Our grand adventure was indeed grand. We went through 11 states (And Washington D.C.) in 7 days. During that week, we drove over 2,500 miles and spent more than 60 hours total in the vehicle. Traveling in Eastern U.S. was tons of fun. Here’s what happened during our adventure.
Was it worth it? Absolutely. No, it did not feel like we spent all our time driving. We absolutely did not feel rushed and felt like we had ample time to do the things we wanted to do. I would do it again in a heartbeat. This is how our journey went:
Day 1: Sunday, August 14
Everybody who knows me knows I’m not a morning person, but when I get up and get ready to go I am ready to go right then. Unfortunately, we were not ready to go right then and I was antsy and agitated for a while.
We finally left and drove up to Carrollton, KY. I wanted to find a state park and have a picnic along the way. I thought it might be easier for me to get in and out of a restroom in a state park rather than in a convenience store. We found General Butler State Resort Park. It wasn’t too far from the interstate and looked pretty big. I really only needed a picnic table and a bathroom.
When we drove through looking for a place to stop we saw a doe and her twin babies. They still had spots. Just a short distance from the trio stood a buck that still had the velvet on his antlers. Looking in the opposite direction, we spotted an otter heading back into the tall grass on the side of the road. I was happy with my choice of parks.
We found a picnic spot near an overlook. After having a sandwich, we tackled the steps up to the overlook. Everyone knows I have mobility issues and it was a total of 8 or 9 steps that were literally stacked rocks. They weren’t flat and it was a challenge to get up and down. The view was worth the effort but it was a lot of effort to get up and down those steps with my cane.
Unfortunately, the bathrooms did not appear to be very accessible and weren’t close to the road as I had hoped. We decided to skip that and found a Walmart. The family bathrooms are perfect for getting my wheelchair in and out.
I’m rambling. Lol Anyway, we drove through Columbus and Cincinnati. Garry was tickled to see the Paul Brown Stadium (Home of the Bengals). I was just tired of the traffic. I managed to keep it together and not have a panic attack despite getting very nervous in both Columbus and Cincinnati. At the end of the day, I was over it all and just wanted to get off the interstate. We had been on the road about 14 hours and I was just over it. We got to Wooster, Ohio and checked into our room.
I chose Wooster for the first night because it was away from the city. I didn’t realize just how far away from the city (and the interstate) it was, but it was quiet. It was also late so the only place open to grab a bite to eat was a Wendy’s. Not good for a number of reasons, but what choice did I have? I ate very little. Oh, and we saw an Amish buggy going over an overpass in the dark. It stood out because it had a bright flashing light over it for safety. We slept a bit and got up early the next morning to continue our journey.
Day 2: Monday, August 15
We left Wooster in the rearview mirror and drove through the outskirts of
Cleveland. I was thankful we didn’t have to drive through the city first thing in the morning. Since we chose the option to avoid toll roads on the GPS, we got off the interstate and drove alongside Lake Erie. We stopped at Erie, PA and saw a restaurant named Quaker Steak and Lube. I got tickled by the name.
We drove past so many vineyards on our journey. If you added together all the grapevines I have seen in my life before the trip, it wouldn’t come close to how many I saw on the trip. And it was gorgeous seeing the vines on rolling hills.
We started looking for a place to stop and take pics of Lake Erie. We needed a place that would be easy for me. We spotted the Barcelona Light, also known as the Portland Harbor Light, in Westfield, NY. This spot overlooks Barcelona Harbor and has a breathtaking view of Lake Erie. There was also a bench near the parking space that was fairly easy for me to get to and sit to enjoy the view.
After sitting for a bit, we drove around the corner and found a small beach with parking closer to the water. It wasn’t easy for me to get across the sand and would be impossible for a wheelchair to cross, but I managed to get far enough to have a spectacular view. I took some great pics from there.
After shaking off as much sand as possible, we drove through Point Gratiot Park and saw a black squirrel playing in the grass.
We found the Dunkirk Lighthouse in Dunkirk, NY. This lighthouse is gorgeous, and there is a great view of Lake Erie from the grounds. There is a small cobblestone walkway that is difficult for anyone with mobility issues. I managed to make my way around some of it and truly enjoyed it. It was worth the effort.
The man and woman running the gift shop were awesome. They knew so much about the lighthouse and the area and were happy to tell us all about it. We really enjoyed talking to them, so if you ever make it that way be sure to drop in and talk to them. You won’t regret it.
Our journey off the beaten path (away from the interstate) took us through the Seneca Nation of Indians. It’s a picturesque place with very friendly people. Garry stopped in one of the stores and picked up some cigars for himself and some of his buddies.
We drove around rather than through Buffalo, thank goodness. What parts we did have to drive through were unnerving for me and I was thankful to get away from it. Unfortunately, the roads into Niagara Falls, NY were almost as scary for me. (I really, really hate being in traffic.)
When we arrived in the city, our hotel wasn’t hard to find and it was in a great location. Comfort Inn at The Pointe is the closest hotel to the falls, situated right at the opening of Niagara Falls State Park. We never had to move the vehicle. We just parked at the hotel and Garry wheeled me into the park. Easy peasy as it was all accessible. Anyone with mobility issues knows there is a difference between technically accessible and accessible on a practical level. This wasn’t technically accessible. It was very accessible and that made me very happy.
After enjoying the view for a while, we went back down and crossed the bridge to Goat Island. The trail offers some pretty great views of the rushing water heading to the falls. Make sure you have your camera ready because you’re going to want pics all over the park.
There are two paths – one of which goes down to give you a view of the top of the falls. The path is paved and accessible if you have help or an electric wheelchair and good brakes. It’s fairly steep. Even if you don’t have mobility issues, you’re going to want a good pair of shoes. Once again, the view was amazing.
We also saw the Nikola Tesla memorial.
We went back up to the second path to head to Terrapin Point to see the horseshoe falls. The sun was starting to set and the colors in the sky over the falls were breathtaking. Words do not do it justice. While we were there, the wind shifted and blew the mist over us. We got wet. You may want to bring a poncho.
Oh, and let me note this part of Goat Island is extremely accessible. There are even charging stations for electric wheelchairs. There is a restaurant, snack bars, restrooms, and souvenir shops. There is also ample parking nearby but if you stay at Comfort Inn at The Pointe you can walk to everything without ever moving your vehicle.
We went back to the hotel to rest for a bit before nightfall. A little before 10 PM, we headed back to Prospect Point Observation Tower and found a spot. Fireworks over the falls are just…I don’t even know how to explain how amazing it is. It’s beautiful.
After the fireworks show, we waited at the top of the tower to let the crowd thin a bit before we headed to the elevator. It was late and we had not ate. Luckily for us, the road right behind our hotel was lined with food trucks that were open late. I mean, can you really say you’ve been to New York if you haven’t eaten something from a food truck? We did. It was fried and I knew it was not a good idea. I ate a small amount again.
Day 3: Tuesday, August 16
We once again got up early and headed out to enjoy the next stop on our trip. We headed south to Letchworth State Park in Castile, NY. This park is dubbed the ‘Grand Canyon of the East’ for a good reason. Some of the gorges are over 500 feet deep.
Our first stop in the park was a spot that overlooked the dam. It was impressive, but it didn’t take my breath away. There was a big chair for tourists to take photos. Garry lifted me up and snapped a pic.
We stopped at several overlooks as we made our way through the park, hoping the rain would hold off until we made it to the falls at the other end of the park. I should add that the park is about 17 miles of roads from one end to the other and we were on the opposite end from the falls.
The Tea Table Overlook was the view I was hoping for. There were also other overlooks offering impressive views. I did have to get out in the rain at one of them. Using an umbrella with a wheelchair just isn’t possible, so I walked with my cane.
I rode in my wheelchair in some spots, and in some spots I used my cane. I would say all of the spots were accessible but since we were trying to get ahead of the rain, it saved time not to dig my chair out each time. Instead, I either walked a short distance or Garry took pics for me.
We finally arrived at the upper falls. The guy at the gate was very helpful and told us everything except the lower falls would be accessible for me. It had been raining and we knew it was going to rain again soon. Garry was kind enough to give me his rain jacket in case it rained before we made it back to the vehicle. We enjoyed the view of the upper falls and headed down the trail to view the middle falls. We were not disappointed by either.
We left Letchworth State Park and headed to Hummelstown, Pennsylvania to spend the night. Once again, it was late and most things were closed. There was a Five Guys right beside the hotel that was just about to close. We placed an order and they waited for Garry to get there before closing. Yep. Fried foods again. And again, I ate very little because I knew better than to eat much fried food and try to travel.
Day 4: Thursday, August 17
I read that the best time to get to our next destination for the tour was the first two hours they were open. We left the hotel early to get there at that time, and they were absolutely right. We had no wait. Even better, they have staff to assist people in wheelchairs to board the accessible car for the riding tour.
I’m talking about the Chocolate Tour at Hershey. Such a great place. It was a fun tour and I highly recommend it. The gift shop is so big that they have carts to use for shopping. You can find all sorts of tees and toys and hats and cups and more, but the best part is finding sweet treats not available in your area. They have a huge selection of goodies you won’t find back home. We spent far too long in the gift shop, because yum.
After we did the tour and shopped for a while, we went outside and took pics here and there. The street lights are shaped like Hershey’s Kisses. It’s very cute.
They have a huge amusement park and other types of tours and activities. The amusement park was of no interest to me because amusement parks just aren’t accessible. The other tours took a couple of hours, and I just don’t have the energy to do anything for several hours in a row. We left to head to our next destination – Gettsyburg!
The museum at Gettysburg National Park is very accessible. They even have a family bathroom, and that’s the easiest bathroom for me with my wheelchair. Anyway, we wandered around the museum for a bit before heading out.
I also snapped a photo of Garry with the Abraham Lincoln statue in front of the museum. If you’re going to be out in the park, you’re going to need sunglasses.
The grounds, of course, aren’t very accessible because it’s mostly grassy fields where battles took place. There are lots of monuments in those fields and they are visible from the road. I was satisfied with the auto tour and didn’t feel like I was missing too much.
Garry found a huge monument with stairs leading to the top, affording him a great view of the area. He snapped some pics and did a live video so I could see it myself.
He was very happy after climbing atop that monument and was ready to end the tour there and head out to our next destination.
Now, because neither of us paid attention to the maps and where we were headed we ended up in a state we didn’t know we would be driving through – Maryland.
At this point in our trip, we were often distracted by signs on the interstate and just drove out to see what piqued our interest along the way. There was a sign in Thurmont, Maryland noting a couple of covered bridges in the area. Off the interstate, we went.
We have been to some covered bridges before. They were pedestrian bridges and had not been used by vehicles in many years. We were quite surprised (and delighted) to find that we could drive across the Roddy Road covered bridge.
I should also note that there is a small park at the side of the bridge. It has concrete walkways and a covered pavilion for picnics. It is completely accessible.
We continued on our journey but noted how close we were going to be to Washington D.C. Our route didn’t take us through it, but it took us fairly close. Could we really be that close and not drive through it? Detour to D.C.!
We drove down roads lined by embassies from various countries and made our way toward the White House. Since there was still a threat of rain and we didn’t want to be caught out in the rain in my wheelchair we decided a driving tour was best. We drove past the White House, the Washington Monument, and the Jefferson Memorial.
I was happy just seeing them from the vehicle, but I’ve read that it is very accessible.
We got back on the interstate and continued our journey. Our destination was Richmond, Virginia. I found a boat cruise that takes you down the canals to tour the city. It stated it was accessible and sounded like fun. Who doesn’t want to ride a boat through the heart of the city and learn its history? Turns out, I don’t.
We stopped to look for hotels in the area and chose a Marriott in downtown. We thought it would be close to where we needed to go the next morning so it would be perfect. The hotel was hard to get to. It was in a very crowded area. Parking was an additional $30 a night for hotel guests, and I did not want to be there…at all. We decided to skip that and opted for a hotel in the burbs. I was much happier there away from the traffic.
Thankfully, we arrived at a time when we could catch something open besides fast food. We didn’t have a lot of time before they closed so we ordered takeout from Chili’s and Garry went to pick it up. This was the first time since we left home that I actually ate more than just a few bites. It was really good but I did pay the consequences for eating things I shouldn’t.
Regardless, I was starved by that point in our trip so I ate. I worried it would cause trouble the next day and took some meds to try and prevent it.
Day 5: Thursday, August 18
So, after dealing with the huge clusterf&*$ that is downtown Richmond, Virginia, I was not looking forward to going back downtown for the boat tour. What was once exciting and something I looked forward to was something I now dreaded. We looked to see what time we needed to be downtown for the tours to start only to find they didn’t open until noon.
Noon? No, no, no. That was going to take up the entire day and leave us sitting around waiting for it to open. Forget Richmond, we decided. We left it in our rearview mirror and headed out to find something we would enjoy more than waiting and traffic.
We drove through downtown Charlottesville, Virginia. It’s a cute little town and would definitely be worth strolling through the streets.
Garry said he had always heard people say Roanoke, Virginia was somewhere everyone needed to go. He said people bragged they had been there. I have never heard anyone say either, but fine. I looked to see if there was anything of interest there. There was. Thankfully, Garry was happy to go.
I found a small art museum located on the campus of Hollins University – the Eleanor D. Wilson Museum. If you are ever near Roanoke, Virginia, pay no attention to other attractions because this place is far more interesting than anything else in the area. And it’s very accessible.
Despite its size, they have a great collection. The ladies at the museum were also super friendly and happy to discuss the art on display. The artwork was amazing and the ladies made it even better. I cannot recommend this place enough. If you’re in the area, go.
It started to rain so we continued our journey. We saw something really cool on the side of the interstate in Groseclose, Virginia. I have no idea what they’re called but they were really cool.
We continued through Asheville, North Carolina and I almost freaked out as we drove down the winding roads on the side of the mountains. It was scary, especially in the dark. I was glad when we arrived at our stop for the night at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort in Cherokee, North Carolina.
Let me say right now that hands down this hotel was cheaper than several of the places we had stayed so far and was the best of the bunch. I highly recommend staying there if you are in the area. Hands down best place and now on my fave list.
We ate at the Noodle Bar inside the casino and even though I knew it was going to be a problem for me, I do not regret it one bit. This was by far the best Asian food I have had in years and the portion size was huge. Definitely eat there if you’re staying in or near Cherokee.
Day 6: Friday, August 19
When we got up and got ready to leave, we decided to explore Cherokee and visit some of the shops. Garry had been asking me to (re)marry him ever since we left home. I didn’t say no, but I didn’t exactly say yes. I joked that he had asked me a dozen times and I hadn’t said yes yet. Honestly, I really didn’t want to spring for a chapel and a ceremony when it was just us two.
Anyway, Garry found a pair of bands at one of the shops. I have not worn a wedding band in some time because my original set no longer fit and we haven’t replaced it. I am a very small ring size (3-1/2) and it’s very hard to find anything that fits or that can be sized to fit. He found a band that did. Fate, I suppose. So I told everyone I said yes and showed off our new wedding bands.
I had Garry snap a pic of Bigfoot to show friends who are fans of all things ‘squatch.
We went through several other shops in town and picked up a few souvenirs. Let me say right now that these are small shops and they are absolutely not accessible. I managed to walk through two with my cane but it was exhausting. Garry had to go in several shops alone and send me pics of things of interest.
We decided a night or two ago that it would be better to be within a certain amount of hours from home by Saturday so we wouldn’t spend all day Sunday driving. Our original plan was to spend two nights in either Gettysburg or Richmond. We didn’t feel the need to spend two nights in either so we wandered around doing whatever we felt like and veered off course when we found something of interest. Now we had to decide which way to go next.
We knew we absolutely did not want to go through Gatlinburg, Tennessee, as neither of us is a fan of the overly-commercialized area. Garry had mentioned possibly going to Chattanooga but the things of interest really weren’t that accessible on a practical level. In the end, we decided not to stop but to drive in that general direction.
We drove through Bryson City, North Carolina and watched whitewater rafting at Nantahala Outdoor Center. Let me say right now that just seeing the rough water and watching others navigate it was worthy of the time we spent there. The scenery is beautiful and it really is something to see. The view throughout the drive was worth dealing with those winding mountain roads. We intend to go back and take some of our bunch with us. You won’t catch me in a kayak or raft, but I’m happy to watch.
After driving around Chattanooga, we dipped across the line into Georgia for a brief moment and then back into Tennessee for a bit. We crossed over the Tennessee River at Nickajack Lake.
We drove through Huntsville, Alabama and saw the space center. We may take the grands (grandchildren) to see it soon. While in Huntsville, we ended up in the middle of a severe thunderstorm warning. Later that night we learned someone was killed there during the storm. (Our sincerest condolences to the family.)
We drove through Tanner, Alabama, and crossed the Tennessee River at Rhodes Ferry Park.
And we went over Wheeler Dam in Town Creek, Alabama.
Let me say right now that I was sick and tired of bridges. Short bridges, long bridges, tall bridges, two-story bridges, bridges way over the water, and bridges just over the water. Bridges with six lanes of traffic and bridges barely wide enough for two lanes. Bridges with bumper-to-bumper traffic and bridges almost deserted. Bridges crossed doing 80 MPH and bridges crossed barely doing 30 MPH. I don’t care what kind of bridge…I was tired of them all at this point. I do not like bridges.
We stopped briefly in Killen, Alabama so I could take pics in the parking lot at Arx Mortis so I could send them to my son and his girlfriend for a “Where are we?” moment. It’s one of the things they visit each year.
Finally, we arrived in Florence, Alabama to spend a night closer to home, making it an easy drive the next morning. The first hotel was a no-go and we quickly requested a cancellation and went across the street to a much nicer place. Despite knowing how much it was going to hurt me, I opted for greasy Captain D’s fish and fries that night. I ended up eating less than half of it and definitely paid for it.
Day 7: Saturday, August 20
There’s no place like home. Our summer home is great, and we love it and missed it. Yes. We had a grand adventure and loved every minute of it but we were ready to sleep in our own bed. I was also ready to have some good food I could enjoy. (Thanks to Ms. Linda, from The Gathering. I’ve been all over the eastern U.S. and haven’t found anything I like as much as her food.)
Besides, rain was on the way and storms were forecast for all of Sunday. After dealing with the storm in Huntsville, we didn’t want to deal with driving in storms again. It was best to head home before the weather turned.
We went over the Tennessee River again at the Singing River Bridge in Florence, Alabama. Tired of the bridges, I was. A quick drive across parts of northern Mississippi and we crossed back over into Tennessee once more.
Once we arrived at our summer home, it started raining as Garry worked to set up the motorhome on our favorite campsite. Poor Garry got soaked dealing with it all. Still, we slept good that night and I was able to eat whatever I wanted.
If you’ve read this far, thanks for tolerating my long-winded description of our travels. This was just a portion of our adventures and there is no way I could write it all out. It was honestly a grand adventure and I encourage everyone to take a similar trip. Plan a few things and then just drive until you find something interesting to you.
We ended up in 11 states (12 if you count D.C. but isn’t a state) in 7 days:
- New York
- Washington D.C.
- North Carolina
Oh, and bonus for anyone who read this far: I’m making money off my travels AND getting tax write-off. You can do it, too! If you’re interested in knowing how, leave a comment.