Saturday, October 08, 2011

Leaves and Locomotives in New England

We just got home from a trip to New England. There was one planned trip but it changed after the tremendous damage done by flooding from Hurricane Irene. It rained 5 out of 6 days, but everyone coped with the weather.   Our itinerary was:

Day 1 * Friday * September 30
We’re left home at 7:30 AM for a great fall vacation with Shenandoah Tours.  First we rode north on the coach to Waterbury, Connecticut, for our overnight stay at the Courtyard by Marriott.  Dinner here wasn't as good as hoped for and on our own.  The trouble is that there isn't much we're aware of within walking distance of the hotel.  All we've seen is a Subway sandwich shop.  Also, the meals are usually better than what we had that first evening.  I should say that some in the group enjoyed their meal.

Day 2 * Saturday * October 1
Ticonderoga at Shelburne Museum
We moved on north through the small New England towns of Deerfield and South Deerfield for Yankee Candle Company. We were supposed to go to Bellows Falls and board the Green Mountain Flyer, Southern Vermont’s "authentic passenger train of yesteryear". Unfortunately, damage to the railbed made that impossible.  It rained, and it rained every day of the trip except on the 6th, and we didn't get much time to walk through Deerfield.  Having relatives who survived the massacre I sated my desire for some connection by visiting the meeting house grounds and getting a "Deerfield descendent" T-shirt.  What we did do is go north through Montpelier to visit Morse Farm Sugarworks.

The Morse Farm was fun in that you took a tour of their actual, one-"room", sugar house and had a talk from the owner's brother.  He was a hoot.  Reminded me of all the fun folks I knew as a kid.  Very funny fellow and he had everyone laughing.  They also were set up to let you taste the various grades of syrup so that you'd pick what you like and, presumably, like it enough to buy more later.  ½ gallon is now about $33-35.  That's pretty intimidating but I'd pay that.  We only bought a pint...  
We spent the night at the Basin Harbor Club.  That was a retro experience with pretty good food.
About the Basin Harbor dining...  It was ok.  Not bad, but not great either.  There seems to be a tendency in Vermont to cook the bacon too long and the sausage too little and Basin Harbor Club adheres to that standard. 

A couple of words about the Basin Harbor Club:  We were told that the nightly rates went to $521 per night but we got in at night, and a rainy night at that.  All we could see was that we were hanging out over Lake Champlain with the water splashing up on the shore right under us.  It would have been great to see a little ways down the lake.  Our first night was very rainy, cold, and foggy.  Also, the food can be very good, but I think they aspire to the elegance of another time and try to produce not just good food but "fancy", i.e. more gourmet type food.  In as much as most of the accommodations are vintage (that's "old") camp style cabins spread across their 300 +/- acres, this seems a bit odd to me.  They will shuttle you about the widely (in some cases) separated facilities by van and the staff is very pleasant and accommodating.  We didn't have a problem with any of the staff at all any time we had to deal with them.   At the cabins, there was a main living room and bedrooms were on each end.  We thought we were sharing with a woman that was alone, and then in come a man and his girlfriend.  Oh, well!

Day 3 * Sunday * October 2
Rifle from Terry Tyler collection
Again, big changes as we were supposed to visit Vermont Marble, the world’s largest marble quarry, and then to Woodstock with its village green and on to Quechee Gorge, Vermont’s Little Grand Canyon. What we did do is go to the Danik Farm shop, (it sells hog products, and maple sugar, etc.), the Vermont Teddy Bear factory, the Shelburne Museum (where I saw the Terry Tyler collection of Vermont firearms), and then to Shelburne Farms (a large school that teaches about farming) and cheese tasting.  The barn looked like a mansion, and they spend 9 million dollars a year, and make 6 million on cheese products.   Then it was back to the Basin Harbor Club for dinner and a good night's sleep.  

We had a pretty good time at the Vermont Teddy Bear factory where we got to see how they make their bears, endure bearly, bearable puns, and buy a special bear for Linda to commemorate her retirement this year.  While we waited the embroidered her year of retirement (2011) on the teacher bear's smock.  Very nice.  We also got a special bag and box.  We both thought that all the details that go into each bear were very interesting. 

I really enjoyed the firearms collection.  There were a number of underhammer rifles as well as Jennings and Sharps rifles made in Vermont. For me, the underhammer guns were the most fascinating.  Most had aperture sights much like the rifle shown in my photo.  Elevation could be adjusted either by turning a screw or by moving a leaf under the sight to different notches filed into the top tang.  Some of the underhammers used a mainspring which served the secondary purpose of trigger guard but others had separate mainsprings.  There were various degrees of adornment as well.  Yes, there were more "conventional" side-hammer guns and breechloaders.   There were also a number of target rifles, both side-lock and underhammer.  

I also enjoyed the ship "Ticonderoga" on which my grandmother Janet Crawford Brodie Flint (as well as her sisters) had sailed.  Grandma Flint often talked about this boat and was happy that it had been saved and moved to the museum many years ago but we had never before had the chance to see the vessel.  Linda went to see the Circus u-Barn and enjoyed it.  She also took the van tour of the whole facility.  We just did not have enough time there.

We continued on to Burlington and our dinner cruise on the "Spirit of Ethan Allen".  The meal was ok but the view was on a dark rainy day and we saw next to nothing not even Champ, the lake  monster.   

Day 4 * Monday * October 3
Betty and Barney Hill Marker
We got up fairly early and departed for Stowe, VT.  Had a chance to wander about the town for a bit and I went behind City Hall to the cemetery and found an Asa Kimball.  On the off-chance he's related to my Grandma Parslow I took a photo of his and his wife's headstones.  Then we took our cameras, re-boarded the coach and headed up to Mount Mansfield, the highest peak in Vermont, for the Gondola Skyride at Stowe Mountain Resort. The scenery from this vantage point was spectacular but I'm scared of heights.  Linda and I still took the ride and was rewarded with some good views and a "free" Vermont apple. Lunch was to be included at Trapp Family Lodge, the Austrian-style mountain resort of the von Trapp family from the classic musical, "The Sound of Music" but apparently Irene caused damage to the facilities which prevented that. So, it was on to Lincoln, New Hampshire, for a two night stay at the Indian Head Resort.  Although it was still raining, we did take a moment to photograph a memorial marker for the alleged UFO abduction of Betty and Barney Hill in September 1961.  Linda kept ducking from those “UFO’s.”

 Then we left to board the Granite Eagle-Cafe Lafayette Dinner Train and "relived the romance of dining on the rails".  We were supposed to "dress" for dinner but that had gone by the boards due to our rapid transition from travel to dinner mode.  Most of us "ate" rather than "dined", wearing blue-jeans and some with sweat shirts!  Never-the-less the owner and staff were gracious, the meal the best of the whole trip (I had the beef) and our companions for the evening, Conrad "Connie" and Lorraine Dehaven, were entertaining conversationalists.  

Day 5 * Tuesday * October 4
We hoped that Mother Nature had touched the White Mountains with indescribable colors but the weather continued dark with showers and the fall colors, although the best sight of the trip, were muted. We traveled along the Kancamagus Highway and Franconia Notch with a stop at the Red Jacket Mountain View Resort for lunch, and it was one of the prettiest drives imaginable and lunch was very good.  Unfortunately, or not, we found that roast pork is a staple of these dinners/lunches. 
 We then returned to Lincoln and the Indian Head Resort for drinks, an excellent dinner (I had baked scallops), and live entertainment.  I should mention that there is a 55-inch flat-screen TV in every room and a large lake at the back.  

Day 6 * Wednesday * October 5
We enjoyed a scenic drive by Squam Lake (where the movie, "On Golden Pond" was filmed) before visiting Meredith, NH.  We had a bit of a walkabout to take up some time and aside from a lake view and a fairly decent bookstore there wasn't much to see except...

They have this marvelous mill sluice built in 1818!  

Here's a video of the sluice... 




At the turn of the century a young man named John Bond Swasey purchased or inherited most of the land on which Meredith Village now sits.  Swasey had inherited a 95 acre lot from his father Benjamin who had bought the land in 1777. The farm was located in what is now the core of Meredith Village.  Across from his homestead on Main Street, (which is now the home of Paul and Kristen Eldridge and the offices of Compass Rose Buyer Brokers and Eldridge Appraisals) Swasey owned the general store which supplied the many new settlers moving into Meredith Village. According to remembrances of early 19th century residences, however, the mills ceased operation sometime between 1810 and 1816.  Swasey then undertook a project that was to have great significance for the town of Meredith, a project that marked the beginning of the development of the present Mill Falls Marketplace site.  Starting from the frontage on Lake Waukewan that is now called John Bond Swasey Park, Swasey built a rock-lined canal over 600 feet in length channeling the water under the Main Street horse path to where the land drops sharply to Lake Winnipesaukee.  Water power was now concentrated into one fall of about 40 feet. The Waukewan Canal and the falls were probably completed by 1818.  Now Swasey was able to build a number of profitable mills for sawing lumber, grinding flour, combing cotton flax and weaving cloth. All these mills helped stock the shelves of the Swasey store. Swasey's man made waterfall was considered among the best mill drivers in the state.

Mount Washington approaching Weir's Beach
Later, we moved down the lake to Weir's Beach and boarded the M/S Mount Washington for a lunch buffet and cruise across Lake Winnipesaukee to Wolfeborough, NH. The food on the Mount Washington was pretty good, there was plenty of it and the crew had a system of moving the passengers through the chow line efficiently that worked quite well.  I had no complaints about any of it.  I do wish it had been better weather (it was still cloudy, cool, windy and sprinkling) but that's hardly the fault of the Mount Washington crew.

Heading south our travels continue back to Waterbury, CT for our final overnight stay at the Courtyard by Marriott.  Fortunately, our dinners in the hotel were much better this time.  

Day 7 * Thursday * October 6
We left Waterbury at about 8:15 to return to the Shenandoah Valley.  We stopped for lunch at the Cracker Barrel in Frackville, PA and then moved on.  Then we dropped people in Winchester, stopped in Strasburg for "dinner", and dropped more people in Harrisonburg and Staunton (where we got off at about 6:15) before the bus moved on to Waynesboro and Charlottesville.   

Miscellaneous...  
One of the things I stumbled on was this 3-inch ordnance rifle at Stowe, Vermont.  One can clearly read the data at the muzzle.  I thought perhaps that there is some fanatic researcher out there that would want to know about this gun so I took a photo.  I did leave the gum wrapper in situ as a comment on the general state of tourist towns.  You might note that the tube is mounted on a poured concrete pillar.  I'm certain that the concrete has proved so much more resistant to Vermont winters than the original gun carriage.  If you might notice the rifling at the muzzle seems to be in very good condition.

Indian Head
The Indian Head Resort is named for this geological feature across the road and up the mountain from the hotel.  Even I can see the resemblance.  Fortunately, this rock formation is not nearly as unstable as was the Old Man of the Mountain...

Yes, we visited the viewing sites for the Old Man of the Mountain and the Franconia Notch visitor's center showed us a film in which people waxed ecstatic about the Old Man and cried about his "demise".  Our various guides and docents had to tell us where they'd been when he fell and one had been one of the two who discovered what had happened.  
Remainder of Old Man of the Mountain
















Winnipesaukee Scenic RR Engine

We went on the trip to ride the trains, expecting to ride the Green Mountain Flyer and Lafayette Dinner Train.  I wish they'd snuck this one in instead of the lunch cruise but due to the last minute finagling which resulted from Irene's downpour that may have been as good as we could get.  This looked very nice, with comfortable accommodations and views for everyone.  I had to include a photo of the engine...

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