Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Vermont Photographs

Route 100 in Vermont

The Montpelier Library

Route 4 on the way to Woodstock

Taken from Blue Bug - note mirror

Quechee Gorge

Adele found her Moose!
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Quechee, Vermont & Hanover, New Hampshire

You will remember that a fellow traveler suggested Vermont Route 100 as the best place “in the world” to see the Fall Colors. We changed our journey to travel south on 100 thereby adding about 70 miles to the trip; in all we must have covered 150 miles of Route 100, so was it worth changing our planned route? The answer is a muted yes! So far for us the Kancamagus Trail is the best, followed closely by Vermont Route 12; however, it was good to learn that one can drive an RV safely on 100; the scenery was lovely as we passed through high passes along the Green Mountains of Vermont as lauded on their license plates.

On our way to our RV Park at Quechee we drove through Woodstock, Vermont which was so busy that we thought there must be a festival going on and planned to return the next day. The RV Park was just past Quechee Gorge, a 165ft deep, mile long gorge billed as Vermont’s answer to the Grand Canyon. Woodstock was well worth returning to, it’s a beautiful, prosperous town with great shops and lovely buildings; it features highly as a tourist destination, particularly with fall foliage tourists.
From Quechee we drove to Hanover to visit our friends Caroline and Iain and stayed in their home and, boy were we glad? The weather turned, we had an absolute deluge and high winds, then the temperature dropped to just above freezing; we were snuggled up in a nice warm bed. We had a grand tour, guided by Caroline and Iain, of Hanover (home of Dartmouth College) an Ivy League school. Hanover is a very prosperous student town with 6,200 students (tuition is $60,000 a year); we were intrigued to hear that they all have cars and eat at the good local restaurants, sometimes it’s difficult for the locals to get reservations in the restaurants.

While walking around town Tom spotted a Simon Pearce shop and got very excited saying I think he’s from Cork (Toms home county); sure enough it was the same person, now hugely successful, his glass blowing foundry is in Quechee. We had a quick tour of the Hood Museum of Art which has an eclectic array of artists, including Picasso on display. The history of Hanover is interesting in a way it’s almost the town that never happened! In the 18th century surveyors marked out the boundaries for the town of Hanover and a settlement was established with sheep farming and woolen mills as its base economy. However when Dartmouth College was established about 5 miles south a new town of Hanover was built and the original town was renamed as Hanover Center.
The following day all four of us crossed the Connecticut River into Norwich (pronounced nor-witch) and visited the Montshire Museum of Science where two sets of grandparents had great fun playing with mobiles, cycling to power an elevator, checking weather patterns of the wind and water. Afterwards we hiked from planet to planet along a 3.2 mile trail; to Pluto at one end and the sun near the car park.  On Wednesday evening after having had (on Monday and Tuesday) two gourmet meals cooked by Caroline we went to Ariana’s in Orford, NH a farmhouse restaurant where we had an excellent meal prepared by Chef Martin Murphy. Earlier that afternoon we met the owner at the Hanover Farmers Market when he invited us to visit the barn to view 6 new calves; it was dark when we were leaving so we decided to keep our shoes clean.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Montpelier, Vermont

Having looked at the map for an RV park on our way west to Interstate 87 and check out the fall colors on Vermont route 100 spot we decided on Montpelier the Capitol of Vermont. Montpelier is pronounced Mont-peel-y-er by the locals proving that there is nothing better than the American/English language to make a hames of a French word. Main Street and State Street are the shopping streets; as we needed a blind for the door we found a hardware store on Main Street where we purchased a new one. We also went to see the movie "The Butler" a very good, thought provoking movie. Downtown is being seriously renovated with road works on most streets causing havoc to traffic; as we are walkers it did not bother us too much.

A friendly lady in the visitor center suggested that we drive on Vermont 12 to Stowe via Lake Elmore and Morrisville for the best view of the leaves changing colors. The drive is very nice and rural and we took some great photos at the beautiful lake. At Morrisville we had coffee and pastries before heading for Stowe where the Van Trapp family lived and farmed; their lodge is now a spectacular hotel, right at the top of a hill – the perfect spot for Maria!  A history with photos of the family is prominently displayed throughout the lodge. After the Second World War the family worked the farm and performed choral tours in the USA and Europe.
From Stowe we went to a Cabot Cheese shop where about 50 cheeses were available for tasting; we tasted all the sharp and very sharp cheddars and then bought 3 different strong cheeses all made with local Vermont milk. Afterwards we went to the Ben and Jerry Ice Cream plant; took the tour and sampled the ice cream - yummy.  Their corporate philosophy is worth a read - in a nut shell - business is to provide work for the people thereby improving their lives and that of the wider community. We are now Ben and Jerry fans. We returned to Montpelier by driving along Route 100 although it was nice it was not for us as good as the Kancamagus trail.

Stowe was hosting its annual Octoberfest starting the next day, Saturday so we rose very early to drive to Stowe in time for the Parade starting at 10am. It was a lovely small town parade, fun with everything including the Mountain Rescue team and with candy and apples freely given to all. After the parade we walked up the town’s recreation trail on the banks of the river to have a crepe breakfast at The Dutch Pancake Café and then walk back to town to check out the shops which was like going back in time. The day was chilly with the sun peeping out of the clouds every so often.
An excellent law in New England is that no Bill Boards are allowed; business signs are the same size as the road signs so the beauty of the rural area is not ruined; together with some rain we need a law like this in California.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Cog Railway and Kancamagus Trail Photographs

Cog Railway station at 2,700ft

Adele and Tom at the summit 6,288ft

Train on its way to the summit

Changing colors as we descend

Swiss Chalet near Conway

Tom in the Saco River

Mount Washington Hotel at Breton Woods
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Conway, New Hampshire

On the drive to Conway from Winthrop which we had traveled with Carl and Eileen a week earlier we were amazed at how much the foliage had changed color in just one week; the colors were vibrant, the sun was shining and the weather warm. We asked is this really the fall season in the Northern States? And, now we understand why our New England friends miss this season when they move away from home. For Adele our Fall Color travel has been a real pleasure; sitting in the height of RV passenger seat which provides her a panoramic view and great photo shot opportunities.

Conway has shops, restaurants and hotels in abundance to cater for its many tourists; as this is also a ski area it has three high seasons. Thanks to our prior visit with Eileen and Carl we knew our way around and stayed in a very nice RV Park on the Saco River about a mile from the town. As the weather was so good we decided to take the Cog Railway to the top of Mount Washington; built in 1866 it has an interesting history. We drove 38 miles to the base station at 2,700ft on a lovely warm day, purchased our tickets and sat outdoors having lunch; then we lined up to catch the cog train to the top at 6,288ft (the highest mountain in the east). Ryan, an excellent guide, gave a narration of the history, the engines and coaches which are all fabricated, manufactured and maintained on site. The weather at the summit was very cold, made even colder by a strong wind; and this was a good day! To keep tourists occupied during the one hour summit visit there’s a café, souvenir shop, museum (closed for renovation so we missed out on that) and a weather station. At the end of the hour we were glad to re-board the train and 40 minutes later we were back to summer weather!
The next day we drove along the Kancamagus trail where the scenery was so spectacular that it is now our litmus test. Most of the drive is between high mountains along the Passaconaway River with numerous scenic viewing spots all maintained by the US Department of Agriculture. At one stop the “necessary” had a posted sign “This Forest Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, facility is currently closed, due to the lapse in federal government funding. The facility will reopen once Congress restores funding.” To emphasize the closure the door was barricaded by a 2x4 screwed to it! The Kancamagus Pass is at 2,855ft above sea level; we continued on down to the town of Lincoln, after lunch and exploration we drove back through the Kancamagus Pass and enjoyed the foliage from a different angle. At one of the scenic stops we learned that the colors are not all as the result of nature - the Forest Service have an active program to ensure a mix of tree varieties to guarantee the vibrant plenty of colors of Fall. Tourist wise this is a “high season” time with many bus tours and lots of cars, however the roads are not too crowded. Chief Kancamagus (the fearless one) was the grandson of Passaconaway and was the last Segamon (Chief) of the Penacook tribe who lived in this area.

Withrop and Fryeburg Photographs

Adele pushing Carl's boat onto the trailer

While Tom, Eileen and Carl pull

Eileen's card class

Adele, Tom and Eileen heading to lunch in Farmington

Lobstah dinnah!

Oxen at the fair

Lucy saying hello
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Saturday, October 5, 2013

Our Maine Friends

From Boothbay we followed Eileen and Carl back to Winthrop and spent over a week in their home. With our many visits to Maine we have seen more of Maine than any other state and now know why so many from all over the US have holiday homes there. The summers are cool and mostly free of humidity, the coast is rugged and the bays, lakes and fjords are great for sailing and swimming; all with lovely little towns to explore. The holiday homes are beautiful and must have little need for air conditioners.

For the first time in a long time we had strong Wi-Fi and were able to Facetime our family and not receive a “poor connection” message every so often; which is frustrating for us all. We had a nice warm bed and on the chillier evenings had a log fire to keep us warm and cozy. We had home cooked meals and…yes we had lobster - Eileen is an expert lobster cook. Now we are asking ourselves “why are we in the RV again”?
Carl and Eileen took us on several more tours; first we went to Mount Washington in New Hampshire where we had hoped to drive to the summit but due to hurricane winds at the top the auto road was closed. On our way we drove through the towns of Norway, Paris, Bridgeton, Rome and Naples. We had lunch in the Muddy Moose in Conway and were introduced to Zeb’s Store. The fall colors were beginning to show as we drove along passing lakes called Long Lake, Peabody Lake and Crystal Lake; very enjoyable!  

For our next trip we visited Eileen's Alma Mater in the town of Farmington; a lovely campus which we walked around and Eileen commented that nothing had changed since she graduated. After the campus tour we had a delicious lunch and went shopping - we all had a great rummage in a shop called Renys - a Maine department store that sells almost everything. The weather was glorious, a real Indian summer.

Two years ago we helped Carl, after a lovely boat ride; take his boat off the lake for the winter; so this visit we planned to do so again. As the engine would not start we had to revise plans, literally pushing and hauling the boat from its mooring on to the trailer – yes we all got wet and then Carl pulled the trailer and boat up a steep incline about 100 yards from their home – a first time for Carl, we suspect not the last. We had our much beloved little Blue Bug serviced at the auto shop where Carl has had his vehicles serviced for over 30 years – the mechanics advice was not to spend too much money on repairs! Blue Bug is 14 years old, has served us well so we know that this is good advice. One day we went to an apple orchard and picked Cortland and Macintosh apples and learned at check-out that Cortland apples make great pies. A few days later we returned for more apples to bake more of Eileen's grandmother’s pie recipe.
Adele went with Eileen to the card making class she teaches and met 4 lovely ladies who made 5 cards in record time and shared ideas. After class they shared lunch, much like Newcomers. The next card class Adele joined was much easier, this time Eileen was the only expert and here Adele met another 4 ladies who took the two hours to make two cards.

On Friday morning we had an early start supposedly for Carl to purchase his hunting license in Augusta. Carl parked at the salon where Vanessa their daughter is a hairdresser and Adele was totally surprised by Tom with a late birthday present. Eileen and Tom conspired via email with one another for weeks and made an appointment for Adele to have a cut and color; Adele had no idea and was completely surprised to the enjoyment of all.
Sunday was once again a glorious day and Carl had a full car as Vanessa and her son Noah joined us for the drive to Fryeburg Fair (the reason given to Adele for the longer stay); this is a huge fair, with prize animals on show, oxen and horse pulling competitions, horse and buggy parades, tractors trailers, arts and crafts, rides and food. The fair first held in 1851; about 300,000 people attend annually. There was what we can only describe as a city of RV’s on the fairgrounds; our estimate is over 3,000 RV’s parked on site.

We had planned on leaving early on Monday but with having to fill the RV with gas, put air in the tires, attach the tow dolly and secure the bikes to the ladder it was after lunch before we took our leave of our Maine friends, sorry to depart but with a promise to meet one another in Florida in January 2014.

Fall Colors Week One

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Thursday, October 3, 2013

Maine Coast

Eileen & Adele in Bath, Maine

Adele, Carl & Eileen at Fort Popham

Lighthouse at the entrance to the Kennebec River

The Birthday Girl!

Riverside Village

The Sea, Oh the Sea!

Carl, Adele, Eileen & Tom on Georgetown Island
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Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Back in the USA

After seven enjoyable weeks exploring Maritime Canada we returned to the US at Calais, Maine on the day of the Navy Yard shooting in Washington. Other than after trans-Atlantic flights this was the longest time we’ve spent at border control. We were in a long line which wound its way through the little town of St Stephen in New Brunswick for in excess of an hour. When we eventually reached the top of the line the border guard surprised us by coming on board where he checked the bathroom and the bedroom; most unusual as they rarely leave their booth, every vehicle was similarly checked. When we heard the news later that afternoon we understood the delay and caution.

Our first RV stop was in the small town of Harrington on a lovely part of the Maine coast while there we had a delicious home cooked dinner in a restaurant called "The Fisherman’s Wife" in Milbridge a nearby town. We stayed in Harrington for two nights during which the harvest moon was so bright it was almost like dusk all night.

From Harrington we traveled through Ellsworth on our way to Boothbay – Tom wanted to revisit LL Bean! On our arrival at LL Bean Tom, as is usual, checked the car on the tow dolly to discover that the hook of the ratchet on one of the straps had broken; a safety chain had stopped the car from falling off the dolly. We asked people in the car park where the nearest auto shop was and a local couple gave Tom a ride to O’Reilly’s where he purchased a stop-gap solution and then walked the mile and a half back. One of the men we chatted to in the car park was from Australia who was no help but gave us a chuckle when as he walked away saying "No Worries Mate" - we thought we had lots of worries! We jerry-rigged the temporary strap securing the car on the dolly and checking the reversing camera (our rear view mirror) frequently, we hoped we could make it to Boothbay; in fact we made it all the way to the Barth’s in Winthrop!

In Boothbay we stayed in Shore Hills a lovely RV park surrounded by enormous RV’s (45 to 50 feet long); most of them on an organized "Fall Leaves tour of New England " starting from Boothbay. On our second day Eileen and Carl came down from Winthrop to stay for two days; we walked around the lovely town of Boothbay, did a little shopping and then Eileen and Carl checked in their B&B a beautifully decorated house right on the edge of town. From there Carl drove us to Ocean Point and Southport Island and on returning to Boothbay we went to Ports of Italy restaurant where we celebrated Adele's birthday in style; it was good to share the celebration with friends!  

Some of you may remember from our August 20 blog that Adele was very annoyed that her Canon camera had broken and asserted that she would not purchase another Canon camera! Well, she did not; instead she wrote a letter of complaint to the President of Canon and within a few days received a phone call and a follow up email confirming that Canon would replace her camera. Adele had it delivered to Eileen and Carl’s who carried it to Boothbay for her – the new camera is quite an upgrade from her previous one. So, a birthday present from Canon! Adele is thrilled with the multiplicity of features – better zoom, panoramic ability and even GPS – the photos taken so far are vastly superior to her previous camera. All she needs now is for a moose or bear to appear to capture them up close! And, of course we’re both looking forward to capturing some spectacular fall foliage photos. Thanks Canon.

Day two of the Barth’s visit continued with great weather, in fact a bit too hot for this time of year. Carl chauffeured us around once again; he took us to Bath a nice town which we walked around and had coffee. Bath remains a big ship and missile building town. From there we went on to Fort Popham, yet another stone fort (never completed) meant to protect the mouth of the Kennebec River and Bath further up river. We continued down the peninsula to Georgetown Island which is on the Sheepscot River. Returning to Boothbay we sat on the deck at the Lobster Dock restaurant enjoying the sunset and…guess what we had for dinner.

This is a lovely part of the Maine Coast busy with tourists well into October as they have an extended season thanks to the autumn leaves. All the towns we visited look prosperous and all the buildings elegantly restored and well kept. In addition to lobster fishing, tourism is the big industry all along the Maine coast which boasts the longest coastline of any state in the US.