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A 16-day journey through twelve states began at 7:15 AM on a cool October morning. The early Saturday start on empty roads was enjoyable until just over an hour into the drive when we stopped at the Virginia Welcome Center on I-85 and Jeff realized he’d forgotten his keys and wallet. We turned right around and drove the hour back home before making a second start at 9:45.

New England in the Fall Road Trip: Take Two.

Despite our false start, the rest of this long driving day was largely uneventful. We stopped for lunch at a McDonald’s just north of Richmond, Virginia, made it around the horrid D.C. beltway without major delays, and were in central New Jersey just as the sun began to set.

The original plan was to arrive in Pennington around 4:30, giving the boys some time to run around at my old childhood playground, Kunkel Park, after a long day in the car. However, we were running two hours behind schedule, so we proceeded straight to Cream King.

Cream King was the main objective of the day, after all. This roadside ice cream stand is an iconic part of my childhood and I had not visited in over two decades. It had already closed for the season when we last drove through Pennington on a November day three years ago, but we were early enough on this trip to catch it just one day before season closure.

Of course, the chocolate soft serve cone I always enjoyed as a child didn’t taste the same anymore (the nerve of these businesses to change recipes after 30 years!), but Cream King was always more about the ambiance under the green corrugated plastic pavilion – which is somehow still intact – listening to cars whizz by on Route 31. The nostalgia of the experience was the same even if the taste was not.

The sun had almost completely set by the time we got back in the car to finish the day’s drive, passing through Hopewell and arriving at our hotel just over the border in New York. Unlike our previous road trip out west, our destinations in New England are much closer to home so one all-day drive is all that’s needed to reach the area. We were excited to already be at the edge of New England and prepared to begin exploring in the morning.