26. Connecticut

Connecticut was our last state on the mission to knock out the Northeast this summer. We swung through on our way back from Maine. In part, to get the glasses I had left there two days before… but I’ll explain that in a minute.

We stopped in CT on our way *up* to Maine, too! We spent Maker:0x4c,Date:2017-11-18,Ver:4,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar01,E-Ythe night in Hartford and then got amazing donuts from a very unassuming shop called Neil’s Donuts. ROADTRIP FUEL!

It’s ranked as one of the best donut shops in all of Connecticut, and I can see why!

Our trip back through Connecticut involved two of the most important B’s: Beer and a Beach.

We didn’t want to pay $50 for parking as out-of-staters, as most beaches charge on the weekends (yes, seriously). So somehow Matt dug up a free beach that ended up being fantastic: Silver Sands State Park. You can tell they’re making major improvements to it, but it was a perfect spot to lay in the sun for a few hours.

 

Then — we cleaned up a bit (read: changed in the car) and went to my favorite brewery of our whole Maine/Connecticut trip: Two Roads Brewing. This place was HUGE and had a fantastic selection of beers! We liked them all!

IMG_20180616_160524Our last stop in Connecticut was a personal mission: GET BACK MY GLASSES! On our way up, I left them in the hotel room! The whole time we were camping, I had to put one contact in a deodorant cap and the other in the cap of a dry shampoo bottle… and I was blind the second I took them out. THANKFULLY, my mom was able to call the hotel (We didn’t have cell service!) and they saved them for me! Victory!

Thanks for your good beer and good customer service, Connecticut!

25. Maine

HALFWAY THERE!! Our 25th state on the quest to visit all 50 is… Maine! And it was a big trip. First of all, we drove the whole 11.5 hours to Bar Habor and Acadia National Park. Secondly, we camped. For the first time ever. In my childhood tent. In the rain. More on that later…

Maker:0x4c,Date:2017-11-18,Ver:4,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar01,E-YWe made a quick stop outside of Portland for delicious BBQ at Noble Meats and drinks at Allagash Brewing (Allagash White is my go-to, so it was awesome to visit its home!). We then continued north to Orono where Matt ran the University of Maine track, before making the trek toward Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park.

These kinds of trips are, by far, my favorite kind. You’re on your own time. You don’t have to wear makeup or real clothes. You can put your phone on airplane mode and breathe in fresh air and have dirty hair and eat Cheetos for lunch and not care what anyone else is thinking of you.

That said, we knew we were going to go without showers for a few days, so we got dinner within civilization on our first night… before we got smelly. Two Maine lobsters, a pound of mussels, and corn for $40 total. SIGN ME UP.

IMG_20180614_072801.jpgOur first night camping was… IN TENTS. (hAAAAHAhahaha) Really… it rained during our stay at Blackwoods Campground and the KMart tent my parents bought for me 18 years ago just couldn’t hold up and started to leak. Luckily, we sopped things up before anything got too wet. It also didn’t help that we were sleeping on yoga mats and it did enough damage that the next night was miserable.

Anyway, we spent the whole day hiking and driving around Acadia! We found it to be a little like the Disney World of the national parks. Pretty much everything is accessible by car and has a bathroom nearby, so there’s not much incentive to hike for hours if you don’t have to work for the view. There were loads of other visitors (even though we visited on a weekday, before th

e height of tourist season)… and I can see why! The views are breathtaking and the trails are easy to follow. IMG_20180614_184115.jpg

We ended a full, full day of walking and exploring with beers and burgers on a hastily-made campfire!

My favorite part, though, was waking up at 3am to watch a foggy sunrise on Cadillac Mountain. Matt is such a great travel partner, because he’s not only down for — but EXCITED FOR – things like that.

We took the coastal route back home, stopping in Portland along the way for a full pie, more beers at Liquid Riot and a pretty lighthouse backdrop at Portland Head in Cape Elizabeth.

You can see the awesome sunrise, plus more pictures and us awkwardly setting up our ten in the video below!

24. Rhode Island

Our trip to Rhode Island was a quick but relaxing one. As soon as we got off the plane in Boston, we rented a car and drove right to Rhode Island (tip: we took free public transportation into the city and rented from a facility *away* from the airport for a much lower price… I think the rental was under $40 for 24 hours).

We went straight to the coast. Newport was a little chilly, but we walked a few miles on the Cliff Walk, which was stunning and so peaceful the whole way around! We then drove down into Newport for lunch before heading north.

On our way back up to Providence (where we spent the night, since it was dramatically less expensive than Newport), we stopped at Revival Brewing Co and Buttonwoods Brewing for a few beers. I love trips like this — because we are on our time and no one else’s.

We spent the night in Providence, grabbing donuts in the morning at the unique and colorful PV Donuts.

But… Matt needed to get a track! The fences around Brown were insanely high, and we determined the night before that there was no hope of jumping them. We went back in the morning, and to our surprise, there were professional runners training on the track! We walked over, explained Matt’s goal to them, and they let him take a lap. I talked to one of the older guys there, a coach, who explained one of them is Molly Huddle‘s husband! (She is an Olympian and one of the fastest women in the country).

Matt’s now only a few universities away from running all of the Ivy League tracks! Thank you, Rhode Island, for a quick and relaxing visit!

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23. Massachusetts

I am posting this really… REALLY late. But we spent our early summer knocking out the Northeast!

We spent a long weekend in Massachusetts (including a quick roadtrip to Rhode Island), because we got flights to Boston for $50 round trip!

Maker:0x4c,Date:2017-11-18,Ver:4,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar01,E-YOur first win: renting Blue Bikes. We discovered them after spending 35 minutes in an Uber to just go a few miles. The city’s dockable bike system is useful and cheap for getting around, and drivers are fairly friendly to cyclists. We logged more than 20 miles  on the app in 24 hours… going all over the city for just $10!

 

Matt’s Boston visit included (of course) a run around the Harvard track. We then bounced around and visited the public library, public gardens, the North End (hello, fresh seafood pasta), and had a drink at the Bell in Hand Tavern.

The highlight of the trip, though, was something I found on AirBnB Experiences and made a surprise for Matt. We took a 2-hour sailing lesson on the Boston Harbor with Courageous Sailing (for just $35 a person)! Our instructor, Ben, was a college student who has been sailing competitively all his life. He was so knowledgeable and let us take control of the boat. The views were incredible and it was such a unique way to get away from the tourists and see Boston in a whole new way.

 

Our second day, we got delicious donuts at Blackbird, stopped at Lamplighter Brewing, grabbed a beer at Bleacher Bar (an awesome spot in the belly of Fenway), went to a Red Sox Game! Boston, we will be back!

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10. Ohio, revisited (This time… Athens!!)

Ohio was state number 10, but we always wanted to get back and visit my college town, Athens, together. I’m happy to say we made it back, if only for 24 hours on our way to Kentucky!

It was great showing Matt around OU — eating and drinking our way down Court Street. We visited with my sorority sister, Lindsay, and my awesome old bosses at Brenens. 

With a stop at Little Fish Brewing, and fighting the rain to wind through campus, I’d say it was a great day with my favorite person in my favorite city!

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22. Kentucky

Bourbon — betting — and beer!! State number 22, Kentucky — and my college roommate, Carolyn! — showed us a great time. We came just in time for the Keeneland Spring Meet, and made a stop at the Woodford Reserve bourbon distillery.

Woodford Reserve was beautiful. The whole drive in from the highway was full of rolling, green hills, winding fences, and gorgeous horse farms. Our tour guide was great and we got to see the mash room, their huge copper pot stills, and the building that houses thousands of barrels and aging bourbon.

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Next — we were off to the races!! Keeneland was a cool mix of very casually-dressed people who go there just to bet (and know the whole science and method behind it) and dressed-up and half-drunk people who were just happy to be there and drink Keeneland Breezes. We lucked out with gorgeous weather, but Carolyn and I both lost nominal amounts of money betting on the horses with the biggest butts.

We also found time for visit a few breweries (West Sixth and Mirror Twin). Mirror Twin had a Cinnamon Toast Crunch beer that was so delicious, it made us very thankful we bring growlers on trips like these! Our last day brought with it a hike at Red River Gorge. Driving through the Gorge was gorge-ous (see what I did there!?) but the hike itself — Indian Staircase — proved to be too difficult/fear-inducing/athletic for everybody but Matt.

Kentucky impressed us, entertained us, and fed us well!!

 

 

Travel Tip: How we save 20% or more on hotel rooms

You can get a lower price on just about anything with a bit of research and patience. Without a doubt, this goes for hotel rooms, too!

We save a lot of money on our quest to see the country by using Priceline’s Express Deals. Express Deals give you a pretty sizeable discount on hotel rooms — but you don’t know for sure what hotel you are getting until you finish booking.

Matt is great at finding amazing deals using this and the bidding tool ($104/night, including taxes and fees, to stay at a brand new, trendy hotel in Manhattan? SIGN ME UP.) He’s also great at figuring out which hotel we’re getting before it’s booked.

I’ve been planning a one-night stop in my college town of Athens, Ohio; a city with remarkably few affordable places to stay. Sorry, not sorry — I am not willing to pay $100/night for a 2-star hotel with mediocre reviews and within walking distance of nothing.

 

Anyway, I was browsing Priceline’s regular deals and getting ready to just suck it up and spend the cash — when I ran across this glaringly obvious Express Deal that saved me about 20%.

Here’s how they show up on the website. I knew the ‘secret’ Express Deal was the Baymont because the descriptions and stars are the same, and when I clicked on the deal, a popup told me “someone else just booked this room for $91!” Case closed.

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There are websites that will help you when it’s not this easy. Matt prefers ExpDeals, but we have also used Better Bidding. It just takes a little bit of reading and research and time, but the savings add up (especially if you’re booking for multiple nights).

Below is the end result: The left is what we would have paid, had we not bothered with the Express Deal — for the same exact dates and room. On the right is my receipt. A difference of about $20 I can now spend on delicious beers in Athens!!

A tip (From Matt): You might notice our taxes/fees are more expensive. With Express Deals, they’re calculated from the total *regular* cost of the room. With the bid tool, they’re calculated from your winning bid.

Happy haggling!!