Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Nine Days in New England

Several years in the dreaming.
A year in the planning.
Nine days in the doing.
Memories to last forever.

Julie and I have wanted to go to New England in the fall to see the colors. Julie's sister Ann and her husband Armond have wanted to go, too. So 2011 is the year we actually pulled it off. After a lot of conversations and advice with folks who have done it and after investigating of several options (cruise, train, bus, self-guided, etc.), we made the decision. We personalized the tour with some high points and enough slack to visit whenever and wherever we had a whim to do. Actually it was Julie who did all the planning and the itinerary. Without her tireless effort this would not have happened as well as it came off.

First things first
Before we go any farther with this blog entry, I have to give you a definition of a TOURIST:
"A person who travels 3,000 miles to get a picture of himself standing beside his car."
So to get it out of the way and confirm that we are real tourists here's the picture.

After that bit of nonsense we can get on with this HUGE pictorial of what we did. With over 500 pictures to choose from, you get to see this set. By the way, hopefully you can click on any of these pictures and see them in a larger format. Some of them are worth it on a full size screen.

We flew into Boston's Logan Airport, met the Ann and Armond there, rented a car (full-size Mercury Marquis) and headed off Steele Hill Resort in Sanbornton, New Hampshire (say that: SAN-burn-ton). In 1747, King James I of Great Britain granted a tract of land to Benjamin Steele, which later became known as Steele Hill. Wow, we were surprised at the facilities. We used this as our headquarters for the first few days as we did stuff in the area.

Two bedrooms, three bathrooms, a large living area with dining room and kitchen.

Julie and I slept here. The other bedroom had a king size bed and a jet tub to go with it. We thought we would be so smart and move the twin beds together in our room. NOT! They were bolted to the wall!

Outside the front door of our group of living units.

A view of the back of our place. We were in the unit with the two windows and doors on the bottom floor on the end (over Ann's right shoulder). You might be able to tell from the picture that we had a picnic table and a a couple of BBQ grills to use out the back door. Did I mention they had pool, hot tub tennis, golf, etc. Armond and I swam in the pool one night.

Chrysanthemums, corn stalks, pumpkins and hay outside the registration office.

Steele Hill is located near Lake Winnisquam. We love this picture of a little stream and a pond that feeds into the lake.

Lake Winnepesaukee
Our first big adventure was to Weirs Beach on Lake Winnepesaukee, largest lake in New Hampshire. 71 square miles, maximum depth of 212 feet. Contains at least 253 islands, half of which are less than a quarter-acre in size, and is indented by several peninsulas. Total shoreline of 288 miles. We took a 2 1/2 hour cruise on the lake.

One of the "inhabited" islands. Looks romantic, eh? Well, we figured that it's is no small undertaking to live on an island. Consider no water, no electricity, no bridge to get there, no garbage service (haul it in, haul it out). How about sewer service? Ya gotta have a boat and a boat dock on the island and a place to launch it on the mainland. How about building your house on the island? Transport all building materials to the island. Mix your own concrete on site (no ready-mix trucks possible). Electricity? A generator and fuel to run it. Drinking water? A water purification system... Need I go further?

Not be be ALL negative, I really do think it would be cool to have a private island.

Governor's Island is the largest island and is the only one that has a bridge from the mainland. So large houses and resorts like this one are possible.
At the far eastern end of the Lake is a town called Wolfeboro; a quaint New England village

Look for the multicolored leaf earrings in this picture. Souvenirs from the boat trip. By the way, notice Julie's hat. It's the one she bought in Carmel (see the previous blog entry). She made interchangeable bands to add variety.

Coming in to Wolfeboro

An island with an observation tower that looks like a lighthouse.

New England Lobster Roll
After a long boat ride, food is a necessary item. Convenient to the boat dock in Weirs beach is a restaurant called Weathervane. Their specialty is Lobster Roll.

Very delicious.

The two in this picture described themselves as "A couple of crabs dressed up as lobsters."

Lots of flowers at Weirs beach. The wildlife loves them, too. Check out details of the next two photos by making them larger.

In spite of being early in the season, some trees jumped the gun for color.

We had to double back slightly on our trip back to Steele Hill so we could get this picture. So pretty.

North Conway
North Conway has rail tours through the trees.

After waiting for the train, we finally saw (and heard) it coming.

Click here for a video I took of its arrival.

But, ya know what? They unhooked the steam engine form the train and put on a more modern diesel engine. Oh, well, we took the ride anyway. These were really old cars, the kind that had reversible seats. Just pull on the seat back. I remembered these from when I was a kid growing up in Philadelphia on the Pennsylvania Railroad commuter trains.

Even though the rain was coming down, the scenery was still fantastic.

At the far end of the line, the engineer did what's called a "run around." He pulled off on a siding. The engine was unhooked, went back down the mainline to the other end of the train, switched back to the siding and re-coupled to pull us back to North Conway. Oh, the rain, the rain!

North Conway has a number of attractions for tourists. One is a "General Store" with lots of antiques on display. One item was this old wringer washer like my mom used to use when I was growing up.

An old soda fountain was recreated in the back of the store. This is much like the one my sister and I used to go to when we lived in Philadelphia to buy delicious chocolate malts. In fact, she actually worked in one of these as as a "soda jerk" when she was in high school.

Let me interject an interesting part of our travels here. We thought we had arranged a stay at Steele Hill Resort for 4 nights. Something in the back of my mind kept telling me to check with the registration office. So as we were headed out after the third night on another adventure we stopped at the front desk. They confirmed that we were scheduled to check out that very morning(!!) and there were no other rooms available for that night. Oops! After a consultation with "the committee" we talked through our options. We called ahead to our next stop (Pond Ridge Motel in Woodstock, VT). Yes, they could accommodate us in their only double room "suite" a day earlier that we had planned. What a relief! Otherwise we would have been homeless. OK, we quickly went back to our room at Steele Hill, packed up in a hurry and left it for good.

Quechee Gorge
One our way over to Woodstock, we came to Quechee Gorge (KWEE-chee) just inside the Vermont border. Just out of nowhere is this deep gorge. Had to stop and take a few pictures.

I liked this pitchfork (or is it a pickle fork?) tree off in the distance. Very unique.

Woodstock, Vermont
The office at the Pond Ridge Motel in Woodstock. The flowers were what prompted us to take this picture.

I didn't include any pictures here of the damage in this area from Hurricane Irene that passed through a month earlier. But I am including a couple of links to videos on YouTube showing some of the damage. In the first video the "restaurant" to the left of the road was totally flooded and will need to be torn down. It was only about a half mile from where we stayed at the Pond Ridge Motel (on the same road).
The motel operator told us he opened up some of his facilities so those who lost homes were able to come and take showers, etc. While were were in town, there was a "chili cook-off" on the village green, the proceeds of which would be made available for flood victims. Very caring people.

As you come into Woodstock right along the Ottauquechee River we saw this old barn behind a music teachers house. He had converted it into a used book store. We had to stop and browse. Two stories worth and crammed to the rafters.

Even a few chairs to sit in and read a book. The equivalent of a small-town Barnes and Noble.

Beautiful flowers in downtown Woodstock.

Whose are these kids anyway? They never seemed to move.

Just along the main street in front of a store.

Lots of shops. One of them was the Mountain Creamery. We ate ice cream there one afternoon and breakfast the next morning. Very delicious.

Shop signs everywhere.

We took off one evening into the back country around Woodstock and found these very picturesque views on Lime Pond Road.

What's a gazebo doing out in the middle of a horse pasture?

We wanted to go visit the famous Sugarbush Farm just out of Woodstock we had heard so much about. We planned it toward the end of the day, remembering that it closed at 5:00 pm. There were so many roads closed and bridge washouts due to "Irene" that it took a long time to finally get there. By time we arrived it was 5:30 but we thought we would just go anyway and drive around it so we could say we were there. Whaddaya know? There was a lady just walking away from it. "We're closed." Yeah, we know we are late but we just want to come see it anyway. "I'll open back up for you if you want." So here is Betsy giving us a personal tour and letting us sample the various grades of maple syrup and the cheeses. She said the "kitchen" we were standing in was the kitchen she grew up with when she lived there as a child. She probably knew it was worth her while to let us sample some of her products. We bought some real maple syrup and some very delicious cheese to take with us.

She was so very nice to us. As we were leaving she asked if we knew our way back due to the various washouts and closed roads. She offered to let us follow her to her house and from there it would be easy going. We bounced along some old dirt roads for a while. After getting to her place, she waved us on to the right road and the way back to Woodstock. Very accommodating, she was. We found most New Englanders were that way.

Some picturesque scenes in Vermont and New Hampshire
Some cool things we saw while going nowhere in particular. Glad we had a GPS to find our way out and back.

During the rain we saw some "waterfalls". They were more spectacular in person than in this picture but I wanted to show that we were there (with umbrellas, of course).

I wonder if the horse knew he had such spectacular surroundings.

Rock walls, everywhere. Well, they had to do something with the rocks after they plowed their fields.

Chrysanthemums in a canoe? Well, why not?

The Shedd-Porter Library in Alstead, New Hampshire
This was one of those days we just drove around off the beaten path on some back roads. We actually made a wrong turn and ended up in this really small town that had a backwoods flavor, except for the town library. Holy Cow! What's something like that doing out here. The story behind it reminded us ever so much of Madison Public Library in "The Music Man." We went inside looking for Marian Paroo (Madam Librarian).

Constructed in 1910, the Shedd-Porter Memorial Library has been an impressive focal point in "downtown" Alstead. Designed in the neoclassical style by Boston, MA architectural firm McLean & Wright, it is considered to be one of the most impressive library buildings in New Hampshire. Following a floor plan typical of other small library buildings of its time, it is constructed of choice materials and is marked by unusually sophisticated detailing and fine workmanship.

Like many libraries of the early twentieth century, the Shedd-Porter Memorial Library was donated to the town. Alstead natives John Graves Shedd and Mary Roenna Porter Shedd funded its construction in memory of their parents. Upon its completion, John Graves Shedd purchased and donated 2,000 new books. Today, the library contains 14,500 volumes

Check out this view of the dome from inside.

and the main desk and marble columns.

Hanover, New Hampshire
Based on a recommendation from the Pond Ridge Motel proprietor at Woodstock, VT, we took a scenic drive over to New Hampshire through the towns of White Mountain Junction, Norwich, Hanover, and Lebanon. He thought the leaves would be prettier there. Well, that wasn't so but the quaint little towns and roads were fun anyway. Here are some views of Hanover, NH, home of Dartmouth College.

One of the famous medical school buildings. See the next section on Sharon Vermont regarding the Dartmouth Medical School.
An old chapel on campus. Interesting architecture.

Sharon, Vermont - Birthplace of Joseph Smith
After visiting Hanover NH, we went on over to Sharon, VT (actually now it is South Royalton) where Joseph Smith was born. I love this first view driving into the site. After the trees turn more yellow, it would be even prettier.

Our first stop was at the LDS Chapel located on the property. We timed it to arrive for the Sunday morning session of October General Conference (12 o'clock in Vermont). Here we are 3,000 miles across the country and is was if we were right at home. Instant friends greeted us and we felt the same spirit we feel in any of our buildings. This could happen at any of our chapels throughout the world. We absolutely love being members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

After the morning session of conference we went to the visitors center; right close by. Notice the umbrellas. Sprinkling just enough to get good and wet.

One of the interesting things we learned here was that when Joseph Smith had the operation on his leg as a young boy, it took place when the family lived in Norwich, Vermont. We had just visited Norwich that morning on our way to Hanover. In fact they are no more than a couple miles apart, across the Connecticut River which serves as the border between VT and NH. Dr. Nathan Smith from Dartmouth Medical School (no relation to the J. Smith's) was initially the only member of the Dartmouth Medical School faculty. He taught anatomy, chemistry, surgery, and clinical medicine. He essentially served as dean and treasurer of the medical school, also. He emphasized experience rather than theory, and he largely eschewed bleeding and purging, favoring support of the body's own healing powers and attentiveness to the patient's comfort. Using these principles, he was a consultant on the child Joseph Smith, the future Mormon prophet, saving his leg from amputation. How fortuitous the Smith's lived so close to Hanover at the time.

The monument: 38 1/2 tall. One foot for every year of Joseph Smith's life.

We had packed our lunch and ate it in the cultural hall of the chapel on the grounds. Not fancy but filling.

Bennington, Vermont
This was supposed to be a great place to see the leaves turning color as well as several other attractions of note. It was all good except the for the "leaves turning" part, although they had started.

Out first stop was the Bennington Monument. At over 300 feet tall, it is the tallest structure in Vermont. When it was built (1889) it was the tallest structure in the United States.

A little glitch here in Bennington: Our car keys got locked in the trunk. We had to wait an hour or so for AAA to come rescue them. But the weather was perfect and we enjoyed the scenery and the sunshine while we waited.

This monument is a dedication to the famous Battle of Bennington that took place during the Revolutionary war in 1777. It was here the American colonists maintained a store of weapons and food, which British General Burgoyne knew was critical to capture in order to restock his own troops. Interestingly enough, the Battle of Bennington was not fought here, nor was it fought in Vermont. It was actually fought in New York (5 miles to the west). You can read about it at this link:

General John Stark led the battle for the colonists. He was so dedicated that he made this statement to his men.
"There are the Redcoats. They will be ours tonight or Molly Stark sleeps a widow."
--General John Stark
That would take considerable nerve and dedication to know they could be dead men soon. A bunch of rag-tag volunteers against the professional and well trained British Army. The Lord certainly blessed the colonists in their quest for independence.

There are some windows in the monument at the 200 foot level where you can see three different states-- New York (in this picture to the west), Vermont (north and east) and Massachusetts (south). The leaves are just starting to turn. We were a mite too early.

Looking north

This is "Monument Avenue" leading up to the monument. I like this picture a lot so I included it here.

Covered Bridges
Bennington has 5 covered bridges. We saw three of them. They all look pretty much the same as this one. Not nearly as impressive as some of the ones you see in Vermont postcard photos. Nevertheless it was fun to see them.

While we are on the subject of covered bridges, I am including these to pictures here of my favorite covered bridge. This was way off the beaten path near Nottingham, Hew Hampshire. It's only 20 feet long and spans a little brook. Thanks to a good GPS that got us close enough to find it.

Julie in the window

Meanwhile, back in Bennington, here is the "Old First Church." It's the First Congregational Church of Bennington; designed by Lavius Fillmore and built in 1805. This church is the second meetinghouse of Vermont's oldest Protestant religious organization that started in 1762. It's still in use with a traveling preacher that comes to hold services.

It was originally built with donations for the various boxes that families could sponsor; the more expensive ones toward the front ($500) and least in the back ($200). Their teenagers weren't impressed with sitting as families so they sat in the balconies. Girls on the left and boys on the right. The girls carved the initials of their boyfriends on the railing around the edge; still visible today.

Outside the church is an extensive graveyard; just a small part shown here

Even Robert Frost, one of America's greatest poets, was buried here in 1963.

COLOR... We actually saw this magnificent, but fairly isolated color in Bennington

Antique shops were always fun to browse around in.

One of my favorite views as we drove from Bennington to Exeter, New Hampshire.

Scenic sights north of Kennebunkport, Maine
How about a house like this right on the ocean

Or how about this private property right on the ocean that has it's own stone church.

When president Goerge H.W. Bush wanted to get away for a vacation, he went to his house at Walker Point. Both the US and Texas state flag fly here. What a view!

Check out this short video I took of the waves crashing along the coast in front of his mansion

A fitting memorial from some of his friends in the area. Walker Point in the background.

Kennebunkport, Maine
This beautiful quaint little touristy town reminds me of Capitola by the Sea in California

You can tell by the refection in the street and the flag waving that it was wet and windy.

Gotta do the obligatory stop in the gift shop for postcards.

The Maine coastline
A small lighthouse outside of Portland Harbor

Portland Head Lighthouse. Operational. Open for Tours (but not in the tower). Too bad the weather was so dreary.

This pair of lighthouses is called "Two-lights". South of Portland, ME. Close to each other but only the first one is operational.

Kennebunkport Lighthouse. 1/2 mile off the coast, so no tours.

The famous Nubble Lighthouse (200 yards off the coast) near Cape Neddick. Very spectacular in person. There's a couple of park benches on the mainland where you can sit on a clear day and contemplate the vastness of the Atlantic Ocean. Perhaps if you concentrated in an eastward direction long enough you could make out England on the far side.

Lunch Break
After having watched an episode of Diners, Drive-ins and Dives on the Food Network, we timed a stop at the Maine Diner in Wells, Maine to try it out.

So here is the special. We figured if we were going to come this far we'd better for for the whole package. We may not pass this way again.

Sea Food Chowder.

Cornbread muffin. Wasn't on the list but it came with the meal anyway. Delicious

The Lobster Pie and other items to round out the main course.

For dessert, I got blueberry pie and Julie got apple crisp with ice cream. These were no small portions either, Kinda like a deep-dish pie and rich vanilla ice cream over apple crisp. Heavenly!

No, we couldn't stuff it all in so we had 'em box it for eating later. Yeah! Ice cream in the box. It melted but it was still terrific.

Ya wanna see the Food Network video where they describe what ingredients go into these famous dinners? Check it out.

Antique Alley
Near Exeter, New Hampshire a part of the old US 4 highway (originally the New Hampshire Turnpike) is known as Antique Alley. There's about 15 miles of road with lots of antique shops. A perfect place to browse but you need to leave your money at home.

Our last New England meal
As we were just about ready to leave Antique Alley someone made the comment that before we leave for the airport we need to have one last New England "Lobster Roll." As good luck would have it, just as we were pulling out of the antique shop parking lot there was a sign right on the side of the road saying "Lobster Roll". How fortunate! We just had to go there since it was right next door. You can see from the picture it is just a little roadside stand (dive) with an awning.

So here it is for one last look. Armond had to get a cheeseburger. The owner's son at the store window said it was his mother's shop and the hamburgers were voted best in the state. Maybe so but the lobster rolls were out of this world.

Pervasive New England Decor
Several unique things caught our eye as we were traveling around New England. We made a list of them and got some pictures.

1. Chrysanthemums "are used in all of their decorating." Everything from doorsteps to flower gardens. Very beautiful. We checked out the cost. Three good-sized plants for $15 from the local sellers. Not too bad.

2. Pumpkins everywhere. Anywhere from just one, as in this picture, to wagons full of them in the front yard or on all their front door steps. We figure they must never walk up their front steps as they'll never get past the threshold due to all the pumpkins and gourds.

3. Gazebos. This one was at the Pond Ridge Motel in Woodstock where we stayed. The weirdest location where we saw one was in the middle of a horse pasture (pictured earlier). Never did figure that one out.

4. Cemeteries. Every town had at least one cemetery. But then we figured that people have been dying there since the late 1600's so that's a lot of bodies to put somewhere.

5. Rock walls. This one has been around for a while and not well maintained. We have pictures of some better ones above.

6. Stacks of wood. These people spend a lot of time stacking wood. Some examples.

Here is one in the side yard and on the front porch. (It must get really cold in his neck of the woods.)

The next picture is a close up of the previous one. This family can almost get out to the front door. Which brings us to the next item...

7. Red doors. Lots of red doors.

8. Decroative Stars (even on red doors).

9. Dunkin' Donuts. Every town as at least one franchise of Dunkin' Donuts. We saw them everywhere and even stopped at one at Armond's insistence. We used to have one in San Jose not too far from us but it didn't make it. It is now Sunny Donuts. By the way, we planned this picture to get our rental car in it so we could remember that we are tourists on vacation.

Time to end this blog entry. As we leave you after the great vacation tour I am reminded of the closing words of former radio commentator Lowell Thomas: "So long for now."

I am also reminded of the "Pirates Who Don't Do Anything" in VeggieTales:

And I've never licked a spark plug and I've never sniffed a stinkbug
And I've never painted daisies on a big red rubber ball
And I've never bathed in yogurt and I don't look good in leggings
And I've never been to Boston in the fall.

But now we can't sing that last line any more as we have been there and done that.


Janet said...

What a fun trip!! I loved all the pics, thoroughly described scenes, food and fun you had! Great job planning, mom! I can't believe there wasn't more fall foliage... The scenes were beautiful anyways!

Shannon B said...

Stunning and beautiful sites guys! I loved every second of it! Wish I was there with you! So jealous of the lobster rolls and the tasty food. Looks like a fantastic time was had by all. Thanks for all the pics and the play by plays. Can I get a few of the beautiful pics blown up for my wall. No joke!

karensumpter said...

I love it! I've decided that I either want to move there or at least take my next vacation there. I love the quaint houses, churches, bridges, ponds, colors. I think you were at our house when we saw that restaurant on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. The food loos delish! Oh another reason I want to move there is for all the Dunkin Donut shops. Thanks for the detailed post!

Kristen said...

Loved all the pictures. I love the quaintness of it all. Would love to browse those antique shops and bookstores! I saved the pic. to my computer of Mom and Aunt Ann as lobsters. I thought it was hilarious. Two old crabs!

Stefani said...

I love your beginning and ending statements! LOL, the Pirates who don't do anything... ha!
Thanks for the detailed tour, including the food of course, I almost felt like I was there with you! I'm so glad you got to do this.

Lindseys said...

Wow, Dad, you took some seriously awesome photos. Just from the ones you posted, you could make several different types of calendars - Fall foliage, Light houses, Antiques, Covered Bridges, Cool buildings and the list goes on. I love some of those photos of roads disappearing into lines of trees.

Loved the story of Betsy at Sugabush Farms. That was pretty nice of her to open back up just for you.

Sounds like an awesome trip. Thanks for sharing.

Stimpsons said...

What fun. I'm so glad to see all you're beautiful pictures and yummy food. Looks like you had a spectacular time back east. Lots of your pics look like they'd make great wall art. Thanks for letting us share in your trip!