it all. I have been a less planning, moreÂ doingÂ kind of girl duringÂ my travels over the years, just rolling with what happens on the road, so It’s ironic that I pre-planned some things for this trip, and one of the worst floods in Vermont’s history happens right before I plan to be there.
This is all to say that as I set off on my trip north on Friday, I have no idea the random roads I will end up on, what detours I will have to take, which festivals and events will still be on or cancelled, or in general what to expect. I do know there will still be meetings with people like Million Mile Joe and Marcia, the maker of Whoopsies Gourmet Whoopie Pies, along with some other interesting characters yet TBA, which I am very excited about.
Thanks to you all for fantastic suggestions, participating in my plans, and rolling with the adventure as it is ever changing.Â Here’s to expecting the unexpected!
I had a couple votes this morning to head to Portsmouth, NH for Labor day Weekend (Ahh…fall in New England) and check out The Friendly Toast for breakfast eats. (You know how much I love a diner.)
Also, in true serendipitous timing the 16th Annual Southern Vermont Garlic Festival is next weekend too, which happens to be the day after I pick up the Honda in NJ. How in the world this festival is in my hometown and I’ve never been before, when I love garlic and good eats, seems impossible. (Thankfully that farmer in NY told me about it last week!) This might have to be the year I go get my stinky breath on.
I have just learned of The Common Ground Country Fair in Maine that I will miss because I will have already returned the loaned car, but I am thinking this one is something I am going to have to hit up one year for sure.
Oh so many things to see and do, so many people to meet, so little time. Keep sending thoughts of places, eats, events, and characters! I am going to squeeze in every last ounce of it all I can!