We lived near Buffalo, NY, for several years but did not yet own an RV, so most of our travel back then consisted of day trips and the occasional long drive to visit relatives. Since becoming full-time RV'ers last April, we have worked our way across the country from Colorado and spent most of the summer in far eastern Midwest and the northern east coast.
Most of this was new to us, especially staying in the areas' campgrounds, and we have made several observations about travel in the northeastern United States, especially compared to travel in the west. Here are the top 9 of those observations.
9. Even though we were at or near sea level for most of the summer, in many places (when we had the elusive clear skies), the lack or blocking of city lights made the night sky enjoyable. Often the Milky Way was visible, as were the Pleiades and Little Dipper, constellations that are seldom seen near cities. Before this trip, I had only seen them from the mountains or high deserts in the west.
8. It rains a lot in the summer in the Northeast. Like someone said, it takes a lot of rainfall to keep all those trees green. But, c'mon, a dozen clear skies in three months? I now have a full assortment of scenic photos featuring white sky.
7. The entire east coast and as far inland as Upstate and Central New York seems to be one gigantic forest out of which cities, towns, streets and neighborhoods have been carved. I sometimes felt claustrophobic, with dense woods closing in on me wherever we drove, and the abundance of trees left little in the way of viewpoints or scenery.
6. Speaking of lack of scenery, I have been taken aback by the sheer amount of shoreline, both lake and ocean, in the eastern US that is privately owned and not accessible to the public. As I tried to get photos of certain lakes and seashore, I was foiled again and again by the lack of access, and a couple of times got into some hot water by sneaking a shot or two from in-between houses. Ditto on access for fishing, too. If you don't own a boat (I don't), good luck.
5. Cigar smoke often permeates campgrounds at evenings and nights in the east more than I've ever experienced. Unfortunately I am allergic to cigar smoke so it's more than an inconvenience for me, but I do hate the smell. I'd rather have skunk odor...
4. Speaking of campgrounds, it's astounding how many easterners do their best to convert their campsites into cityscapes. Why come to the forest if all you want are bright colors, flashing lights, complete tiki bars, carpet and big screen TV's (outdoors)? It would be so nice sometimes to experience nature while you are actually visiting nature.
3. For many reasons, streets can be very narrow in New England and surrounding states. I found myself in a Philly neighborhood with at most two inches of space between my rig and the lines of parked cars on both sides of the street. I have had to be very deliberate about my driving path, even when driving my 1-ton pick-up and not towing. I was told that when the Mormons came west and created new towns, they made streets wide enough for a 6-oxen-drawn wagon to make a full U-turn. That may be why the west doesn't have the same street-width issues as the east coast.
Sticking with the driving theme, low-clearance bridges are everywhere in the Northeast. The aforementioned Philly drive was caused by a bridge over the Delaware River only having 13' 5" of clearance. Rather than chance it (my fifth wheel is 13' 5" tall), I took the last exit and that's where we landed. We now use a trucker's app to avoid low-clearance bridges and overpasses, but it's not infallible. In Binghamton, NY, I turned a corner and was greeted by an overpass that had not been mentioned in any apps and had a clearance of only 11' 2". That would have left a mark. I was profoundly fortunate to have spotted the sign in time. It took nearly a half-hour to stop traffic and back out and onto a side street to turn around.
2. In the entire time since leaving Colorado on the road, we have seen a sum total of zero wild animals that aren't your regular turkeys, crows and other ordinary birds -- no deer, no elk, no moose, no rabbits, no bear, no porcupines, no possums, nothing. We have stayed in or near the forest nearly every stop longer than a day and have made many day-long excursions through the most remote geography in the Midwest and eastern US with no sightings at all. We've never NOT seen deer and antelope in Wyoming and usually see a moose or a bald eagle as well, not to mention the abundant wildlife we often saw in the Rocky Mountains. The funny thing is there are moose crossing signs throughout New England, but I still don't know why.
1. If you don't like lobster, rarely will you experience food in northeast restaurants that is particularly good. Nadyne and I both dislike shellfish, including lobster, and every restaurant we visited (in Maine, Cape Cod, Central New York, Vermont, etc.) had mediocre food. Yes Buffalo and New York City are exceptions, but they were a very small part of our journey this summer.
Honorable mention: Easterners often use their horns before their brakes. This is definitely an east coast thing.
Jack Huber is a novelist with 7 mysteries published, along with several books of poetry and photography. Now retired, he and his wife, Nadyne, are free to travel the country in their 32' 5th wheel and 1-ton Ford pickup.