QM2-10On board QUEEN MARY 2 for the third time. This Trans-Atlantic crossing I am heading from Southampton, England to New York City. I had to see the different scenery heading west as compared to my voyage in 2012 heading east from NYC to England.

I documented my first crossing in 2012 in five posts from the “high-seas” (see below), but that was difficult and time consuming due to the satellite internet connections. For this voyage I decided I would be brief while crossing providing a post half way through the voyage. Then, upon return, provide you a daily routine including PDFs of the ship’s daily bulletin, along with more images around the ship. Then you can get a flavor for all that is going on. And, hopefully schedule your own crossing soon.

You may recall that I arrived at my B&B in Southampton about 9PM Wednesday night. My hostess needed my room at 11AM, and arranged for a taxi to pick me up then. Thus, no half-day of exploration, but I did go out for a walk at 9:15 AM for an hour heading to the Central Train Station and part of the newer business district.  In the taxi I got to see the pier areas, and fortunately the medieval wall around the original part of the city. Next crossing I will plan time for 2-3 days exploration in the Southampton area.

Arriving at the terminal about 11:20, my bags were checked aboard and I settled in the lounge people watching. Boarding in-processing commenced at noon.

Passengers are greeted upon boarding by crew in original style uniforms for “costly” photos by the ship’s photographers.


Turning around from this spot is this impressive view of the Grand Court. A string quartet was playing away.


I arrived in my room, and completed unpacking by 12:30.  It was nice to be welcomed back, just as I am at the Red Lion Inn.


I then started wandering, reacquainting myself with the “Queen.” I had lunch on Deck 7 in the buffet area.

Looking back at Southampton. You can see the original medieval wall in the center of this image.


Shortly after 6PM it was sail-away time with band playing. This is looking back at Southampton as we pulled away from the pier. The Titanic departed from the pier to the right in 1912.


Ahead is the Isle of Wight


The library opens 40 minutes after getting underway.  In my earlier reacquainting rounds I checked the locked glass cases and zeroed in on what I wanted. This trip, to save weight, I did not carry any reading material with me. The Queen Mary 2 has the largest library afloat advertising over 10,000 volumes, and I was sure I could find something.  In the beginning of July I found a mystery writer, Janet Evanovich, and since discovering her have read the first 12 titles in her Stephanie Plum series. When you find a author you like, off you go.  I am basically  a non-fiction reader and collector, but can get hooked otherwise. I hoped I would find her aboard. In the QM2 library I discovered her Fox and O’Hare (get it?) series. An FBI agent and a con man. By today, Monday, I have completed the first two books of the three written. RAY RECOMMENDS: Find and Read Kate O’Hare and Nick Fox, and also laugh through the Stephanie Plum series.

And on our way to the English Channel, before dinner I settled into my other “home away from home” – the Commodore’s Club.


Wine, a good book, and watching nothing on the horizon. And, several rounds of appetizers brought. Cannot get much better. Well…


So, now you will have to wait almost a week for my next posting with daily routine, images around the ship, and PDFs of the daily packed schedules. But, if you cannot wait, here are my posts from my 2012 Trans-Atlantic posting. Click, and read away.  Catch you soon, and thank you so much for following. Maybe next time you will join me. Yours, RAY

ON THE QUEEN MARY 2 – 29 and 30 May 2012



PEACEFULLY AT SEA – Sunday 3 June 2012


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6:15 – up to get ready to leave for airport

7:30 – Check-in at airport for 8:40 flight to Southampton. Looking forward to touring Southampton, and another Titanic museum. B&B allowing me to check-in early by noon

8:30 – Announcement from agent – “Your flight has been diverted, we will provide an update at 9:00”

9:00 – “Your flight is cancelled. Go retrieve your baggage at carousel 8 and get in line to re-book.”

9:30 – Bags finally returned – never left terminal, so why delay?

9:40 – Find long queue for rebooking.  One passenger comes up and says there had been a big fire, and all equipment was at a hanger, thus shutting down runways.

10:45 – News media all over the place filming and interviewing. Ends up a hanger caught fire at 7:15 and all equipment sent to fight the fire. Incoming planes diverted and flights grounded since no fire-fighting equipment for runways. Learned nothing moved for 90 minutes at least while fighting fire. Our plane had been diverted to Belfast. We were never “officially” told what happened. Word only spread on social media I learned, and later when I asked why we weren’t told the reply I got, “in case it is a terrorist attack we want to keep things quiet.” (that from a young non-official agent)

11:15 – Interviewed by IRISH TIMES, and later by BBC News. Irish Times article unfortunately did not quote me.  But you know me, I roll with whatever hiccup comes my way. ACCEPT and ADJUST – just get me to my ship on-time !!!

Dublin Fire

11:45 – Finally my turn at the counter – only almost three hours since cancellation. I was told I could get on the 8:15  PM flight to Southampton, the 4:25 is full.  Could you please double check.  Click, click, click, and more clicks on the keyboard. “A seat just came open on the 4:25, would you like it?”  “Yes please.”  Dot-matrix printout given to me and a 10 Euro voucher for food. I was told I could check in at 2:25.

NOON – Emailed B&B in Southampton of the delay – kept bouncing back. Recently I reactivated SKYPE, but why is it not on my laptop? I must have deleted it?  Guess what, it was working on my seldom used IPOD (only use the IPOD overseas), and I was able to call my B&B hostess who was expecting me at that moment.

12:30 – Got a meal, sat down, and then saw a couple from Atlanta who I met in the queue. They were also headed to QM2.  I joined them, and we enjoyed lunch together.

2:00 – Went to recheck in. Was told not sure when flight would take off since they were still trying to get a plane in. Got boarding pass, but did not check bag (again) until they got word there would be a plane. Word came shortly, but not leaving now until 5:15 – an hour plus flight, so now not arriving in Southampton until 7PM.

2:45 – Went through security for a second time, and SKYPE’d my B&B hostess again concerning delay.

3:00 – Sat down to write this. Hesitate posting until safely in Southampton however.  My adventures are always fun.  Well, long walk to gate – guess I will head off there again. What else am I going to do? At least I have, and enjoy, my writing.

4:19 – Just noticed departure time rolled to 5:30 PM. QM2 will be leaving at this time in 24 hours — see why you plan an extra day when there is a drop dead date/time.

5:30 – Plane just arrives

5:45 – We get to board

6:06 – Pilot says they cannot close rear door – 6:12 Pilot leaves plane

6:34 – We are all told to get off the plane. The company’s engineers are not in Dublin, but another group of engineers is “borrowed.”

7:12 — I an SKYPEing again with my B&B hostess saying, “obviously I did not make it at 7PM.”  As she was giving me instructions on how to get in if I were ever to make it I hear the door was fixed.  And, we get to reboard.

7:30 – Ready to take off

8:40 – Arrive in Southampton – get taxi – arrive at B&B a tad after 9PM

10:00 – Trying to finish this up to get some sleep. Forget an English dinner, and touring Southampton. As my luck would have it I learned they had the worst rain ever today, so I would not have been able to tour after all.  My hostess needs my room by 11AM, so she has arranged a taxi for me, and I will just head over to the docks. Tour of Southampton will have to come next time

So I head to the QM2 in the late morning for an 8 day crossing. My second crossing and third voyage on her. Posting is hard from the Atlantic, and I am thinking of compiling my blogs in diary fashion with slide shows for posting when I return.  My desire is to recreate the experience to entice you to also experience the gentile way of Trans-Atlantic Crossings as they were done in the Golden Age of Ocean Liners.  Good night, I am ready.


1] ALLOW TIME FOR TRAVEL DELAYS AND CANCELLATIONS so you can still make your main objective.  Of course, I had no idea I would have one flight cancelled, and 9 hours before I get on second plane, only to have to get off again.

2] Make sure to have SKYPE ACTIVE and INSTALLED on all your devices for those emergency calls.

3] All credit card processing is done in Europe now with CHIP Technology. MAKE SURE ALL YOUR CARDS ARE UPDATED – David told me to do this years ago.

4] Enjoy FREE WI-FI EVERYWHERE IN IRELAND. Not the case in London and elsewhere. Another reason to go to Ireland

5] ACCEPT and ADJUST – You have heard me say that before. Do not let hiccups bother you – it usually works out.


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WHERE’S RAY ??? — 21 to 25 AUGUST 2015 — “WHEN IRISH EYES…”

Travel plans with friends did not fall in line, and I was getting itchy. This year I have also been getting two to three mailings a week from CUNARD. I tried to book a crossing on the QM2 in early August when friends were on board. “Sorry, Mr. Boas, no single supplement, you have to pay for two.” Not what I wanted to do, even at $900 per person. Getting more restless. I called on 26 July on an $800 fare for 27 August. “What can you do for me?” I asked. “How about $1162, which includes all port fees, and I can hold that for 24 hours?” I was tempted, and in about 23 hours convinced. I booked on 27 July for an 8 day passage from Southampton to NYC. Now what do I do about getting there. Well, I still have not been to the city of Dublin itself, so now was the time. A timetable was falling into place. But somehow, exact planning did not take place, but not always my style.

I positioned myself at David’s on the 21st to be close to the airport for Saturday’s departure. The cheapest fare I got (still not the ideal time to fly to Europe price wise) was via Philadelphia, which ended up not being bad because I arrived in Dublin at 8:45 AM instead of my usual 6AM from Boston. More civilized.

I decided to stay at a hotel at the airport since I had an early morning flight out to Southampton, thus I was in my room and settled by 9:30, cleaned up and out by 10:30 and waited only about 2 minutes for the airport express bus to the city – a half hour ride. But it was a very rainy day. I did not want to start the clock on my two-day hop-on/hop-off bus ticket, so I began walking in town first stopping to see Trinity College. It was packed – Sunday – still school holidays – no wonder I “do not do cities.”

Trinity College Dublin Courtyard in the rain.

Trinity College Dublin Courtyard in the rain.

Figured I should see the Book of Kells – queue was around the block – I also “do not do lines.”


I decided to walk to the Guinness-Storehouse, exploring along the way. Temple Bar is a lively shopping and eating area.

Typical Temple Bar street scene in Dublin

Typical Temple Bar street scene in Dublin

And, a typical shop

And, a typical shop



Remember my Montreal images? I had to do a double look up close to make sure this was not a real person I should give some money to.



I passed the Dublin Castle, peaked inside, and noted a “must do”

Inside the courtyard at Dublin Castle

Inside the courtyard at Dublin Cast

But around back is the Chester Beatty Library which I had read about. Born in New York, Beatty was a fascinating, successful man. He built his fortune in mining and became a sophisticated collector. Moving to England, he was knighted for his contribution to supplies of raw materials for WWII. In 1950 he moved to Ireland and built a library for his art and book collection. He was made Ireland’s first honorary citizen in 1954. When he died he left his collections to the people of Ireland. The exhibit, Arts of the Book, has the most interesting and well preserved materials dating from c1160 BC (yes over 3,000 years old). This one exhibit is worth traveling to Dublin to see, it is that well done (and is better than Trinity’s exhibit on the Book of Kells – more on that later). Since there was no photography allowed, please visit their website – RAY RECOMMENDS.

In spite of heavier rain, and a badly bruised toe from falling and stubbing it at Trinity College, I finally completed over 3 kilometers to the Guinness Museum which is the most attended attraction in Ireland – and yes, everyone was there with an enormous queue (but I noticed machines for printing out your on-line purchases – note to self, buy ahead tonight). So, I walked to the train station to catch the bus back to my hotel. I was really questioning my decision of touring Dublin – probably due to the lacking of planning, lack of sleep, and lack of sunshine.

I had renewed vigor on Monday morning, and a plan: 1) tour on the hop-on buses routes to get the layout and overview of this Viking town, 2) tour the Dublin Castle, and 3) experience the Guinness-Storehouse museum. My timing again was perfect – out of my room at 9:15, bus pulled up as I reached the stop, exchanged my on-line voucher for the bus ticket, and got onto a bus with the bus guide and I had the best seat up top. I covered both routes in over two hours, and got off as we again approached the Dublin Castle.

I got my ticket for the 1:40 tour, and had lunch in the tea room at the back of the castle with this view.


The castle goes back to Viking times when their fortifications were built on this hill south of the River Liffey and a stream that was to the east of this spot. The open area you see above was at that juncture, and it was a black pool. The Gaelic for black pool is dubh linn – thus the name Dublin (fast fact for you). Part of the original Viking castle was discovered in the 1980s during repair work, and is the first stop on the tour.


Only one tower is left of the original castle works which burned, and the buildings are now stately Georgian affairs (I also learned that the Georgian Period was when there were four kings named George in succession – think I have that right). The seat of British government was here in the “State Apartments” until the end of the Irish War of Independence (1919-1921) when the castle was turned over to Michael Collins. Here is our wonderful tour guide in the reception hall.


And a view out of a window here.




It was then off to the seven level Guinness-Storehouse museum. I printed out my ticket and walked right in, and was overwhelmed.  Arthur Guinness obtained in 1759 a 9,000 year lease on the property, and the holdings on the site are impressive.

But also impressive is that vellum lease in the floor.


I could do a whole story just on the making of Guinness Stout, but I have already written too many words (and have deleted many images from the original plan – I want you to get through).


Your ticket entitles you to a pint, and you can get it at one of the restaurants, at the 360 degree Gravity Bar at the top of the building, or at the Guinness Academy where you learn to properly pull a pint. Below is the instructor giving one of my group a lesson.


And, here I am graduating:



I recommend that you take the course and pull your pint here rather than getting it in the packed Gravity Bar. But still go up to the highest point in Dublin for the 360 degree view. Here is looking back towards Trinity College.



When I went to bed Monday night I was totally unsure of my schedule, but before I left the city I had bought a ticket for the Malahide Castle and Coastal Tour, planning to take the 2PM tour, and then fill in the rest of the day.  Rick Steves recommends going to one of the fishing villages either north or south of Dublin when visiting. Not being a city person, when I saw a flyer for this tour (22 Euros – which included the 10 Euro castle admission) I thought it would be a good to experience the east coast.

When I checked the weather prediction at 7:30 AM, rain was due in the early afternoon, so change of plans, and run to catch the 9:30 tour instead. Timing was perfect and I arrived in the city by 8:45, time to get a bite to eat and be the first on the bus for the front window on the upper deck.

Malahide Castle has been owned by the same family for 8 centuries – 800 years. Not a castle as you would expect one to be, but if you update your home in 8 years, just imagine what could happen over 8 centuries.



Outer walls and moats gone, windows put in (well couple hundred years ago), and 17th and 18th century additions with appropriate interior decoration.

Front Entrance to Malahide Castle

Front Entrance to Malahide Castle

On 260 acres, the last heir could not afford the inheritance taxes, and sold the property to the government in 1975.   The gardens and impressive, and the grounds manicured for enjoyment by all. The only fees are for the house and gardens.

Looking over the front yard from the entrance

Looking over the front yard from the entrance

Some of the furnishings are original, and below is the drawing room from the 18th century. I wish I could remember everything I am told. Of note is that rich colors on walls were hard to achieve. Due to the difficult and expensive processes, rich wall colors are a symbol of wealth. Note the needlepoint screen to the left of the fireplace.


Fast facts — Ladies make-up was complicated, particularly to cover up small pox marks. Lots of compounds held into place by wax – wax which when on a hot night could melt. A lady would take a screen with her to “mind the bee’s wax” to “safe face” rather than “loose face.”

As we left the car park, the steady drizzle began. The bus drove through the village of Malahide, which began to develop as a seaside resort with the coming of the railroad in the 1840s.  The area is now home to wealthier Dubliners, including two members of the U2 (Gary, I also passed the school where the group formed). We drove along the coast to the fishing village of Howth, but now the haze blocked the views back to Dublin and the mountains – too bad.

We stopped in the busy fishing village of Howth – worth another visit on a nice day. Many fish shops, of course.

Shops on pier in Howth

Shops on pier in Howth

I did a double take when I saw this window. It took me a moment to “get-it.” This image is purposely at a slight angle to see if you “get-it.”


You know I like train stations, and then I stopped at a seafood shop that is over a 100 years old. I got more COD than I thought I was getting, thus left most of the chips. Remember you can click on any of my images to open a slide show of larger images.

It was a half hour drive back to town, this time along the bay inlet.

Back in town I hopped back onto a hop-on/hop-off bus to see what the queue would be to see the Book of Kells.  I knew it would be sacrilegious not to see what is considered the greatest treasure of Ireland.  No queue today, got right in, toured through the exhibit area ending up at the “treasury” to view two of the volumes (the original was rebound into four gospels in 1953). I asked, and the pages are changed every 3-4 months even though in special lighting conditions. Guess it would be blasphemy to say I WAS DISAPPOINTED. What they showed were discolored vellum pages, full page illustrations were not bright colors, and text pages shown also were lacking. I own a Manuscript Leaf from a 1453 Book of Hours which is as bright as the day a monk worked on it. But, I can say I saw it — and will say that The Art of the Book as displayed in the Chester Beatty Library far surpasses anything else I have seen in the world as far as book examples dating back to papyrus.

But upstairs was The Long Room of the library, and that was worth seeing.

I then thought I would finish the afternoon with a 4PM Pub Tour, but the rain was not much fun, and I thought it best to hop-on again and go to the Heuston Station (did I mention I like trains and train stations?) to catch the Airlink bus back to my hotel.

Train Shed in Heuston Station in Dublin

Train Shed in Heuston Station in Dublin

I am writing about Tuesday with a Guinness in the lounge at my hotel. Tomorrow is a repositioning day, and I leave Ireland. But it will also be a short exploring day as I prepare for the return stage of my journey.

I have purposely stayed away from giving you all the history I have learned, and not added lots of images of history plaques which I take for my own education, and then hope to share. I will say that I now have a better understanding of Ireland’s fight for independence starting with the Easter Rising in 1916 which accelerated things ending in the gaining of independence from England in 1922.  And, I am sure that I have forgotten a great deal that I wanted to share, but if you got this far — THANK YOU for reading.

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Well, it should have been 135 miles (more on that later). And, why do I seem to always be in The Republic of Vermont you ask? Because there are always things to do there that I like to do.

Last year BLACK BEAUTY and I stumbled into Norman’s Attic in Arlington, Vermont sponsored by St. James Episcopal Church. It was fun, so I thought I would venture over again, and when I found out that the Weston Walking Tour was the same day (did not make it over the last time it was held), it made sense to combine the trips for an outing.

So, off BLUE BELLE and I went for the 30 short miles to Weston (traveling up and over Andover). A friend recently asked, “how do you decide which car to drive?” Well, LADY RAB has has some hiccups with her radiator, BLACK BEAUTY currently initially runs rough, but BLUE BELLE is a charm to drive, and runs nicely.”

WA-1We (BB2 and I) arrived in Weston at 9:30, and the tour started at 10 from the Gazebo on the common. Early, too bad, have to go visit the Vermont Country Story. As you know, I first stopped there one evening in 1962 in my 1929 Model A Ford Roadster and was fortunate to be able to meet and visit with the store’s founder Vrest Orton. Today the store had just opened, and I had it to myself (no pesky out of staters yet). It is always fun to visit because not only the merchandise, but the room arrangement and displays are always changing, and you know I love old country store stuff. (remember you can click to enlarge)

I saw a hat, looked at it twice, took it to the counter. “Would you like to wear it out?” the clerk asked. The perfect topping off to keep the sun’s rays off Ray as he strolls around. The labels even said UV protection (what caught my eye originally along with the style). Check out Dorfman Pacific Company.


Not a bad “selfie” – I have long arms. Gary said this was the best one I took.

The tour started at 10:00 with 30 people in attendance. The tour director said that the 11th person who walked up was the 600th guest on the tour. The hour and a quarter tour (which lasted one and 3/4 hours) took us to 25 spots though out the village. The tour, instead of architecture, focused on stories of the people who built the houses, lived there, what they did, and contributed to making Weston what it is today. At one point there were a number of mills (we found the cellar holes), and when concluding at the Weston Playhouse we learned how that all came about.

The tour started on the common. The common was created in 1886 by nine women residents who wanted to fill in the smelly frog pond in front of their homes. They received a charter to do so from the state, and the park is still maintained by nine women Trustees.

Beginning the tour heading off the common.

Beginning the tour heading off the common.

I enjoyed the walking tour, and have to go again. When I checked the Weston Historical Society’s website I discovered that I had no idea of all they have to offer in various museums. Another trip very soon. And, I plan to send a donation check in thanks.

RAY RECOMMENDS (Strongly) – that you take the walking tour of Weston, Vermont, and tour their museums.


I headed out of town picking up Landgrove Road knowing that eventually I would end up back on VT Route 11 to continue to Manchester and Arlington. A nice circuitous dirt route that eventually took me past the Landgrove Inn. The inn has been “on my list” for a special dinner, so I did not go in to peek, because I want to experience it all at once.

Once back on Route 11, it was up over Bromley Mountain, down into Manchester Center, and south on US 7A (you know I love US7) to Arlington.


I got a parking spot right in front on the street, and headed to the church’s food tent where I had pulled pork sandwiches.


I sat down, and struck up a conversation with the couple across from me, and married for 62 years. His life sounded familiar, and his name came up. “Wait, are you Bob Alden? I met your son about four years ago.” In fact, I bought van loads of books from his son. Well, fantastic conversation followed including learning more of his work  as News Editor at The Washington Post and direct connection to the Mayflower. Small world, but it got smaller. I took part of my lunch back to BLUE BELLE, and from somewhere I heard, “Ray, hey Ray.”



Looking across US7A and waving frantically was my sports car friend (and repairer) Butch (he had spotted BLUE BELLE). They were traveling up from Dover over to NY State, and finding the festival he stopped for his wife. We had a grand time catching up, and exchanging details, promised to stay in touch.

The festival was alright, not as exciting as when I serendipitously found it last year – but made special with the friends I visited with.

I then headed over to East Arlington. Twenty-three years ago (BC – before Cathy) when I traveled to this favorite area there were five antique shops in the little village, and I always bought very well.  Only one is left, and when I walked in (get there now maybe once a year), the owner said, “Hi Ray.” Boy do I have fun. We chatted about the over all state of the antique business and the changes to the area.

BLUE BELLE then reminded me that she had not been to West Arlington, through the covered bridge across the Battenkill to see Norman Rockwell’s second home and studio in Arlington. Two weeks ago I read a wonderful book on his life in Arlington prior to moving to Stockbridge, Massachusetts (surprisingly another favorite spot).

Looking through the West Arlington, Vermont, covered bridge to Norman Rockwell's home.

Looking through the West Arlington, Vermont, covered bridge to Norman Rockwell’s home.

Norman Rockwell’s home is now an inn, and looking at their website, the Inn on Covered Bridge Green is now high on my list to experience.

Inn on Covered Bridge Green, West Arlington, Vermont.

Inn on Covered Bridge Green, West Arlington, Vermont.

And, here are Rockwell’s studios to the rear.


And, looking back at the Covered Bridge off Route 313 from Arlington toward NY State.


Well, it was time to head home as I had done all I wanted to do (and a tad more). Thursday night I got a great email from Number 2 son, Gary, that he wanted to visit Saturday night and Sunday. He was joining friends on Saturday following a benefit bike race in Windsor, Vermont. He figured he would arrive sometime after 7 PM.

Back to US7A, north to Manchester Center, then east on Route 11 and start to climb Bromley Mountain. Putt, putt, lose power, die, pull to side of road. Well, BLUE BELLE has been a tad temperamental recently, but all I have had to do is tap her dashpots (no, that is not dirty talk, MGA talk), and off we go. Not this time. I call a friend who recently closed his repair business. “Tap the fuel pump,” he reminds me. And, it worked. Off I go — for about another mile. I coasted onto dirt, Lost Woods Road – ironically across Route 11 from where I had a car quit 40 years ago.  BLUE BELLES’ fuel pump had decided on taking a long holiday. Depending upon where I stood I was able to get cell service, and my car friend gave me a number to call. Several calls back and forth and that fellow said, “well I would have to charge you $250 to $300 to get you home, but your AAA card will do it for free.”  In January, when my extended warranty on my “new car” expired, I rejoined AAA after maybe 40 years.  I called them about 4:30, “yes, we can take you back home.” At 6PM —


And, about 7:45 BLUE BELLE and I were safely in my driveway. Gary arrived 45 minutes later, and we tucked BB2 in her berth.

No big deal. If you get upset over something like this you are only asking for heart problems. As I tell people, “after what I have experienced in my life, nothing bothers me. Getting upset is a wasted emotion.”

Gary and I had a great evening chatting on my porch. Breakfast at Cafe Loco on Sunday (RAY RECOMMENDS visit and support Mike at CAFE LOCO in Westminster, Vermont), and then we explored the area “filling in the map.” Yes, I found another connector dirt road in Alstead that I had not been on. Too much fun. Gary headed home to Cape Ann about 4:30, and I have been finishing this post as the band is warming up on the Common. Time to heat a casserole, pour a glass of wine, and read on the front stoop listening to the band.

So, another fun couple of days, and besides visiting Weston, Vermont, and all it has to offer, RAY RECOMMENDS – Don’t let anything (like a car breakdown) bother you – it is not worth it.

And, today’s 135 BLUE BELLE miles she had her rubber soles on the pavement for 90 miles, and rode piggyback for 45.

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LOUISA MAY ALCOTT and CALVIN COOLIDGE – 30 July and 1 August 2015

There are some things I never tire of doing, seeing, experiencing, and each time I repeat something it is always from a different light or perspective. And, as you know there are themes to my adventures – fun and learning.

In discussions with friends for ideas to increase attendance at The Walpole Historical Society, one friend suggested that we explore the idea of having an annual Louisa May Alcott event(s). Louisa May Alcott lived in Walpole the summers of 1855, 56 and 57, performed in theatricals here, was inspired by a lilac hedge in town (UNDER THE LILACS) and, on and on. Great Idea, but where do you begin? Road Trip! I planned a route, places I had been, but needed to repeat. Fruitlands, Orchard House, Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, finishing with dinner at The Wayside Inn. I had a fully open day on Thursday, so off Kathy, Tara, Carolyn and I went at 8:30 returning over 12 hours later.


The Fruitlands Museum in Harvard, Massachusetts, was the site of a Utopian experiment of Bronson Alcott in 1843. It failed in seven months, and the family moved on. The property was purchased by Clara Endicott Sears in 1914 and restoration on the original farmhouse begun as a museum to Alcotts. (click the image below to enlarge and read)

History Timeline of FRUITLANDS - Harvard, Massachusetts

History Timeline of FRUITLANDS – Harvard, Massachusetts


Sears’ interpretation of the site attempted to show the house as the Alcotts would have inhabited it, moving in after it had been vacant for five years. Some “license” was taken, but some original Alcott items were acquired, along with items of friends. (remember, click on any image to open gallery and read images easier)

A wonderful piece of original window glass. Well, wonderful for my purposes.


The Fruitlands has an identity problem, largely due to Sears’ collecting interests. The Alcott “hook” is there and small because the property she purchased had the house on it. Her interests included the Shakers (one house moved there) and Native Americans and American Art. Currently around the property are modern sculptures. There is a wonderful tea room for lunch, and concerts on the sloping fields. I need not go back for another visit, unless stopping for lunch or picnicking at a concert.

LMA-13But, although now having been at Orchard House in Concord twice, I am ready for another, and another visit. Amos Bronson Alcott purchased the home and property in 1858, after they left Walpole. It remained the family’s permanent home until 1877.  Bronson and Louisa died in 1888. Bronson died 4 March 1888, and Louisa passed on two days later on the 6th.

LITTLE WOMEN was written here.

Louisa died in Boston, but I need to find out where she and Bronson had lived subsequent to leaving Orchard House. But the fascinating thing about Orchard House is that it is as it was when the Alcotts lived there, including the furnishings. It has been a museum since 1911. And, is amazing.

My traveling co-conspirators anxious approaching ORCHARD HOUSE. Carolny, Kathy, and Tara.

My traveling co-conspirators anxiously approaching ORCHARD HOUSE. Carolyn, Kathy, and Tara


And, then it was onto Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Concord where they all currently reside.




The tradition of leaving a coin on a headstone or at the grave site is meant as a mark that someone has visited the grave to pay respect. Thought to be a Jewish tradition, it goes back even further in time. Following the Vietnam conflict the tradition increased at veterans’ graves in honor of their service. Rocks were the other token of a visit, but as you can see, other objects are also left. I saw cigars on Mark Train’s grave – a tradition there, but here we saw pens and pencils. What a tribute for these icons of the word.


And, here is Louisa’s grave. More coins, stones, writing implements, and a US Veteran flag marking her service as a nurse during the Civil War.



And, in the Emerson plot, Ralph Waldo Emerson’s grave is marked with this rock and plaque.


The day concluded with dinner at The Wayside Inn in Sudbury, Massachusetts. WOW, were the ladies impressed. My fourth visit, and I am ready to return. Not on the menu posted on their website, but a separate page in the menu we were handed were 3-course dinner specials. $20.95 for soup or salad, the entree, and desert. Wow, great bargain, and probably will be smaller portions (but just right). WRONG – the portions were amazingly large and absolutely delicious. Great food, great setting in The Tap Room, and wonderful company and conversation.

1] Visit Orchard House in Concord often

2] Visit Authors’ Ridge in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery
3] Partake in a meal at The Wayside Inn, and tour the inn

Then, on Friday I had so many things I had to accomplish, trip to Keene, then back to BF to pick up CLARION and mail it, deliver Meals on Wheels (I am a substitute), and then a lovely party in the evening on Lake Spofford.  Exhausting day, but worth it because the reward was Old Home Days on Saturday at Plymouth Notch, Vermont. (Did I ever tell you I like, no love, it there?)


LMA-25What caught my eye (other than just loving the drive, and the bucolic setting) was the lecture on Farm Tools and Implements and the reenactment of Calvin Coolidge’s inauguration by his father, Colonel John. That occurred at 2.47 AM on August 3, 1923, but they wisely had it at 2:47 PM instead.

Sponsored by the Vermont Humanities Council, I have attended now about three of their programs. This from the council’s website –  Inventive Vermonters: A Sampling of Farm Tools and Implements. Vermonters have always been inventive, especially when it comes to agricultural innovations. Time- and labor-saving inventions that ease the hard work of farming have always been important in our rural, agricultural state. In this illustrated lecture, retired engineer Paul Wood presents a sampling of farm tools, implements, and artifacts invented or produced in Vermont, examining their use, uniqueness of design.

I found this lecture to be excellent. The presenter wove a story between the farm items used for milk processing, cheese, etc. into the actual processes themselves. Brought to my attention things I had not really thought about, e.g you have to keep cows pregnant to get milk.

Paul Wood presenting Inventive Vermonters.

Paul Wood presenting Inventive Vermonters.

This young man was training his team of oxen.


And here, the director of the site, William Jenny, is moving a faithful reproduction of the lamp used while Calvin Coolidge was sworn in as our 30th President

William Jenny,  site administrator for the President Calvin Coolidge State Historic Site.

William Jenny, site administrator for the President Calvin Coolidge State Historic Site.

And the inauguration reenactment is about to begin. The President was played by the President’s great-grandson, and Colonel John Coolidge was played by a gentleman who remembered the President and knew his wife Grace.


Here is the actual site in the homestead where the inauguration took place with all the original furnishings in the exact location.

Site of Calvin Coolidge's inauguration as our 30th President.

Site of Calvin Coolidge’s inauguration as our 30th President.

And then I got to see an interesting demonstration of sheep shearing. The demonstrator is quite a raconteur. He entertained me on 4 July on a wagon ride, and again today.


Need I say it?
RAY RECOMMENDS – Visit the Calvin Coolidge Historic Site in Plymouth Notch, Vermont

Well, all for now. Working on another excursion, and you will “read all about it.”

Thank you for visiting, yours, RAY

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What with Alex’s visit and our trips to Bromley, the 4th of July in Plymouth Notch, some planned adventures this coming week in Vermont, why would I be back in Vermont today you ask? Easy – the 238th anniversary of the Battle of Hubbardton fought on 7 July 1777. The only Revolutionary War battle fought in Vermont (of course you know the Battle of Bennington [VT] was really fought in New York!) this was the first event that eventually lead to the British defeat at Saratoga.



I was last at the battlefield 24 August 2013, and you may wish to reread that post but the battle reenactment seemed a good reason to exercise BLUE BELLE. Do we need a good reason? NO!

We  pulled out of town shortly after 9 AM. Traveling through Chester, this 1858 General Store was open (usually closed when I pass through). Of course I stopped.


and the interior. Original fixtures, but now mostly gift type items and a few select overpriced antiques.


We (that is BB2 and I – albeit alone) arrived in remote Hubbardton (west of Rutland) about an hour and a half later. There is a super slab stretch of US4 heading west out of Rutland, and BB2 likes it when she can legally travel at 65-70 MPH.

We parked (I answered questions about my “ride” to inquisitive folks) and headed to the battlefield (parking was north of where you usually park due to the festivities). We walked south towards the visitor center.



Note to self — check space on SD cards often. Along with my trusty Canon S95 I brought my Nikon D3100 for some close up (telephoto) uniform shots.  If your shutter will not work, you will discover that your SD card is full. Well, I put my D3100 back in BB2’s Boot – less to carry.

We first saw the Rebel troops mustering.


I chatted with this Rebel for awhile. He portrayed an individual from Attleboro who was in the battle. I learned from him that a musket does not have rifling. That is the terminology difference, and you know that you never know which way a musket ball will go (since there is no rifling to stabilize it), thus the close firing range (50-80 yards) and shooting in volleys throwing lots of lead out.


What is wrong with this camp fire?


Usually at encampments I see nice blocks of turf dug out and set aside, and the fire low in the ground. Thus it does not spread, and the heat is concentrated. The fires here were on metal plates.  Well, it seems as though this battlefield (basically unchanged in 238 years) is now hallowed ground. At this time in history, bodies were often just left on the battlefield – that happened here. The family that owned the land returned 7 years later and found bones everywhere on their farm land. They gathered them, and buried them. As a result the entire area is considered sacred ground even though no bones have been found as yet. The State of Vermont started acquiring this land in the 1950s.

On the south side of the visitor center the British soldiers were camped for the weekend. They did remain, however, at the site for two days after the battle in 1777. Here arms are being inspected.


The same view you would have seen 238 years ago. The split rail fence you see surrounds the site of the original farmhouse from 1777 when this was farmed just before the battle as the Americans were retreating from Fort Ticonderoga and Mount Independence followed by the British and Germans. Remember, most of the uniforms and clothing were wool – great for those 70 and 80 degree days.


(Editorial Note (well this is all editorial notes) — how can you not be enamored by the views?) My video of the concert on July 5th has been my most watched video. Here is today’s Fife and Drum group:

And, I enjoy looking at the sutler’s wares:



Today’s military actions were just showing 18th century maneuvers. Tomorrow morning will be the actual battle reenactment starting at 8 AM with the troops assembling and marching at 7 AM.  To see that, BB2 and I would have to leave shortly after 6 AM — THERE IS A LIMIT TO SHUNPIKING !!!


I chatted with the owners of this brass cannon that was found in a house in Dorset 40-45 years ago. It is possible this is the 4th cannon (and the one “missing”) used at the Battle of Bennington. They are still researching it – what a treasure.


Well, we had no plans after Hubbardton Battlefield, but BLUE BELLE was whining that I had never taken her to New York State – she said, “are you afraid of the Mann Act?”  I reminded her that: 1) we had crossed state lines before; and, 2) she was of age (don’t remind a lady of that — as we left the parking field she choked, and we coasted this time to a shady spot. I now know where to tap her – so I popped the bonnet, rapped on the Dashpots, and off we went).

BLUE BELLE applied her brakes to get this shot (even though spelled wrong)

BLUE BELLE applied her brakes to get this shot (even though spelled wrong)



To save you having to get your maps out, I have marked one up for you below. Not having seen the west side of Lake Bomoseen before, off we went. I hoped it would be nicer than the eastern shore, and with Victorian cottages. Yes it was nicer and we saw some.



You can see my route (partially) into Rutland, out on Route 4 (65-70) up to the Battlefield, then around the lake down to Fair Haven, across the border to Whitehall, NY, and then back to Putney to pick up Route 140 (great road) back to VT 103 and home. Follow that?

Fairhaven I have to learn about – great 19th century brick buildings.


Then we arrived in Whitehall – the Birthplace of the US Navy


Lake Champlain ends here, and the Champlain Canal begins, connecting the lake to the Hudson River.


I chatted for awhile with a local resident, and then with the owner of these Clydsedales – I spent a half hour learning about these uncommon black Clydesdales (only about 255 in the states) and horse behavior, horse shoe replacement (nailed into what would be finger/toe nails) and the frequency, types of horses the Amish prefer, and on and on.  I love having no schedule and just visiting with strangers. He was here to later give rides before the fireworks.


Driving into town, for the first time I saw Skene Manor high up above town. The local resident said there were tours, so once all my conversations were done I headed up the mountain. I got there at 4:20, and should have gone there on the way into town first – it is only open Friday, Saturday and Sunday from Noon to 4 – next time.

Skene Manor, Whitehall, NH

Skene Manor, Whitehall, NH

And, looking back from the front door to Whitehall and the Champlain Canal.


Well (back to the map above) back east on Route 4, south on 22A, cut over to Poultney, VT to pick up 140.  I love 140 (check out that last trip in 2013) and to 103 and home. Wanted to eat out, but nothing appealed to me, and I had one leftover meal waiting for me at home.

I arrived home having experienced 238 Years of History in 298 Kilometers (185 miles). Checking my garden I made my first harvest.


Let me see, $36 plus for plants divided by one summer squash and two cherry tomatoes. Average $12 each. A start, can’t wait to be down to 12 cents each.

RAY RECOMMENDS – A day trip to Hubbardton Battlefield and environs. So close, but so far back in time.

and, RAY RECOMMENDS – “like” Vermont State Historic Sites on Facebook. That way you can plan you next adventure at one of these great venues.

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When moving to New Hampshire 13 years ago my Dad was concerned I was moving to remote woods (I almost am) asking, “whatever are you going to do?” The question really should be WHATEVER AM I GOING TO DO? There are too many choices! You may have realized that I am pretty much always on the go, but doing things that bring me pleasure — and, I cannot do it all, the choices are just too many.

I had a great week with grandson, Alex, and on 2 July on the way back from taking him home – I scouted for books, and explored. A few stops on the other side of the state proved profitable, and the books I found, once sold, will pay for more adventures. At the New Hampshire Antique Co-Op I found another great set of

Frye's Measure Mill, Wilton, NH

Frye’s Measure Mill, Wilton, NH

candlesticks that fit in nicely on my granite center island in the kitchen – now only 31 candles in the kitchen – “hopeless romantic” that I am. When in Wilton (New Hampshire, not my hometown in Connecticut) I decided to backroad on Route 31 and stop at Frye’s Measure Mill – it had been maybe 10 years since the last stop. What a great place, since 1858, and the last remaining measures mill in the United States. I have to go back for a Saturday tour of the mill itself, but touring the old building and the wonderful decorator displays of goods for sale is worth the trip. Two floors showcase wonderful accessories for the home. Below is a work table where you can see the finishing of one of the measure containers.



And, just one view of the great displays of period goods.


Here are samples of the various size measures, and items being auctioned to help fund the restoration of the mill pond.


RAY RECOMMENDS – Lunch at nearby Pickety Place (long overdue for a luncheon there – hint) followed by browsing through Frye’s Measure Mill.

Leaving the mill and looking at the map, I decided to continue on Route 31 through Lyndeborough to Greenfield, and then turn south to Peterborough. No reason to ever be on that route, so off I went. Now, if you were tooling down a road and saw this, would you stop?

Yankee Siege - Greenfield, NH

Yankee Siege – Greenfield, NH

I hope so !!! YANKEE SIEGE, Greenfield, NH. A catapult, actually called a “Trebuchet”, this device is the 2004 World Record Holder (it was most recently used for Pumpkin hurls). Used to throw 250 rocks at castle walls to eventually crumble 6 to 20 foot thick walls. This device set the world record of 1394 feet with a 10 pound pumpkin in 2004 – yes in New Hampshire.

July 3rd – catch-up day at home. July 4th – plan forever has been to head to my favorite Plymouth Notch, Vermont, and Calvin Coolidge’s homestead, for a nostalgic Fourth of July Celebration which is also the birthday of our 30th President. Weather map did not look good, so BLUE BELLE sadly was tucked back inside – boo, hoo, I only had a few miles of rain.


I am going to work on a video of the day’s experience, but here are a few images for the day, and you can also visit my previous visit on the 4th in 2013 on this page (click link).

The parade from the village to the cemetery is about to begin.


Leaving town.


Graveside ceremonies begin with remarks by Maj. Gen. Steven Cray, Adjutant General, Vermont National Guard following the laying of the wreath from the White House. That is the President’s great-granddaughter to the left.


And, then it was back to town, and I partook in the Chicken BBQ.


At 1:30 I headed to the Union Christian Church for famed Coolidge-actor, Jim Cooke’s final performance of “Calvin Coolidge: More than Two Words.” He first performed his solo act thirty years ago on July 4th in Plymouth. The President’s son, John, was in the audience then and remarked, “The actor did very well with his impersonation.” I filmed about 4 minutes of the hour show, and will eventually post here. So, so, very glad I got to see this.

Jim Cooke, famed Calvin Coolidge-actor, in his final performance.

Jim Cooke, famed Calvin Coolidge-actor, in his final performance.

I then figured, “I am here, let me hop on the wagon ride.” And it was fun. This one young lady did her hair for the 4th!


And, you know me and Country Stores. Here is an interior view of the Cilley Country Store in the “center” of town.


I had a slow start on Sunday, July 5th. Discovered a new great mystery writer, Janet Evanovich, and had two chapters to go when I thought, “let me see what concert is at Saint Gaudens this afternoon.” Well, I found out it was the Cornish Colony Family Picnic Day with festivities before the 2PM concert, and at 12:30 the The Knave of 74-14Hearts was to be performed as a “human puppet show” featuring Cornish, Plainfield and Fairlee elementary students with Upper Valley adult actors voicing the parts. Written by Cornish writer Louise Saunders, and illustrated by Maxfield Parrish, I last sold a first edition of the play in 1995 for $1000 — I had to see it.  I knew one friend was busy, and I fired an email off to another before jumping into the shower – I had just enough time to fly up to Cornish. Sadly, when I stopped at my spontaneous friend’s home  on the way out of town, work prevented play – so off I sped over to US 5 in Vermont.

US 5 is a “sports car road” at least from the north end of Rockingham up to
Windsor. Perfect for “blowing out the carbon” – but I did not say that. Roughly in thirds, the best part are the southern most two thirds – Ascutney to Windsor is populated – not fun. My favorite parts are not traveled, beautiful, and made for low flying vehicles. Soon after I left Springfield at the bridge back to Charlestown I flew by two historical markers that I have missed in the past – mental note – come home that way.

RAY RECOMMENDS – Buy a vintage sports car (keep the top down) and travel US 5 from Rockingham to Ascutney

I arrived at Saint Gaudens National Historic Site just after noon, and realized that I have to admit that my pleasure in going here surpasses the Fort at Number 4, and almost ties Plymouth Notch. So, let’s say that I have a tie for number 2 drives, and the fort is alright as a third (remember RLI !!!!). I had quickly packed a lunch and had some in the field where I parked, then headed up to the house and the sculpture’s studio.


The play was to be performed on the pergola of the Little Studio with limited seating. Sometimes there is an advantage of being alone – there was one perfect seat remaining. Presented in “tableaux vivants” (a mime technique in which human figures  “freeze” in poses) adult actors read the parts off to the side. The half hour show was amazing, and the costumes fantastic. Here are some images.




And, the actors lined up in front of St. Gauden’s home when all was done.


And then I had about 1/2 hour before the concert began. I found a shady spot on the edge of the porch with a commanding view.


The best view was this Perfect Picnic.





BUT, note the wine glasses – and the holders. I could not resist, I visited the trio and learned all about their Steady Sticks, and wine glasses with stems that unscrew and then seat in the glass for easy moving/hiking/sports car packing. YES, now on order – you know me. Summer is still young – let the parties begin – hint again.


The concert began, but I only stayed for about a half hour. I had to check out those historical markers.

So, down Route 12 in NH, crossed the Connecticut River to Ascutney, and south on US 5 – did I tell you I love that stretch of road?

First monument will need more research, as to Gen. Morris’ involvement in the 1801 presidential election.




Just south were two markers for the Crown Point Road. This is the first road in 74-25Vermont which was built in 1759 from the Fort at Number 4 to Lake Champlain for the movement of troops and supplies. It was a very important military road which I need to learn more about and travel. I thought it crossed the Connecticut River close to the fort’s reconstruction, but I was wrong. The crossing was at Wentworth Ferry just under a mile north of the current bridge from Charlestown to Springfield. Of course, I have a book on the road, but have yet to study it – still on the list.


Well, a great day, and:

RAY RECOMMENDS – Visit Saint-Gaudens to enjoy the exhibits, house, grounds and just the drive up and down both sides of the Connecticut River  – it cannot get much better.

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ST-8It is if you are going to the CMSGMA (Central Mass. Steam and Gas & Machinery Assoc.) – 39th Annual Yankee Engine-unity Show at the Orange Municipal Airport! But first back three days. “On the list” for maybe six months was to have Alex for the last week plus of June. David and Mari are responsible for a conference in Vancouver, so, of course, I can take care of him. Arriving at their home on Wednesday, David and I walked him to his last day of fourth grade on Thursday, and then I took David and Mari to Logan Airport. The last day was a half day, and after lunch I took Alex to a friend’s pool party. A lovely couple, I stayed and chatted until well after four before we headed home. On Friday, Alex and I took the T from Alewife Station to MIT where he was the “subject” for a study at 1PM (this has been an ongoing project). I walked around the MIT campus for awhile, and when he was done we went to the MIT Museum.

The MIT Museum is small, and since it was a once a year “free Friday” it was packed – but not bad. We enjoyed looking at the development of early robots, and current work on teaching robots to think and respond, particularly for use in space to perform tasks – amazing. We then entered a gallery of “Gestural Engineering” by Arthur Ganson with all sorts of moving contraptions. As the museum was closing we finished in the special photography exhibit.

GESTURAL ENGINEERING - this "wishbone" pulls the contraption back and forth.

GESTURAL ENGINEERING – this “wishbone” pulls the contraption back and forth.

Gary joined us for dinner, and “three” generations had a fun evening following.

Plan for Saturday was to head back home, via the steam and tractor show in Orange. I was so thrilled that Alex showed interest in sharing “something old” with me and learning from it, and jumping ahead, he did have fun.

I have been fascinated by “hit and miss” engines for over 55 years since I first saw one at one of our car shows in Connecticut when I was growing up.

A "hit and miss" engine driving a pump.

A “hit and miss” engine driving a pump.

Today’s show I learned about at a train show I went to in January, and yes, it has been “on the list” since. Mainly there were old stationery gas engines, but also a steam and an antique tractor show, and some Model T Fords.

A Lineup of Tractors being exhibited.

A Lineup of Tractors being exhibited.

And here was a great display with a new steam engine driving the equipment.


I told Alex that these old engines would drive farm equipment of various sorts and were on wheels to be moved from place to place. We started down another “aisle” and here was such an engine husking corn. Do look at these next two videos.

When we heard the announcement for the tractor parade, Alex said, “let’s hurry to see it.” Here is just part of what we saw.

Called “hit and miss” engines because they are not firing on all cycles – on purpose. The single cylinder fires and drives the flywheel which becomes a drive wheel when a belt is attached. The distinctive firing sound comes when the governor on the engine senses that the flywheel is slowing down. Then the fuel and spark are provided, and the engine fires with a puff and bang and the flywheel keeps a constant speed to drive the farm equipment.



The club in 2001 purchased this Cagney steam train. Their goal is to have it running around their club house for rides and steam education.



In the parade was this interesting chain driven cultivator.


After about 3 hours of fun (and fried dough) we headed back home, but first making a grocery stop in Keene.  Was it fun shopping together, and actually smart on my behalf. We planned and purchased meals he wanted, and purchased the brands that he is used to and prefers.

Back home at 4, unpacked, snack time, dinner later, and then a movie. He is “working” on the porch as rain plays on the roof while I am finishing this up. Tomorrow there are no plans, but something will happen. Monday is Alpine Slide “redux” at Bromley – it was a hit last year. Tuesday, who knows – but fun, and on Wednesday we head back to Alex’s house as David and Mari will be getting in late. On the way back there I hope to introduce Alex to the Battle of Lexington & Concord, at least the spot Paul Revere was captured, and the show at the visitor center. Will start talking about it tomorrow.

Believe it or not, this is my 200th post on “Shunpiking with Ray,” and in 7 more “hits” I will have had more than 44,000 page views.

To sum today up, RAY RECOMMENDS:
1] Check out the CMSGMA website, and plan on attending the steam, gas, and machinery show in Orange, Massachusetts in 2016 (unless you run down tomorrow.)

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Today, the weather again was just too perfect – soon to change as remnants of Storm Bill are stirring up outside. BLUE BELLE (BB2) and I left about 11:30, and returned 54 miles and five hours later. Only planned stop was The Fort at No. 4 in Charlestown, NH.

The first Thanksgiving we were in New Hampshire (2002), Cathy and I enjoyed the Thanksgiving Feast by candlelight in the Great Hall at the Fort. We became members, and visited often each year, taking company, enjoying mock battles, additional Thanksgiving Feasts, and the earlier amazing Pickpockets, Rogues & Highwaymen Halloween Evenings.

View of the interior of Fort Number 4 from the Watchtower.

View of the interior of Fort Number 4 from the Watchtower.

As outposts were established along the Connecticut River Valley in the 1700s, the northernmost point was No. 4 (now Charlestown). Walpole was designated No. 3. The original proprietors, due to uneasy peace with Natives and England and France decided to build a fort in 1743. It actually was a fortified village created by pulling the existing homes together, connecting them with other structures, and surrounding it with a log palisade. By 1761, its usefulness had passed, and the fort (originally on Main Street – Route 12) fell into disrepair and was demolished. During the 1960s the fort was reconstructed as a living history museum north of town on a perfect spot on the Connecticut River. I encourage you to read more of the history by clicking on this link. The year after Cathy died the fort closed due to financial problems, but within a year fortunately was saved, and successfully reopened six years ago.

I visited earlier this month on 7 June for the French and Indian War Encampment and mock battle. But, today I returned because I realized I just needed to become a member again. If you believe in something, you should VOTE with YOUR DOLLARS. Recently I have been giving to various historical organizations, maybe from the awareness I have gotten from being Treasurer of the Walpole Historical Society, and the competing need for ever scarcer funds.



You know I enjoy images looking through something. Here is a gun port from the stairway going up into the watchtower. Note the logs of the Palisade (Stockade). They were deliberately spaced apart so muskets could be fired through to the enemy. Also, the spacing prevented snow from drifting against the stockade. A drift would form a ramp allowing attackers to gain entrance over the top. This was learned (sadly) from the 1704 raid at Deerfield, Massachusetts.


A view crossing through the center area heading to the Parker House.


This is the two-story Parker House. Lieutenant Parker was one of the first settlers in the area. I could live in this house.



And, two interior shots of the Parker House. Remember that you can click on my images to enlarge them.

This weekend was General Stark’s Muster and Garrison at the fort. I enjoy reading about both John Stark and Ethan Allen. I never was really interested in the French and Indian War period and the American Revolution until I moved here. Not much has changed in this area in those over 250 years, thus it is easier to understand what happened then. Here is where the General was quartered.


But the troops were in tents outside.


And cooked, etc. outside too.


I have always been fascinated by the Three Sisters, so I am sharing this so you can read about them. (if hard to read, click to enlarge)


Upon leaving I chatted more with Wendy, the Fort’s paid director. I said that I have always wanted to assist in some way, and she promised to call me.

Lunch? I remembered – just cross the river, and stop at The Silver Bullet. Remember I was there on May 16th, and said I would return? Now, how can you not go again for a third and more times when you walk up to the food cart and the owners say, “Hi Ray, nice to see you back.” “You remember me?” “Of course, you did such a great write-up about us.” Their selections are amazing. I had smoked potatoes and a pulled pork and ham sandwich (actually a meal). I did confess that I liked my selection on my first visit more, but I love their interesting creations — not to mention feeling part of a “special club.”  Yes, I will be back, and have to bring a friend or two.  Here is today’s meal (and it is now 11PM and I never needed supper).


BB2 and I then scooted into Springfield, then up over the hills to Chester, and visited the common. I then stopped at the Stone House Antique Center, but did not find any treasures. But it is the hunt!!! You may not know how important this spot is to me, and here is the spot:


when we bumped into a friend (we were on an overnight holiday from Connecticut) who said, “if you have a long range plan, do it now.” Cathy and I looked at each other, our non-verbal communication kicked in and we knew we were going to move. We sold and bought in two weeks, and I have that documented in our miracle story.

It was then down Route 103 to the Vermont Country Store. Always a fun place to browse, and often an afternoon drive for me for a break. I got an old fashion soda, and sat on the porch awhile watching the world go by (and seeing people enjoy looking at BB2).

Then I decided to take Pleasant Valley Road over the hill to Saxtons River, and then head home. But arriving in thriving downtown Saxtons River (that is a joke if you have not been there), I turned left to Vermont Academy to explore the roads beyond it. Well, there was only one, and YEAH it turned into dirt. It could only lead back to Route 103, and probably at the Rockingham Meeting House. Great road, great fields and woods, and I was correct.

1787 Rockingham Meeting House - Rockingham, Vermont

1787 Rockingham Meeting House – Rockingham, Vermont


I peeked in through a window, and it looks like BLUE BELLE was trying to do the same thing.


Well, we felt like sliding home, and that is what we did. A perfect day out BB2 and I.

1] Visit The Fort at No. 4 in Charlestown, NH, and become a member
2] If you believe in an organization or cause, become a member and/or donate. Good causes, museums, etc. will only survive if we give whatever we can.
3] Attend functions at The Fort at No. 4 — here are a few images from my visit on 7 June during the French and Indian War Encampment




And, a movie as all the “players” were leaving the battlefield.

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This, 13-14 June, was a perfect weekend weather-wise. Yesterday, Saturday, I was invited to a graduation party for a young man who has been with us in The Walpole Players since moving to town in 2007 – and a wonderful family. It was an honor to be invited, and I enjoyed the afternoon. Today, however, I started thinking about “filling in the map” with a number of local places I knew about, but had not been to. You know the old story about people never experiencing what is in their back yard – cannot be me!

But, first I must share a frustration. You have not yet heard about the end of my Hudson River adventure. I do too much, and want to share too much. I always provide hyper-links for you to click on to read more about a place, museum, or area – but I want to write about it too, and provide large galleries of images. It is time consuming to write and process the images, and I don’t want to bore you. I seem to have drifted away from quick and concise posts, so here is an attempt to get back to that. The end of the Hudson River adventure will await a toned-down version. Actually, I reviewed my similar adventures on 27 September 2014, and liked that concise post. So, here goes with today’s 80 Blue Belle miles in 6 hours.

FD-1BB2 and I left home at 10:30 and jogged off Route 12 onto River Road. Our first stop Boggy Meadow Farm, just 3 miles from home – but I had never stopped. The farm has been owned by the same family since 1822. Now, hopefully you are sitting down. Their shop is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and on the honor system with a cash box on a table (yes, make your own change). But you can also order on-line. Donna, heard me come in, greeted me, and we chatted awhile. The milk from their dairy cows is used for making cheese from one day, and a night’s milking – the rest being sold. Their cheese, of course, all hand-made from fresh raw milk. Since I was going to be out all day, I did not make a purchase, but could go back some sleepless night. Below is the shop with cheese making room in the background behind glass, and cash-box to the left.

Boggy Meadow Farm Cheese Shop, Walpole, NH

Boggy Meadow Farm Cheese Shop, Walpole, NH


I continued down the entire length of River Road (just so great) up onto Route 12 for a short distance turning off on Route 63 to Westmoreland. There are two “centers” and the first you come to is Park Hill with the meeting house built in 1764 (9 miles from home).


You need to drive down to see the wonderful 19th century homes surrounding this area. Sadly at least three are for sale, and (I think) bargains at $359,000 or less. In another one and a half miles (still on Route 63) you get to the Village Center with church, town offices, post office and general store. Just south of the village (11 miles from home) I turned left on Spofford Road.

You know I can smell an old car miles away.



This is an early 1920s (or earlier) Maxim Motor Company fire truck built in Middleboro, Massachusetts. The company was founded in 1914, with an interesting history.

Just before getting to Route 9, on what would have been the old route is Spofford Village. I took this image to provide some history of the town, but you have to stop to see the great houses – and at least one is for sale.


My destination on Route 9 was the Chesterfield Gorge – again, never been there in my 13 years living in New Hampshire. Ironically, after 11 years of being closed, the state reopened the visitor center yesterday. A private group has kept the trails up and clean, and I was impressed. I walked the path down, across two foot bridges, snapped this image of the gorge and traipsed back up. Not the Flume, and not the New Preston Waterfall that I owned, but a nice walk.

Chesterfield Gorge, Chesterfield, NH

Chesterfield Gorge, Chesterfield, NH

RAY RECOMMENDS – Take this hike with a “special” friend, and maybe even pack a picnic lunch.

Chesterfield, NH Post Office

Chesterfield, NH Post Office


Then I headed west on Route 9 to turn south on Route 63 into Chesterfield. My destination was Madame Sherri’s Castle. Chesterfield is pretty, and the views from the center of town off to the west are amazing. Passing through the village I turned right on Stage Road, and shortly picked up Castle Road (YEAH — DIRT!!!) and you continue onto Gulf Road, looking for the sign.

The Castle was built in 1931 as a retreat by

FD-8an actress and theatrical costume designer. A few years ago I read a book about her exploits and eventual reclusive life here. Sadly the Castle burned in 1962, and Madame died in 1965. Click on this link for the gist of her story.

Remaining stairs of Madame Sherri's Castle

Remaining stairs of Madame Sherri’s Castle

RAY RECOMMENDS – Read Madame Sherri’s story – fun read – but unless you want to hike this great area there is no reason to visit.

The next stop on the day’s agenda was the ESTEY ORGAN MUSEUM in Brattleboro, VT which is only open Saturday and Sundays from 2 to 4.  In business from 1846 to 1960, the company was the main employer in Brattleboro, and produced the majority of the organs found in Victorian homes – over 1/2 million. Pipe organs were made beginning in the 20th century, but brass reeds produced the sound in most organs.

The Estey Organ Company complex fronting Birge Street in Brattleboro.

The Estey Organ Company complex fronting Birge Street in Brattleboro.

This image is of a “high end” organ. Most of the top part is simply cabinetry – and wonderful.


I had to take this image of an organ encased in a faux Bible. If you have ever seem my formal parlor with bookshelves, I have told you that the books you see are not books at all, but objects made to look like books serving other purposes. I have collected them for 25 years, calling them “book-alikes.”


I looked out a window, and could not believe what I saw. All the siding on the buildings was slate. Replacing earlier buildings destroyed by fire, the extant buildings are sided in slate to retard fire. AMAZING – and you know that I like color and texture in my images. Open this gallery if you wish.

and, here is a video of a pipe organ, expanded so you can walk inside.

RAY RECOMMENDS – Visit the Estey Organ Museum in Brattleboro, Vermont.

Next – yes, more on today’s list – I wanted to find the Fort Dummer Monument on US 5 below Guilford, Vermont. Not finding it I pulled over, shut BLUE BELLE down, and checked my maps and notes. I turned around, started north, and she decided to feign a siesta – NOT GOOD. Fuel was not flowing – like vapor lock, but not quite. Let her rest a few moments, she would start and run rough just a tad, then quit. I finally popped the bonnet to pretend I knew what I was doing (I know enough to be dangerous). Found Number 4 Spark Wire with a bad connection that I want to replace, but it was not a misfiring problem. Looking at the dual carbs for a problem, I tapped with my knuckles on the top of the dashpots. Getting back in, BB2 turned over running smoothly – I did not shut her off until we returned home. Those stuck dashpots will get attention this week – John H. said he would help me.

Sometimes when it says "Private Property" we comply.

Sometimes when it says “Private Property” we comply.

So, through Brattleboro on US 5, and turning left before the rotary with Route 9 onto Black Mountain Road to find Kipling Road.  YES – as in Rudyard Kipling. While honeymooning in Brattleboro in 1892, the couple fell in love with the area and purchased property building NAULAKHA in 1893.  It is in this house that Kipling wrote CAPTAINS COURAGEOUS, THE JUNGLE BOOKS, A DAY’S WORK, and THE SEVEN SEAS. He also worked on KIM and THE JUST SO STORIES.  A dispute lead to his departure in 1896 back to England. In 1992 the Landmark Trust became owners of the property, and make it (with much of the original furnishings) available for rentals. Three night minimums – four bedrooms – I cannot wait to get a group of special friends together to experience it (been on the list for years).

A distance back from the road, and trees now blocking the views into New Hampshire, even with my little camera the telephoto is pretty good.

NAULAKHA - Dummerston, Vermont

NAULAKHA – Dummerston, Vermont

So, back (dirt) roads back to US 5 – north to Westminster, and across the Connecticut River and home. A great day, and a story easily woven around a few images and links for your further research. And, posted same day.

Thanks for reading, as always, yours, RAY


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