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Wednesday, September 7, 2016

THE SIX STATES THAT MAKE UP NEW ENGLAND


Once out of New York City & its surrounding suburbs we pull over to check for free camp sites. Here we meet an Italian family in a rented RV who are lost. No maps, no GPS, just a list of instructions to Vermont. We say we are heading to Connecticut and suggest they follow us. When we pull over at dusk at our rest area camp spot they wave & carry on. Wonder how long they drove on that night. Makes me appreciate our GPS, AAA maps, Pocket Earth and my brilliant map reading skills. (According to John)

It’s time to explore the last little pocket of The States that are collectively called New England. First we head to Connecticut, and it isn’t long before we see a wrecking yard and so pull over. Amazingly the owner and John both know some Australians in the same business. What a very small world.  The decorative panels on GR2 are now getting very full!

We carry on meandering through the back roads passing lots of little old towns. We end up in Hartford – the State Capitol. And of course we visit the Capitol Building. Wow, this one is amazing. I think it might well be my favorite. Not huge & grand like most of them, but quite eclectic.

Moving on following those little green dots on the map (the scenic routes) and on over to Rhode Island – home of The Americas Cup for you sailing people. Anyway we are starting our usual hunt for a camp spot. Would be awesome on the waterfront – but the real estate here is amazing – so definitely no go for a scruffy 4x4 to “park overnight” outside one of these mansions. Walmart it is!

Sadly it rains as we are cruising past the crème-de-la-crème of homes in Newport. And they are supposedly only beach cottages!! Needless to say we are not allowed on the beach either unless we cough up significant sums of money. But nearly forgot to mention. John located a scrap yard online – right in amongst the houses. We would never have found it, another plate collector – his walls are covered. John gave him a Queensland plate as a swap for 2 USA ones.

It is still raining as we head in to Providence. Again we hunt down the State/Capitol Building, but there are renovations going on, so not too much to see. Decide to head on to Boston, Massachusetts through huge traffic jams. Finally arrive by 4.30pm. We have decided that this city we are not going to park way out & spend hours commuting, or even bother with a hop-on hop-off bus. We will drive right in to the centre and walk! I have even sussed out a carpark in the middle of the Commons/Park. Woops – first hurdle. It is underground. We finally find a street park and feed the meter. We have 2 hours to explore. There is a guy reading meters so we will have no leeway. It is rather a sprint around amidst showers of rain (and no umbrella – my fault!), but at least we get back to GR2 before some really heavy rain. You would hope that the rush hour would have finished by then – but no! We finally end up at a Walmart at Salem home of the “Witches.”

The next morning we head through Salem and on to the beach. Can’t see a thing through the sea fog, so stop for early coffee at the lighthouse. Hopefully it will clear. Then we meander north following the coast and enjoying the amazing homes. Finally cross in to New Hampshire with its really lovely coastline. A guy stops to chat (as they very often do) and suggests we go to his restaurant in Portsmouth – he has an Aussie worker there. As we keep driving we realize that we have crossed over in to Maine – and the diesel is dearer here (New Hampshire has no tax so diesel is cheaper). So of course we turn around and go back for diesel. So then decide we may as well go to “Lazy Jacks” for lunch. John really needs to have a lobster roll. And it is a pretty spot right on the water. To make up for a long lunch break we get some motorway driving done. Then head to Belfast for the night. I don’t like the carpark in town, so we carry on and find a magic spot tucked behind bushes & beside a beach – perfect. Not a “No Camping” sign in sight.

Pity we have to leave our magic spot so early. We are on our way to Acadia National Park. And have read that the best time NOT to visit is July & August. But we are here, so to avoid the queues of cars & packed carparks we plan to arrive early!! And so we do. We head up Cadillac Mountain straight away, despite the no RV’s sign. All those hairpins are easy peasy for John.  Amazing how many cars are here already. Admire all the views, before heading back down & “doing” the one way scenic drive. Stop for a few hikes. As the day progresses, the parking spots are harder to find. At our last stop the cars are trawling the carpark. Fortunately for us there is one RV spot left (the others being full of cars). Our last hike is a 6 mile jaunt around Jordan Pond. Then lunch on the lawn at the famous Jordan Pond House trying their popovers & jam (basically empty cream puffs!), before the rain comes down. Obviously a great time to leave.

Now we are heading west. Not too many more New England States to explore. On through rural Maine following rivers & passing through many little towns. We finally stop at Stowhegan. Here the river has an island with waterfalls harnessed for power. There is also a pretty Old Mill Restaurant, obviously beside the river. As it is my birthday we head there for dinner. While in town we have been seeing lots of race cars on trailers driving through town, and have noticed signs up for the town Fair. We assume they are connected & ask fellow diners. Yes there is a Demolition Derby on tonight, so after dinner we find the fairgrounds (conveniently right beside the Walmart) and head there, park & pop over to watch the Derby. What a hoot. It has been many years since I have been to one. Not many of you know that John used to compete & he used his prize money to buy my engagement ring. It was a little different from NZ. A small square about 30m x 30m was surrounded by concrete blocks. The cars lined up at either end, front in. Then the start was called, after getting the crowd to stamp their feet (making the stadium shake), & the cars rev their engines – it was all on. The cars doing their best to back in to each other. The final 2 still moving went in to the final. There were 4 heats. Anyone that could revive their car could go in to the semi final. And if they won, could join the final. It was a fun crazy night with a yahooing crowd.

Wake to a gray drizzly day. Scenery never looks as good on days like this. So really all you can do is drive on. Lots of tired tiny towns. Here the barns are extensions of the house - in one long ramshackle building. As we get nearer the mountains we decide to stop for a longer lunch than normal – maybe it will clear – but no. Finally back in to New Hampshire & on through the very misty White Mountains National Forest. There is a toll road up Mt Washington – a very windy, scenic route, but pointless today. At least we can walk to the waterfalls and then to a very pretty covered bridge. We round the day off at a Forest Park campground – even managing a fire, despite the drizzle.

Yay the sun is shining. We follow the Kancamagus Highway- another scenic route. We have already picked out our stops. – The Lower Falls, the old homestead & Sabbaday falls. To make the most of the sunshine we loop through the park to cover as many of the gorgeous drives as we can. The next stop is The Flume – this one is pulsing with people. Ah vacation time! It is a long walk through an amazing gash in the rock, filled with gushing water & moss. There are lots of walkways and narrow steps. To top it off there is yet another of my favorite things at the moment - a covered bridge, beneath which is a river – the water from the river then plummets into a round granite hole/pond. A final drive along Presidents highway –so named as all the surrounding mountains are named after Presidents, and on to a camp spot right beside a river that we had eyed up earlier.

Time to continue west, meandering past many lakes. Occasionally we stop – usually for a coffee stop & chat with the locals. One fascinating stop is at the small village of Lyme. We see a row of original carriage houses beside the church & stop to investigate - end up getting a tour of the very old church, including an inspection of the clock & bell. Chatting to the locals outside we get a few tips on tyre shops to visit – John wants to get 4 new ones in New Hampshire (remember – no tax). Success – in the town of Lebanon we can get new tyres. They will arrive tomorrow. A local journalist catches us for a feature story for tomorrow’s paper, before we head off to find a spot for the night. We follow the river & find a wildlife reserve – bonus – there is a magical view of a covered bridge. Get this – it was built in 1886 and is the longest (460ft) 2 span covered bridge in the world.

Well we now have 4 brand new tyres thanks to the guys at Wilson Tire. John is very happy because he even manages to sell the old ones. And I am happy as I manage to update this blog. Time now to move on to Vermont - famous for autumn colours & maple syrup. Well that is all I know about it anyway. Sadly too early for that famous colour, but we do visit Sugarbush Farm to sample this yummy product & try some of their cheeses. Sadly the rain has returned as we explore Taftsville & Woodstock. Some truly magnificent homes here. By evening we head for the hills to camp, but I spy tiny Kent Pond, so we stop there instead.

More exploring in Vermont. Lots of lovely mountains - Green Mountain National Forest this time. With all the rain the rivers are roaring. A detour to Montpellier – the State Capitol, to visit (yes again) the State Building. Amazingly there is no security at all, we can just walk in the front door & have a tour. Then explore the really cute little town – and it really is very small for a Capitol. Then a delicious lunch at the Culinary Institute Restaurant. 

We now head north following more scenic routes. Our next planned stop is the Ben & Jerry’s Ice-cream factory tour – but the queue is enormous (must be the free samples they give out) and we can’t be bothered waiting 2 hours so on we go. Head across the mountains at Smugglers Notch – an extremely steep, narrow winding road. We now understand why the signs banned all trucks, motorhomes & trailers! The notch at the top is where smugglers hid their contraband alcohol in prohibition times!

We are heading nearly to the top of Vermont so that we can drive down through the Grand Isles in the middle of the Champlain River, but it will have to wait for tomorrow – we find a great boat ramp for the night. Magic with the sun setting over the water on one side & the moon rising over the other side

Golly it doesn’t take long to cruise down the Islands. They are connected by bridges, are pretty flat, and have very little traffic. Before we know it we are passing through Burlington & heading down the coast to Charlotte to catch the ferry to New York State. We have finished New England.

Coming soon: Upstate New York & Canada.

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