View Full Version : USA East Coast Road Trip - New England in 'fall'

17-10-2015, 03:41 PM
Hi All,

After the success of my USA West Coast Roadtrip (http://www.northloop.co.uk/forum/showthread.php?52353-USA-West-Coast-Road-Trip)report, here's the start of my imaginatively titled follow up for a trip we recently returned from on the east coast.

It's long been a dream to tour New England in 'fall' as they call it over there, but it's never really been possible due to work commitments, finances, family stuff, all the usual really. Anyway, this year my wife and I decided to sod the house renovations, DIY and all that boring guff and start hitting the bucket list early and doing some of the trips we promised we'd get to before we get any older. So, in early June, a few weeks after we returned from the west coast trip discussions began about a follow up.... this would coincide with my wife's birthday in early October too. Handy. We had about four months to plan and book it, more than enough as we'd sorted the whole west coast trip in a couple of weeks :lol:

The choice quickly moved towards the states again and New England in particular. We'd visited Boston briefly in 2002 I think it was, then again on honeymoon in 2007 combined with a little road trip down through Rhode Island for a few nights and onto NYC. We both loved Boston as a city, more than NYC (even though that was great too) and always promised to return, so this new trip had to include plenty of time in Boston. Perhaps different neighbourhoods, Cambridge maybe? I remembered that area well as I bought a nice guitar there on our last trip after trawling all the city music shops.

We also wanted to see the coast as well as the standard fall foliage stuff inland, so a car was going to be required and plenty of different short bookings in accommodation on the route around the different states as we like variety. New Hampshire was on the agenda for a). scenery and b). the fact it has no sales tax if we needed to buy any goodies. Vermont for the Ben & Jerry's factory, obviously. Maine needed to be in there for coastal scenery, Cape Cod of course, perhaps Martha's Vineyard and some time in Massachusetts too.

So, we hit the guide books / maps / TripAdvisor etc. and come up with a rough route to take in various areas we'd read about, different accommodation that rated highly on TripAdvisor, and some other bits and pieces too. I didn't want to spend the whole trip driving, or do any massive distances day after day, so we worked it to include some one nighters, a few two night stays and a couple of three nights too. The whole trip would be around two weeks, eight different stops, and a circular route back to where we started. It started to look something like this...


My wife got busy contacting possible accommodation spots, booking the best deals we could find for suitably weird and wonderful hotels / inns / cabins / motels. Some rural ones, but nothing that looked too 'murdery', you know the type of thing.

We got it all planned and booked within a few months and I started looking at hire cars. Criteria was something that suited the area, was US market only, comfy for long distances, and with the largest possible engine I could find, obviously...

More tomorrow...

17-10-2015, 04:53 PM
Look forward to it:thumb:

20-10-2015, 10:37 AM
Ok, so first stop on our travels was Boston. We flew with BA from Manchester, but had to change at Heathrow as direct flights weren't possible. It always strikes me just how massive and busy Heathrow is every time you go there, I think it's terminal 5 we flew into and changed at (the new one) which we used earlier in the year for the San Francisco flights too so it all seemed pretty familiar.

Quick stop for an hour and we were on our way to Boston. I watched a Will Ferrell film called 'Get Hard' on the plane which had me LOL'ing as I find his particular brand of childish humour very amusing. Complimentary food and booze, obv so the time passed no problems.

So, we land at Logan airport and need to work out how to navigate to our hotel which is the Kimpton Marlowe (http://www.hotelmarlowe.com) up in Cambridge (a separate city from Boston but nearby and on the transit routes). Pick up our bags and start studying the transit map I have on the back of my Boston Pop Out Map (http://www.amazon.com/Boston-PopOut-Map-Maps/dp/1910218006) - I love these little maps and get them for all cities we visit. My Berlin one is pretty much worn out as I love that place.

Anyway, transit looks like this and as I'm northern and obviously never even consider a taxi an option, we head to the airport bus stop which is on the silver line to the right of this diagram.


Having visited before we knew a 'Charlie Card' was required for our stay, which is a day or week pass to use any of the transit routes as often as you like. At $19 per person for a 7 day pass it's a bargain really as single journeys are around $2.50 generally.

We took the silver bus to South Station, onto the red T train, up to Park St and onto the green T up to Lechmere (end of green line north) which was then a short walk to the hotel. Pretty straightforward. We were tired and it was dark when we arrived at the hotel, so looking forward to a rest.

Checked in and headed up to our very posh high floor room (as requested so it'd be quite) to find that as my wife had let them know we loved Boston and were returning for the first time since honeymoon, they'd left us champagne, chocolates and souvenirs free of charge in the room - bonus!


Even though our body clocks were suggesting it was now the middle of the night in the UK, we managed to power through and drink the champagne whilst unpacking and watching NBC's 'Date Line' (http://www.nbcnews.com/dateline)on TV :lol:

Retired for the night a little tipsy and looking forward to exploring Boston the next day (and taking more photos as I realise now I didn't take many at all on the way there!).

20-10-2015, 11:17 AM
Subscribed :thumb:. Really enjoyed your last trip read so looking forward to the rest of this.

20-10-2015, 11:20 AM
Right, the next day (and first full day in Boston) we had tickets to see the Red Sox baseball team play at Fenway Park. For those who don't know, Fenway Park is one of the oldest baseball stadiums (parks) in the U.S and opened in 1912. Some history on the wikipedia page is anyone is interested HERE (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fenway_Park)

We were keen to see another baseball game as we'd seen the Giants play in San Francisco earlier in the year and were amazed how much we enjoyed it as a couple who never watch sports at home. To be fair, baseball seems less of a sport and more of an event really in terms of lots of stopping / starting of the game, blasts of unexpected loud theme music for each player, lots of eating drinking, singalongs and that sort of stuff.

I was particularly interested to see what the atmosphere would be a like in a much smaller, older ball park like Fenway compared to the massive new AT&T park in SF.

On the morning before the game we went out exploring and headed down to a favourite spot, Newbury Street in the back bay area of Boston to do some shopping. I didn't take many photos as we'd been there before, but here's one of me loitering in the street Yank style with the obligatory takeaway coffee.... :lol: The back bay area of Boston is a really nice place to wander, lots of brownstones, little shops, cafes etc. and also some massive shops like 'NikeTown' and that kind of thing.


We had a good wander around the back bay area (http://www.beckydimattia.com/back-bay-landmarks/), and Beacon Hill looking at all the nice old houses, historical sights etc. and ate a few massive pizza slices at a place in Beacon Hill to prepare for the game. I'd already bought a Red Sox baseball cap (pictured above) ready for the event, plus one for my brother in law as a present that my wife could wear for the game too.

In the afternoon we got the green T train down towards Fenway Park and found that about 90% of the population of Boston was also going to the game, it was packed. Great atmosphere, very friendly and as I had the Red Sox cap on I might as well have been a local... :lol:

Stopped in at the souvenir shop by Fenway to pickup a few things for our nephew and niece too, the choice was pretty good...


Got into the park and found our seats, bit cramped...



I took this photo to ask my BIL who understands baseball to explain all the numbers to us later. From what I gather, baseball (and perhaps other US sports?) are all about lots of statistics. Note that the scoreboard is mounted on a massive green wall called 'the Green Monster' which is a Boston legend in it's own right and is a character called 'Wally' it seems...



As the game goes on for about 3 hours, no one stays in their seats really so we took to wandering the park too, eating hot dogs and drinking squashy pints, singing along with whatever was going on, all good family fun. I also found this specially modified golf buggy thing called the 'Bullpen Kart' and decided I must sit in it for a photo...

Library pic:


My pic :lol:


Red Sox won. After the game we wandered back to the hotel via the odd bar, jet lag was kicking in so we had an early night. Watched 'Date Line' in bed again, of course. Going well so far :thumb:

20-10-2015, 11:28 AM
Look forward to it:thumb:

Subscribed :thumb:. Really enjoyed your last trip read so looking forward to the rest of this.

Cheers! It's going to be a good one... :thumb:
Also remembered, I still haven't done my Canada roadtrip report from this time last year. Will do that next.

20-10-2015, 11:32 AM
I visited Boston out of baseball season, so just did the Fenway tour. Decided then that it would be unlikely i'd ever return for a game, legroom isn't something that ballpark is known for!

I love New England, such a wonderful place!

20-10-2015, 11:38 AM
I visited Boston out of baseball season, so just did the Fenway tour. Decided then that it would be unlikely i'd ever return for a game, legroom isn't something that ballpark is known for!

I love New England, such a wonderful place!

Hah, completely agree, Tim. How tall are you? I'm 6'2" and found it impossible to sit in the little Fenway seats for more than about 15mins and that was with my legs akimbo! My wife is 5' tall and found it fine, of course :lol:

Dave B
20-10-2015, 11:39 AM
Excellent, looking forward to the rest...and some childish humour that tickled me... sorry to hijack :lol:

http://i57.photobucket.com/albums/g205/boristhebold/post-1361-0-82654300-1435778401_zpsbejluygn.jpg (http://s57.photobucket.com/user/boristhebold/media/post-1361-0-82654300-1435778401_zpsbejluygn.jpg.html)

20-10-2015, 11:52 AM
If this is anything like your previous report, it`ll be fantastic :veryhappy:

Please keep it coming. :thumb:

20-10-2015, 11:59 AM
Looks like you did a fair few miles! Still haven't made it up to Bawston yet :shame:

20-10-2015, 12:21 PM
Ok, second full day in Boston - lots to fit in as we were only staying in Cambridge for the first three nights, then off exploring the other New England states. We would however be calling back to Boston (different area of town though) for the last three nights of the trip.

After breakfast we decided to explore Cambridge, which is home to Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) (http://web.mit.edu), and of course Harvard University too. We did a lot of walking and after wandering the MIT campus walked all the way up to Harvard yard to look around there too. Again, not many photos as we'd visited on a previous trip (Dec 2007) but suffice to say it looked a lot nicer in fall than it did back then covered in ice and snow.

FLASHBACK! Here's a couple of pics from 2007 at Harvard (I look younger!):



Anyway, back to present time - Here's a couple of miscellaneous pics from that day. The massive fire engine was right by Harvard Yard. Mk1 Golf / Rabbit was a nice spot and the cop shop is Cambridge Police Station.




We had lunch around Harvard area and then decided to take a T train on the red line northwest to go and find a few pubs that had been recommended to my wife by a Boston native years ago at a beer festival in Yorkshire. Odd link I know. Anyway, the pubs were in another area called Somerville a few stops on the T, so why not - we have our Charlie Cards after all so transport costs are covered.

Popped along on the train and whilst looking for a particular bar, we chanced upon another place that had been recommended called 'Redbones BBQ (https://www.redbones.com)' which was having an Oktoberfest and had closed down a street with beer stalls everywhere and a German um-pah band! Ideal. Lovely sunny Saturday afternoon, outdoor beers and weird music. We paid the entry fee and got started sampling the ales and pulled pork sandwiches. Also, enjoyed watching local dogs as we were missing ours.


Didn't take many photos but did a few little videos of the band, enjoy! (hope they work) :lol:



Anyway, after several too many ales we remembered we were supposed to be sightseeing and looking at historical stuff (well, ish) so took the T back down to the centre of downtown Boston and got off at the Boston Common stop to start calling at a few of the Freedom Trail (http://www.thefreedomtrail.org)sights.

The full route looks like this, and as we'd seen some before we were keen to just have a look at those we'd previously missed (plus we were a little drunk)...


Here's a couple of pics, firstly the State House (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Massachusetts_State_House)- this is a lovely building and has been extended in many aspects over the years so it's pretty big now. It's a Charles Bullfinch design, like a lot of the older buildings in Boston, particularly the Beacon Hill area.


Old South Meeting hall (now surrounded by skyscrapers!):


Old state house - note lion and unicorn on the top!


We called a few other Freedom Trail spots in the area then remembered we were supposed to meet friends who were also visiting Boston at a bar over near MIT. Back on the T train and over the water we went. Met up for a few pints and nachos but their jet lag was worse than ours, so it was an early-ish night again. To be honest, night owls we are not and tend to embrace the jet lag on trips to the states and go to bed early and get up early as it suits us. Always prefer afternoon beers anyway... :happy:

Another day done, and tomorrow would be the day to go and see what Avis had for us as it was time to hit the road :thumb:

20-10-2015, 12:30 PM
Excellent, looking forward to the rest...and some childish humour that tickled me... sorry to hijack :lol:

:lol: Right up my street, that is!

If this is anything like your previous report, it`ll be fantastic :veryhappy:

Please keep it coming. :thumb:

Cheers, Nige. Loads to come when time permits.

Looks like you did a fair few miles! Still haven't made it up to Bawston yet :shame:

You must go to Boston, Neil - it's great and quite a different feel to NYC (which I also love). Perhaps if NYC is like London, Boston feels like Liverpool or Manchester for comparison?

Did about 1500 miles in the end I think :happy:

20-10-2015, 12:37 PM
Freedom trail is a good way to spend the day!

I'm a hair under 6' 4", it was impossible for me to sit in the seat without my knees pressed hard up against the seat in front, crazy!

I'm trying to organise a short NYC/Boston trip for next year with my other half, we'd fly into NYC and get the train too and from Boston. For some reason last month flights had dipped to around 300 return, I was keen to jump on them but couldn't pin Lucy down to days off work before she buggered off to Nepal for 3 weeks. Now she's back, prices are back up at around 500 each, frustrating!

20-10-2015, 02:36 PM
Freedom trail is a good way to spend the day!

I'm a hair under 6' 4", it was impossible for me to sit in the seat without my knees pressed hard up against the seat in front, crazy!

I'm trying to organise a short NYC/Boston trip for next year with my other half, we'd fly into NYC and get the train too and from Boston. For some reason last month flights had dipped to around 300 return, I was keen to jump on them but couldn't pin Lucy down to days off work before she buggered off to Nepal for 3 weeks. Now she's back, prices are back up at around 500 each, frustrating!

Yes, at 6' 4" you'd have no chance at Fenway and might as well opt to stand up :lol:

Flights do fluctuate somewhat in price. We paid about 1,100 all in with BA for two people return to Boston because we wanted to go at a particular time of year. We found previously that flying later in the year, mid Dec time was far cheaper and good for Christmas shopping trips.

20-10-2015, 03:06 PM
Ok, next day it was time to leave Boston and head off up the coast towards our next stop which was Portland. First things first, we needed to pack (we didn't really un-pack that much, never do on road trips), checkout and get the T down to the Avis office downtown.

When booking the car, I picked the Avis office near to where we'd be staying on return to Boston at the end of the trip for convenience in returning the car later. Of course, this meant it was a bit of a trek to get there now to collect the car. No matter, the T system is great so off we went.

Got to the Avis office and showed the typically grumpy desk clerk the paperwork for my pre-booked car and waited. I'd chosen something called the 'Chevrolet Tahoe' (or similar) after much consideration when booking. Mainly because this was the largest car Avis had on their fleet at this location and as it gave me the best chance of getting something with a V8, plus I thought it's gargantuan size would be fun, and if any of our chosen accommodations proved a little too 'murdery' the car would be big enough to sleep in. Seemed ideal. Anyway, the Avis woman chucked a Ford key at me, mumbled 5th floor (it was in a multi-storey garage) and wandered off. Ford? Oh dear...

On the way up on the lift we speculated what 'or similar' may mean and remembered how we'd made sure to specifically book the Mustang in California to avoid the 'or similar' option, but I'd been less picky here and just gone for the huge SUV option.

Anyway, got to the Avis garage floor and there were two Fords...


Clearly it was going to be the black one as the red Mustang was in no way similar to a Tahoe. On closer inspection the black car was in fact somewhat bigger than a Tahoe and more like the bigger brother of that car, the Suburban' - you know, like the FBI drive in US TV shows :lol:


Behold the Ford 'Expedition XLT EcoBoost'! 18 1/2ft long and 7 1/2 ft wide... this thing is large :shock: :lol:

We inspected it for minor damage, took a few pics and got the Avis bod (who couldn't give a s**t, basically) to mark the notable scratches, dings etc. on the little diagram and sign them off. We then climbed in to find it had 7 seats, two huge front armchairs, similar second row, and a full width bench seat in the back. From the driving seat the bonnet appeared to be about the length of a full size UK small car... but on the plus side, it had about twice the steering lock (thankfully!) of my Volvo V70 so I'd stand a chance of getting it out of the car park. It was also about 6 1/2 ft high which was enough to cause a few clench moments negotiating the car park ramps getting out onto the streets.

Other notable features of this vehicle include:
-Heated and air conditioned front seats
-Electrically adjustable pedal box as well as wheel, seat, mirrors etc!
- Centre console about two foot wide!
- Electric tailgate (obv!) but also electric raise / lower on 60/40 split rear bench seat?!? Never seen that before.
- DVDs 'all up in the headrests'
- 4 zone climate control
- Gain control for trailer brake? (it can tow 9800lbs whatever that is in metric?) - I didn't need this.
- Switchable 2/4wd high/low ratio (I use this later in the trip for minor off roading...)
- 110v AC power outlet in the back, must have an inverter in there? Weird.

Anyway, it had all the buttons you would need. Here's a few more pics.



I negotiated it out of the car park, wife on map reading duties we set off to try and get out of Boston, never easy! For info: Boston rates very highly in my all time worst cities to drive in list, perhaps only second to my most hated, Florence, and I'd say joint second with Rome. It is f**king baffling, even if you're prepared. Makes San Francisco seem very easy / friendly / well laid out.

As such, we got a bit lost and seemed to go over a lot of bridges, under various tunnels (BOSTON BIG DIG!) and finally found some suitable highway in a northerly direction. Off we go... :happy:


So, first driving impressions of the Expedition XLT:
1. it's massive
2. it's very powerful
3. it's huge
4. seat adjusts in about 500 different ways
5. it is a behemoth of a vehicle
6. I like it!
7. Don't think it's a V8 as it makes an un-holy growly whooshing noise like it's got turbos when you boot it. Power is acceptable though.

A bit later in the trip whilst a). looking under the bonnet and b). reading internet reviews I find out the car is in fact a 3.5L V6 twin turbo. It combines refinement, economy and power... but mostly power...

Good review here: Car and Driver (http://www.caranddriver.com/reviews/2015-ford-expedition-35-liter-v-6-ecoboost-first-drive-review)

We're off... but before Portland we need to make a detour...

20-10-2015, 03:13 PM
Hilarious that you can buy it with RWD only :lol:

20-10-2015, 03:18 PM
Hilarious that you can get it with RWD :lol:

I know. I liked to keep it in RWD only setting mainly as when you pulled away from toll stops on the highway in the correct manner (i.e. Stop, stop... FULL POWER!) it would light up the rear tyres and leave most normal vehicles for dead. 400+ torques :lol:

Seemed alarmingly quick for something of that size, probably about the same as my Volvo T5 on the bum dyno for zero - highway speeds. I was glad this one had 4WD option though as it gave you more buttons to play with.

Neil Mac
20-10-2015, 03:43 PM
Fantastic. :thumb:

My FIL has had 2 Expeditions (the 2 previous generations to the one you got), both with 5.6 litre V8s. Terrifying things to drive on narrow Californian Freeways, as they wander a bit at speed, and the steering and pedals all have significant dead areas where nothing seems to happen. Smooth driving not possible, so you end up lurching everywhere and clenching when it drifts towards concrete centre dividers. I'm sure your one is much better. At least, I would hope so :shock:

P.S. The version equivalent to the Suburban is unbelievably a bit larger (the Ford Excursion), but I don't think they make them any more. Pity. :lol:

23-10-2015, 06:12 AM
Cheers, Neil. This one drove surprisingly well and was extremely refined and quiet in the cabin regardless of road surface or speed. My Volvo when I got home seemed very noisy indeed by comparison, whereas generally that's a lovely quiet place to be.

I had no idea the Excursion model existed - that thing must be a tank!

Not had chance to continue the report yet but should do this weekend, lots more to come with four states of NE explored and a peek into Canada...:thumb:

27-10-2015, 10:49 AM
Apologies for the delay in updating this, work chaff! Anyway, we left the story with me driving out of Boston and on the way to our next stop up the coast in Portland, Maine. About 100 miles or so.

However, we'd planned to make a little detour and do a spot of shopping in New Hampshire as they have no sales tax in that state and I wanted a new iPhone 6S. We'd already tracked down the nearest Apple store and found that it was just over the state line near Salem, NH (note: not Salem, MA which is only a few miles away and famous for witch stuff... very confusing having multiple towns with the same name so near!).

The route looked like this:


Pretty straightforward and we arrived at the mall near Salem around lunchtime. Had some lunch and then shopped. Wife went to various clothes shops whilst I dropped some $$$ in the Apple store after persuading the lad that worked there to sell me an iPhone as a walk in customer when apparently you were supposed to reserve online, get a slot and all this malarky. It helped that we were English and when he mentioned he'd done a term at Manchester Uni I could relate as I studied in Manchester too for three years. iPhone was a few hundred quid cheaper than UK, which was nice :thumb:


After having minor palpitations when I realised how much I'd spent in Apple, I walked over the way to Best Buy and bought my favourite Speck case for the new phone, same as I had on my current iPhone 5S but slightly bigger. The lad in that shop had never seen chip and pin before and was flabbergasted when the machine asked for my pin rather than a signature!

'Hey, guys - get over here, have you ever seen something like this....?!?' He shouted to colleagues, 'Chip and pin! That blew my mind, dude!'. Seriously, that happened and similar happened to my wife in Banana Republic too. We are so used to more modern payment methods in Europe that you forget that in the US you still have to sign for everything. No wonder they love Apple Pay over there :lol:

So, back on the road and headed to Portland. Didn't take too long and we arrived in town, right on the coast and lots of older looking red brick buildings rather than the usual clapboard type stuff. It was really nice and there looked to be lots of pubs, cafes, shops and stuff to see and do once we'd checked into our hotel.



Love these trucks!


Off to find the hotel next - we had booked The Press Hotel (http://www.thepresshotel.com), mainly based on Trip Advisor reviews but also the location was good, and the building was interesting as it used to be a newspaper office and the hotel was themed as such with various hipster touches like type writers displayed on the wall in the lobby.


The hotel and room were lovely, and there were nice touches everywhere...




I particularly liked all the typed letters 'falling off' the wallpaper and onto the carpet in the corridors...


We went out for food and found some nice craft beer pubs to sample... I look a bit knackered here!


The next morning we wandered around exploring the town on foot, went for breakfast and down by the harbour found a piece of the Berlin wall?!?


Then it was time to hit the road, but not until we'd stocked up on baked goodies at the Holy Donut (http://www.theholydonut.com) - lovely! They make donuts will all kinds of stuff in them.


Next stop, all the way up the Maine coast to Bar Harbor :thumb: