Friday, July 20, 2018

New Hampshire - Day 20 - Connecticut River valley

Crow's Nest Campground
Friday, 20 July 2018

Today I took the trip I'd planned for yesterday - to the west and south along the Connecticut River.
today's route 
I went first to Claremont, where I'd heard there were a lot of old buildings.  And there are.

That elaborate one on the left I think is the old opera house - which suggests a much grander past.  It now has shops and offices in it, including the local Chamber of Commerce.

The church on the right is elaborate in a very different way and I don't think my photo did it justice.  That statue in the foreground was a surprise.  I went to look at the inscription just out of curiosity and found this: "Erected in honor of the soldiers of Claremont who died in the rebellion of 1861-1965 by their grateful fellow citizens.  The date on it is 1869.  First time I've seen the Civil War called a rebellion on a statue.

The thing about the town of Claremont, though, is that it's trying very hard - it's clean and has flowers everywhere - but downtown has about a 60% vacancy rate.  Those vacant stores are the very nicest looking vacant stores I've ever seen, but they're still vacant.  I can't decide if it's on it's way up or down, but they're putting a very brave face on it, whichever way it is.

Col. John Willard House 1784
Next I drove south to Charlestown and found an unexpected mine of history there.  For one thing, the town is very old and still has 63 pre-1800 buildings listed on the National Register.  There are quite a few houses that look much like this Willard house that front the Main Street.

There are also quite a few buildings from the 1800s.
South Parish Unitarian Church 1842

Silsby Free Library 1893
There were also several historical markers within a few blocks of these buildings.

First, there was this one about the Battle of Bennington VT
 Then there were these three about Fort #4.

Then there was this one about the Liberty Tree.

I think this is the elm tree the plaque is referring to.
And, on a lighter note, there was this one.
After Charlestown I drove down to North Walpole, which is across the river from Bellows Falls, VT.  I'd gone to Bellows Falls last month looking for the bridge because I'd heard that below it somewhere are some petroglyphs.  And the rocks in the sides of the river show 2 different types where zillions of years ago the African tectonic plate joined up with Vermont.  I wasn't able to get close on the other side so I tried again on the NH side.
This is the bridge, which is closed, and there's so much vegetation it's hard to see anything without going down there.

This RR bridge is right next to the other, and these rocks are on the NH side.  I don't know if the 2 different colors mean they're different types of rocks or not.  Well, I tried.  I just don't know enough.
On a much sadder note, Jasper is worse today.  I've given him all day to show me something else, anything else, but he's worse.  He's incontinent most of the time now.  He's used the box once or twice but mostly just eliminates where he's lying.  Today he hasn't bothered to stand up to eat, and in fact has eaten almost nothing, even when I've put food on the floor under his nose.

To me, not eating is a clear sign that a critter has given up.  Not if he's just sick or hot or something - but when they vet has told me they're dying, I usually wait for the critter to tell me when it's time.  I think Jasper is saying he's done.

18 years is a reasonable life for a kitty.  Neither that fact nor the fact that his body is giving out makes it easier for me to give him up, but it's time.  I have an appointment back in Concord at 11:00 tomorrow morning.  Very sad.

New Hampshire - Day 19 - Concord

Crow's Nest Campground
Thursday, 19 July 2018
my Momma's birthday

I spent an hour or so this morning working out a route for the day's sightseeing, and then shelved it all because the only vet appointment I could get for both Gracie and Jasper was today at 3:00.

Gracie didn't get the Lyme disease vaccination when she got her other shots updated a few weeks ago, and there are enough ticks around here that I need to protect her.

Jasper has a different problem.  About 2 weeks ago he suddenly started having real difficulties with his rear legs.  They seemed weak and he had trouble coordinating them sometimes.  The litter box is in the shower stall, which is elevated about 8" above the floor - usually not a problem for the cats but now of great difficulty to Jasper.  I turned a box of kitty litter on its side to give him a 3" step and that helped.  But I was still worried.

He didn't get better and didn't get better and I finally looked online, figuring I'd get a lot of nonsense mixed up with some real information, but what I found is that it was not an uncommon situation with older cats (Jasper's 18) and I should get him to a vet quickly.

That's why I decided to grab the appointment I could get for the 2 of them, even though I hadn't planned to go to Concord for several more days.
today's route
On the way across town, I could see off the highway above the other buildings a glittering gold dome.  I'm sure it was the state capitol building, and I'll go visit it in a few days.  But I wanted to be sure I could find the vet's office - you know how easily I seem to get lost sometimes - so didn't take a side trip.

The Banfield is in a heavily malled area (mall after mall all along the roadway).  That made it easy for me to stop to do some grocery shopping.  While I was online looking for a grocery store and a CVS, I accidentally found that nearby was an office for the organization that runs the NH Highland Games and Festival.

Momma loved going to Salado every year for the Gathering of the Clans, and she loved that her grandfather had emigrated from Scotland, and she was interested in lots of aspects of Scottish history.  So in her memory on her birthday I went for a visit to the NH SCOT nhscot office.  I talked to a very nice woman who told me that NH's Highland games are in September, but Maine is having theirs in August, which is the month I'll be in Maine.  She gave me the information to find it.  She also said each year they read the names of those of Scottish descent who've died in the last year and offered to read Momma's name, which I gave her; they call it Flowers of the Field - a little too sweet for my taste but very nice of them all the same.  I was glad I'd stopped by.

I had time to spend a lot of money in PetsMart on pet food and supplies, and to walk the dogs a bit, before our appointment.  In these situations I have to take Dexter along with Gracie, because if I take Gracie and leave Dexter in the RV he starts barking like crazy and doesn't stop and is likely to do some damage to the interior.  It's just easier to take him along.  So I had the 2 dogs and Jasper and their vet records - it was a handful.

The vet said he couldn't diagnose Jasper for sure without running tests, which he'd be glad to do, but he could see from previous records that Jasper's been having kidney trouble for several years and failing kidneys are one of the things that can cause his rear leg weakness.  He said failing kidneys rob a person (it happened to Momma) of muscle tone, and the vet could tell that Jasper had almost no muscle left in his rear legs.  He said he'd be glad to do tests and offer treatments if I wanted to pay for them, but his opinion was that no matter what we did, Jasper wouldn't see Christmas and likely wouldn't make it much longer than another month or so.

I wasn't prepared to hear that and anyway, except for the weakness, Jasper seemed like his usual self for the most part.  I said I wanted to wait a bit and see what happened.  The vet suggested adding subcutaneous fluids, which is something our Austin vet did often to the various cats and it always seemed to perk them up, so I hoped it might help get Jasper over a hump or something.  We'll see.

I drove up and back on the interstate, and even with that it still took an hour each way.  20-30 minutes of that was getting from the campground to the highway in the first place.

All along the way I saw outcroppings of granite, reminding me that New Hampshire's nickname is The Granite State.  Since I've been in the state I've been thinking how odd that is, because I saw a lot more granite-mining activity in Vermont than I have here.  Here there isn't even a mention of granite in the tourist literature, the lists of things to see.  I finally went hunting for it and learned that in fact there really isn't much more mining going on here.  One of the most active mines is owned by Rock of Ages, which is the quarry I toured near Barre VT last month.  And Rock of Ages, in turn, is now owned by a Canadian company.  The New Hampshire company had no more family heirs and so was recently sold and the Canadians say they'll continue to mine here - this stone is called Concord Grey and is known internationally, by those who know these things.  But so much for The Granite State.

Plus, there's the sad story of the Old Man of the Mountain.  His image is everywhere in this state - on their license plates and highway signs and everywhere.  Unfortunately, he no longer exists.  The formation collapsed in 2003.  I'd been looking forward to seeing him.  Too bad.

For supper I'd hoped to find some chicken salad at the grocery store, because that's something Momma often had when we went to Hyde Park Bar and Grill on her birthday.  They didn't have chicken salad but they did have crab cakes, which is something Momma ordered when we came up to Rhode Island, so that's what I got.  And I had one of them for supper and thought good thoughts of my really special mother.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

New Hampshire - Day 18 - Keene

Crow's Nest Campground
Wednesday 18 July 2018

For those of you who've already read yesterday's post, I've updated it.  I forgot to add what I learned about chestnut trees.
today's route
I was looking forward to today's sights and, sorry to say,  had my hopes unrequited.  It was a pleasant day though.  As you can see, I got fairly close to both the Mass. and VT borders and covered some of New Hampshire I haven't seen before.

My main aim was for the Rhododendron State Park, where they have 16 acres of native rhododendrons.  I figured July would be a perfect time to go, when they'd be most likely to bloom.  Apparently I missed it by a couple of weeks.

But first I had to get there.  I went down progressively more and more narrow roads, getting farther and farther into rural NH, but encouraged by occasional signs saying this way.  Then I found a log in the road.  In this photo I've already moved it off the road, but even though it's not all that thick it was waterlogged so very heavy.  It stretched completely across the road, though, and I either had to move it or turn around.  By then I'd already come too far and decided moving it was the answer. 

And the park was only a few more miles down that road so I'm glad I did, but there were other cars in the parking area and they couldn't possibly have driven over that tree so it must have fallen into the road not long before I came along.  Such luck.  At least it didn't come down while I was driving past.

As we drove into the park, there was a sign saying rhododendron bloom in mid-July.  I figure you can't get much more mid-July than the 17th, but the rhodies faked me out.  Not only no blooms but no buds.  Not a one.  Apparently they came a couple of weeks ago.  I know from my yard in Olympia they're spectacular when they're blooming but they don't last long.
what I expected to see

what I saw
It's a very nice park, though.  Looks to me like maybe a 2nd growth forest, and the rhododendrons are thick.  In that photo above all that undergrowth is solid rhododendrons.  Very pleasant and the dogs enjoyed the walk.

I certainly saw places I haven't seen before but I am disappointed.

From there I drove into Keene, partly because I've heard the name for years and have been curious what it's like.  I liked it.  It seems to have a lot of life and character.  For having only 23,000 people it feels larger. 

They've revitalized their downtown area and created a very pleasant place.  Main Street has a grassy median with lots of trees to divide the traffic; I don't think I saw one vacancy all along the street - lots of shops and businesses, very clean; Main Street ends at a traffic circle that encloses a tiny park with a gazebo that was having some kind of rally today; the circle branches the road off into 2 more main streets.  All along the street are restaurants with sidewalk tables and umbrellas and lots of people doing lots of things.  A vibrant town life.

The other reason I went to Keene was to tour the Horatio Colony Museum Museum.  It sounded interesting and I'm sorry to report I couldn't find any parking I could even think of fitting into that was anywhere close and anywhere not in the sun.  I drove around the block several times and finally decided I'd just have to give it a miss this visit.  It's been there for 200 years, I don't suppose it's going anywhere.

What I learned on today's drive is that New Hampshire has some very rural areas.  The parts I've been in so far have had rural characters but - well, there isn't much distance between towns.  Granted there's basically zero urbanization in most of these places, but I haven't seen the rural countryside I saw in much of Vermont.  Well, that changed today.  Lots of space and lots of trees between settlements, lots of large ponds/small lakes.  Reassuring, somehow.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

New Hampshire - Day 17 - Hillsborough

Crow's Nest Campground
Tuesday, 17 July 2018
today's route
I went to Hillsborough, about 30 miles down the road, for 2 reasons: stone bridges and Franklin Pierce's homestead.

Rain was forecast for this afternoon, but it started early - about 8:30 - and it's still raining.  But they tell me NH is in moderate drought status and are very glad to have it.  I like rain but it made picture-taking more of a challenge.

Stone Arch Bridges
What's unusual about these bridges is that they were built using dry masonry, i.e. no mortar.  They date back 150-200 years and are still in use.  It's amazing.  And they're beautiful.

I'm told one of them was recently repaired because some of the keystones were coming loose, but apparently the workers used the old techniques.

Hillsborough has 5 of them and I found 4.

The Sawyer Bridge 1866

The Old Carr Bridge 1840

The Gleason Falls Bridge

Lower Village Bridge
The Lower Village Bridge is actually 2 spans, with the other one just on the other side of that pile of rocks on the left.  I tried to get a photo of both but the landscape was just too overgrown and it was too wet and rainy for me to want to tromp around in the weeds for a better angle.
While I was trying to find bridge #2, I got completely lost on a narrow rural lane.  It was raining and I wasn't looking forward to trying to turn around in the available space, and then got lucky.  I spotted the HQ for Fox State Forest and pulled into the lot.  A very nice employee gave me good directions, and then gave me information about a project they had going near their parking lot: chestnut tree reseeding.
The chestnut blight wiped out the American chestnut trees all over the US during the 1930s and there've been efforts since then to replant them.

What they've been working on is grafting them with Chinese chestnuts, which aren't susceptible to blight.  But Chinese chestnuts grow into bushy shapes, while American chestnuts grow into actual trees.  Remember?: "Under the spreading chestnut tree the village smithy stands."  That's all I know of that poem but boy do I know it.  I even quoted it to the forest employee but she didn't seem to recognize it.  Too bad.

Anyway, New England chestnut varieties have different characteristics than those from the mid-Atlantic, they've learned, because the ones up here are more cold-hardy.  They've been having to learn all this as they go along because they're doing it the old-fashioned way of waiting for a tree to grow, nobody spending much time yet playing with chestnut DNA.  I'm sure it'll come, though.  Meanwhile, they're growing seedlings in Hillsborough NH. 

Franklin Pierce Homestead
He was the pre-Civil War president who tried to please everybody (it seems to me), which of course pleased nobody, and he was a one-term president whose administration is generally panned.

He was born 1804 and died 1869 of cirrhosis of the liver.  All of his children died before they were 12, sending his wife into permanent depression (and who can blame her).  His 3rd son died shortly before Pierce took office so the White House was draped in mourning for a long time.  Not an auspicious beginning.  His presidency was from 1853-1857.

Did you know at that time presidents had to bring most of their own furniture to the White House?

Pierce was a strict Constitutionalist and was very worried about the possibility of the breakup of the Union.  He thought the abolitionist movement threatened the Union (which it did, I learned in Vermont; abolitionists talked about secession in the 1830s) and, although he was a Democrat from a Northern state, he enforced the Fugitive Slave Act and signed the Kansas-Nebraska Act that nullified the Missouri Compromise.  He thought these things would hold the Union together and was surprised when they only increased north/south tensions.

He signed the Gadsden Purchase (the US bought southern Arizona and New Mexico from Mexico) but failed to acquire Cuba, then was slapped with the Ostend Manifesto from his own diplomats, a document that claimed to justify buying Cuba from Spain and declaring war on Spain if it refused (slave states really wanted Cuba).

He tried to clean up the civil service while still granting patronage to his Democratic supporters.

Basically, the poor guy tried to have it both ways and got slapped from both sides.

On the other hand, he was the first president to put a Christmas tree in the White House.  He was also the first president to introduce a flush toilet to the White House.  These are both significant innovations in my opinion so maybe we should give the guy a break.

On the other other hand, he was back living in New Hampshire when he criticized Pres. Lincoln, even though there doesn't seem to be much question Lincoln saved the Union; not a popular move on Pierce's part.

Monday, July 16, 2018

New Hampshire - Day 16

Crow's Nest Campground
Monday, 16 July 2018

This was a figure-out-where-I'm-going-next day.  I spent most of the morning working out what I'll be able to see in the 2nd half of July and where I can stay to see it all and then made campground reservations.

We've been having some pretty warm weather lately, and today it's supposed to get up into the 90s, which I know is peanuts for Texas folks but warmer than normal here.  I put the dogs outside in the morning and left the windows open, but after their 3rd walk, I saw Gracie panting and decided it was AC time. 

Poor Gracie still has her full coat.  Back home I'd have given her a hair cut a month ago but didn't want to attempt that here.  And I wasn't sure whether I should have her hair cut at all, not knowing what to expect for New England summers.

And next month we go to Maine, which is quite a bit farther north than New Hampshire, so it still might get cool in the evenings.  The weather report today said it was in the 40s overnight at Saranac, NY, so you never know.  Next summer we'll be in the mid-west and I'll probably get her cut then but I guess not this year.

Now that the weekend's past, the campground has a lot fewer people, and a lot fewer dogs, which makes it easier for all of us.  It still has chipmunks though, and Dexter almost took my door off yesterday trying to chase after one while he was attached to the RV.  Very excitable.

New Hampshire - Day 15 - Lake Sunapee

Crow's Nest Campground
Sunday, 15 July 2018
today's route
I spent the day wandering around Lake Sunapee, New Hampshire's 5th largest lake.  It has 3 lighthouses in it, which seems like a lot for a relatively small body of water.

I was interested in Sunapee in the first place because of the John Putnam Thatcher mysteries, written by Emma Lathen back in the 1960s and '70s mostly.  At least the best ones are from that period.  John Putnam Thatcher, the main character, was the executive vice-president of the 3rd largest bank in the world and originally from Sunapee, NH.  Being in the neighborhood, I couldn't resist dropping by.  Thatcher was in his 60s in the first books, so he would have been born around the turn of the century, and I was curious to see if I could find an idea of what Sunapee might have looked like back then.  125 years later it's not so easy.
The photo on the right shows the town is built on a small natural harbor of Sunapee Lake.  The photo on the left show a little of the town, including a few buildings that may well have been there in the early 1900s.

It's an old town, built on hills around the lake area.  From the photo on the right, there's a road called Lake Avenue that winds around the lake shore, about 1½ lanes wide in some places, with homes on both sides for miles.  And pedestrians.  Many many of them.  Some walking dogs, some out for a hike, but mostly it just seemed like walking along the road is what people do on a sunny Sunday morning.

The houses had names like Shorenough and R Point of View.

I stopped to ask one couple if the road really did go somewhere (it did) and they told me the lake and in fact the whole area had been carved by a glacier long ago and I should keep an eye out for "erratics," stray boulders left behind in the glacier's retreat.  Farther down I think I saw one.  You'll have to blow this one up to see more clearly but I think that's what that rock is.  Reasonably spectacular scenery, too.

The lighthouses are hard to see from the shore and I had to hunt for them.  I saw 2 of them but just couldn't figure out where the third is.
one lighthouse

another lighthouse
At the south end of the lake is Mount Sunapee, which turns out to be a ski resort, apparently very popular in the winter.  It has an elevation of 2743' at the peak, a 1510' drop, and 10 ski tows.  And is reasonably priced, it seemed to me: last winter, a full day of skiing in midweek would cost someone my age $66.  Not bad really, though a great deal more than I used to pay 40 years ago.

And to top off a very pleasant day, in Newport on the way back to the campground, I found a very nice laundromat.  This one had new machines with plenty of room around them and an attendant to help me when I got an error message.  A good day altogether.

New Hampshire - Day 14 - back down the Connecticut River

Crow's Nest Campground, Newport
Saturday, 14 July 2018
today's route
For some of the way I covered familiar territory, but south of Orford I was on new ground.  And for much of the way I and other motorists had to deal with a bicycle event called The Prouty The Prouty.  Most of that road along the Connecticut River is 2 lane with very narrow shoulders, and that day we were sharing it with massive numbers of cyclists.  The road is hilly and winds around and is very pretty but - my word! - it felt crowded.

Hydrangeas are blooming now and many yards had masses of them.  Very pretty.

I stopped at a mall in Lebanon because I got lost and anyway we all needed a rest break.  I finally got a photo of a standard New Hampshire license plate.

I stopped just north of Windsor to see a covered bridge.  As you can see, it's not just any old covered bridge but one of the world's longest.

As you can see by the map, I covered a fair amount of New Hampshire, but it turned out to be only 90 miles.  Everything's closer together up here.