My trip begins next to an 11-foot-tall green frog. On a spool of thread. On a bridge. Seriously. In the Connecticut town of Willimantic that's how they commemorate a peculiar bit of colonial history. One night in 1754, a terrible racket woke the local citizenry, and fearing an Indian attack, the men gathered, muskets in hand. Once day broke, they discovered the source of the din - hundreds of dead and dying bullfrogs that had been croaking their last notes because their pond had dried up.
Not exactly Paul Revere and Betsy Ross, but the town does deserve some credit for maintaining a sense of humor about the fearsome attack, as four frog-on-spool sculptures (Willimantic was once one of the largest producers of thread in the world and known as "Thread City") grace the bridge into town.
This odd tale is but one of many stitched throughout the histories of Connecticut and Rhode Island, the oft-overlooked states of New England. Maine has its coast and its lobster, New Hampshire the White Mountains, Massachusetts has Boston, and Vermont its postcard scenery and Ben & Jerry's. And Connecticut and Rhode Island? To many, they're little more than rest areas on I-95, a road utterly devoid of character. Pull a Rip Van Winkle while riding a bus on I-95 and upon waking it takes 10 minutes to determine which state you're in. It's that bad. But these two small states (the first and third smallest in the Union) have so much more to offer than food and fuel, and all it takes is an off ramp to find it.