Tag Archives: Massachusetts

August 4: Another state, another campground, and an entire flock of wild turkeys

Well, and a listee who is also my copy editor and a friend.

Anyway, I got a late start this morning, since I only had about an hour’s drive and only had to be there by noon. It wasn’t a bad drive at all, although there was a slowdown just before I crossed over from Massachusetts into New Hampshire. It didn’t last long, though.

I stopped at a welcome center just after I crossed the border to ask about campgrounds. The gentleman behind the counter was very helpful and told me about a state park about half an hour from Portsmouth, which is where I want to go tomorrow. After crossing over into New Hampshire, though, I started seeing the weirdest freeway signs I’ve ever seen.

The sign reads NH State Liquor Store and Lottery Tickets, exit one mile.  Is this bizarre or what?
The sign reads NH State Liquor Store and Lottery Tickets, exit one mile. Is this bizarre or what?

My copy editor lives in Dover, New Hampshire, just before you cross into Maine. She had asked me to meet her in the parking lot of a local ice rink, because a) convenient, and b) free parking. I got there a little early, and sat and read for a bit until she came up to Merlin’s window.

Dover, New Hampshire's city hall.
Dover, New Hampshire’s city hall.
Dover has mounted police officers!
Dover has mounted police officers!

We went out to lunch at a nice little café, where I ate veggie quiche and salad, with a piece of the excellent blueberry pie for dessert. New England blueberries are better than blueberries from just about anywhere else, including home (we have better blackberries, though [g]). Beth also insisted, once she found out I’d never heard of such a thing before, that I take a whoopie pie with me for later. Whoopie pies look like Oreos on steroids (about four inches around and an inch thick), except that the cookie part is more like cake, and apparently they are a New England thing. Although our waitress at the café appeared to be surprised that I’d never heard of them before.

Beth and I had a nice long lunch with lots of conversation, and I enjoyed myself very much. She’s my last person to visit until I get to Ontario. Afterwards, I headed just a bit west to the state park, the name of which starts with a P and is centered on a swimming lake. The campground is huge, and heavily wooded, and the site I was assigned to has this long driveway, down a slope between trees. I thought I could turn around at the bottom, but I couldn’t, so I ended up backing up all the way to get out of it this afternoon when I couldn’t find my bug dope and had to go buy some at the park’s little store. I know it’s in the van somewhere, but it’s nowhere to be found, and there are mosquitoes here.

Anyway, when I came back, I backed down into the site, so at least I won’t have to back up again first thing in the morning. It was easier backing down the hill into the site than backing up out of it, too.

I got here about the middle of the afternoon and just read and kicked back in the pretty woods, until about an hour later, the lady in the site next to me exclaimed, “Turkeys!” I was like what? until I looked up, and lo and behold there was a whole flock of wild turkeys strolling through our campsites. I literally could have reached out and touched some of them. I don’t think I’ve ever seen them so close up before. I grabbed my camera and took a bunch of photos, which was fun.

Turkeys!  In my campsite!
Turkeys! In my campsite!

And probably the best bird photo I will ever take [g].
And probably the best bird photo I will ever take [g].
Tonight there seems to be a party going on a ways off, including music. I hope they obey the quiet hours that are supposed to begin at ten pm (they did, about fifteen minutes after i wrote this).

Other than that, this is just about the perfect campsite. Oh, and I ate about half of the whoopie pie for dessert with supper. It’s tasty.

Tomorrow I’m doing more living history at a place called Strawbery Banke (yes, that’s the correct spelling) in Portsmouth, which is one of the oldest towns on the eastern seaboard (why is it the west coast, but the eastern seaboard? just curious). Then across the border into Maine! I keep saying that, but this time I mean it [g].

August 3:  Farewell to the Cape, another president, a philosopher, and more history

Today I left Cape Cod.  It was a lovely couple of days, but time to move on.  Before I did, though, I stopped in Hyannis and went to the JFK museum, which wasn’t, as I’d thought, his presidential museum and library (which turns out to be in Boston), but is about his connection to the Cape – among other things, he signed the bill creating Cape Cod National Seashore (thank you very much, Mr. President!), and of course, his whole family has had homes here for generations (his father bought their first house here).

This used to be the post office in Hyannis.
This used to be the post office in Hyannis.

And so back over the Sagamore Bridge and north on I-495, which is a pleasant if monotonous drive (lots and lots of trees and gentle hills, but not much else).  There’s really no other efficient way to get around Boston, though, and that’s pretty much what I’d decided to do at this point (I have been to Boston before, honest).

This was sorta surreal to me, kind of the symbolic halfway point in the trip (probably not quite the actual halfway), because almost 3000 miles west on this interstate and I'd be at Snoqualmie Pass.
This was sorta surreal to me, kind of the symbolic halfway point in the trip (probably not quite the actual halfway), because almost 3000 miles west on this interstate and I’d be at Snoqualmie Pass.
What most of I-495 looked like.  In the over 8000 miles I've driven so far, I'd say about 800 of that has been on Interstate.
What most of I-495 looked like. In the over 8000 miles I’ve driven so far, I’d say about 800 of that has been on Interstate.

I did turn off the highway once, though, and that was to go to Concord, to see Walden Pond.  I’d been to Concord once before, and had gone to Louisa May Alcott’s house and the Minutemen Museum, but I’d somehow missed Walden.  Not that I’m a huge Thoreau fan or anything, but I just wanted to see it. Turns out Walden Pond is now a state park primarily used for its swimming beach, which I found rather amusing.  But there is a trail around the pond which leads to the appropriately-marked cabin site.  Most of the people visiting it seemed to be young Asian men, for some reason.  There was also a replica of the cabin next to the park’s parking lot.

Where Thoreau's cabin once stood.
Where Thoreau’s cabin once stood.
Walden Pond.
Walden Pond.
The replica cabin.
The replica cabin.

Back on the freeway, I was only a few miles from my destination for the night, the town of Lowell, Massachusetts.  Lowell was one of the places where the industrial revolution got started in the U.S., with the Merrimack River giving it water power for textile mills.  It has a very interesting multicultural history, and the visitor center downtown has its own free parking lot (a rarity in New England in my limited experience [wry g]).

A patent model of a loom in the visitor center at Lowell National Historic Park.
A patent model of a loom in the visitor center at Lowell National Historic Park.
A statue outside the visitor center.
A statue outside the visitor center.

And then there’s the New England Quilt Museum just down the street, which had some gorgeous quilts, as well as an exhibit of presidential wall hangings.

One of the presidential wallhangings, this one of Jefferson, of course.  There was one for each president, up through Obama.
One of the presidential wallhangings, this one of Jefferson, of course. There was one for each president, up through Obama.
The hand quilting on Grant's wallhanging was pretty amazing.
The hand quilting on Grant’s wallhanging was pretty amazing.
My favorite quilt in the New England Quilt Museum.  It's supposed to evoke the Maine coast and succeeds amazingly.
My favorite quilt in the New England Quilt Museum. It’s supposed to evoke the Maine coast and succeeds amazingly.

Unfortunately, the Textile History Museum had closed due to lack of funding, but the rest of the neighborhood was fascinating.

This evening I met Ann, another listee, and her husband Ben for dinner at a little place called the Eggroll Café in Lowell.  It wasn’t easy to find – Lowell does not appear to believe in street signs – but the food was good and the company was fun.  I enjoyed myself very much, and when it was time to go, Ann rode with me to my motel (no campgrounds nearby and I didn’t want to go searching for one in the dark) to help me get back out of Lowell, and Ben picked her up there.

Tomorrow I get to have lunch with my copy editor (who lives in Dover, New Hampshire), and then it’s on to Maine!

August 2: More lighthouses, more beach, more plants, more everything seashore

This morning I got a fairly early start, and, after a quick stop at a grocery store, I headed back north along U.S. 6 (the Cape’s backbone highway). The advantage of getting up and out before eight in the morning is that the roads aren’t crowded.

My first stop was at Nauset beach and lighthouse, the parking lot of which was full by the time I got to it yesterday. The sky was gorgeous this morning, and while the lighthouse itself wasn’t open to visitors, it was still pretty, perched up on its cliff where it had been moved back not once, but twice in its 150 years of existence.

A whalebone gate and a weird-looking house near Nauset Light.
A whale’s jawbone gate and a weird-looking house near Nauset Light.
Salt marsh and water at Nauset.
Salt marsh and water at Nauset.
More cool skies over the Cape.
More cool skies over the Cape.
Nauset Lighthouse.
Nauset Lighthouse.

I then went for a hike at Great Island, on the bay side of the cape, which looks very different from the ocean side. The trail was about four miles long, but I don’t think I went more than a mile and a half or so one way. Part of the trail crossed a huge dune, and it’s really hard to walk on all that loose sand. On the other hand, the sand is this lovely golden color and the views were pretty amazing.

Salt marsh and water at Great Island.
Salt marsh and water at Great Island.

The next thing I knew I was back up in Provincetown, where I ate a picnic lunch. It started to rain just as I finished up, which was good timing, and I thought I’d like to go and see the Pilgrim monument and its associated museum. I didn’t count on everyone else thinking that would be a good idea on a rainy day, too, and it was impossible to find a parking place within a reasonable walking distance, so I had to bag that. I did manage to get a picture of the monument, which is by far the tallest thing in Provincetown. This is where the Pilgrims landed before they decided it probably wasn’t the best place to start a colony and went on to Plymouth.

The Pilgrim Monument at Provincetown.
The Pilgrim Monument at Provincetown.

Provincetown is also the gay mecca of New England, and is famous for its drag queens and nightlife and so forth. All I can really tell you about that is that there are rainbow flags everywhere there. I liked that. The Pilgrims are probably spinning in their graves ululating at high pitch, to quote Lois Bujold (she was talking about Beta Colony and John Knox, IIRC), which amuses me vastly.

My last little hike for the day was at Pilgrim Heights, a few miles south of Provincetown, which, in good national park tradition, was a nature trail with plant labels. I saw bayberries and Virginia creeper and oaks and pines – and a little red berry with no label! I’m going to have to look that one up. The berries look like currants, but the foliage looks like plums. I’m wondering if it’s beach plum, but if it is, people make jam out of it, and, wow, it would take a gazillion of those tiny things to make just one pint.

Whatever this is, it doesn't look like Googled photos of beach plum.
Whatever this is, it doesn’t look like Googled photos of beach plum.
Bayberries, the stuff they make candles from.
Bayberries, the stuff they make candles from.
The trail at Pilgrim Heights.
The trail at Pilgrim Heights.

After that, I was chilled (yes! really!) and damp, so I came on back to my campsite and read for a while.

Tomorrow I will say good-bye to the Cape, after stopping in Hyannis to visit the John F. Kennedy museum, and drive up and around Boston to Lowell, Massachusetts, which has some history I want to explore, and to meet up with Ann from the Bujold list at an eggroll restaurant for dinner.

August 1: I’m back in the land of onshore flow!

For those who don’t live on the rainy side of the Cascades, that means I’m getting an ocean breeze, aka natural AC, and I am so expletive-deleted happy about it I could spit. It only got to 75dF where I am today, which, admittedly, is on Cape Cod, which means I’m surrounded by ocean, so that may have something to do with it [g].

I got kind of a late start this morning, trying to decide which direction to go, and wound up heading down to the Cape, as they say locally. Distances are so short in this part of the world that looking at a map makes me feel like things are much farther than they should be. I’m used to looking at a map of, say, Washington, all on one page, but putting something 400 miles across on one page is way different than putting something only about 150 miles across on one page.

The Cape Cod Canal, from a viewpoint on the Cape side of the Sagamore Bridge.
The Cape Cod Canal, from a viewpoint on the Cape side of the Sagamore Bridge.

Anyway, so I arrived at the Sagamore Bridge about eleven in the morning, and crossed the Cape Cod Canal (which technically makes the Cape an island, but whatever). First I took what was marked on the map as a scenic route along the edge of the bay, but I never did get a glimpse of the water from it (I mean, why else would it be marked scenic? – mostly what I saw was a lot of trees and little shops and stuff), so after lunch in Hyannis, I got onto the main highway and made time to the “real” Cape, which to me is Cape Cod National Seashore.

I stopped at the visitor center at Salt Pond and got myself oriented, as well as asking where to camp. Turns out the National Seashore does not have campgrounds of its own, and the private campgrounds on the Cape are expensive. I’m paying considerably more for a campsite here than I paid for my motel in Williamsburg. Which is just Wrong. It is a nice campground, though, with showers and laundry facilities, among other things.

The ocean side of the Cape, from where Marconi sent the first wireless transmission between the U.S. and the U.K.
The ocean side of the Cape, from where Marconi sent the first wireless transmission between the U.S. and the U.K.
I'd never seen white wild roses before, but they were all over the place at the Marconi walk.
I’d never seen white wild roses before, but they were all over the place at the Marconi walk.
This is knapweed, which is lovely and all over the place on the Cape. Too bad it's considered a noxious weed.
This is knapweed, which is lovely and all over the place on the Cape. Too bad it’s considered a noxious weed.
One of the beaches on the ocean side of the Cape, with lots of sunbathers.
One of the beaches on the ocean side of the Cape, with lots of sunbathers.
Cape Cod Lighthouse. There are over half a dozen lighthouses on the Cape, but this was the first one -- or, rather, this is the one they rebuilt in the 1850s after the one from the 1790s burned down or something.
Cape Cod Lighthouse. There are over half a dozen lighthouses on the Cape, but this was the first one — or, rather, this is the one they rebuilt in the 1850s after the one from the 1790s burned down or something.
This small Fresnel lens was inside the keeper's quarters of the Cape Cod Lighthouse. The original -- first order! -- lens was destroyed!!! when the lighthouse was automated, which was a horrible crime, IMHO.
This small Fresnel lens was inside the keeper’s quarters of the Cape Cod Lighthouse. The original — first order! — lens was destroyed!!! when the lighthouse was automated, which was a horrible crime, IMHO.

This afternoon I drove all the way to Provincetown, stopping at a couple of places along the way (although I intend to do some more exploring in that direction tomorrow), including a lighthouse and another visitor center, as well as several beaches and the place where Marconi sent the first wireless signal from the U.S. to the U.K. (yes, I know he sent a signal from Canada to the U.K. before that, but still [g]). I really love this place, in spite of the summer crowds, and in spite of the fact that swimming in the ocean is not my thing (it seems really weird to me, AAMOF, but then I’ve been living for 23 years in a place where swimming in the ocean without a wetsuit, no matter what time of year it is, will give you hypothermia).

It’s so beautiful here. The dunes are a surreal landscape, the lighthouses are charming, and even the busy little tourist towns are cute. I’m glad I decided to stay two nights here, and I’m looking forward to doing some more exploring tomorrow.

The sky from the Province Lands visitor center near Provincetown. The skies are amazing here.
The sky from the Province Lands visitor center near Provincetown. The skies are amazing here.
The Race Point Lighthouse at the very tip of the Cape, taken with all the zoom my little camera could muster.
The Race Point Lighthouse at the very tip of the Cape, taken with all the zoom my little camera could muster.

July 31: Three (tiny) states, ocean views, and a Really Big House

This morning I left out fairly early, and was across the state line into Rhode Island almost immediately. I’ve wanted to go to the town of Newport for a very long time. As it turns out, it’s a major production to get through the town to the part I really wanted to see, but I did make it eventually. It didn’t help that I had to arrive the weekend of the Newport Jazz Festival, but oh, well.

First I drove out and around the scenic ocean drive, which reminded me of nothing so much as Seventeen-Mile Drive in Monterey, California. Big fancy expensive houses right on the waterfront, interspersed with parks where us normal people can get out and enjoy the views, too.

The bridge over Narragansett Bay onto Rhode Island (the island itself as opposed to the state name).
The bridge over Narragansett Bay onto Rhode Island (the island itself as opposed to the state name).
A funny sculpture in downtown Newport.
A funny sculpture in downtown Newport.
A view of the shoreline.
A view of the shoreline.
Cormorants perched on the rocks.
Cormorants perched on the rocks.
One of several egrets I saw.
One of several egrets I saw.

Then I went in search of a mansion I could visit, so I picked the biggest one I could find. Cornelius Vanderbilt had The Breakers built in the early 1890s as a summer “cottage” (and then only got to live in it for one summer before he died). It’s almost 140,000 square feet (no, that’s not too many zeroes) of Italian inspired architecture and more gilding and carving and fancy furbelows than you can shake a stick at. See for yourself:

The front of The Breakers.
The front of The Breakers.
The Great Hall at The Breakers.
The Great Hall at The Breakers.
One of the chandeliers in the dining room.  I thought this was a cool shot -- just don't ask me to manage a photo like that again [wry g].
One of the chandeliers in the dining room. I thought this was a cool shot — just don’t ask me to manage a photo like that again [wry g].
A doorway carving.  Note the signs of industry (a railroad, etc.) behind the cupids.
A doorway carving. Note the signs of industry (a railroad, etc.) behind the cupids.
That silvery stuff in the background of those goddesses is *platinum.*
That silvery stuff in the background of those goddesses is *platinum.*
One of the many, many, many hand-carved details.
One of the many, many, many hand-carved details.
That bathtub was carved from a solid chunk of marble, and had to be refilled with hot water several times before the marble warmed up enough not to soak up all the heat and leave the water cold.  Oh, and the four taps?  Hot and cold fresh water, and hot and cold salt water.
That bathtub was carved from a solid chunk of marble, and had to be refilled with hot water several times before the marble warmed up enough not to soak up all the heat and leave the water cold. Oh, and the four taps? Hot and cold fresh water, and hot and cold salt water.
Even the stove is huge at The Breakers.
Even the stove is huge at The Breakers.
The back facade of The Breakers.
The back facade of The Breakers.

It came with an audio tour so I didn’t have to follow a guide with a group of fellow lemmings, which was nice.

But once the tour was over, I realized I really didn’t have much else I actually wanted to do in Newport, and it was still way early in the afternoon, so I called and cancelled my hostel reservation and headed east (yes, east, not north) to Massachusetts, and the city of New Bedford, with its National Historic Site devoted to the ships that sailed around the world in pursuit of whales.

And my third state of the day (I didn't get a good photo of the welcome to Rhode Island sign, alas).
And my third state of the day (I didn’t get a good photo of the welcome to Rhode Island sign, alas).

It was interesting, although I could have done without the re-created cobblestone streets (I like my teeth, and I’m sure Merlin didn’t much care for being bounced around like that, either), but by then I was ready to find a motel (the rule is still two nights camping, third night in a motel, and I’m so glad I can do the former now!).

I had to drive up into Massachusetts a ways to find one that wasn’t way overpriced, but I did, and now I need to decide what I want to do in Massachusetts, whether I want to go into Cambridge to see the maps exhibit, or go to Cape Cod, or Emily Dickinson’s house in Amherst, or Old Sturbridge Village, or any combination of the above. It doesn’t help that I’d be pulling a Kentucky (zigzagging across the entire state, not that it’s all that big to begin with) to do them all. I guess I’ll see how I feel in the morning.