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An Eco-Mom's Road Trip Journal: The Good, The Bad, and the 18-Wheelers

This summer, our family took a short road trip out to New York State to visit friends and see the sites. You can take the GreenLifeNH girl out of New Hampshire, but the green life travels, so here is my green life journal from the trip.

DAY ONE: Cooperstown, New York

  • Woke up early and packed the trunk of the Prius V with the rest of the camping stuff, food, and other necessities. Remembered our Eco-Travel Kits, but not my iced coffee. First mistake. Well, besides forgetting the rain gear.

  • Ate breakfast in the car. I packed a four-day supply of homemade zucchini muffins (it's zucchini season in my garden), bananas, and apples. No wrappers, no packaging, no trash! Well, except cores and peels, which end up burying because there is no such thing as public compost bins anywhere in this country.

  • TRAFFIC through Massachusetts. Why don't people use the many public transit options the state offers? So much nicer to sit in a train or bus than in traffic, in my opinion. Reminded ourselves to take the Vermont route on the way back.

  • Got iced coffee at the rest stop Starbucks. Handed her my travel mug. She went into the back. Returned with my travel mug AND a plastic cup filled with my iced coffee. "You can pour it in yourself." Completely defies the whole damn point! No recycling at the rest stop, so I tucked the cup into the recesses of the car to recycle later.

  • Arrived at the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. The girls and I dropped my husband and son off to meet some friends for a day of baseball. We headed off for a day of swimming at Glimmerglass State Park.

  • Except no swimming because the park had its first ever algae blooms. If you haven't run into these in New Hampshire yet (I have), they are not only an environmental disaster, but also a great way to ruin a wonderful day at the lake. And, you guessed it, they are caused by climate change and pollution.

  • But we made the best of it, playing on the playground and in the sand. Then we left early to set up our tent. We booked our first ever night at a KOA campground for this trip and, though I've never been a fan of KOAs, I was pleasantly surprised at the amenities they had for kids, especially kids who were disappointed because they couldn't swim.

  • After a pizza dinner with our friends in Cooperstown, we watched a beautiful sunset over cornfields, then settled down for the night in our 6-person tent.

  • Slept to the sound of forty RVs humming away, supplying AC, electric lights, toilets, and televisions to their owners. Personally, I just don't get it! And, while traveling by RV is actually more eco-friendly than flying, it is not eco-friendly. If you have an RV, here are some tips for how to green your journey.

DAY TWO: Finger Lakes, New York

  • Woke to the sounds of cows lowing, crickets calling, and the three motorcyclists in the campsite next to us idling their bikes for an inordinate amount of time.

  • Drove several hours to the Finger Lakes region to do some hiking and waterfall swimming at Treman State Park. In what is becoming a pattern, it has been a very, very dry summer in New York and most waterfalls in the gorges are mere trickles, but our friends told us Treman still had water falling.

  • Our standard road trip and camping lunch was distributed to everyone - peanut butter and jam sandwiches with apples. Thin plastic bags and glass jars - but both are recyclable.

  • Fortunately for New York State, but unfortunately for us, there was also water falling from the sky for most of Day Two. And, because there was also lightening, there was no swimming at Treman. It was beautiful nonetheless and we spent some time walking and driving around to see several mostly dry waterfalls. But since we forgot our rain gear, we were quite soaked and ready to find our campsite before dinner.

  • The rain stopped in time for us to set up our tent and make a pretty good little fire using the wood we bought from the campground at Taughannock Falls State Park. We made s'mores and also "Damper Bread", which we learned about from Sarah Garland's Eddie series, which we absolutely love. Honestly, I think Damper Bread may be my new favorite food!

  • A note on camp firewood: You may be frustrated when camping to hear that you can only burn their (usually more expensive) wood, but there is a really, really good reason for it. Several of our biggest pest problems have arisen from people moving firewood around the country. Insects travel in the wood and set up new homes, killing trees and destroying forests. Only burn wood within a twenty mile radius of your fire, to be safe!

  • After a wonderful visit and homemade vegetarian dinner with my long, long time friend and her family, we headed back to our campground too late and fell fast asleep in our tent.

DAY THREE: Niagra Falls

  • After a third zucchini muffin and banana breakfast, we took down our tent and got in the car again. Perhaps this is a good time to praise our local library and their brilliant audiobook kits. We were able to borrow three audiobook players with headphones, plus lots of books, to keep everyone happy on the drives.

  • This was my second attempt to use my travel mug to buy iced coffee and my second time being disappointed. This time the lady didn't even pretend that she was going to use my mug. My husband suggested I make a stand, like I have at local places, but I really wanted coffee after driving all morning and the lady clearly did not care about my thoughts or feelings on the matter. I felt guilty and the coffee was bad.

  • We went by an amazingly giant flea market. It was the length of a large downtown and probably three times as deep. There were lots of people walking around, including several Amish families with buggies. Hundreds of stalls sold everything from antiques to household conveniences. I wanted to stop so badly, but we had no space in our car for anything and needed to get to the Falls.

  • Another three hour drive took us to Niagra Falls State Park. Luckily, it was a beautiful, clear day and not too hot, so we were able to see the whole falls - Absolutely amazing!

  • Taking the Maid of the Mist (an electric and silent ferry!) under the falls was totally worth the money. We were all stunned by the power and beauty. I was not thrilled by the plastic rain ponchos they distributed to everyone, but they at least had thin plastic recycling containers available. We took ours home to store in the car for the next time we forget our rain gear.

  • After the Falls, we went to a street vendor selling local, fresh juice in amazing colors. We also let the kids pick out a souvenir.

  • Then it was back in the car for our longest leg yet. We had decided to drive all the way home from Niagra Falls, which was clearly going to be a stretch, but the kids were ready to be done with the car and we wanted to wake up at home.

  • So back through the cornfields we drove, watching the clouds gather and change color, pointing out rainbows as they arched the sky, and finally driving through a powerful rain and hail storm.

  • A note on cornfields: Most corn in the United States is grown for livestock feed, ethanol, and ingredients for processed foods, NOT for direct human consumption. So, while the rolling cornfields are beautiful, they make me angry and frustrated. People are starving around the world, including in our own country, and all this land is being used to grow food for meat. And our tax dollars are subsidizing it. What an inefficient way to feed the world!

  • Ate dinner at a small town meat and potatoes kind of place, but they had Beyond Burgers and compostable cups, showing that change is seeping into even the most unlikely of places.

DAY FOUR: Back to New Hampshire

  • The kids settled down into the back of the car with their pillows, blankets, and books. We've been told so many times that our car is "too small" for our family and it makes me really frustrated. We've been conditioned in this country to assume that every kid needs a row in a van and their own bedroom, but they just don't. Anyway, eventually the kids went to sleep and it was just us driving through the rain.

  • By midnight, there were not very many travelers like us along the highway, however there were plenty of 18-wheelers chugging along the highway. 29.4% of our transport emissions comes from trucks carrying freight. This is a sector we really need to rethink. Check out what Switzerland is doing to replace trucks.

  • Arrived home at 2 in the morning, very tired, but happy to be in our own beds.

Enjoy the rest of the summer!

- Hannah

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