By Katy Henriksen
“When I wrote the following pages, or rather the bulk of them, I lived alone, in the woods, a mile from any neighbor, in a house which I had built myself, on the shore of Walden Pond, in Concord, Massachusetts, and earned my living by the labor of my hands only. I lived there two years and two months.” —Henry David Thoreau, Walden
When we think of the United States, we think of wide-open spaces, expanses of two-lane highways that stretch as far as the eye can see—solo road trips in a 2014 Chevrolet Sonic with nothing but you, your favorite road music and the open road.
Then there’s New England, a relatively small part of the country, with an incredible amount packed into one geographic setting: the site where the first Pilgrims colonized and founded what they hoped would be a Utopian “City Upon a Hill”; the first ever diner, one of the iconic symbols of American culture; as well as wilderness in the form of dense woods and rocky, cold beaches.
There are the Ivy League schools, as well as the pond made famous by Thoreau, all contained in the tiny Northeast corridor. There’s gritty south Boston and an abundance of goat cheese creameries. There’s an immense diversity waiting on the roads of New England, especially if you want a solo road trip with many stops along the way.
You’re a seeker of firsts, just like the Chevrolet Sonic, with its 5-Star Overall Vehicle Score for safety from the NHTSA.* Bonus: It offers 40 mpg on the highway,** but packs a punch with its available turbocharged engine. Speaking of firsts, how about checking out the oldest diners in the country?
Providence, Rhode Island, made history in 1872 when a young entrepreneur named Walter Scott set up shop outside the Providence Journal to sell sandwiches to hungry newspaper workers from his horse-drawn covered freight wagon, and the diner was born. Rhode Island now boasts more than 80 such historic eateries—most simply defined as a “restaurant in the shape of a railway car.” One such diner is the Modern Diner, which dates to 1940, and serves up cranberry almond pancakes and lobster cheese grits in its original “Stainless Steamliner” design.
If you are a fan of food and roadside attractions, you can buy bountiful fresh goat cheese amid the bucolic scenery of red barns and white churches in Vermont. The Vermont Creamery began making the traditional mild and soft French chevre 30 years ago.
Bodies of water are plentiful here—but there’s nothing to compare to the rugged landscape of Acadia National Park in Maine and its shores of the Schoodic Peninsula. Home to the tallest mountain on the Atlantic Coast, you can glimpse the first sunset in all of the United States, at certain times of the year, atop Cadillac Mountain.
Take scenic coastal byways to check out lighthouse after lighthouse from the Portland Head Light to West Quoddy Head Light. These iconic beacons remain reminders of when the now antiquated towers once saved lives along the 6,000 miles of coastline.
Head a little inland to brush shoulders with intellectual elites. Ivy League schools are kind of like weeds around these parts—with Harvard, Brown, Yale and Dartmouth, to name a few—offering drool-worthy libraries and research facilities to hone in on your inner nerd. Just across the way from Cambridge-based Harvard University is the bustle of Boston, where you can find a phenomenal cannoli in the old North End and trace part of Paul Revere’s legendary ride.
Whatever your independent spirit is searching for as you zoom through such a storied land, New England offers it. And with the fuel efficiency plus power of a Chevrolet Sonic, not to mention the stellar safety rating*, that adventure is right there waiting for you.
The trademarks mentioned in this story are held by their respective owners.
This is the third in a three-part series of Sonic Solo adventures.
Katy Henriksen is the music editor for TheRumpus.net and a classical music and arts producer for KUAF 91.3 FM (NPR) in Fayetteville, AR, where she hosts the daily classical music show "Of Note with Katy Henriksen" and the weekly "KUAF Sunday Symphony." Her tumblr is helloloretta.tumblr.com and you can follow her on Twitter and Instagram @helloloretta.
*Government 5-Star Safety Ratings are part of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA’s) New Car Assessment Program
**Based on EPA estimate for LT/LTZ with available 1.4L turbocharged engine and 6-speed manual transmission.