Tag Archives: Fall Foliage

Mystic, Connecticut


Not Just Any Psychic.

Mystic Connecticut 11.08.2015


Almost out of Town


Main Street from the Bridge

We left early for Mystic this morning.  The romantic coming of age film “Mystic Pizza” was set in Mystic, though it was filmed in neighboring towns.  The pizza restaurant was filmed in a converted house, not at Mystic Pizza!


Mystic Pizza

Mystic Pizza, the movie

Heading into town, at a “T” we could go to the Seaport or to Old Town, We chose Old Town and turned north.  We breezed past a general store and had gone in and out of Old Town in a minute!  Old Town is very quaint, but very very small.  With another U-turn, we headed back toward the Seaport a bit disappointed in Old Town.

We passed Mystic Seaport Museum on the right and a huge parking lot on the left and continued south on Greenmanville Ave to Main Street.  Driving down Main Street into town, the famous draw bridge over the Mystic River is unmistakable.  Mystic is a typical New England Coastal Town.  It is beautiful.


Not Mystic Pizza

Crossing the bridge, we drove up Main Street past a Ice Cream shop on the right, up the hill toward the old church and past Mystic Pizza also on the right.  Even this late in the year Mystic is a busy town.  I cannot imagine how hoards of tourists transform the town during the summer.  There were no parking signs everywhere.  We drove out of town and U-turned again to return.  The best way to get the feel for a town is to drive through slowly.  We were looking for interesting places to visit and a level place to park, I drove down a narrow street along the Mystic River to a dead end and U-turned in a business’ gravel lot.  A workman watched my three point turn in with an amused look.  We found pay-parking a bit further down the road at $1.50 per half hour.  That could add up.  Parking fronted on Main Street and the shops.  I deployed our HD antenna, it locked onto the satellites, and we started recording the JETS game.  Rather than watching the game, hit record.  We shut down all the electronics except the PVR and refrigerator and off we went.


The Company of Craftsmen

We first walked into The Company of Craftsmen, a typical high-end tourist shop that sells pottery, original art, photos printed on aluminum, and jewelry.  This was not your typical bric-a-brack  The shop was empty but for us, the shopkeeper, and a middle aged couple.  The fellow is a local and knew the shopkeeper; his wife didn’t say anything as she casually explored the art.  The guy and the shopkeeper were in a conversation about the local fishery.  Shopkeep said there were orcas spotted just off the coast here.  That is unusual, he had never seen them this far south in his lifetime.  I said perhaps conservation had let to a resurgence of fish that the orca are following south.

The Fishing Industry, “they went somewhere else”

While the woman continued looking around, her man turned to say, “conservation?  No.  The fishing was great for years until run-off and pesticides did the fish in. They all went somewhere else.”  I agreed that fertilizer and pesticide runoff contribute to the industry problems, but that conservation is necessary too.  This fellow was a fisherman and conservation was not in his vocabulary.  I said that fishing to extinction would do nobody any good.  He grudgingly agreed, but suggested that big money and state politicians bury the run-off issues and that that is the real issue.  He thought new insecticides were the major cause of a recent fall off in fish.  “They just went somewhere else.”  Or were they fished out locally?  I’d never considered that fishermen would think “went somewhere else” rather than “we over-fished.”  Weird!

After the couple left, the shopkeeper said, “the problem is very complex.  Factory fishing and illegal fishing are a big problem.  Conservation is necessary too.  A good friend of his is a Green Peace Captain who has spent time in jail in Russia. Now that is a nasty prospect.

The shop had quite a few very well done photos printed on aluminum, unique pottery, and woodwork. We saw quite a few items we liked, though we did not purchase any art in his shop.  It was a different story in the spice shop:  habanero salt, lapsang souchong tea, herb dip spice,  and pumpkin cinnamon tea. Lapsang souchong had long been considered a second rate tea and has fallen out of favor in most tea shops.


We walked up Main Street to Mystic Pizza and had  a slice at the bar.  On our way in, Ellen asked if Mystic Pizza was filmed here.  “No”, the hostess said,”this used to be just the bar.  We’ve expanded, but the movie was shot in a local pub.”  No surprise there, the local pubs have more character than Mystic Pizza.


At the bar, the guy to my right was savoring a slice of pepperoni pizza that looked great.  I had one too and a local IPA.  Their pizza was good, the crust was a bit oily but we didn’t care.  The fellow beside me worked on submarine computer systems at Groton harbor.   We talked football some: Patriots and Jets, not much about submarines.  Leaving, Ellen had the sense to ask for parking validation and left with a validation card. Cool.


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Mystic Drawbridge

Mssive Counter Weights


Reforest the Tropics!


Walking the Mystic River East Side




Next we headed back over the drawbridge to walk along the east side of the Mystic River.  The drawbridge with its counter-weight design, is one of only three left in the country.  There was no traffic on the river; the bridge stayed down.

As for walking along the east side of the Mystic River, No Doing!  The walkway along the river is gated after about a hundred yards.  so we walked local roads that fronted on the river.  It was a gorgeous day, cool but not cold and even warm in the sun.  We found a pier with gaff and square rigged  ships moored alongside.  One was for sale.


Formidable is For Sale!


Are the canon included?

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The Maritime Museum in the Distance

Further along a SUP couple paddled by and turned into the boat ramp.  Ahead was a boat-works museum that was closed off from this side.


On the fence was a map of the museum showing the entrance just up the road.  This was the museum we passed driving into the Seaport.  Great. I had walked ahead as Ellen took photos as she walked.  I went on to the museum, bought a ticket for both of us and arranged for her to get her ticket when she arrived, “Can you give this ticket to my wife, Ellen, she’ll be arriving shortly.  She’s dressed in a bright blue jacket.  She’s short with light blond hair”  I then called Ellen and told her about the arrangements as I saw her walking into the Museum.


On the Old Seaport Waterfront

The Maritime Museum is located on the old whaling town of Mystic.  I think the buildings are re-creations of the original buildings.  The museum also has a number of whalers and historical schooners moored riverside.  :I overhead a fellow explaining that three of the whalers are not here now.  They were moored over there (gesturing), but now there are only two of them.  Two boats were under reconstruction and were closed to the public.  One was just a skeleton housed indoors to protect it from the elements.  A walkway led above decks, then wound down below and out topside once again.  It was fascinating to see the beams, the keel, and the planking that were this ship.  Two of the whalers were open to the public, you could just walk aboard.  Plaques recorded the history of these ships and the whaling process itself.  Today whales are endangered.  Back then, whales were plentiful.  What amazes me is the bravery of the crews of the whaling boats.  These were small dory-like boats with five or six men at the oars, a coxswain, and a mate at the harpoon.  Once the whale was impaled, the New England Sleigh Ride commenced.  Whaling is what made coastal New England.


The “Boston Sleigh Ride”

We absorbed the museum as we walked its extensive grounds.  I had wanted to go to Groton to visit the Nautilus Museum in Groton, but I am much happier walking around any sailboat.  Tall ships are special, even if they were whalers.  There were a number of antiques hidden in the houses dotting the Seaport.   One was a clock works, another a hoop manufacturer for tall ships, another housed an old horse drawn fire pump.  The pump was hand driven; firemen were big burly fellows much like they are today.  The second floor of one housew the entire captain’s and mate’s quarters taken from a large merchant sailing ship.  It was impressive for its woodwork, though the beds were quite small.  People were much shorter back then.


The Old Seaport Bank, 1833


In the Fire Department (note the hand pump)

Walking back to The Beast, I wondered how much the PVR had drawn down the batteries.  We have not calibrated battery wear based on what’s running and for how long.  For us, it is still very much a crap shoot.  I thought there was a good chance that after three and a half hours, the batteries could be drained.  We passed a shop with free fudge samples.  The sample was “ok”, but not worth buying.  We stopped in another bakery and the cookies were too much to resist.  Then we happened by the Mystic Oyster Company, a restaurant.  Not having had my fill of steamers, we stopped in and asked if they have steamed clams. “No, but we have littlel neck clams”  Not the long neck oval clams, but the small round ones.  We asked about steaming them and left with the impression they would steam clams for us.

So do we order a pizza or go for steamed clams for dinner?  First we checked on The Beast.  The doors unlocked, stairs extended, and the PVR was still recording.  The battery voltage was 12.1 which was good.  With the football game three quarters over and our battery showing minimal wear, we felt good leaving things as they were for another hour or so.  We headed back to have some “steamers”.


An Old Oyster Boat

At the Mystic Oyster House, we were told that the little neck clams were served cold.  Could they be steamed? No.  We ordered the clams served in the half shell.  An IPA for me and a banana  strawberry cocktail for Ellen.  We both ordered a beet salad with scallops (Ellen) and swordfish (Ron) that was very good.  The Oyster House could not validate parking.   We ate slowly watching the lighting change over the Mystic River as the sun set.  We had a window side table.

On the River, Crab Pots!


Across the River

Back at The Beast, the batteries were still good.  I must have put the parking validation card in upside down, it did not work.  I paid with a credit card before the attendant asked, “Can I help you”.  I showed her the validation card and she said, “that will work”  Too late, I had paid already.

Back at Mystic KOA, we did not have a gate card.  We did not need one the first day.  Renewing the second day we did not know we needed one and the fellow at the desk assumed we already had one.  We arrived at the KOA gate with no way to get in!  I took my phone over to the office door, found an after hours phone number, and called.  It range, some one answered and my phone went dead.  Ellen then started calling to me about something.  I had been in range for The Beast to take over the phone call.  Ellen was talking with the after hours fellow when I hung up thinking the call had failed.  Isn’t technology grand?  I called back and was told that there are after hours packets in the laundry room, just take the one furthest in back.


Playing with Shadows

We pulled into site B6 which was not very level.  The campsite is almost a ghost town.  There might be five other RVs here.  We just pulled into A6 which was closer to level and hooked up.  The evening is cool, but it will not go below freezing tonight.  The fellow at the desk this morning said they would not turn the water off unless it was going to freeze.  We should be OK tomorrow morning, but I will disconnect our water before hitting the sack tonight just to be safe.

We’re watching the JETS game we recorded earlier today and we have local cable channels.   With luck we’ll watch Madam Secretary and The Good Wife a bit later.

We enjoyed our outing today.  We had some exercise and had a great time too.


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The Cangarda, restored in California, has seven steam engines!


Square Rigged Whaling Ships at the Maritime Museum, Mystic Ct.



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The Joseph Conrad


  IMG_7713    IMG_7712    Under Restoration


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The Charles Morgan



Rhode Island

Family, 11/05/2015

Ellen’s half sister, Elizabeth, lives somewhere in Rhode Island. We had planned to relocate to a campground on Rhode Island’s sea shore yesterday to be closer to her, thinking she would live by the sea.  The rental car would go back and off we would go.  It was a good thing that Ellen messaged Liz.  Liz lives in Woonsocket R.I. which is on the northern border with Massachusetts, about a twenty minute drive from here. There was no point in pulling up stakes to head to Newport when Foxboro is closer.  Caile at Enterprise said we’d have no problem keeping the car for another two days.  OK, now to extend our campground stay.

That was sketchy at first.   The guest who reserved site 1001 had not cancelled and we would have to move.  Jess gave us site 611, but another gal, Carla, said that the guest who vacated 611 moved to 612 and they wanted 611 for friends arriving today.  Jess had been booking 611 while Carla was on the phone and saw 611 got reserved.  I waited patiently while Jess looked for another site for us. There were no other sites available for two days!  With me standing there, Carla said, “if that’s what has to be, it’s OK”.  I thought we had just been bumped. Instead Jess handed me the 611 signs for the car and RV.  ON Veteran’s day weekend the fees at the campground are half off.  Even the sticker I purchased was 50% off.  No wonder the camp was filling up.

Also Thursdays is roaming propane day.  I ordered a propane fill at the desk and was assured that a truck would drop by after noon and fill our tank.  We wouldn’t have to be at the RV. Great. I wonder if the propane is 50% off too?

Normandy farms Family Camping Resort, Foxboro Ma.

Moving from #1001 to #611 was a breeze with the rental car.  Hoses, stabilizers, leveling blocks, mats, everything but the electric cable went in the KIA trunk.  With antenna down and push-out in, we drove the 200 yards to #611.  The site was nearly flat with no need for the leveling blocks, but there’s a maple tree that precludes sat reception.  I tried jockying the beast about, but “resistance was futile”.  Still there are the local cable channels.

Ellen messaged Liz to plan our next few days.  She will call Liz at 1pm and in the meantime  we walked the campground.  The rec. lodge is remarkable for it’s size and comfort.  You walk through a small foyer with flyers and a few vending machines into the large meeting hall.   Rooms sit on either side of the hall, ping-pong tables sit in a glassed in room to the right with stairs going up to an adult only loft with a fireplace, tables, and games.  The room to the left of the hall is a game arcade, rest rooms and stairs going up to a children’s loft with tables and games.  To the left of the hall stairs go downstairs to the indoor heated swimming pool, the Jacuzzi, and weight room.  There are two pool tables in the adult loft with doors that lead into a large deck overlooking two outdoor pools.   This is indeed a resort and not simply a campground.

We relaxed on the deck for a bit.  Ellen pointed out a propane truck near The Beast that she had seen drive by.  Moments later a phone call from the desk interrupted our reverie.  All our bins were locked; the propane guy couldn’t access our tank.  I assured Carla that the propane access panel was not locked (actually it cannot be locked).  With growing confusion over where the access panel was, took the short walk over to Li’l Beast.  The propane guy was gone!  Carla assured me that he would be back in a few minutes; and he was.  The fill took a few minutes and he was off to fill another RV.  I am always amazed that a propane fill takes so little propane.

In the meantime, Liz had contacted Ellen.  The best time to visit would be Saturday.  We had thought perhaps they could come to the lodge and enjoy the Jacuzzi and pool, etc, but that’s not going to be since Liz’s daughter, Vanessa,  had to worked late Friday night. Liz will be baby sitting the her grandchild. We have two more days to explore New England.

Newport R.I.


By now it was late, closing in on 3 pm, but Newport is only an hour away.  we figured we could cruise down to Newport and visit the seashore.  Newport was my favorite place to surf while I was learning in my teens.  I remember some gorgeous houses right on a beach in the area.


Not the houses I remember, but what a location

we were loading the KIA when our neighbors arrived.  I walked over and met Dennis, Kathy, and their two papillons, one a few week old puppy.  Who doesn’t have a soft spot for puppies and kittens?  Ellen joined the conversation moments later.  Dennis said, “If you do go to Newport you have to stop at”, then he asked his wife if she remembered the restaurant’s name. “Anyway, you have to stop there for a bite to eat.  The memorabilia hanging on the walls and from the ceiling is fascinating and the food is good.  It’s in a red brick building at the start of the main drag.”  Kathy remembered the name: the Brick Alley Pub and Restaurant.


The drive to Newport goes quickly.  Beware of the drivers around Providence, Surprisingly it was here in Rhode Island that we saw some of the worst driving on this trip.  Cutting across lanes to make an exit, high speed passing and swerving through traffic to “get ahead”.   We enjoyed the bridges to the islands, though you pay a toll going and coming: $2.00 per axle.  I attempted to find the beach I surfed eons ago, and failed.  We drove Ocean Avenue around Brenton Point State Park.  The Ocean Avenue drive is past palatial homes fronting on the ocean.  We drove past a dramatic Inn, U-turned, and stopped at the Ocean Cliff Inn.  The inn’s architecture is very dramatic.  The house was build in 1864 as a summer home for Arthur Bronson of New York.  The original house burned down.  The current house (Brownstone) was rebuilt in 1894-1896 by Gaun Hutton of Baltimore, It was converted into an inn in 1954.


Ocean Cliff Inn, Newport RI


Ellen and I walked to the expansive side deck overlooking the bay and ocean. I walked back to the front of the inn and through the entry along with a wedding party returning for dinner.  At the desk I asked if the rooms were varied and about the restaurant’s menu.  Each room is different, some are small, some have detached private bathrooms, some are large.  The daily rate for a room was surprisingly reasonable. “Would you like to see some of our rooms?” “Let me find my wife, she would love to see a room or two”, said I.  Meanwhile Ellen had been looking for me.  The two wooden doors that are the front entrance look nothing like the entrance to an inn and more like a double door to a private suite.   Chris very graciously showed us six of the rooms in the inn.  His favorite is also the least expensive.  What makes it unique are the third floor double windows overlooking the bay facing the queen bed.  It is a small but intimate room.




Parking in downtown Newport is free from November first through the winter.  That is far preferable to the $27 we were charged in Harvard Square for a two hours.  Brick Alley Pub has an eclectic menu including Steamed Portuguese Little Neck Clams and a surprisingly complete wine list including St. Clemens Oroppas.  We ordered too much food: an order of Steamed clams each, and an entree each. The Steamers were prepared in a broth of green peppers, onion, and a Portuguese sausage and served in the broth.  The clams were great.  The sauce was made for dipping and Sue, or waitress, waited to bring bread until the clams arrived at table.  She didn’t want us eating he bread without the sauce!  The appetizers were a full meal.


The Pub


Keep On Truckin’ in the Pub


What’s with his hair?


In the Pub


Margherita Pizza


They Have Steamers!!


And Here They Are!


We Each Had a Bowl


The drive back to “camp”  (It is more like a resort) was fast and uneventful.  At the entry gate, our code would not work.  I tried a number of times then gave up and called the night entry number.  A few minutes later camp security arrived to let us in.  My code should have worked, perhaps it was not renewed.


The Ocean Cliff Inn

Newport and Points South, 11.06.2015

We’re headed to Newport again.  I’m sure the beach I surfed and the houses I drooled over are on the shore south of Newport.  We’ll visit Jamestown on our way south.

I just called Rhode Island’s EZ Pass office to see if and how we can get an EZ Pass.  Their office is in Jamestown.  We’re headed that way anyway, why not get an EZ Pass for The Beast?  We’ll see how this goes.  Talking to Jamie at the office, there is seldom a wait.  We’ll get the pass today.  It will be activated in Rhode Island tomorrow and out of state a day later.  Sounds good to me.

More to come when we return.

Boston Massachusetts, 11.03.2015

Indian Summer


After weeks of on again off again good weather with a smattering of cold rain, drizzle, and freezing temperatures, today was an amazing day.  The sky was clear, there was no wind, and the temperature soared.  It might have hit 80 degrees today.  Many people were sporting T-shirts on the Gardens.  It’s November in New England; this is September weather.  Sometimes we get a few weeks of great weather in mid October that’s called Indian Summer.  Mid October is one of the best times of the year to be in New England.  This November weather is both highly unusual and very welcome.

This morning we had our typical late start on the day.  Retirement does that to a person.  We had our morning coffee and some breakfast in The Beast, then a time warp set in and *pop* it was 11:30 as we drove toward Riverside Terminal in Newton for the train to Boston.   It’s a half hour drive to Riverside from the campground and another forty minutes to downtown by train from the station.  With plenty of parking we had no problem leaving our rented KIA at Riverside.  The Beast we left safely at the campground fully setup for our return.

Why is it that ticket kiosks are setup with the display facing the sun?  There were three ticket booths that were not usable!  There was no way to read the text.  I tried shielding the display with my hand, my body, my day pack and nothing worked.  Luckily there were two more ticket booths at train level upstairs that were oriented away from the sun.   I said, “How poorly designed, to have the ticket kiosks directly facing the sun” and a ticket agent sitting nearby said, “Tell me about it. Those went in six years ago and were planned to face the other way.  It’s been six years and nothing has been done to change them back.  You should be here for a game.”  He then took a ticket from his pocket and asked where we were going. “Arlington Station” I said.  He then showed how to add a fare to the ticket; in this case four of them: two out to Arlington and two returning to Riverside.  He said you can add more to the ticket as you need.  Any number of people can share one card.  He then activated the style for each of us and we boarded the inbound platform bound for Boston Gardens.

I know Arlington Station from my years as a teenager going to the Commons and Gardens to meet with like minded friends from all around the greater Boston area.  We would hang out on Charles Street at a cafe or lounge around the Commons.  It was a far more exciting place to be than my home town or Arlington, though we would also frequent Harvard Square.  I was curious to see if I would remember how to get around Boston.  The last time I visited the city on foot was 46 years ago.

The train from Riverside makes 17 stops on its way downtown.  It does take some time, though the train was near empty when it left and never became crowded.  We got off at Arlington and took the stairs up into brilliant sunlight and a very warm day.  Ellen immediately took her coat off.  I was toasty in my shirt.  Boston Gardens is a beautiful open space in the heart of the city just south of Beacon Hill and Boston Commons.  I remember swan boats on the small central lake, but there were none today.  Either they no longer ply the lake or they’ve been retired for the season.


Boston Gardens

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What a gorgeous day.  Many of the trees were in full color.  There were couples walking the grounds, students reading under trees, people on their lunch break enjoying a warm day outdoors. It felt like I had never left.  The city was no more crowded than I remembered, though there was significantly more traffic.  I found Charles Street easily; this was our hangout.  Jim, Frank, and I would while away Saturday afternoons in Brigham’s talking about whatever interested us.

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Charles Street, Boston

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Would any of the old haunts still be there?  Of course the buildings had not changed, but the store fronts were entirely different.  The Church of the Advent had not changed, though everything else had.  Brigham’s was still there, but it was now a Starbucks.  Hunger was setting in as we walked Charles Street. We passed a number of small restaurants and bars that were appealing, but settled on Fig’s Restaurant.  It was small and very busy.  The host ushered us in with, “Sit anywhere you like”  Ellen asked to be seated at the window and he said, “sit any place you like but not that table.”  It was a four-top.  Ellen asked to be seated at the bar and we began unloading our gear.  I swung my day pack off my back while Ellen placed her camera on the bar.  The host relented. “You have a lot of equipment and that is a very nice camera”, he said of my 400 mm lens.  “Go ahead and take the four top by the window.”

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That began a wonderful lunch.  Ellen ordered a beat salad and I had the basil Gnocchi, both were exceptional  What made the gnocchi especially good was the way they were placed in a bowl swimming in marinara sauce topped in the center with a mild cream and cheese sauce and flanked with fresh tomato and basil.  The dish avoided becoming boring; each bite was different than the last.


I highly recommend Figs Restaurant at 42 Charles Street.  The restaurant is small with bare brick walls and closely arranged tables.  The restaurant can get noisy.  That is a small price to pay for the quality of our lunch.

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We walked Charles Street as I recalled some infamous moments Jim and I shared in 1967 and 68 here on Charles Street.  We had fun together, Jim and I.


Boston Commons

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Some photos taken in the Commons

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The State House, Boston

From Charles Street we went back to Boston Commons to find the Freedom Trail.  We saw it marked on a typical tourist map and thought it would be interesting to follow.  What I did not expect was to find a brick path laid in the sidewalk with banners and trail markers along the way. It is quite an historic route winding past the State Building on Beacon Hill.


We walked and talked and followed the trail past King’s Chapel Cemetery, the oldest cemetery in Boston,  to the Old Meeting Hall where the Declaration of Independence was first read to the people of Boston, on to the site of the Boston Massacre, and to Faneuil Hall, and the Marketplace.

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King’s Chapel Cemetery

It was in the Marketplace that I saw Steamers on a menu. “Yes, we have steamers.”  Then “Well, let me check to be sure we still have some.”  And finally, “Yes, would you like an order?”   Wow, finally I can order some Steamers and beer in celebration of the afternoon I spent with my Mom the last time we were both in Boston together.  Then I had Steamers and beer a number of times as Mom and I walked around Boston and talked.  The beer was a small pour, but good.  The Steamers were all that I had expected.  Everyone makes noise about Maine Lobster.  I enjoy lobster, though I prefer steamed clams and Dungeness Crab by far.  I suppose I prefer Steamers to crab only because I’ve had so few clams and so much crab these past few years.


Faneuil Hall


The Old State House

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Details on the Old State House



On a Boston walk:








By now it was getting late.  We walked down to Christopher Columbus Park by the harbor, past Joe’s, then headed back to the Arlington Station and home.  Along the way we stopped into “Thinking Cup”, a coffee and pastry  shop and left with a berry rice pudding and a caramel cheesecake.  We found the Boylston Street outbound subway station. It was rush hour and the D-train headed to Riverside was crowded.  There was standing room only with more passengers added at the next few stops before the car half emptied out at Fenway. Past the Chestnut Hill Station, the train became an express going directly to Riverside. The pastry survived the trip intact.  Going home, traffic was heavy but flowed at a good clip. Our iPhone GPS apps guided us right back to Normandy Farms Campground.  I punched our code into the gate control and we zoomed in at 9 mph.  The Beast stood at site #1001 propped on his stabilizers, awaiting our return.   With a twist to turn the water on,  a push of the LP button, and some light switches we settled in for the night.

Site 1001 at Normandy Farms Campground has an opening through the trees to DirecTv’s satellites.  It is not perfectly flat, but it is close to the heated shower facilities with seemingly unlimited hot water and floors so clean you could eat off them.  We still have not visited the weight room, pool room, or indoor pool.

Tomorrow’s weather should mirror today’s.  Boston beacons, we will return to follow the Freedom Trail again tomorrow, starting where we left off today.   Jean O’Neil messaged us that the Museum of Science has a Pixar exhibit that presents the science/engineering behind the Pixar movies; we want to see that.  Old Ironsides is moored in Boston Harbor and that is something I want to visit.  Then there is Concord, Lexington, Arlington, and Cambridge yet to consider.

This morning I went over my Facebook posts since starting this road trip.  How easily we forget all the people and places we have visited when faced with the people and adventure each day holds.  What joy we have had!  What new adventure will unfold tomorrow?

Tonight the Northern Lights should be visible from Massachusetts!  This is quite unusual.  We’re in the country and should have a good view if in fact the phenomenon is visible.

November 4, 2015

Boston’s glow to the north masked any northern light sighting we might have had.  We tried.  Our PVR recorded last Friday’s Real Time with Bill Maher with he interview of Tulsi Gabbard a vice chair of the DNC and guest Grover Norquist author of the “The Pledge” that republicans have signed not to raise taxes in the future.  Caramel cheesecake enhanced the evening.

Today will be slightly cooler than yesterday, we will tour Concord, Lexington, Arlington, Hav’ad Squa’ya, and the Pixar exhibit at the Science Museum if we get that far today.

R & E




New Boston NH to the Mohawk Trail Mass

Milton, New Hampshire

We stayed at Friendly Beaver Campground near New Boston.  The temperature dropped quickly after dark.  I pulled the water hose inside and ran the tank heaters overnight.  The temperature had dropped to 27 degrees around 8 am.  The sky was overcast and threatening rain.  There are any number of routes we could take to get from New Boston to Charlemont Massachusetts on the Mohawk Trail.   Ellen and our GPS agreed that we should go south through Milford NH.



Downtown Milford New Hampshire

Milford is a much larger town than we had expected after seeing New Boston and other “towns”.  Yes, it was cold and cloudy, but we had to walk the town and perhaps have lunch at a cafe.


Main bridge over the Souhegan River


The Souhegan River looking North


The Souhegan Park, Milford NH

Most small towns in New England were founded on rivers or lakes.  Milford is no different.  It sides astride the Souhegan River.  If you walk across the bridge heading out of town, there is a wonderful park to your left. We walked the park, then went back into town.


1794! History Abounds in New England

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Eagle Hall, Milford New Hampshire

Local news reported that the foliage in the Merrimack Valley was at peak now.  The foliage turned a week or two later than typical this year.  The trees turn color when the temperature drops near or below freezing.  Record high summer like temperatures three weeks ago delayed fall.  We are now in the grip of a cold front pushing in from Canada.


We held off choosing where to have lunch until we had walked the town oval.  We happened by “the best pizza in New England” and had to stop in.  It was empty but for a couple waiting for their order. Anthony walked out from the back and asked, “Can I help you?”.  we talked about their pizza, the shop, and the town a bit.  Ellen noticed an “Eat in or take and bake” sign and asked about taking a pizza to go.  We settled on a fresh tomato pizza with added red peppers and pepperoni.  Anthony said he would hold off making the pizza for 45 minutes and that we could pick the pizza up later.  No need to pay for it now!   I won’t be here then, my sister will make your pizza. Great!  Off we went in search for lunch.  The pizza would go in our ‘fridge for dinner later.


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The Best Pizza in New England!?!

We looked for a prominently advertised Union Street Grill, but couldn’t find it.  Ellen stopped two women and asked about the restaurant.  One pointed out the location, almost out of town, the last building on the left.  Then she said, ” we’re going to the diner for lunch and they have good.”  We parted ways and found the Union Street Grill and noticed only one couple at a table. We decided to skip this one and headed off to the diner.



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Lunch at the Red Arrow Diner, Milford

We ate at the diner, though the tavern below the diner and under the bridge would have been a better choice.  They’re co-owned and share the same menu.  The diner is a typical 40’s place where the tavern has a warmer vibe.  Oh, and the tavern has a full bar.


The Tavern below the Diner

Back at Foodies, Abigail made the pizza for us while we talked with the owner.  He had owned two pizza places, but bad management at his other store forced him to close it.  He has the one shop.  The pizza arrived, looking great heaped high with cheese.  Then Abigail realized she had forgotten the pepperoni!  She took the pizza back and returned with the pizza piled higher with cheese! It was huge.  Our conversation with the owner wound down and I made to pay for the pizza.  He said, “I thought you had paid already!”.  “No.”  He then gave us two free sodas: one Lime Rickey and one Root Beer.

Heading out of town, we passed a still pond and we took these photos.  There’s a small commemorative park alongside the pond.

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At a Small Park aside a Pond South of Milford

Driving along there were cones on the road and signs stating “Beware Of Runners”.  Further on, Ellen saw a covered bridge to our right.  A great place to U-turn appeared on my left and we headed back to find Potanipo Lake in Brookline New Hampshire.  There’s plenty of parking near a boat ramp on the lake.  The covered bridge is over a stream that runs into the lake.   There were a number of people milling about that appeared to had just finished running a race.  There was a cone at the end of a smaller bridge that served as the turn-around point for runners.  As we walked to the bridge a number of runners turned around the cone and ran off.  Ron asked a woman, “How long is the race?”  She said, “one hundred miles, or whatever you want to do!”.  “how far are you going?”  She answered, “A measly forty five miles.”

It was a chilly day for a race….

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Potanipo Lake, Brookline New Hampshire

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Pedestrian Bridge, Brookline New Hampshire


Foliage at the Lake

Some time later we drove into Massachusetts.  SR 31 through New Hampshire is a wonderful road.  It’s smooth with minimal bumps or repaired potholes.  Not so for the first dozen miles or so in Massachusetts.  The road was horrible with an extremely high crown and bumps, shimmies, and shakes.  On par with roads in Indiana.

Some miles later the road smoothed out, but the high crown remained for much longer.   We skirted Fitchburg taking SR 2 west toward Miller’s Falls, Shelbourne Falls, and the Mohawk Trail.

Into Massachusetts, Townsend 1732!

As usual, most of the campgrounds along our route were closed.  Even those listed as closing in late October had closed.  There was one campground that listed November 1 as their last day open.  Ellen called and yes they are open and yes they have sites for a 24 foot RV.  We continued on SR 2 to Charlemont Mass. and the Country Aire Campground.    Art and Lisa greeted us and checked us into a site with clear view to the south, cable, water, and electricity for $25.  We opted to stay two nights.  There are a number of small towns along the Deerfield River to explore.  We’re not due to meet Ed O’Neil until Monday and we’re less than an hour away.

Setup went quickly.  We pre-heated the convection oven to 375, placed the pizza directly on the glass carousel, and popped it into the oven.  Instructions suggest cooking for 12-15 minutes until the cheese freckles.  It took longer than 15 minutes, but finally sometime after the cheese melted it began to freckle.  It was tricky getting the pizza in the oven and again getting it out, but all went perfectly.  The pizza was perfectly done.  The crust was crisp and crunchy, the toppings cooked through and very hot.  It was a great pizza.  We’ll cook many more in the convection oven.

That night it rained cats and dogs.  The temperature hovered around 44 degrees. We were snug in The Beast.  We ushered out another Wonderful Day, looking forward to our next day’s adventure.

Meredith to New Boston NH

Meredith Woods Campground



Our Campsite #219

We held off leaving Meredith Woods Campground in the hopes that the part for The Beast would arrive.  James ordered shipped next day.  In the wilds ofo New Hampshire, next day can become “next few days”.  We couldn’t wait past 2 pm and headed off.   With the Keene Pumpkin Festival moved to Laconia, Meredith Woods Campground was sold out for the weekend!


Indoor Heated Pool and Jacuzzi

Our goal is to arrive Ed O’Neil’s place on Monday.  The distance is short.  we thought we’d take some back roads through New Boston and on to the Mohawk Trail before dropping gown to Amherst.

New Boston, NH



From Meredith Woods we took SR 104 west to I-93 south.  Both roads are smooth and a great ride.  104 is a two lane road with little traffic. From I-93 we took SR 13, SR 77, SR 114, and SR 77.  These roads are two lane with surprisingly little traffic.  A bonus, they’re in very good condition and go through beautiful scenery; over rivers and along creeks and streams, through very small towns.

New Boston is a very small town.  We stopped in the town center looking for a market or grocery store.  I asked a woman who had left the lodge where I might find a market in town.   She said, “We don’t have a market in town.”  The nearest grocery store is in Milford about 20 minutes away.”

Friendly Beaver Campground, NH

We called Robert at Friendly Beaver Campground, our stop for the evening, to make a reservation.  Ellen asked if there was a market nearby and Robert said he had some supplies at the store: eggs, bread, milk, some meat.  OK we’re good for the night we celebrated and headed off to find Friendly Beaver.  Again the GPS miss-located the campground and we made a few U-turns before finding it.  It is about a quarter of a mile further up Old Coach road than the GPS thinks it is.

While checking in, I asked if they could recommend a local restaurant.  I had not seen a single eatery driving in!  “Yes, you’ll find Molly’s Tavern if you drive back down Old Coach Road and go south.  That’s a left.  You can’t miss it.”  We had come in from the north.   The food the store stocked was not super fresh.  We opted to drive to Molly’s Tavern.  That was a great decision.

Molly’s Tavern, New Boston NH

Molly’s Tavern sits on SR 13 south of New Boston and you cannot miss it.  There are two buildings, the restaurant and the tavern. Walking from The Beast, the scent of burning wood filledl the air. We stopped a waitress as she was entering the tavern and asked what the difference was between the two.  They offer and identical menu, but the tavern has a bar.  if you order drinks in the restaurant they’re brought from bar.  Then she said, “Oh and the Tavern has a fireplace.  The restaurant doesn’t.”  It was cold and the thought of sitting by a fireplace won out.

We ordered the specials: Ellen, the stuffed jumbo prawns; Ron, the filet with asparagus.  The food was good, but sitting by the fireplace was wonderful.  Over the course of our meal, the Tavern filled.  This was clearly the place for the locals to go for a fun time out on a Friday evening.

We drove back up the hill and settled in for the evening.  Site #206 has a clear view of the south.  we had no trouble with sat. reception.  Bill Maher is on vacation; Real time was a re-broadcast of Bernie Sander’s interview et. al.

The next morning we saw just how many others were camping late in the fall in New Hampshire.  The campground was not full, but it was far from empty. The 200’s section was about half full.  The beauty of camping in the off season in New England is availability.  You never have to worry about getting a reservation at a campground.  It’s the number of campgrounds that have closed after Columbus day that is the problem.  Still, we have been able to find an open campground almost everywhere we went.  The one exception was south of Portland Maine where we resorted to an Elks Lodge and Boondocking and even that was not a hardship.



Along the way south from New Boston, NH

New Boston was a trip.  It is a very isolated sleepy little town, but it is beautiful. We were happy to push on into Massachusetts the following day.


south of New Boston


Walt, Plymouth NH, 27 degrees

Walt lives in Lebanon NH, very close to our campsite yesterday.  We thought we’d meet at Meredith NH, on Lake Winnipesaukee, but chose to meet at Plymouth, NH.   We broke camp, chatted with Carl and Olivia, filled our propane tank, and headed to Plymouth.  Our propane tank measured 1/4 full, but only took a bit over 5 gallons of propane.  We have a 13 gallon propane tank, so says the view specifications.  Why it registers 1/4 full when we have more than half left is a puzzle.  Either our tank is less than 13 gal. or we can run the tank down to an empty reading and still have 1/4 tank left.  Then again, there are any number of other things that can be at play.  The View does not have through-tank sensors, but they are mounted on the side of the tank and may not be super accurate.

We arrived in Plymouth rather quickly.  It was down-hill and a short 22 mile drive.  As usual, we drove through the town looking for likely places to park, U-turned, and parked in the RR-station parking lot.  There’s lots of level parking there.


While we we parking, we notice an odd thing.  There were a number of older fellows milling about the tracks holding cameras at the ready.  A short time later a train pulled into the closed station!  There were four passenger cars with a pusher engine.  We joined the photographic frenzy.  I actually thought for a moment that Bernie Sanders might disembark!

The engine uncoupled, pulled around the cars, and re-coupled at the other end. Then some of the spectators headed to the cars and boarded.  The coach captain walked over and invited us all aboard.  Ellen hopped out of Li’l Beast and followed the captain back to the car and hopped aboard.  He said that an engineering society had preserved the train as it would have been in its heyday.  One car was setup as a private car.  A wealthy individual would have owned or rented such a car. The other cars were setup as a lounge with plush overstuffed chairs and a grand piano.


As Ellen went aboard she said she was not a member of the engineering society.  The captain said, “But I’m sure you have engineered your live quite well. Welcome aboard!”.


Later Ellen learned that it was the Plymouth historical society that preserved the train.  It runs between Plymouth and Lincoln and Meredith now and then; junkets for members and dignitaries.

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We continued on to main street and recognized Walt walking toward us a few blocks later.  We grabbed a cup of coffee, then walked to “The Common Man Inn and Spa”.   Walt had left his jacket in his truck and went back to get it.  Ellen and I waited outside a head shop that was warm and pretty busy.  It’s located near the college.  We waited and waited, no Walt.  Still waiting, up drove a blue truck with Walt at the wheel.  “The hotel is over a mile away, I thought we should drive”, said he.  We piled in and were; off to the inn.

The Common Man Inn and Spa is another not to be missed “landmark”.  It is an old wood working building converted and expanded into an inn.  The entry opens into the gift shop.  We walked to the counter to ask where the restaurant is and before we could get a word out, the woman at the counter asked, “Are you with the wedding?  The shuttle is here.”  We joked with her with a “Yes, if they’ll have us.”  Then asked for the restaurant.

The bar/restaurant is three stories and has a herb garden and outside seating on a lawn on the third floor roof!  The huge boiler that was used to burn discarded remnants now is a wine cellar and seating for 12 diners at a long table.  The Inn is open year round.  We had drinks, and great conversation over a relatively uninteresting lunch, then decamped to the fireplace in the souvenir/gift shop.  As we were talking, the wedding party returned to warm themselves.  The bride and groom took front and center in front of the fireplace.  We chose to leave them to themselves and  walked away.

The Common Man Inn and Spa

The day went too quickly.  Back at home, Walt thought The Beast was a perfect size for us.  We spend a bit more time getting warm before Walt left to go back home, Lebanon.  We had such a good time with Walt, we forget to take any photos of the three of us or of the inn!  Thanks Walt for a great (if short) visit.  You’re always welcome, come visit in California some time.

We drove back toward Lincoln, found that the KOA, Woodstock was open and camped there for the night.  Again,, they closed the next day.  This is the fourth time we have closed a campground.


This morning, Sunday 10/18/2015, It was 27 degrees.  Our water hose was partially frozen and water pressure was zip.  Tomorrow it will be colder and I’ll disconnect our hose.  I can’t wait for Indian summer!

The Flume, Franconia Notch, New Hampshire

Today was another, simply amazing day (10/16/15)


the Flume, F

It was raining this morning.  It was a light rain, more a drizzle, but it was wet, cold, and overcast. Perfect weather for photography and hiking?  No.  Still, we drove north from Country Bumpkins Campground toward Franconia to check the area out and drive through some of the local towns.  Going north we saw the turn-out for The Flume ahead and I turned in.  I remember visiting this landmark with mom and dad when I was barely a teenager.  I figured we could visit the information center, get some info, and continue north.


The information center has changed!  Not only is it the entry to the state park, but it has a souvenir shop AND a restaurant!  It is much more developed than I remember fifty years ago.  It was still raining and/or spitting when we entered the information center.  We looked around some then went to the information desk.  Ellen asked a disarming question, not your typical how long how far sort of thing, and we immediately had rapport.  Ellen asked about tomorrow’s weather and it did not look good.  Today was the better day to walk The Flume.

We went back to The Beast and changed for rain.  While we were changing, the sun popped out from behind a cloud.  Great! We headed in to buy tickets.  We delayed taking photos out front and delayed sufficiently for a bus load of “tourists” to head in behind us.  Now don’t get me wrong, we are all “tourists”, it’s just that I hate being trapped in a sea of people disgorged from a bus.  There can be fifty or a hundred people milling about.  It makes photography challenging.


After we got our tickets we filed to the entrance to the 2 mile walk along with the bus load just as a torrent of rain fell.  The bus load waited under the eves, we pushed past as the rain diminished and started our walk.

If you are visiting the Franconia Notch area, visit The Flume.  It is exhilarating to be out doors and walking.  If you enjoy photography, the contract between shadow and sunlight makes for challenging photography, and the flume is an amazing geological formation.


We dawdled at the first covered bridge long enough for “the hoard” to catch up.  We continued to dawdle and never saw them again.  The two mile walk typically takes an hour.  It took us 2 1/2-3 hours as we enjoyed our walk through forest then along a gorge and by a waterfall.  About half way through our walk the rain subsided and the sun poked through the clouds.   What joy! We took our time meandering through the park and soaking in the streaming sunshine.


We were told it would take about an hour to walk the Flume.  It took us a bit over four hours.  We walked, talked, explored Ellen’s camera features, and had a blast.  It was past four pm when we arrived at the gift shop/restaurant for a hot dog.  They were just ok.  The ones at the cog railway are much better.  We stopped by the gift shop and saw the same balsam sachets that were available at the top of Mt Washington.  I considered getting one there, but the price was pretty high.  On the way down the cog, I regretted my decision.  The scent of balsam is so Christmasie. There they were and we took one away with us.  It sits beside me now filling The Beast with the scent of fall and Christmas.  It is wonderful.DSC06523

As we were walking out we met Carl and Olivia coming in.  They’re the Surrey couple we had met at Country Bumpkins.  They went to Echo Lake before heading here.  I asked if there was an echo and Carl admitted they didn’t want to make a spectacle of themselves and had not tried.

We went looking for the towns of Franconia, Lincoln, and Woodstock.  Though the towns were founded in the 1700’s, none are particularly memorable.  There is an Iron works in Franconia that is noteworthy, though the town lacks the charm of Littleton or the industry of St Johnsburg. We went back to our campsite at Country Bumpkins.

Country Bumpkin Campground

I highly recommend stopping at Country Bumpkins if you are looking for a campsite in Lincoln New Hampshire.  This is our second evening here.  We changed sites as the one we were at is reserved for this evening.  At our new site, we have a good view to the south for sat reception, but the electric box and the water spigot are about thirty five feet apart!  We have the hose and electric cable to make this happen.  Still it is a strange setup.  After connecting and checking level, I fired up the Winegard Sat Antenna.  IT buzzed and whirred for a very long time before settling on the satellites.  OK.  The DirecTV receiver saw a problem connecting to the antenna. There was a small tree directly in the path the antenna had selected for sat reception.  No Problem.  I’ll just pull back about a foot and that should move the tree out of the way.  Trouble is, we had very little slack in the water hose.  Backing up a foot is possible, but not two feet.   With Ellen’s help, we backed up a foot and sat reception is all good.



This evening we  took  long showers, luxurious shower at the campsite.  There are only four showers, 2 men’s and 2 women’s.  They have those old dorm shower heads that are usually not so good, but with the water pressure they have, it was great.  Also their internet access is quite fast.  At other campsites I’ve seen transfer rates as low as 180 Kbps.  At Country Bumpkin bursts of 2.4 Mbps are not unusual.

Tomorrow we may head off on a side-trip to meet with Walt.  Walt lives in Lebanon NH.  We’ll chose someplace roughly mid-way and spend a day before heading east to Conway NH.  We have a rendezvous with a zip line on the way.

If I have not mentioned it before, Ellen is getting to know her new camera.  At least half of the photos posted on our blog since we left for New England are her’s.  I’m encouraging her to use manual to learn how to handle difficult light situations where auto just cannot cut-it.  Her camera has so many modes and options that it will take some time to be comfortable with all its features.


The Cog Railroad, Mt Washington, New Hampshire


The Cog Railroad on a Clear Day

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If you are in the Mt Washington State Park in New Hampshire, you would do well to take a ride on the Cog Railway to the top of Mt Washington.  Do this on a clear day, and you will be rewarded with some of the most magnificent vistas east of the Mississippi.  Be warned Mt Washington creates its own weather.  It may be warm at the base station and it could be snowing on top.  Today it was 54 degrees in the sun at base and with wind chill, -11 degrees at the top!

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The Cog Steam Engine Returns from the Top of Mt Washington

Each day one steam driven train sets out at 9:15 am.  The remaining trains are all bio-diesel. The steam train was booked for today, 10/15.   We figured the other trains couldn’t be booked, it was after Columbus Day after all.  We left at a comfortable time this morning, around 9:30, which is early for us.

Ammonoosuc Camground

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We drove the 12 miles from Ammonoosuc Campgrounds to the cog base station.  The base station road runs east from 302.  We had been warned that some GPS units will route you to the wrong side of Mt Washington!  We saw practically no other vehicle on our drive to the station.  Parking was easy, though I was surprised at the number of cars.  We parked in the third lot down from upper parking!  At the ticket office we were told, “I can get you on the 2:30 train.”  ???  It was 10:10 am.  The Cog Railway was BUSY!  The gal said, “Oh wait, I can get you two on the 12:30, be at platform A at 12:00”.   Now I would recommend ordering tickets ahead of time on-line.  The Cog Railway:  more information


The Original Steam Engine

Two hours can make a huge difference.  At 10 am the skies were clear, it was cold in the shade with a bit of a breeze at the base.   The weather in the presidential range is notorious, it can change drastically in a few hours.  The world recorded wind speed of 253 MPH was set in 2010 on the top of Mt Washington.  The mountain creates its own weather.

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Climbing Mt Washington, the Presidential Range New Hampshire

Mt Washington’s cog railway is the first one built in the world. It runs from the base at 2100 feet to the top at 6288 feet.  It has an average grade of 25% with a maximum of 37.4%.  It was first operational in 1868 and has been in constant operation since, but with regularly upgraded equipment.    still more information

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Looking Back


We explored the train station, walked around outside, and had lunch at the restaurant.  In the museum we saw a very interesting video loop describing the history of the railway and the technology.  Delayed, we were far back in the embarkation line and sat toward the back of the single car.  There are no bad seats, though the seats at the front of the car both ascending and descending are the best.  The car brakeman, Andrew, regaled us with stories and jokes about the railway, the car’s design, the tracks, and sights we passed.  He mentioned that New Hampshire’s famous “the Old Man in the Mountain”  collapsed.  His name was changed to “Cliff”.   see this composite image


The ride to the top goes quickly. It does not feel like an hour ride.  About half way up the tracks double up and up and down bound trains pass each other.   The air temperature grows much colder nearer the top and the wind picks up on the ridge.

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When we left the base it was 54 degrees.  At the top the temp was -11 with wind chill.  It was cold.   The warming hut I thought I remembered from 40 years ago, is no more.  Perhaps I’m remembering the Tip Top Hut.  Today there is a large warm building that houses a restaurant, a gift shop, and a hiker’s information desk.  We headed inside right away waiting for the crowd outside to disperse; some boarding the trains back down the mountain, others milling about until the cold got the better of them.  In a short time we went back outside to explore in relative peace.

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We saw a glider decouple from its plane and soar below us.  We marveled at the vista of fall colors.  The trees to the north were past peak while the trees to the south looked to be peaking.  There was significantly more red color to the south.

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The Tip Top House


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Inside the Tip Top House


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We were freezing.  We popped into a small hut to warm up and found ourselves in a small souvenir nut.  The scent of pine filled the hut.  Ellen found a sweat shirt she liked and I came very close to buying a balsam pillow.  Once we warmed up, we headed back to the main building for cocoa and apple cider.  The hiker’s desk was not busy.  I asked about Tuckerman’s Ravine and we were off.  Kevin and I discussed Tuckerman’s, skiing Mt Washington, the east coast, Tahoe, new skis designs, snow quality.  We had a great time until we noticed the queue for the train down the mountain.  This time we were at the end of the line and were separated on the ride down.  It was no problem, Ellen sat behind me and often warmed my ears.  There really is no bad seat on the car.  The views on the way down were stellar.  The skies were clear, though we had seen clouds blowing past the mountain top.

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Descending, can you find Ellen?

We thawed out at the bottom, both agreeing that this day was “awesome”.  Remembering the chili the restaurant served for lunch, we visited the base station restaurant to find gaping holes in the counter where the soup and chili pots had been.  No Problem, the counter guy said, we have lots.  We bought two pints to heat for dinner later.  Next, in the gift shop I mentioned in an off hand way that I’d like to see a moose in the flesh.  A local standing beside me told me where I might find some Moose, their habits, and Ellen mentioned the declining moose population caused by ticks.  We were off on a wide ranging discussion about: climate change, life style, ticks (his dog never had an issue with ticks until three years ago, now he sees deer ticks all the time, some moose have over a thousand ticks on them and they’re anemic) and population growth as the cause of “it all”.  People have the time to stop and engage in conversation here.  Is it just New York and New England?  I’ll pay closer attention as we work our way back west in four or six weeks.

We headed toward Franconia Notch thinking we could get south of the notch and setup camp before nightfall.   On the way we stopped at a road-side outlook.

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There are a number of campsites in and around the notch and more than a few to the north and south.  We settled on “Country Bumpkins” in Lincoln.  They are open through the end of October (the owner said; not really, they close next week).  They have a variety of options for hookups from full to electric only, they have WiFi, and cable.


Setting up camp is usually as simple as pushing an electric plug into a socket, screwing a water filter into a spigot, quick-connecting our water hose to the filter and to the RV, and pushing out the slide-out.  In warmer weather we might pull out an outdoor mat, chairs, and a BBQ and unfurl the awning, but when it’s cold less is more.  In the cold we are quickly mobile; breaking camp can be done in a flash.

As usual, we drove past the campsite, turned around, and checked in.  There was a couple from England ahead of us.  Carl and his GF flew from Surrey to Boston and rented an RV for two weeks to tour New Hampshire and Massachusetts.   We had a good time talking about our trips, his work (an architect), and the future.  Carl was fascinated to think that he could just drop everything and be an RV nomad full time.  He’s been bitten by the romance of the open road and the beauty of New England in the fall.


We’re now snug in The Beast, the heater is workin’ away,


Up the next morning to the patter of light rain.  It’s overcast but not raining now.  We’ll stay another day at Country Bumpkin Campground.  The site we were at last night, #38, is taken tonight.  Amy wrote out a list of available sites, we walked the campground and chose #26.  26 has a clear view to the south.

Amy is a warm caring woman.  She’s fun and it is easy to while away half an hour simply chatting with her.  Amy’s warmth extends to the campground.  It is nestled in a small wooded valley with a creek flowing through the campground that flows into a river.  They have Country Bumpkin photo walls.  You know the type, a painting of two or three people with oval head cut-outs.  You put your head in the oval and you’ve got your very own country bumpkin photo.  The campground office closes at 9 pm; quite late for an RV campground. The campground is closing for the year this Sunday, 10/18, with no overnight camping on Sunday.  Campground availability is closing down.

Amy said she and her family stay year-round.  She starts taking reservations for 2016 in January.

Today we’ll visit the towns of Franconia, Lincoln and Woodstock, maybe take the walk to The Flume weather permitting.


Smuggler’s Notch, Vermont

What a wonderful three days.


It started slowly, with an unfulfilled promise of good weather.  It was 35 deg last night and overcast mid-morning.  We felt no urgency in getting moving. Morning cappuccino was great, some local news featuring presidential candidates was amusing, and we finished working on our blog for the day.  We set off late as usual, thinking today would be a bust.  With overcast skies and flat light, photography was out.  We had hoped to take the gondola to the top of Mt Mansfield, but with the weather and cold we decided not to.

Morrisville, Vermont

We turned onto the business loop through Morrisville from SR 100 and just had to stop for photos.  In the hour we spend waking fields to find that “perfect shot”,  the sun started to peak out and some of the overcast burned off.  When we got back in “the Beast” it was clear, we’d continue on to the gondola for a “look see”.







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Stowe, Vermont

I forgot to take the spur that avoids “downtown” Stowe.  We wasted about twenty minutes creeping through town, and enjoying the sites, before we turned right onto SR 108 and resumed a normal clip of 40 mph.  By now the weather was warming and the sun was on and off as clouds drifted by overhead.


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Climbing toward the notch, we saw signs for the “Scenic Toll Road”.  We both though that would be cool and we took the turnoff to the left for the toll road.   We were greeted by a footman who explained that the road was extremely narrow and curvy and that we could not make it up the road with “this traffic”.  Not wanting to be crass nor wanting to find myself in an untenable situation, I agreed that it would be best not to take the “Scenic Route”.  We turned around (an accomplishment in itself) and continued up SR 108.

Seinic Toll Road, Smuggler’s Notchch

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Sometime later we saw gondolas running overhead and turned right toward their source.  WRONG.  We turned into the Stowe Mountain Resort, a posh inn with valet parking and their own gondola to the base of Mt Mansfield.  I wondered if anyone thought we’d valet park “the Beast”.  Again we were back on SR 108, but this time we simply drove through the circular dive.

The third time is the charm.  The next entryway to the left from Stowe Mountain Resort is the entrance to Mt Mansfield’s gondola and is the main entrance to the ski resort in-season.  The entry way faces the gondola lift to the top of the mountain.  Again we were greeted by a footman who asked if we were her for the gondola ride.  “Yes”, we answered and we were told that the gondola had failed and was not in operation.  The diesel generator was running the gondolas at slow speed to bring passengers down the mountain.  Nobody was going up.  We saw groups walking down the mountain.  Strike Two!

We made the most of it.  We walked the lower ski slopes and took some “OK” photos.

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We continued up SR 108 toward the notch.  Some time later we saw two granite cliffs facing each other.  This is “the notch”.  SR 108 runs up between these two escarpments.  A short time after we had our first dramatic view of the notch, a glaring flashing sign notified us that no trailers are allowed beyond this point.   Well, we are not a trailer so we’re good to go.  On we went.  The road continued upwards with a 40 mps speed limit, that decreased to 30, and then lower.  The road narrowed, became extremely twisty, with the added joy of parked cars lining both sides of the street, some not entirely off the street.   There were more than a few places where two cars could not pass, one had to wait for the other to go.  The Beast is narrow for an RV and could easily negotiate the road, but it was a challenge with other drivers on the road.  In two instances I near panicked as oncoming drivers apparently did not now where the side of their car was.  More than a few couples walking the roadside watched me pass with a dumbfounded look.  Ours was the only RV I saw today past the “no trailers allowed” sign.   The Smuggler’s Notch drive is not to be taken lightly.  There are more than a few places where the road is a single lane hair-pin steep up-hill 180 degree turn.   An inattentive or inadequate driver would be disastrous on this road as would an over-confident driver of an 18 wheeler.

As we approached the pass, it became clear that we would not find a place to park along the road or in the small trail head parking at the top.  We continued past the pass and down into the next valley.  The road was steep, I selected a low gear using the brakes as little as I could.  Cars backed up behind.  I selected a turnout to stop and let them by.  This was not a scenic overlook, but a small turnout.  Surprisingly, the SUV immediately behind me turned in with me.  After about a dozen cars passed by, my follower turned out too and I followed.  No less than 200 feet down the road, there was a dirt road to the right and I took it.  My thought was, maybe this road opens onto great views.  It was the entrance into parking lot 1 for the Smuggler’s Notch Ski resort.

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The parking lot was heavily rutted and slow going all the way in, but the views were spectacular. There was a standing map of ski routes ahead of us, a yurt to our right, and ski runs heading up-mountain to our right.  We disembarked and separated camera in hand.  While I was orienting myself, two woman hiked down a ski trail and into the parking lot.  We exchanged “Hi’s”, and talked about hiking up-mountain.  I had not gone far from Li’l Beast and one of the woman noticed our CA license plates and putting it together asked, “Are you from California?” That started another conversation about how beautiful Vermont is and what California is like.  With their encouragement, Ellen and I headed up the ski trails in search of dramatic views.  There were many.

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It was late and we allowed ourselves 30 minutes to hike up-hill before turning back.  The slope we walked was heavy with moisture.  There were running streams and mud in some areas, firm ground in others.  It was steep and slow going, but rewarding.  I can only imagine what skiing would be like on these slopes.  With the densely packed trees, tree-skiing would be out of the question here.  It is amazing how slow we walk and how fast we can ski downhill.  We returned to the Beast comfortably exhausted and happy to have left the crowds and found a peaceful retreat of our own.

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I considered driving further down to the valley and trying to find a way to Morristown, but Ellen had talked to a woman in the parking lot who said there was no quick way around the mountains to get back to Morristown.  The best way was back through the notch!  Back through the notch we went.  Traffic was less severe, though there were a few cars parked half way off the road making progress challenging.  On one hair-pin turn I had to stop and wait for a long string of cars and motorcycles to pass before the path around the rocky outcropping was safe to turn past.  A low gear by itself was insufficient, I had to brake repeatedly to be safe on the descent trading off brake wear and heat with engine braking when I could.   It was fun for me and other drivers were not a problem in this direction.


We returned to the valley hungry.  Should we head back to the Mountain View Campground and cook, or find something to eat “in town”.  In town won out.  I remembered the woman at the campground’s desk had recommended McCarthy’s Restaurant and remembered driving past it on the way out.  Off we went to find that the restaurant is open from 6:30 Am to 2:00 Pm serving breakfast and lunch only.  That didn’t work.  We discussed what we would like to eat and kept coming back to sushi or Thai.  The nearest Thai restaurant is in Montpelier, not happening.   We remembered passing Sushi Yoshi on the way out and back.  It was a sushi and Chinese restaurant, a strange mix.  I thought we’d be risking it, going for sushi in Vermont, but we did.


We chose to sit at the sushi bar, we were the only ones at the bar.  Talking with the sushi chefs, I tried to order Hamachi Sashimi, but they looked dumbly at me.  Yellow Tail sashimi they understood and we settled on two orders of  Hamachi, two spicy tuna rolls, a lobster roll, a unagi hand roll for Ellen, and avocado salad.  All were amazing and some of the best sushi I’ve had.  The lobster roll was very good, though the delicate flavor of the lobster got lost in the other flavors.  There are six reviews for Sushi Yoshi online, some of them two star.   My experience was so different that I wonder what the “two star” people ordered.   The sushi and sashimi were fresh, excellently prepared, and scrumptious (if you like sushi).

Sushi Yoshi’s Website

Again we returned to Mountain View Campground well after sunset.  It’s no problem setting up the water and electric connections.  Tonight we’ll forego the sewer line.  We setup, hoisted the Winegard antenna, turned on the local HD antenna, downloaded our video and photos, and settled in.  I played guitar for a while as Ellen looked over today’s photos.  Then as I looked over mine,  Ellen grabbed my throw while watching a TV show, leaving me with a crummy blanket.  We have been looking for comfortable throws that don’t shed lint or fabric for a while now.  I found one I liked last week; Ellen is still looking.  It was surprising to see Ellen wrapped in MY throw.  Bummer, but I’m happy she’s happy.  We’ll have to find a throw for her, and soon.

Tonight we watched the season opener of “the Good Wife” in off-air HD, and now “Homeland” on direcTv.

Stowe Vermont, Fall Foliage, Mountain View Campgound.

Stowe Vermont

The Beast & Dirt Roads

Our campsite is available for another two nights and we’re staying.   It was cold this morning.  The day was nearly schizophrenic; it was comfortably warm in the sun and downright cold in the shade.  We met our neighbor, Jean Franscios, who is an IT guy working for a tech company in Montreal.  We chatted with Jean some then headed off to Stowe.

Mountain View Campground, Stowe Vermont

The campsites at Mountain View Campground are nothing special. They are flat with full hookups and a clear view to the south for Sat TV, but they provide little privacy, the bathroom heat is inadequate to the task, there is hot water though I did not use their shower after seeing how water pressure dropped in the morning.   The main reason we’re staying is its proximity to Stowe and the surrounding area.

The folks running the campsite are very nice and always available, if needed.

Today we explored side roads north of Stowe.  We were surprised when the paved road became dirt, but we drove on.  We avoided a dirt road named “Mud City Loop” and turned back when the two lane dirt road we were on funneled into a single nasty looking lane.  The roads wound through pastures and farm land between colorful rolling hills.   Northern New York and Vermont have an idyllic feel to them in the fall.


Dave had mentioned that “the Mountain Road” was the place to find a restaurant for lunch or dinner.   The Mountain Road is the local name for state route 108.  After our tour north of Stowe, we drove to the town of Stowe.  Three main roads lead into Stowe; 100 North, 100 South, and 108.  All three were bumper-to-bumper with slow moving traffic.  It’s Columbus Day Weekend and an Arts and Craft Fair drew a crowd.  We looked for likely places to park “the Beast” as we crept through town then drove out on 108.  We found a small parking lot on the north side of 108 just out of town and parked easily.  This is a great place to park an RV.  The walk back to Stowe’s town center is short and there’s enough room for a forty footer or two.  We had lunch at Rimrock’s Mountain Tavern.  Ellen had the New England Clam Chowder and an Apple and walnut salad.  I had a Chicken Caesar Wrap with Cajun fries.  All the food was great.  The Cajun fries were very spicy.


Off the Beaten Path

Central Stowe is quintessential Vermont.  it is a very small and easily walkable. The homes around the town are set on acres of land, some set into trees in the rolling hills, others on pastures in the valleys.  It would be a tranquil place without the hoards that descend on the weekends.  Distances in Vermont, New Hampshire and Massachusetts are short.  It is not unusual for families to drive from Boston to summer homes in Vermont every weekend.  Stowe has grown over the years as tourist impact on the town has grown.  There are now numerous restaurants serving weekenders.  I hope to talk to a few old-time residents and ask how changes in the town have changed their lives if at all.  Does the influx of money, economic growth, and higher real estate prices benefit them?  Is the traffic congestion “downtown” drive them crazy?  Do they live far enough from downtown that weekend madness is not an issue?  Lots to consider.

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I like Stowe.  There’s a home on the market that could easily be converted to a B&B.   I would never run a B&B myself.  I have no problem considering setting up a B&B as a business; hiring managers/caretakers, setting up reservation systems online, budgeting income and expenses. That could be fun.  I took a photo of the property on an iPhone, posted below (sorry about the reflection in the glass window).


Potential B&B?

It is now the next morning, 10/11.  Yesterday was a short day; we left our campsite late and returned late.  We missed sunset while getting diesel and restoring our supplies.  Luckily it is very easy to setup and tear down “camp”.  Often we just connect or disconnect a hose and electric cable, then run down our “pre-flight” check-list.  I always take a walk-around to be sure we’re good to go before starting the engine.   We’re starting that process now with plans to visit the gondola to the top of Mansfield Mountain and perhaps drive to Smuggler’s Notch.

Here are a few photos we took in and around Stowe yesterday.


Off the Main Road, Stowe Vermont

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