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,

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