Author Archives: DiploStrat

Songs in the Highlands (The Ceilidh Trail, Part Deux)

We then headed north to the Cape Breton Highlands National Park (https://www.pc.gc.ca/en/pn-np/ns/cbreton), where we had a reservation in one of their campgrounds, Broad Cove.  Having been told that all of the campsites would be full for Canada Day, we had decided that this would be the perfect place to celebrate.   Our site turned out to be huge with lots of trees.  No services but that is not a problem for us and the Blue Cat liked the site a lot. (It’s all about the cat.)

The weather on the day after our arrival was stupendous.  Sunny but cool and absolutely glorious for hiking.  We took the Middle Head hike of about two hours on a headland surrounded on three sides by rocky cliffs and ocean. 

 

It was quite beautiful with views of the ocean and the lobster boats out fishing.  At the very end of the headland, was a rocky cliff covered in seabirds. 

Quite spectacular.  We stopped on our way out to make some enquiries about a KitchenFest ceilidh  at the Keltic Lodge which we planned to attend that evening, and then had lunch on the cliff near the Keltic Lodge, overlooking Ingonish Cove. 

The ceilidh was excellent and featured four musicians playing a variety of fiddle, guitar, piano and pipes.

We walked on two more trails while at Broad Cove; around Warren Lake and on the Clyburn Trail. 

Both were enjoyable but the weather was foggier and gloomier and it did not inspire us to barbecue and eat outside.  We did attend a free KitchenFest ceilidh at our Campground on the night before we left.  It was quite wonderful with  Anita MacDonald and Ben Miller and a guitarist, Zakk Cormier. (https://benandanita.com)

Note the tap shoes and floor board. (And a pedal board that would make a rocker proud.)

Because of the weather we were in a small activity center instead of a large open air theater and the atmosphere was electric.  Great fun.  A true informal ceilidh or gathering. Fred enjoyed the explanations of the lowland pipes and discussion of chord playing in DADGAD tuning.

We were in two minds whether it was worth heading up to the very tip of the island but the next day dawned sunny so we decided to go, which proved to be an excellent decision.  We found the Meat Cove Campground (and Chowder Hut) perched on the mountain slopes at the very tip of the island.  It was literally the end of the road!  (http://meatcovecampground.ca)

The sites were not flat but we did not care. We could sit by our camper and stare at the ocean or watch the campers coming around each headland and descending each grade until they popped up in the campground.

We went down to the beach by the campground so Denise could dip her toes in the freezing water.  Just to say she had!  To be fair it was cold but only cold!  The views were spectacular with ocean on all sides, it seemed, lots of lobster pots and fishing boats doing the rounds to check them.  We decided to have dinner on the deck at the Chowder Hut, a very pleasant restaurant at the campground.  Denise enjoyed another lobster and Fred had a mixed seafood platter he liked also! Terrible name for a very nice facility. We were joined by a young lady from Seattle, traveling in a Westfalia camper with her dog. She was taking time off from software engineering. By the time dinner finished the campground was full to the limit with a big Class C camped in the restaurant parking lot. (Good deal, probably the largest, flattest site there.)

The next morning it was time to finish the Cabot Trail and head south.  We stopped at Pleasant Bay to visit the Whale Interpretative Center which was simple but most interesting. (https://www.novascotia.com/see-do/attractions/whale-interpretive-centre/1576) The harbor, industrial but pretty.  A lot of the fishing harbors are not picturesque at all, but simply places of work.  They can also be so touristy that they do not attract either. 

We continued south around the curves and the ups and downs of the Trail towards Cheticamp.  The grades are noticeable, in the 14% to 16% range for the most part, which Fred and the 917 found exciting at times. Let us say that Fred and the exhaust brake are good friends! Safely in Cheticamp, we headed for the Cape Breton Highlands National Park campground and checked in.  

It turned out that there was another ceilidh at the Campground Visitor Center that night, so we walked over to enjoy that!  The featured performer was a young lady on fiddle, accompanied by a pianist. Once again there was a subtle style shift, but not to the Francophone as we expected at an Acadian village. 

Flying feet!

Most Celtic musicians perform seated and, in lieu of a drum set, there is a lot of foot tapping, nay, stomping. This can get quite extreme, with musicians using resonant wooden foot panels, like those used by tap dancers, and, in some cases, wearing tap shoes. The guitarist at the Broad Cove campground did this, as did the fiddle player at Cheticamp. Indeed, she told us that she actually started as a step dancer and so it was completely natural. The sound, and sight, are quite remarkable and we found ourselves imagining a friend who plays for the McLean Symphony tearing up some Beethoven in tap shoes. The mind boggles!

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Seriously, the beat is quite infectious. Much Celtic music uses exotic time signatures, but underlying it all is a steady 4/4 beat which makes it great for dancing. One musician told the legend that the seated foot tapping arose so that people could “dance” on Catholic holy days and a priest, looking in the window, would simply see people seated at the table. Don’t know if that is true, but a drummer might go hungry in this part of the world!  Especially when people add jingle bells to their trousers. (Same idea as in Bolivia.) We feel fortunate to have visited during the Celtic music festival called KitchenFest that has made so many ceilidhs available at different places.

 

Ceilidh is pronounced “KAY-lee.” (Part One)

On to Cape Breton Island and yet another Visitor Center for information – we are beginning to feel like real tourists!  The Visitor Centers are wonderful, full of charming and helpful people and lots of information.  We acquired a map of the Cape Breton Highlands National Park with nice hikes pre-marked for us, a calendar of the KitchenFest music festival and leaflets of other interesting places.  (https://kitchenfest.ca) They even helped with the next campsite reservation, so we headed off on the Ceilidh Trail hoping to hear some Celtic music.  Ceilidhs (pronounced “KAY-lee”) are music based gatherings and the music is traditional Celtic music of Scotland.  Most of the inhabitants of Cape Breton Island are of Scottish origin and to our surprise, Gaelic is frequently spoken and heard, in coffee shops and in supermarkets. Even some of the road signs are in Gaelic.

Music plays an important role in Cape Breton life and it has been an enjoyable experience for us to discover it in this form and meet some of the musicians. The Gaelic College in St. Ann’s is spearheading this and has organized the two week long KitchenFest music festival for the last five years. They organize other Gaelic focussed activities also.  By chance, we had arrived in Cape Breton during the KitchenFest festival so we have had lots of opportunity to listen to music.

We headed first for Mabou, which sounds like something from Star Wars, but is a thriving village on the west coast of Cape Breton in the heart of the Ceilidh Trail.  Our first night we went to the Red Shoe, a well known pub with live music. (https://www.redshoepub.com) The food was much more imaginative than you might expect and we enjoyed a wonderful dinner while we listened to our first local performers, Joe MacMaster and friends. This turned out to be Joe, on fiddle, and a pianist, name unknown. 

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Inspired by this and fascinated by the use of a piano to accompany jigs and such, we headed the next day to the Celtic Music Interpretive Centre in Judique, a town just south of Mabou.  (http://www.celticmusiccentre.com We first visited their interpretive room where we learned about the history of the Scots and Celtic music in Cape Breton, tried out a few dance steps and had violin lesson.  Never having touched a violin before, Denise found this fascinating.  We should add that Fred was (slightly) better than Denise was, due to his guitar experience!

We then headed into the restaurant for a light lunch and a Celtic music performance.  Lunch was excellent (lobster roll again for Denise!) and the performing musicians were Joe MacMaster, this time with Olivier Broussard on fiddle  and Allan Dewar on piano.  The music was even better than the food.  Joe played fiddle, bagpipes and finally piano and gave explanations as he went.  (Impressive for those of us who struggle with one instrument and even more impressive when you consider the vast differences in technique between these three instuments.) Fred asked Olivier about the differences between Francophone and Anglophone music and was fascinated to be told that there was no difference as there was only Gaelic music. (Easy to forget that the Bretons of France are Celts.) We stayed for the full event from about 11.45 to 3.00 PM. Then Denise sat down to discuss piano theory with Joe. Most of us think of the piano as a melody instrument, but here it was basically a replacement for a rhythm guitar (chords in the right hand) and a bass guitar (roots and arpeggios in the left). All of the pianists we heard were real theory monsters, responding on the fly to keys being called out at the beginning of each set.

Some Cape Breton music trivia:

— The dominant instrument is the violin, or fiddle. Why do Scots play the fiddle? Seems that after the Battle of Culloden Moor in 1745 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Culloden), the English banned the bagpipes as a way of weakening Scottish identity and introduced the violin as a way of “civilizing” the Scots. So the Scots happily started playing traditional pipe tunes on the fiddle, a practice that continues to this day.

— We heard it argued that Cape Breton music is more traditional than contemporary Scottish music as the island, and its musicians, were always more isolated. A similar comment has been made of US vs. UK English pronunciation – that is that the US pronunciation is older.

— We listened to a piper from Mabou who has been playing in Scotland for the last twenty years. Why? Bigger market. He introduced us to the Lowland or Border pipes, a simpler version of uilleann or “elbow” pipes. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Border_pipes) The uilleann pipes are more commonly associated with Ireland. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uilleann_pipes) And for the really hard core, Google will be happy to introduce you to a least a dozen other bagpipes. Who knew?

As it was pouring with rain the next day, we decided that an indoor event would be fun and stopped to visit the Alexander Graham Bell Historic Site at Baddeck.  (https://www.pc.gc.ca/en/lhn-nhs/ns/grahambell) A most interesting visit. Bell started his career studying speech and working with the deaf. His father had developed the system of “visible speech” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Visible_Speech) and Alexander Graham Bell continued these efforts. It was his understanding of sound, coupled with a knowledge of electricity that led him to invent the telephone, even if it took him 20 years to prove it. He also developed a light based telephone, but this was less practical, until you get to the present day and consider fiber optic cable communication.

Bell was an early pioneer in aviation, using the money he made from the telephone. He, along with Glenn Curtiss, was a founder of the AEA, the Aerial Experiment Association (https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/alexander-graham-bell-aviation-pioneer/) He was instrumental in helping to develop the first manned airplane in Canada, the Silver Dart which flew in 1909.  The replica on display was built using the original specifications and materials (where practical) and flown again in 2009 in honor of  the centennial of the first flight.  He also worked on a series of hydrofoil designs. A most fascinating man.

We also enjoyed a cup of excellent latte in a nice coffee shop in Baddeck (Bean There Cafe http://visitbaddeck.com/bean-there-cafe/) and were fascinated to hear Gaelic being spoken around us.  We had no idea that Gaelic was so prevalent.

From Baddeck, we continued to the Broad Cove campground were we planned to hunker down for the the Canada Day weekend.

Canada Here We Come

So, we set off for Canada and stopped for a homemade, pot luck brunch to eat up as much open food as possible in case Canadian Customs wanted items destroyed.  Well, the border was absolutely deserted and we passed through with no questions of food items in the camper or pets on board.  Like true tourists, our first stop was the information office just over the border.  They were exceedingly helpful and told us where the supermarket was and suggested we visit St. Andrews by the Sea, a nearby resort town. We followed their advice and spent two nights there, camping right on the ocean.  (http://www.kiwanisoceanfrontcamping.com)

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They had live music there the first night and we listened until we got too depressed by the country music they were playing.  None of the songs ever end happily!  So we went back to the 917 and fixed dinner. That did end happily.

The next day we walked the small town and booked a whale watching cruise on a tall ship.  (http://jollybreeze.com).  The sun went in before we boarded and it was a chilly afternoon on board but a cup of hot chocolate followed later by homemade pea soup, warmed us up. we saw a couple of Minke whales, plus a selection of basking seals and several porpoises. Minkes are not exceptionally large whales, but they do meet the test of having-seen-a-whale. It was a well run and fun cruise. Fred spent much of the voyage chatting with the owner’s father, who was crewing. The Jolly Breeze was built in New Zealand from the plans of an English pilot boat.

 

Minke Whale

Denise has noted and enjoyed a mass of lupins wherever we are both in New England and Maine and now in New Brunswick.  It brings back memories of reading the children’s tale “Miss Rumphius” to our daughter when she was small.  She even bought a Miss Rumphius t-shirt with a scene from the book.  Lupins do not grow wild in Virginia!

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Lupins were to become a constant theme during our time in Canada, flowering along almost every road.

We decided to visit the Museum of New Brunswick in St. John’s so we went to the campground in Rockwood Park. (http://rockwoodparkcampground.com) A lovely spot; a huge park only about thirty minutes walk from the old downtown. We headed into town on foot, enjoyed the museum and a cup of coffee in town before heading back. 

Most US history books imply that there was general rejoicing at the end of the American Revolution with all of the colonialists ecstatic at winning their freedom. In fact, the country was deeply split with at least 100,000 loyalists fleeing to Canada. St. John was founded as a loyalist refuge, growing from a tent camp to a city in only one year. There are some interesting aspects of the loyalists that are overlooked in most US history courses. They include:

— Black Nova Scotians. The ships carrying loyalist refugees to Canada had an odd admixture of black passengers – free blacks who had gained their freedom by enlisting in the Royal Army, and, on some of the same ships, enslaved blacks being taken by their loyalist owners to Canada. 

— Militias. It is an article of faith of (too many) Americans that we won our independence with home brew militias that somehow defeated the regulars of the Royal Army. The truth is very different – rebel militias were notoriously unreliable, prone to desert at harvest time and unable to withstand the fire of British regulars. Washington depended on the Continental regulars and thousands of French soldiers to win our independence. (A tip of the hat to Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and our other first diplomats for negotiating with the French for ships and troops and with the Dutch for recognition and money.) In fact, there were more French troops at the battle of Yorktown that Cornwallis was not entirely out of order wanting to surrender to the French. What all of this have to do with loyalists? Only that there were loyalist militias as well as patriot militias and, with the end of the war, they wanted to escape the United States to avoid retribution.

One of the attractions of downtown St. John is the preserved loyalist house, survivor of innumerable fires and urban development.

We think our round trip was probably close to 4.5 miles with the last part decidedly uphill!  So we stopped by the lake in the park to listen to live music and enjoy a glass of wine before tackling the last hill to the camper.  An enjoyable interlude.

Leaving the next morning, we headed towards the Hopewell Rocks (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hopewell_Rocks) to discover all about huge tides (up to 46 feet) of the Bay of Fundy.  We checked into the Headquarters Campground of the Fundy National Forest (https://www.pc.gc.ca/en/pn-np/nb/fundy/activ/camping/avantpays-frontcountry/administration-headquarters) and watched the rain fall.  As the afternoon progressed, it began to clear a little so we added layers and raincoats and headed for the Rocks as it was almost low tide.  It was indeed amazing.  We visited all the viewpoints and descended to the beach where we ambled among the shaped rocks  on the sea floor.  Somewhat chilled, we headed back to our campsite for dinner.  We returned in the late morning of the following day and with much better weather, and duly admired the views with high tides, this time in shirt sleeves! The “rocks” themselves resemble nothing so much as the “temple” monoliths of the Capitol Reef in the western US being made of compressed earth with lots of rocks mixed in.

Low Tide

High Tide

Low Tide

High Tide

Denise down on the sea bed.

We stopped in Moncton to shop and continued just over the border into Nova Scotia. We spent the night at a lovely RV Resort called Loch Lomond https://www.lochlomondrvpark.com). We always like it when campgrounds don’t make us pay for the hookups we don’t use! The next morning we headed for Cape Breton. Picking a side road at random to stop for lunch, we ended up at the Barney’s River school museum. It doesn’t open until July, but we were able to have lunch safely off the road. (https://www.novascotia.com/see-do/attractions/barneys-river-station-school-museum/1455)

Reefer Madness, or The Saga of the Refrigerator

The Norcold two door refrigerator had given us problems from the very beginning.  We took it to a Thetford dealer in Manassas, Restless Wheels, who had twice performed warranty service on it, replacing first the cooling system and then the thermostat.  It completely died during our visit to Portsmouth, NH and we were managing with a limping refrigerator, which worked sometimes, and an ice chest.  We found a dealership, Harvey RVs, in Bangor, Maine who were prepared to replace it under warranty and so after our stay in the Acadia National Forest, we headed to Bangor to confirm the arrival date.  (https://www.harveyrvs.com) We expected to be told that it was due the following week, so we had made plans to visit friends in Portland. 

But first we made a preliminary visit to Harvey RVs as we wanted them to see the layout of the camper and look at a broken drawer. Upon our arrival, we were mobbed by salespeople, all admiring the XPCamper. If the Tiger drew attention, the XP draws crowds! Took a few minutes to discover that the service section was actually about a quarter mile deeper into the site. When we got back to Service, we learned that rather than arriving next week, the refrigerator had actually arrived an hour previously and Harvey was ready to install it that very afternoon.  So, we gleefully removed all our stuff and left them to it. 

Technically, it takes 30 minutes to install a Norcold refrigerator. 

Practically, the fridge is too large for the door and it had to be installed through the skylight. We were a bit annoyed, but the Service Manager at Harvey merely snorted that that is a common problem and that with the proliferation of large residential refrigerators in large Class A RVs, they often have to remove a slide to replace a refrigerator. Our skylight caper didn’t look so bad, after all.

We had made plans to visit Tiger owning friends in Portland, Maine, but, the refrigerator having arrived early, it was all change to staying in Bangor. One of Fred’s imaginary friends from the Internet is Kirk Ramsay who is, among other things the owner of Ramsay guitars. Our first stop that evening was to the downtown offices of Ramsay guitars where Fred and Kirk disappeared into the basement to ooh and aah over blanks of wood. So now there are two new guitars that Fred wants! (http://www.ramsayguitars.com) Several famous electric players have commented that you don’t have to plug in an electric guitar to tell if it is any good, you just have to strum it and see if it rings. Kirk’s guitars ring like bells. Let’s just say he knows how to make a neck joint! As to the rest, the actions are great and the finishes? Off scale beautiful.

We then repaired to the High Tide for a lovely dinner overlooking the river so that Fred could recover.

After a night at the scenic Ramsay campground (Five stars! *****) we were back at Harvey RVs for some adjustments to a drawer which had developed the annoying habit of opening while we were driving along. This site is going to develop a “Best of the Best” section where we will list the best campsites and other services that we have encountered. Harvey RVs will be one of the first entries. The Service Manager had one of the best lines ever: “Well, all we can do is fix it.” Oh that some others had the same attitude.

Maine Meanders

Our first night in Maine was amazingly warm, with temperatures in the high 80’sF.  We thought Maine was supposed to be cool!  We have not had this camper long enough  to really know how long we can run the air conditioner on the batteries, though we have successfully run it for several hours.  So, rather than a Walmart, we picked the Twin River Campground at Skowhegan, Maine, where we knew we could get shore power. We were offered a waterside site, with the caveat that there was a pot luck dinner and pig roast taking place and it might be a little noisy for a while. We agreed that we could live with that and headed to our site which had cars parked on it!  Once that was all organized we sat outside to enjoy the view and enjoy a glass of wine.  Our solitude was brief as all the neighbors came over to say “hello” and those holding the pig roast immediately invited us to join their dinner.  This massive spread, fresh off the grills, looked much better than our leftovers so we accepted with great pleasure and enjoyed a social evening meeting charming people who spend the summer season at this campsite enjoying the boating and the outdoors. While we learned about the concept of seasonal RV camping, they lined up for tours of the XPCamper, noting that it is not at all like the usual RV.

The next morning we were thinking about coffee and breakfast when a knock sounded on our door.  Our new friends wanted us to know that a snapping turtle was laying eggs in front of our camper so of course we went out to look. 

It took Mrs. Snapping Turtle at least an hour to complete her task and then she returned to the lake! 

Fortunately we were not ready to leave before she had finished.

We headed off to Acadia National Forest, where we had Seawall Campground reservations.  (https://www.recreation.gov/camping/seawall-campground/r/campgroundDetails.do?contractCode=NRSO&parkId=94719) The weather on our first day was rather threatening so we headed off in the 917 to the main Visitor Center to watch the movie and gather information.  We are unfortunately too tall to complete the Park Loop, due to a number of low bridges, though we were able to do a section of it. We enjoyed a lovely lunch at the Upper Deck in Southwest Harbor; Denise ate her first lobster roll and thoroughly enjoyed it. (http://www.globeater.com/view-restaurant/?restaurant_name=The%20Upper%20Deck%20-%20Southwest%20Harbor,%20ME&id=1610) After returning to the campsite, the weather had improved so we had a walk in the surrounding forest, offering ourselves as a sacrifice to the myriad Maine mosquitos and miscellaneous flies.

Highlights of the stay were two bike rides, one to the Bass Harbor Lighthouse at the point about 2.5 miles from our campground and one on one of the carriage roads in the National Park.  Both days were beautiful and it felt wonderful to be back on the bike again.  After watching the chaos in the tiny lighthouse parking lot we were most happy to be on our bicycles and not in the 917!  In the afternoon we walked over to the Seawall Picnic Area and enjoyed watching the waves breaking on the rocky shore. 

We also spotted Mrs. Duck with at least six ducklings swimming along in the surf.  We did not know that ducks ever swam in the sea!  Some of the ducklings had a hard time in the surf, but they all paddled furiously back to mum.

John D. Rockefeller had covered Mount Desert Island with a network of gravel carriage roads, all joined with beautiful stone bridges. We chose to ride on one of the carriage roads from the Visitor Center around Witches Hole Pond, a lovely ride of about 5 miles, with beaver lodges and lots of turtle nests. (https://visitmaine.com/quarterly/acadia/rockefeller) 

We enjoyed the beautiful views before heading out to Bar Harbor and a schooner ride on the Margaret Todd. (https://downeastwindjammer.com) It was such a beautiful afternoon it was wonderful to be out on the water. 

Unfortunately, Fred’s ball cap blew off in the wind so we had to buy him a new one on our return to Bar Harbor!

The COG

Back into the mountains, we looked for a campground to spend the night and do all our laundry.  We found a lovely one called Terrace Pines near Center Ossipee, and acquired a campsite beside the Little Dan Hole Lake.  (http://terracepines.com). A beautiful site, which we enjoyed as we completed our three loads of laundry. 

The is the type of picture that they always used to use to sell Blazers, Broncos, and Jeeps!

The campground covers 600 acres and it was a (really!) long hike to the laundry area, we had plenty of exercise!  Our view reminds of a song Denise sang as a Girl Guide in the UK;

“Land of the silver birch, home of the beaver,
Where too the mighty moose, wanders at will.
Blue lakes and rocky shore, I will return once more
(Drum noises, etc) .… ”

We were warned about the bears and there are moose around but we have not seen either!  But we have seen lots of tiny red squirrels (smaller than the DC ones) and chipmunks and the Blue Cat had many meaningful conversations with the squirrels.  That is, they hurled deprecations at him from a safe distance up a tree!

Our final New Hampshire adventure was to ride the Cog Railway up Mt. Washington.  (https://www.thecog.com)

MountWashington in the distance, with its famous windy clouds.

As the Cog is part of Harvest Hosts, we had arranged to spend the night in their RV Car park, which turned out to be a huge area so we had no difficulty finding a space.

The Cog bills itself as the first of its kind, but the folks at Cadillac Mountain in Acadia will tell you that the first actual cog track was actually taken from a smaller such railway built up Cadillac Mountain.

 Early the next morning, we gathered our warm clothes and presented ourselves for the ride in what looked to be good weather. 

Obligatory Tourist Shot

The ride up was lots of fun but it got cooler and cooler until we arrived at the summit with a temperature of 40F and a windspeed of 40 mph, which equates to a wind chill temperature of about freezing.  Boy was it cold!  It was even colder than that! We headed for the snack bar and found hot chocolate and a snack or two, both much needed.  We braved the elements for some photos and to watch the end of the road race up the Mt. Washington Road.  We could not believe the runners who had run up the mountain in running shorts and shirts in those temperatures.  Once their time was clocked in, they could be seen huddled in purple blankets.  We slowly warmed up as we descended and returned to the 917 for a much needed thaw out and lunch.  

We then set off on the road into Maine.

Reunion Ramble – Our First Real 917 Exploration

Timing for this trip was ruled by Fred’s 50th Reunion (Class of 1968) at Northfield Mount Hermon, a prep school in Massachusetts.  We travelled via the Hudson Valley for a short family visit and then on to Gill, MA for the reunion weekend.  On the way, we stopped at Amherst to visit the home of Emily Dickinson, the poet.  (https://www.emilydickinsonmuseum.org) We took the final tour of the day visiting her home and that of her brother and his family.  The houses and the history were fascinating and the gardens quite beautiful.  Apparently, Emily spent her time either writing or gardening.  (Sorry, no original pictures as photography is prohibited inside the buildings.)

 

The weather was glorious for the entire weekend and NMH was at its best. 

Campus view of new science center

A fun weekend with lots to do and friends to see.

Fine camping behind the Gym. (With a great view of the Connecticut River Valley.)

Fine dining in West Hall – as it never was in the old days!

A personal high point was an hour long 60’s revival concert with Fred playing with members of two bands from back in the day, the former school sponsored band, the “Hermon Knights” (a word play on “Hermonite” the name for a Mount Hermon student) and the “Recitation Parking Lot” a band named, with tongue in cheek,  for the place where the buses picked up the Northfield girls to take them back to their campus. Also known for another school tradition – “Animal Hour.” Fred was happy with his playing and the crowd was out of their seats and on the dance floor, a universal sign of success.

iPhone photo by Denise Cook

A quick and dirty, hanging-from-the-mic-stand, audio of our first songs. Rocky, but fun. (Courtesy of Paul “Buzz” Tuttle)

 

As members of Harvest Hosts (https://harvesthosts.com), we then moved into Vermont to spend the night at the Autumn Mountain vineyard near Brandon.  We arrived in time for a fun tasting and found a variety of fruited wines, some of which tasted like Kool Aid!  Others were quite good and we acquired a bottle of cranberry wine, which we both liked.  (http://www.vermontwinerycabins.com) After a pleasant night amongst the vines, we headed back towards New Hampshire over the Brandon Gap, with some lovely views of the wooded mountain slopes both near and far. One nearby mountain rejoiced in the name Mt. Horrid!  We wish we had stopped to take a photo of the sign!  It looked like a normal mountain to me.

We discovered as we headed into New Hampshire that the State Parks and National Forest campgrounds do not accept pets.  As one of the residents of our camper is, of course, Blue our cat, we kept going until we found the commercial campsite closest to Portsmouth. This was the Sea Coast RV Resort.  This turned out to be a very pleasant campground with amazing landscaping from shade trees to flower beds and plenty of space.  The bathroom facilities are impeccable also.  The only drawback was that the new owners had not yet set up a laundry so we determined to check on the status of laundries at our next campsite.  (https://www.seacoastcamping.com) 

Denise wanted to visit Strawbery Banke, a preserved neighborhood with 32 historical buildings from the 1700’s. (http://www.strawberybanke.org) Most are still in their original locations.

Strawberry Banke

The name was given because the first English arrivals found wonderful wild strawberries there. The name was later changed to Portsmouth as the area, first a fishing town, became known for shipbuilding and became more respectable!  We enjoyed the visit and exhibits of early building techniques and also wandered down to the Piscataqua river bank to admire the view and the boats.

Denise develops a new hobby – weaving.

We also discovered that the refrigerator had died again, for the third time! This was annoying to say the least.  After an unsuccessful visit to a local dealer, we called the manufacturer, Thetford, who were most helpful and immediately agreed to ship a new one to the dealer of our choice in Maine.  After several calls, we were able to set this up with a dealer in Bangor and get the new fridge installed.  So, we bought a cooler and with a daily ice purchase are managing to keep cool bare essentials, as we await shipping information.

Before leaving the area, the following day we visited the Fuller Gardens in North Hampton, a lovely private botanical garden.  (https://www.fullergardens.org) The roses and dahlias were not yet in flower but the rhododendrons were beautiful. 

After a stroll along the coastal path to admire the ocean and the huge seaside mansions, we headed for a seafood lunch at Rays of Rye.  (http://www.raysseafoodrestaurant.com) As the sign says, “Lobzsta!!!”  And fried clams for a belated birthday lunch for Fred.

Several of these houses are for sale. But we followed the rule, “If you have to ask, you can’t afford it.”