31: Maine

Maine – the north-easternmost state in the U.S. – is sparsely-populated, rugged and beautiful. It also has a reputation for fickle weather; it was raining as I drove north from New Hampshire, but fortunately the weather had cleared (but remained cool and blustery) the next day. During my time in Maine, temperatures remained in the 50’s Fahrenheit (low-teens Celsius).

Augusta, on the Kennebec River

Maine State Capitol, Augusta

The highlight of my trip to Maine was a visit to the beautiful Acadia National Park on the state’s Atlantic coast. Maine is also famous for its lobsters, so while driving along the coast I made a point of stopping for a lunch of freshly-cooked lobster.

Lobsters in a tank at "Young's Lobster Pond", Belfast, Maine

One of them got freshly cooked for lunch!

Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park was the farthest east point of my trip. On the coast, at its eastern edge, I was 2812 miles (4525 km) from my California home, ‘as the crow flies’. I had reached the far point of my trip. It was now time to start the long drive back home.

30: New Hampshire

I passed briefly through coastal New Hampshire, en route to Maine. Because New Hampshire stretches from the Atlantic Ocean to the Canadian border, I’ll be passing through this state again in a day or so, as I return westward from Maine.

I stopped briefly in the town of Portsmouth, before crossing the Piscataqua River to enter Maine.

The Piscataqua River, near Portsmouth (with Maine across the river at left)

Portsmouth Naval Shipyard

29: Massachusetts

Massachusetts is full of history, having been the site of one of the first European colonies in North America (with several of its towns and cities having been founded by English colonists in the 1620s and 1630s). It is also the birthplace of the Revolutionary War, and the home of two famous political families (Adams and Kennedy).

On this trip, however, I could barely scratch the state’s surface. I decided to bypass the large capitol city of Boston (with its notoriously congested highways and bad drivers) by taking the I-95 ‘ring road’ to its west. I stopped briefly in the town of Lexington, where the first shots of the Revolutionary War were fired on April 19, 1775.

Lexington Green, where the first shots of the Revolutionary War were fired, on April 19th, 1775

The nearby tavern where the rebels met, just before their confrontation with the British

I then stopped in the historic seaport of Gloucester. Founded in 1623, Gloucester is dubbed “America’s Oldest Seaport”. It is still a busy, working seaport, with many fishing boats docked in the harbor (and many fishing businesses located nearby). The ocean here is dangerous; a monument on the harbor shore honors the more than 5300 seamen who have died here from 1623 to now.

Gloucester Fishermen's Memorial

Gloucester harbor

28: Rhode Island

The US’s smallest state has its longest name: “Rhode Island and Providence Plantations”. This official state name – which is rarely used – comes about from the early merger of two English colonies: “Rhode Island” (which really is an island) and “Providence Plantations” (a much larger area on the mainland). This is why most of the state – which most people refer to simply as “Rhode Island” – is not an island at all.

While driving through this small state, I bypassed its largest city and capitol, Providence, and instead visited Newport. This wealthy seaside town is famous for sailing. For several decades, America’s Cup races were held here, until Australia II’s famous victory in 1983.



27: Connecticut

I’m now in the New England region of the U.S. This region consists of several small states (some of the original states of the U.S.) bunched together in a relatively small area, so over the next few days, I’ll be passing through several states quite quickly. This is my second visit to New England (in 1992, I visited Boston, Massachusetts, and small parts of New Hampshire and Maine). This part of the country has a lot of history, however, so it’ll definitely be worthy of another, more detailed visit sometime in the future.

While New Jersey (at its northern end) contains many of New York City’s poorest suburbs, Connecticut contains many of its wealthiest suburbs. While driving through Connecticut, I stopped briefly in New Haven, the site of Yale University (one of the country’s oldest and most prestigious universities).

Yale University, New Haven

26: New York

Although I moved to the U.S. in 1980, it wasn’t until 2007 that I first got to visit its largest city. When I finally visited New York City, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked it.

As in 2007, I got to visit New York City in the Spring, which many people consider to be the best time to visit the city.

Times Square at night

Apple Store, 5th Avenue

Grand Central Station

View of the IAC building from High Line Park, at dusk

The replacement for the World Trade Center - under construction

On this trip, I also got to visit the Statue of Liberty for the first time. I got to climb up to the top of the pedestal at the base of the statue, but didn’t get to climb up into the statue itself. (It is possible to climb up to the crown (on top of the statue’s head), but tickets for this are very scarce, and need to be booked months in advance.) Close up, the statue looked surprisingly large. (Strictly speaking, the Statue of Liberty is in New Jersey; but everyone thinks of it as being a New York landmark.)

Looking up at the Statue of Liberty from the top of the pedestal

At the Statue of Liberty

25: New Jersey

New Jersey has a bad reputation in the rest of the country, largely because of the urbanized, crime-ridden areas at the western end of the state (near Philadelphia, PA), and at the northern end of the state (near New York City). Because of this, I wanted to see the more sparsely-populated southern end of New Jersey – which is said to be the nicest and most scenic part of the state.

I began this visit to New Jersey at its southern tip – the town of Cape May. I reached Cape May by taking a car ferry (across Delaware Bay) from Lewes, Delaware. Cape May is a quiet and pretty town, with many Victorian-style homes.

Cape May lighthouse

View West from the Cape May lighthouse

The next day I drove to Atlantic City. A long-time beach-side resort city, Atlantic City became especially prominent in 1976, with the arrival of legalized casino gambling. Prior to this time, Nevada was the only state in the U.S. with legalized casino gambling. (Now, casino gambling is spread throughout the country, but Atlantic City remains the second largest casino city in the country (behind Las Vegas).)

Entrance to Wildwoods Beach

Atlantic City (looking into the late-afternoon sun) from the Caesar's casino pier

Atlantic City, in the late afternoon

Atlantic City, at night

Site of Thomas Edison's research laboratory, in northern New Jersey

24: Delaware

This was my first visit to Delaware – a tiny state that is famous for … just about nothing at all. Delaware calls itself “The First State” (because it was the first state to sign the US Constitution). It is also the home of the wealthy Du Pont family (and their large chemical company), and, more recently, the current Vice President Joe Biden, and nutty US Senate candidate Christine “I’m not a witch” O’Donnell.

I passed quickly through the rural southernmost part of the state (bypassing both the state’s largest city, Wilmington, and its capitol, Dover), then drove northward along the state’s Atlantic Ocean coast – from Bethany Beach to Lewes. (From there, I took a car ferry to New Jersey.)

Delaware Seashore State Park

World War II watchtower, Delaware Seashore State Park

22: Maryland (revisiting)

Leaving Washington DC, I reentered the eastern portion of Maryland, en route to Delaware and New Jersey. My good luck with the weather on this trip finally ran out; it was raining as I left Washington.

I stopped briefly in the pretty, historic town of Annapolis, while waiting for the rain to stop. Annapolis, on Chesapeake Bay, was founded in 1649, and is Maryland’s capitol. It is also the home of the US Naval Academy (i.e., the US Navy’s university).

From Annapolis, I continued eastwards – on a toll bridge crossing Chesapeake Bay – towards the next state on my list: Delaware.

Maryland State Capitol building, Annapolis

Annapolis Harbor

23: District of Columbia

After taking a 1-week break from my trip (flying back to the Bay Area), I resumed the trip in Washington, DC. This was my third visit to Washington, but my two previous visits were in November (when it was cold), so it was nice to finally get to visit the city – with its many outdoor monuments – during warm weather.

I arrived in Washington one day after the stunning announcement that Osama bin Laden had been killed by US forces. The previous evening, there had been reports of hundreds of people massed outside the White House, in celebration. One day later, however, there were only about 100 people outside, and most of those were probably just regular tourists like me.

A (small) crowd gathered outside the White House (north side) at night

The White House (south side) at night

Lincoln Memorial

Washington Monument (with the US Capitol building in the background)

Washington Monument

US Capitol building

My favorite part of Washington DC is the Smithsonian Institution. Before I first visited Washington DC (about 12 years ago), I thought that the Smithsonian was a single (large) museum. It’s actually a collection of more than a dozen museums, spread throughout the city, although mostly on the National Mall – a large park in the center of the city.

Of all these outstanding museums, by far my favorite is the National Air and Space Museum. This remarkable museum contains many of the most famous aircraft and spacecraft in history, including:

  • The “Wright Flyer”: The Wright brothers’ plane that made the first-ever successful powered flight in 1903. (Yes, the actual plane – not just a replica!)
  • “Spirit of Saint Louis” – the plane in which Charles Lindburgh made the first solo non-stop crossing of the Atlantic
  • “Enola Gay” – the plane that dropped the atom bomb on Hiroshima
  • The first plane to break the sound barrier (flown by Chuck Yeager)
  • An Air France Concorde
  • The Space Shuttle “Enterprise” – a prototype that was used to test landings, but did not actually fly in space. (Sometime in the future, the now-retired Space Shuttle “Discovery” will also be moved here.)

The museum also contains the Apollo 11 Command Module (the only part of Apollo 11 that returned to Earth), and moon rocks brought back from several of the Apollo missions.

For the larger aircraft – too large to fit within the main museum building – the museum has a separate hangar. (This part of the museum is actually a few miles away, in Virginia, but because it’s logically part of the Air and Space Museum, I’m describing it as part of my visit to DC.)

The "Wright Flyer" - the world's first aircraft

"Spirit of Saint Louis" - The plane which Charles Lindburgh used in his famous crossing of the Atlantic

"Enola Gay" - the plane that dropped the atom bomb on Hiroshima

The Bell X-1 aircraft - flown by Chuck Yeager - that first broke the sound barrier

A SR-71 Blackbird (a high-speed reconaissance aircraft)

An Air France Concorde