30 June 2008

Hail yes!

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Since we were so close to our first morning's event and it didn't open until 10 AM, we took our time this morning. We ate our breakfast at the Hampton and on the way out of the parking lot we saw NASCAR driver Carl Edwards' car trailer. This weekend's race would be in New Hampshire. This was exciting for me but Kim could have cared less. I kind of like Carl (he's tall & does back flips!) and NASCAR. Somehow, between Jill and our maps, we found our way to America's Stonehenge, although it took us much longer than we planned for. Funny how that seems to be a theme for ALL of our escapades...

We entered A.S. through the gift shop and watched a short orientation video about the site. You will definitely want to learn more about it at http://www.stonehengeusa.com/ - it was fascinating! Most of the rock formations found have been carbon dated to the 15th century, which as any of you who know even a little history will recognize as being before most any Europeans were thought to have been in this country. Of course, this area of America had long been home to many different tribes of Native Americans. While it is not known who built these homes, drainage systems, walls, and communal places, parts of it reminded me very much of the medicine wheel we saw in Nebraska last year (check out last year's blog and read the part about Dancing Leaf Lodge in Wellfleet, NE). There was an elaborate placement of large rocks which align with the sun's position on the equinoxes (equinoxi?) and solstices and other important solar and lunar dates. Many think that the boulders of Stonehenge in England as well as other mystical sites are also markers of this kind. What was also neat is how well the drainage systems still work - it had rained really hard the night before, but the area all around these rocks was dry except where water was coming out of the drainage 'rocks'.

Remember our Massachusetts friends from the Sugar Hill Inn? They had been to A.S. on their way up to Vermont, so they had been just in time for the summer solstice celebration that happened here. We saw remnants of where the ceremony took place, as there were still flowers and spices placed on a large rock flower and a series of trees formed into arches encircled the 'altar'. As we walked back from the main site, we were enchanted by the beautiful birds that were singing and playing around in the woods. We saw orioles (not something we are used to seeing), chickadees, sparrows, and woodpeckers, as well as lots of chipmunks and some of those green bottleflies. It is worth reporting here that the 'green' bug spray we paid $8 for (in Vermont, where else?) works pretty well and we have been glad we had it on more than one occasion. When people tell you the north woods mosquitos could carry you away, they are not kidding.

As we got back to the gift shop, we hiked by several pens of alpacas, so we got to see them up close and personal. They are indeed the 'lambas' we saw in Pennsylvania. They are so funny looking, especially after they have been shorn! We are pleased to say that we both love our new hiking boots and after having very little cell phone service for the entire trip up to this point, somehow, in the middle of NOWHERE NH, we both had five bars of service the whole time we were here. Go figure. Anyway, we stayed here longer than we thought we would and now we were over 90 minutes behind schedule. My road to hell must be at least 90% paved by now, especially since I haven't yet sent my Christmas cards which say "Happy New Year!"

Given our time issues and the fact that Massachusetts does not seem to have many non-interstates/big highways that go anywhere in a north-south direction (all roads lead to Boston or around it), we took the path of least resistance and time (we hoped) and braced ourselves for the interstate straight through Boston to Pawtucket, RI. Astonishingly enough, we sped right through Boston and even went through the tunnel of 'Big Dig' fame with no problems. We got back on US 1 as we got close to Pawtucket, where our first stop was the Hasbro headquarters, as we had a date with Mr. Potatohead. He was so cute - a big ole spud in between the HQ and the R&D (and maybe manufacturing plant - we don't know cause they wouldn't let us in - top secret toy stuff, you know) buildings. The places in the parking lot were marked with Monopoly cards - we really tried to figure a way to infiltrate the plant, but they were onto us right away. Wouldn't even let us take pictures in the HQ building or get past the guy in the lobby of R&D. How do you get to work at a toy place, anyway? I love to play!

It was getting so far past a normal lunch hour that our options were very limited (same old story, I know) but as luck would have it, most diners are open 24/7, and the one on our list today was the Modern Diner in Pawtucket. It was housed in a Sterling Streamliner and was the first diner in the country to be placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Bet you didn't know that diners originated in Providence, RI, in 1872. Our server told us that they had great hamburgers, so we tested them to make sure. She was right, and their onion rings were not too bad, either. As we were leaving the diner, the heavens opened up and we got drenched just running to the car. Our next stop was Providence, and in case you don't know, Pawtucket and Providence are right next to each other (as everything in the tiny state of Rhode Island is not too far from anything else). We were going to see the state capitol, so we figured, no big deal, we're almost there anyway - how hard could that be? Well, if it had not started HAILING immediately after we got on the interstate we would have been fine. As it was, I was driving down the road with one arm up over my head because it sounded like we were under artillary fire!! We expected the windshield to be cracked and broken at any second. The hail was at least marble (shooter) sized - not quite golf balls but damn, it sounded like cannon balls were landing on us! I was so afraid to see my car - I was almost glad that it was still raining when we stopped so I couldn't tell what the damage was. I just knew there was some.

We parked (parallel again!) on the street in front of the capitol building, and for the first time in a long time, we had to go through a metal detector to get in. We spent the rest of the thunderstorm inside and enjoyed seeing another beautiful capitol. Kim and I were talking about how neat it is that these old buildings are, for the most part, still being used for the purposes they were intended - they are not torn down or even renovated (at least not to the point that most of us can tell - maybe wiring, AC, computers, etc.) but the furnishings in many look to be original. The Rhode Island capitol was full of fascinating artifacts - my favorite was the Gettysburg Cannon, which was a cannon used at that famous battle but it got a cannonball stuck in it when it got struck by a Rebel cannonball just as the yankees were loading their cannon. So there it was in the building, cannonball still sticking out of the bore.

Now we were intentionally heading to the PJ's so we could see Nibbles Woodaway, the giant termite perched on top of some pest control building. Sadly, he's easily visible (but not photographable) from the interstate, but from the lovely alley where we were (we opted not to pull into the "Cheaters Gentlemen's Club" parking lot) we only got a side/rear view of Mr. Woodaway. But we got that, anyway.

We drove down US 1 (aka Post Road) to the coast of Rhode Island, stopping in for a look-see at Smith's Castle, circa 1678. We were sad to see that it was closed, although it was not at all what we were expecting. Unless you think that normal looking old frame houses should be called 'castles' I think you would have been surprised, too. The grounds were lovely, though, and there were lots of geese and ducks out on the water behind the house. Turns out Richard Smith (it was his castle) must have been a big deal back then, because everything in that area of the state was named for him. I have not researched him yet, but I may have to find out a little more about him.

Next stop, the Watch Hill Bathing Beach and their Flying Horse Carousel, which is the oldest one in the country, having been built in 1883. The horses had real hair manes and tails, and they were suspended from the ceiling by chains. There was a chute for the brass rings that the kids tried to grab as they went round and round. If they were lucky enough to get a ring (the attendants even handed them to the littlest riders) they put them over their horses' ears until the ride was over. The panels on the interior were painted with different 'flying horses' - it was a charming ride in a very high rent district.

We were just across the state line from Stonington, Connecticut, where we were spending the night. Thanks to my good friend, Anne, we had reservations at the home of her good friend, Sandy, who I had met but didn't really know. What a trusting soul she is, to let two almost complete (and some would say crazy) strangers stay with her! We are grateful to our friends and theirs! We found Sandy's charming little cottage with no trouble, and even though she wasn't home, she had left the door open for us. It's hard to imagine being able to live like that in the places where we live. Shortly after we arrived, Sandy pulled in and gave us a quick tour of the house and the lovely beach area nearby. After that, we were off to Mystic to see what was there and to eat dinner, and Sandy was off to a previous engagement.

We found Mystic to be quite touristy, which is rarely to our liking. The movie Mystic Pizza, starring Julia Roberts, was actually filmed in quaint and lovely Stonington. Not a surprise to me! We found one of the restaurants Sandy had recommended in Mystic, but when we found out there was a 45 minute wait (at 8:30 PM) we hightailed it back for Stonington. On the way back, we saw a beautiful rainbow (for no apparent reason) and this time we got a picture of it. Going back was a good choice! Sandy had told us about a place called Noah’s, which we walked right to from Sandy’s house. We had one of our best meals of the whole trip there! Kim had panko-crusted broiled flounder with garlic-chive mashed potatoes and green beans, and I had sea scallops with an orange-chili salsa, rice, and a medley of fresh vegetables. Oh, and we each had a delicious salad – Kim’s with bleu cheese and mine with avocado slices. The homemade bread was great, too, but the piece de resistance was dessert. When I saw that they made pavlovas there, I told Kim we HAD to have one. So we each had one! For those of you not familiar with this Australian favorite, a pavlova is a meringue shell, filled with ice cream and/or whipped cream (that would be an AND in this case) and garnished with fruits like kiwis, strawberries, raspberries, and oranges. And maybe drizzled with raspberry puree. Heavenly! I dreamed about mine!

When we got back to Sandy’s, she had left a note saying she’d found a ride into New York City and had decided to leave that night, so we had the house to ourselves with instructions to lock the doors and turn out the lights when we left. Thanks a million, Sandy, for truly opening your home to us, and to you, too, Anne, for telling Sandy we weren’t known criminals. Our only excitement for the night occurred when Kim went out to the car to get something and there was a for real, live and in person (or in animal) SKUNK out by my car. And then it went UNDER my car! Thankfully, it did not spray Kim or the car. We think it heard that Peppy was in the hood...

I’m dreaming of a white pavlova, just like the one I ate tonight,

29 June 2008

Bed, Bath, and Beyond

Monday, 23 June 2008

We really hated to leave Denise's wonderful house, especially the Bed and no *#& Breakfast part of it! But we had miles to cover, so armed with a full pitcher of fresh tea, we were on the road by 8:30. It was a foggy, cool morning - the kind I'm really missing now (as you can tell, it's almost a week later that I'm posting this entry...) We had planned to have breakfast at the local Bristol Diner, but they were on vacation (the week before the 'real' season begins) so we set our sights on Bath, sure that we could find something to eat there. On the way, we stopped by the hugely popular Taste of Maine restaurant (not open for breakfast) and took a picture of the big lobster (we didn't know he would be a Bubba Lobster!) out front. In addition, they had a lobster fisherman in his yellow slicker and hat (carved out of wood) and a huge pole for osprey nests.

Bath is on the coast north of Portland, on the Kennebec River, and it's a huge shipbuilding port. It was home to Bath Iron Works, which has been sold and is now General Dynamics. Their biggest customer is the US Navy, and they've built battleships, frigates, cruisers, and destroyers here. It has a HUGE crane that you can see as you cross the bridge into town. We got off the highway (US 1) and went in search of food. Right away, we spotted the Starlight Cafe, but we had already passed the street we needed to turn on before we turned. As we drove around town, we enjoyed the 19th century architecture and then we passed Beale Street Barbeque. Given that Kim is from Memphis, we doubted the authenticity of the place, so we found our way back to the Starlight. Boy, can we ever pick them! This was the cutest place - sort of underground, I had to duck to get in. There was a counter and several small tables. A friendly local woman urged us to try (with absolutely no hesitation) the cinnamon bun French toast. Since I could see the cinnamon buns right in front of me, I bit. The woman told me I wouldn't need to eat for hours later and that I'd be on a sugar high all day! Kim, ever the steadfast companion, had scrambled eggs and ham and a humongous biscuit. We loved checking out the place as we waited for our food. Each table had a different set of salt and pepper shakers - ours were lobsters, next to us was Dagwood and a huge sandwich, etc. Oh yeah, I also was unable to resist the blueberry scones that were on the counter next to the cinnamon buns, but I got it to go and didn't eat it that day. I was stuffed by the time we left, and was on such a high that I didn't even mind when Jill got us so lost that we were going the wrong way down a one-way street. In fact, I didn't even notice it, but thankfully, Kim did and we were eventually able to wind our way out of Bath and back to the highway without attracting any unwanted police attention. There are hazards to having a red car, though...

The next curiosity on our list was a 'Moose or Monster' sculpture found in some gas station parking lot next to the highway near a Holiday Inn and a McDonalds. Believe it or not, we found it! I will spare you the ugly details about our parking lot escapade. We emerged unscathed, and no animals were injured, including humans. Or other vehicles, by some miracle. By the way, we think it's closer to a moose than a monster.

We saw a cute little cow in a coffee cup on the ceiling of some java joint - Kim got a great shot of it, and we weren't even expecting that one! We arrived in Freeport with one item on our agenda - to take a picture of the giant boot outside the LL Bean retail store. Well, we did that, and then we needed to go inside in search of a rest room, so now we both have a new pair of hiking boots and I have a new pair of comfy brown slides. I did not buy the $7 socks - I can get those at Target! It was a good thing we did not have time to do any more shopping, because we are running out of space almost as fast as we are running out of money. Of course, there is always UPS...

On the way to Yarmouth, we passed an outdoor furniture shop with a giant Adirondack chair, so we turned around to get a shot of it and the bit Indian across the street from it. Yarmouth is home to Eartha, the world's largest rotating globe (a certified Guinness World Record) at the DeLorme map store. She measured just under 131 feet around, and 41 feet, one-and-a-half inches across her middle, and she's reportedly gorgeous at night, when she's all lit up and you can see her from the highway. It was pretty impressive to see her in broad daylight, but impossible to photograph her in a way that does her justice. You sorta have to be there, but you can also check her out at http://www.roadsideamerica.com/story/10408

Next stop - Portland, Maine's largest city. As you may know or have guessed, it's also on the coast and we spent our time there in the Old Port district. We parked on the street (no mean feat, but for once on this trip I did not have to parallel park) and stopped in at the visitor center. We took a long walk along the waterfront down to the Maine Narrow Guage Railway Museum. We opted not to take a three mile train ride, but we did spend some time in the small museum there. We got to see men actively restoring some old rail cars, and we got to walk through several different kinds of passenger cars. Check it out at http://www.mngrr.org/ and learn all about narrow guage railways! Toot, toot!
We had thought we might walk UP to the old Observatory, but we satisfied ourselves with a photograph since we only had two hours parking time (on the other side of town) and we still were due for lunch at some point. Plus, it looked like it could rain at any minute. Read all about it at http://www.portlandlandmarks.org/portland_observatory/observatory.shtmlww.portlandlandmarks.org/portland_observatory/observatory.shtml - it's really cool and we would have liked to have seen it. Huff, puff. On the way back towards the car, we passed the Maine Customs House (official business only, no weapons, show your ID and you'd better have a damn good reason to go in!) and walked down several cobblestone streets. There was lots of neat shopping and some cute stores. We ducked in one that was full of maritime junque - we first saw some mermaids and other neat carvings, and when we went in there was a parrot sitting on the proprietor's shoulder. It was a fun place to look around - kind of like Mom's house, had she lived at a seaport.

On the way down the street, we passed a brewpub called Gritty's and then remembered that was a place Denise had suggested we eat. So we did! I had a steak salad that was really tasty, and Kim had chicken caesar. We split some homemade potato chips and wisely (but with difficulty) avoided having beer. While there, we saw not one but TWO men wearing Tennessee shirts/jackets - these were the first even remotely close to Tennessee people we had seen on the whole trip, while we North Carolinians get around. Kim went over to talk to the guy with the UT Lacrosse jacket on - he was in town on business and was a UT alum. He said the bartender at his hotel was also from Tennessee.

We had already decided that we were going to need to take the interstate from Portland on if we were to have any chance of seeing the Paper House in Rockport, Mass, before it closed. That turned out to be a really good choice, because it began pouring down rain just after we got out of Portland. What a dreary trip! We sped through Portsmouth (sorry, Danielle!) but we did see the two HUGE state liquor stores at the NH state line (one of each side of the road). Somewhere along the way, we got off the interstate and found a road that took us through Ipswich, Essex, and into Rockport, and even more amazingly, we found the Paper House! Before it closed!! You will surely want to check it out at http://www.paperhouserockport.com/ because our photos don't begin to do it justice. My favorite thing about it was the honor system used for charging for the obviously self-guided tour. Put $1.50 per adult in an envelope (provided) and drop it in the mail slot of the house next door! We did, although we had to raid our laundry money since we only had twenties! Other items of interest there were the grandfather clock made out of newspapers from each state capital and the desk made of newspaper accounts of Lindbergh's flight across the Atlantic. Now you know what to do with all of those papers you've been reading!!
We went to Gloucester in hopes of getting some good shots of the Gloucester fisherman (http://www.city-data.com/picfilesc/picc22624.php) but our hopes were dashed by the DOWNPOUR of rain. We waited it out (of course, we had parked and were walking) at a neat Spanishy Greeky (not sure which) restaurant where we had sangria and some roasted tomatoes and goat cheese. While at the bar, we learned all about the 'Gloucester Twenty' (the high school girls who for some insane reason got pregnant on purpose) since they (but not the boys involved...) were the news story of the day. Except for the weather, which was really the top story. So much for our lovely drive around the northern coast of Massachusetts...
Undaunted, we went to Salem even though all of the attractions there were of course closed, since it was after six by now. We found the Salem Witch Museum and what we thought was a statue of a mean old witch, but it was really just a pilgrim, Roger Conant, who was the first settler of Salem. He was born in 1592 and died in 1679. Salem must have agreed with him - good thing he wasn't a woman! We loved the crosswalks - they were bright green with witches on them. We found the Essex Peabody Museum (highly recommended by several people) but it was closed, too. We did not see the Bewitched statue and did not look too hard for it.
Since this was one of two nights that we did not have hotel reservations, we thought we should be finding a place to spend the night. But first, we saw signs for the House of Seven Gables, so off we went. It was closed, too, but we saw the outside, the water, and several OLD houses (built in the 1770's). From there we went to the Hampton Inn Peabody (peeBUDdy, for those of you who thought it was really Peabody) but they were booked, and so was the next closest one at Wooben (I thought he was asking me if I wanted a Reuben sandwich and maybe had a speech impediment) which is really Woburn...no wonder we couldn't find it on the map. Good thing we don't have to speak to Jill (Well, we do, but thank God, she can't hear us! I hope!)

Since we were striking out in the Boston area, and we were going to America's Stonehenge (betcha don't know about that one!) the next day, we just decided to drive to Manchester, NH, and stay at a lovely (really - it was great!) Hampton Inn and Suites. We even had a fireplace in our room! And a kitchen and a couch! Too bad we were there for about 9 hours, most of which were spent in a deep slumber. We didn't eat dinner (thanks to our tapas break) until after we got to Manchester. We ate at Bugaboo Creek (okay, it's a chain, but it was close and open and nothing else was!) I had French Onion Soup (made with their ale) and lettuce wedge and a Maine blueberry mojito (really yummy!) and Kim had a chicken quesadilla. The restaurant was decorated in that north woods look, complete with a talking moose (over the mantel) and a flying squirrel that were not Rocky and Bullwinkle.

I had issues getting an internet connection so that's one of my many excuses for being so late to post this blog entry!! But, true to Hampton form, they gave us a $25 gift certificate to Brookstone for the inconvenience. Can't beat that with a stick.

Not quite from beyond the pale,


26 June 2008

Driving the Misses Sassy

Sunday, 22 June 2008

After a great night’s sleep at Denise and David’s, we slept in for a little bit – a much overdo rest! Denise kindly agreed to accompany us today, and even better, she offered to be our tour guide and drive! We both got to take a break from our jobs as driver and navigator. Unfortunately, we practically had to unload the car to make room for a third person, since the SisMo was packed! In the process of taking things out, we discovered that we had had a leak of dishwashing liquid, which had dried over much of the back seat. I was afraid to put water to it, thinking we might get sudsed out in a scene similar to I Love Lucy or the Brady Bunch or something, so I just cleaned it off as best as I could with paper towels. We made our way through Round Pond heading for US1, and in the process we passed an old cemetery that still had a doorway leading to a storage vault. Back before we had heavy equipment for grave-digging, it was often too cold for men to dig graves in the cold northern winters, so they stored caskets in these vaults until spring thawed the ground enough for digging. It’s amazing the things you learn on the back roads! We also passed some recycled metal sculptures, mostly in the yard of one man who either needs to start selling them or stop making them…

We were on our way to the world famous Moody’s Diner on Route 1 in Waldoboro, Maine, where we love their slogan – “When I get hungry, I get Moody’s!” We bought a sticker of that saying for Kim’s kids to give to her ex, since it fit’s him to a T! We had a fantastic breakfast there – Kim had her usual, I had eggs scrambled with lots of veggies and home fries, and Denise had some yummy looking blueberry pancakes. We loved the diner – it’s truly a Maine landmark, and it has a great gift shop. Denise modeled a moose hat that was really funny – with her sunglasses on she reminded me of Bullwinkle! (Sorry Denise – it was too cute not to include in the pictures!) From Moody’s we went to the Maine State Prison Store, in which inmates sell mostly wooden furniture, games, and functional pieces (salad bowls, cutting boards, bird houses, etc.) that they have made. The state prison is no longer there, having been torn down some years ago, but they did leave one concrete watch tower to commemorate the space. One of my all-time favorite movies, The Shawshank Redemption, was filmed there when the prison was still standing. Of course, we all found something there that we couldn’t live without… We were impressed with the inmates who were working there, too – they were very well-mannered, helpful, and we could tell they were proud of their handiwork. Too bad all prisons aren’t teaching their residents great marketable skills while they are incarcerated.

Our next stop was the Owl’s Head Transportation Museum, which was HUGE and very cool. The very first exhibit we saw was a flying machine whose wings were completely made from bird feathers. There was a full scale model of the Wright Brothers plane that flew 120 feet at Kitty Hawk, NC, and then there were coaches, cars, bikes, and planes from every era. I loved the cute little midget car and the Red Baron's plane, but that stylin' Packard was my fave. After we finished looking at the exhibits, we all three got to ride in a Model T out behind the museum. Way cool!

We left Owl's Head for Boothbay Harbor to the south, hoping for a game of candlepin bowling. We got to peer in the windows at the bowling lanes (the pins are really narrow, the balls are small and wooden, and you set your own pins) but the official summer season didn't start in Maine until the next day. Rats! We drowned our sorrows in ice cream - homemade, no less! I had Maine Moose, Kim had Whoopie Pie, and Denise was good and had Mango sherbert. Ours was better, though! We wandered around the harbor a bit. Did I mention they make some of the best ever salt water taffy there? In the interest of truth in advertising, we all tried some so that we could assure you, our dearest readers, that it really is GOOD!

On the way back to Round Pond, we saw Miss Piggy, who changes clothes with the season. She and the rest of Maine are busily gearing up for the 4th of July, which Denise tells us is a big huge deal up in these parts. It was neat to see all of the bunting and flags up, as well as reading about all of the fun parades that were being planned. We just had to stop in at Edgecomb Pottery, ostensibly just to look. Ha! I bought jewelry and Kim bought pottery. Denise already has a good sampling of their gorgeous wares! Their stuff is really beautiful and so unique. We could have spent hours there, to say nothing of lots of dollars! After we left there, we stopped in to see some ostriches and fainting goats, and then we were off to King Ro's to pick up some Moxie soda. King Ro's is a great New England general store, with little bits of everything. Their gas pumps are old and don't go to $4 (too bad gasoline does!) so they just make the price half of what it really is and then they post a note saying to double the total. Ya gotta love it! I'd like to see them try that in Durham!

Back at the house, I took some time to download and back up pictures while Kim and Denise went down to the dock to look at starfish. I wish we had a picture that would do them justice, but we don't. Kim reports they were of all colors and sizes and that there were hundreds of them! Denise said that they had not ever seen them until they built the bridge out to the dock. Just believe us when we all say they are so fascinating! Before we left for dinner, Kim and I bravely tested our Moxie and then gave the rest to Braxton, who happily guzzled it down. He is more of a man than we are! We were off to Shaw's for an early lobster dinner, but first we stopped by the Pemaquid Lighthouse. It is so picturesque, and the rocks of the shoreline were unbelievable. You can almost see geology in action, as
there are layers of sedimentary rocks alternating with volcanic metamorphic rocks.

We stopped by the grocery store where Wyche works so that he would know to join us for dinner, and then we were off to Shaw's where several lobsters there were swimming their last. Great onion rings, a cold Cape Cod, and succulent, fresh lobster, a beautiful view overlooking the water, and friends to share with - what more could we ask for?

When we left Shaw's, it had started raining pretty hard, but this couple was oblivious to the fact that everyone else had moved indoors. Ah, love and lobster!

After we got back to the house, Kim and I took Tess down to the docks for a last look at the starfish. It was the perfect ending to a wonderful weekend in Maine. Thanks, Denise and David, for your wonderful southern hospitality and Maine knowledge, and for opening your stupendous home to us!

Belated greetings from the coast of Maine, even though I'm writing from the coast (sorry, SHORE) of New Jersey. Apologies for getting so far behind, and we appreciate your patience. Good things come to those who wait!

Better late than never,