Welcome back to Mitch’s neck of the woods, as we creep towards 30,000 total miles with little more than a month remaining in Rogue Trip 2017! The scratch-off map has been satisfyingly ravaged thus far.
We dilly-dallied long enough for Hailey’s friends to return home to Cincy, and as promised, they offered up their sweet abode in exchange for a taste of the Pit Stop life. Turns out we weren’t the only travelers in town:
Pit Stop #38 goes to Adam and Jenni, with Pit Stop #22’s Drew and Torri stealing just a tad of the thunder! Pretty awesome to see a crew of friends with roots all over the country ending up in the same place at once.
Let us also call out Adam for making us some magnificent egg cupcakes for breakfast. We know baked eggs are quiche, but no, these were egg cupcakes. We ate them too fast to snap a photo. Let your imagination run wild.
Through some RoadsideAmerica.com research, we found Spring Grove Cemetery in Cincinnati — and inside its walls, perhaps one of the strangest tombstone choices you’ll ever see.
Spongebob. Five-foot tall Spongebob.
Struggling to make sense of this reality, we grabbed some Graeter’s ice cream back in town and headed north to Columbus, home of Ohio State University.
Have you all been on the edge of your seats wondering where in the world Mitch gets his (three) t-shirts from? It’s here. Homage Clothing, based out of Columbus. Luckily for his wallet, they weren’t open.
Nearby, there’s a school for the deaf boasting a good ol’ topiary garden. Even these inanimate botanical hunks dress nicer than us.
Speaking of fancy… a few hours up the road, Cleveland welcomed us back with a chandelier. Really, you shouldn’t have!
Also welcoming us was Pit Stop #39, a.k.a. Bobby and Danielle. Bobby and Mitch had a mutual friend who set them up for a blind bro-date back in 2013 when Mitch moved to Cleveland. It’s been mutual tolerance ever since.
Bobby and Danielle are both artists, running a jewelry boutique called The Circle Craft. We’ll get back to that in a second. First, we moseyed through Little Italy for a snack, and on the walk back they took us through their neighborhood cemetery: Lake View, where President James Garfield is buried. Also, there was this treatment at one grave site, which was exceptionally creepy:
Later, we were treated to (i.e. forced to labor for) a homemade meal. Mitch was asked to handle onion duty, which of course left him in tears. Bobby then notified him that there were onion goggles in the drawer, which only resulted in Mitch having teary eyes and fogged up goggles. A lesson for all you chefs-to-be: goggles first.
Three other people later, and voila: Chicken Adobo! These folks don’t mess around.
Bobby and Danielle then handed us our most unique Pit Stop activity to date: ring-making in wax. Awesome to learn this part of the jewelry process and get to use our hands for something other than typing on laptops.
Ohio gets a bad rap around some parts of the country, which is not without merit. But, we challenge you to find finer folks than the ones we’ve shacked up with during our tour. And with that said, we tread on to Pittsburgh for more mingling with Mitch’s pals.
You’re not seeing double, folks. That’s two Pit Stop cards! Meghan once again opened up her home to us with an indefinite end date. A Rogue Trip All-Star, for sure.
Mitch made short work of getting a new bike to replace the one lost in his summer Cleveland fiasco, and within a few hours, a crew of us were biking down to the North Shore via Millvale Riverfront Park. The leaves of the Northeast are really starting to strut their stuff:
Later that night, our friend Katrina joined us for a concert at the once-church, now-concert-venue Mr. Smalls. On stage: Big Thief.
Having now been to the ‘Burgh thrice, Hailey began to take a shine to the town, and with its incredibly affordable housing, decided to do a bit of real estate hunting. There’s plenty to… love?… about the meager, mid-century domiciles of Eastern European immigrants who worked in the steel industry. For one thing, convenient cost-cutting measures abound: need to regulate the temperature in multiple rooms? Why bother with the mess of central A/C when you could just cut holes in the top floor? That way you can yell at any family member, no matter where in the house they are at the time.
Another classic Pittsburghism: not sure whether you should build a house on a hillside? Solve it with steps. Nothing gives you the same tingly sensation of homeownership like ascending 250 steps to reach said home. God forbid you’ve got any grocery bags with you.
More PGH fun: getting together with Mitch’s friend Ben for some Lumberjaxing… the latest craze for people who use disposable income to simulate getting back in touch with the simpler life.
Mitch was alarmingly adept at axe-throwing from the get-go. If anyone needs help chopping up lumber or people, hire Mitch. He looks like he’s been around the block before.
We dined in the Strip District, arguably made most famous by Wholey’s Fish Market. When the original owner “retired”, he took up a day job standing in front of the store calling out the daily specials from a microphone he’d stuffed into the ass of a plastic lobster. There’s no hashtag for that.
And what’s a good night out with friends if you don’t end up at karaoke? Here we see Meghan going for the high note, and while there’s no accompanying audio, you can pan over to the guy on the right for a good barometer of the crowd reaction.
For good measure, Mitch took Hailey up to Mt. Washington for the cliche Pittsburgh postcard:
Now, one of the side effects of traveling as much as Rogue Trip has is that destinations seem much closer to us than they do to normal people. Case in point: we decided to drive five hours to Toronto, because why the hell not.
The route from Pittsburgh takes you through Buffalo, which means Niagara Falls is your first peek at Canuck culture. Can’t complain… especially when we land there smack in the middle of the nation’s 150th birthday.
This tangential trip was Toronto-bound, and we landed in time to take in some real treats. First up, the Music Garden, designed in part by Yo-Yo Ma:
Next up, Underpass Park and its lively murals.
A bit of stumbling around the popular Kensington area promised a good time, and having traced the sound of a jazz band to a back alley that was also hosting amateur Lucha Libre-style wrestling, we were not let down.
And of course, we couldn’t leave without dipping a toe into our fourth Great Lake: Ontario. Kites aplenty to be seen on these Indian summer days.
Ok, back to the states. Gotta keep this party moving.
As we packed up for greener pastures, Katrina surprised us with a little souvenir: Pittsburgh-themed Rogue Trip tees! Kick ass. Hailey promised to wear hers often, and Mitch was already burning one of his other shirts to make room in his tee lineup.
Who’s next on this love train?! Mitch’s old college buddy Jeff and his wife Mary Ann, situated in the burbs of Penn State’s University Park. Of course, Winston the pup wanted all the Pit Stop credit, and so #41 goes to him entirely:
Even more good vibes from good friends… we hope we don’t run out of Pit Stop cards.
While we spent time in NYC earlier this year, there’s a big difference between NYC and New York State. This is a taste of the latter.
Letchworth State Park was named New York’s Best State Park the previous year, and claims to be the “Grand Canyon of the East.” Hmm, we’ve heard that one before. Whatcha got, Letchworth?
Ok, not too shabby! And man, the leaves… we’re getting so close to the piece de resistance of leaf-peepin’ that is New England in the fall.
Moving further east, we hit an old favorite from our city-dweller days: the Finger Lake region. With the college town of Ithaca at the epicenter, this area is certainly one of America’s natural gems. Hold your questions until after you’ve seen Watkins Glen State Park. What is this place? How is this place?
And let’s not forget Taughannock Falls, dried up as it may be this late in the year:
When you’ve had your fill of falls, wine country is just a winding road away. We soaked up the sunset while shooting the breeze with a fellow journeyman serving up the vino at Hector Wines. If you’ve got somewhere else you can go during winter, the Finger Lakes of New York are a top-notch choice for fairer seasons.
The closest “big city” to the Finger Lakes is Syracuse, and surprise… Mitch knows someone there too. It’s a camouflage canine named Charley, along with parents Jordan & Colleen:
Pit Stop #42! With baby Emmy at the controls, of course.
This called for a celebration of the beer-related kind, so we hit up Empire Farm Brewery and let the brew flights fly.
The train had to keep rollin’ in order to hit peak leaf season, so we bid the latest crew adieu and headed for Vermont. The timing was already paying dividends in Northern New York:
Thus begins our streak of humble State Line signs.
The natural border here is Lake Champlain, and some genius decided there should be a hiking path built to take you out to the center of said lake where an island sits. Behold, the skinniest park you’ve ever seen: Causeway Park in Burlington, Vermont:
Funny enough, the bridge is permanently out on this path to Grand Isle, and though you can take the shortest boat ride ever from Mitch’s location below to the dock immediately in front of us, we decided it was cool enough to be standing at the center of an immense lake, and doubled back towards civilization.
Burlington is where the University Of Vermont plays, and their pedestrian-friendly, active-lifestyle town is a good time for all ages. ALL AGES.
Though, if you head a few miles east to Huntington Gorge, you may want to hold onto your younger ones…
Back in town, Hailey continued her hot streak of finding obscurely placed outdoor exercise equipment.
As night fell, we looked for some not-so-easy-to-find wifi, and McDonald’s faithfully came through. This one had ski lift gondolas for booths, which was cute. Even cuter was yet another stray kid who got in our face. Why does this keep happening? Whose kids are these?
We took scenic Route 100 through the state because we’re not idiots — it’s Vermont in October. You always take the scenic route.
At the end of that literal rainbow was the tiny town of Grafton, Vermont. If you’ve eaten at any restaurant above the Olive Garden tier, you’ve likely seen Grafton cheddar on the menu. Now we’ve seen it in our hands, and it is amazing.
Helps that we were treated like VIPs at Phelp’s Barn Pub, initially because they thought we were part of the wedding going on there, and eventually despite realizing that we had indeed crashed that wedding accidentally. Our wonderful server even advised us on a place to park our van for the night.
One particular local cheddararium (it’s possible they’re just called dairy farms) of note was Plymouth Artisan Cheese: the second-oldest cheesemaker in America, and the farm where Calvin Coolidge was raised. Why don’t we have more dairy-disciplined Presidents?
Where we ended up sleeping on this night was the minuscule but memorable hamlet of Bellows Falls… apparently “a friendly place to hang your hat”, which certainly seems a euphemism given the visual context.
Nice perk of Bellows Falls: you can walk to New Hampshire. Hey, let’s do that.
If you’ve never seen New England when the leaves are just right… well friends, you’ve got a bucket list item to add.
While you can get your foliage fix anywhere in this fine state, the photos above are from a true jewel: Franconia Notch State Park. Highly recommended at this time of year. We should know — we’ve been there a few times. It takes real experience to know the ins and outs of this park, treading carefully around the slick rock with an ever-vigilant respect for nature and…
Oh. Mitch fell into the water.
Time to dry off! In the more populated region of Hanover, New Hampshire, you’ll find Dartmouth College, and the related trappings of Ivy League living. Y’all mind if we use these hand dryers for our socks?
Stuffing our faces with local fare, we geared up for a trip into the White Mountains — a route we’ve taken before during a weekend getaway from NYC.
Covered bridges pepper the landscape in this region. Below is Haverhill-Bath Historic Covered Bridge, with a sign that perfectly embodies the sociopolitical attitude of New Hampshire: “$5 fine for riding or driving over this bridge faster than a walk.”
One of the big attractions in the White Mountains is its tallest peak, Mt. Washington — also the tallest peak in the Northeast. What brings tourists flocking is the auto road carved into it, allowing you to get your taste of alpine wilderness from the comfort of your able-bodied vehicle.
The last time we drove this road, the skies were clear and calm, giving us great visibility and a casual breeze in our hair. This time… no such luck:
44mph winds might sound high to you, but… well, wait until we reach the top. Enjoy the treacherous views for now, on this road built for racing (just like the one we drove in Pikes Peak, Colorado.)
So yeah, the summit. We made it. You may be wondering why two people who have been here before appear so amazed.
Welp, it was a bit breezy.
Could be worse though. Like, it could have been the worst ever, in all of recorded history.
With rain in the mix, you might think a poncho would be your best bet. Ask that lady behind Hailey how the poncho’s working out.
That’s all for New Hampshah! Get into the Halloween spirit for our next post! Mitch is already prepared, having discovered that Odie’s window switches make for excellent candy corn holsters.
And if the state line signs get any smaller, we’ll have to mail each of our readers a microscope. See you next time, or see you right now if you’re on Instagram.