It doesn’t take very much to spring an excellent adventure. This idea of spontaneous and unplanned adventures is often forgotten, even avoided, in the popular adventure and overland scene, but it is exactly the idea one must discover and rediscover to truly live and experience a passion for adventure.
It makes us feel warm and fuzzy to know our fuel ranges, destinations, and routes, but what if that’s all taken away? In fact, does adventure really even need to be found on dirt roads miles into the unknown? To all of us (including myself) who have spent thousands on gear and equipment to get us to hell and back with ease, the truthful answer may hurt a little. Adventure is everywhere, because adventure is a mindset fueled by the emotion of discovery.
On an unusually warm but damp day in January, my brother and I loaded up my Jeep Cherokee and took a trip to a place as forgotten and avoided in the overland community as the idea of spontaneous adventure itself: Connecticut. Let’s face it, the expectation is that Connecticut has absolutely nothing to offer, especially for us adventure seekers, nomads, and overland enthusiasts. Like almost any place on Earth though, looking deeper and with an adventurous mindset, Connecticut has some pretty interesting places to see, most of which you’ll probably find by accident.
The first destination, and I phrase this as “destination” because this was originally the first and only place we were going, was Enders Falls State Forest. While from the road Enders Falls simply looks like a sign with a small parking lot, hiking 500 feet into the woods provides you with spectacular waterfalls. On this rainy January day, we were two of the four people at the entire state forest, perfect for some photographic moments. Passing the two other adventurers in the park and soggily wishing each other happy travels, we continued on snapping some pictures until the rain had completely soaked all of our layers through, finally causing us to decide that waterfall pictures were not worth the body heat quickly dissipating through our drenched clothing. With the heat on full blast we decided some coffee was in order after exploring some local access roads, of course.
Having just left a state forest, we weren’t exactly near any good places for coffee, and on this particular trip I didn’t have the supplies with me to make coffee, so we began the journey to our second destination, Cafe Sofia, a small cafe in West Hartford, about a half hour from where we were at the moment. Walking into the cafe soaking wet, we sat and enjoyed a few minutes of rest while gulping down some cappuccinos. A picture of a stone lighthouse from a local photographer hung on the wall kept capturing my eye. “Stonington, Connecticut” was the location. Seeing as it was only noon, we decided to add a third destination, Stonington, Connecticut, to see this lighthouse.
This is where that emotion of discovery mentioned earlier comes into play. After about an hour of driving, at some moments through some of the most intense rain I’ve ever seen in my life (and it didn’t help that my Jeep’s windshield wipers suck), something weird showed up. Three Yugo’s standing on their nose immediately caught our attention, then some rainbow VW busses, and finally the giant rainbow building with circus tents around it, with half of a rainbow VW bug sticking out of the wall 10 feet in the air. Needless to say, we had to pull over to figure what we actually just saw. A big sign at the entrance read “WILD BILLS NOSTALGIA CENTER.” Walking in we found everything from Beatles records to a mummified cat. There were old arcade machines, posters, sculptures out of scrap metal, even Pee Wee Herman’s prized red bike. What felt like just a few minutes was actually an hour of wandering the building, discovery after discovery in the maze of shelves and wall-to-wall memorabilia. It’s the experiences like these that should drive us overlanders to explore and to invigorate our instinctive drive for adventure, not the predetermined and heavily photographed destinations of the world, but instead the random, spontaneous things that the road can throw at us in a second.Finally, we arrived in Stonington, a nice little New England coastal town right on the edge of the Long Island Sound. We were greeted by that wonderful sea breeze and some flooding in the streets. Rolling through in some places probably a foot of flood water, we reached Stonington Point, home of that photogenic stone lighthouse, and the tip of a small peninsula jutting out into the Atlantic/Long Island Sound. Now nearly 100 miles south of where we originally intended to go, we decided that the Long Island Sound was a good stopping point for our trip to go see waterfalls in Northwestern Connecticut.
While it’s always amazing to take long journeys into the unknown, testing our self-reliance and the capability of our gear in even the most drastic of situations, I found that after this simplistic trip that it doesn’t take fridges, campsites, jerry cans, or solar energy to enjoy the spirit of adventure. All it takes is some inspiration from the world around you, and the drive to keep going, and the drive to keep driving. I encourage anyone who reads this article to go out and discover, whether you’re driving a tuk-tuk, a Prius, or a Unimog; get out there and see a new place that you never expected to see.