Today, 18 April 2015, is just one of those days packed with projects. In the middle of three writing projects, I needed a break and decided to go for a walk. My timing is always amazing. Just coming down the street was Shunpiking Pal Tara walking Flurry. We continued together for about 45 minutes “catching up.” Well, we had not seen each other since Wednesday, and had not shunpiked since Sunday last.

She stopped at her home, and I continued on, eventually arriving home. About 10 minutes later she emailed with a link to the New York Times article copied below.  I was enthralled on my “speed read” and have read it 5 times since.

I have to share these well crafted 1054 words, and their wisdom.  Pour a glass of wine (or two) and spend some “down-time” reading and contemplating. It may change your life.

Reclaiming the Age-Old Art of Getting Lost
By Stephanie Rosenbloom – APRIL 16, 2015
NEW YORK TIMES Travel Section

Lost in the Latin Quarter, I ended up, literally, at the foot of Michel de Montaigne.

A bronze statue of this French Renaissance philosopher — balding, with a beatific smile, cape draped over his shoulders, slender legs crossed — sits on the Rue des Ecoles in Paris, opposite the Sorbonne.

He was blackish green with the exception of the tip of his right shoe, which gleamed from having been inadvertently polished by the touch of countless hands. Why? I didn’t know. But assuming his foot was a kind of community talisman, I gave it a rub before continuing on my way.

It is a tradition among students, I would later learn, to touch the shoe of Montaigne with the hope that doing so brings them luck on their exams.

I was already lucky: I didn’t have a map. If I did I wouldn’t have seen the philosopher (by the sculptor Paul Landowski) or benefited from any additional good fortune that may have been transmitted through his foot. I wouldn’t have lingered before bookstore windows or passed Square Paul Langevin, where the blossoming branches of cherry trees reached over the fence, spilling petals like pink confetti.

The ubiquity of map and navigation apps these days can be a boon, but it also means that pedestrians can easily choose efficiency at the expense of discovery.

“We travel for romance, we travel for architecture, and we travel to be lost,” the writer Ray Bradbury said in a 1990 interview with Rob Couteau. “There’s nothing better than to walk around Paris and not know where in hell you are.”

This is true of not only Paris, but also most any city in Europe if one hopes to have the kind of chance encounters that make a vacation more than a game of hopscotch among landmarks.

My iPhone finds the most direct route to anything I wish to see, which is why I turn it off. Keeping it on would mean missing out on countless small streets and dead-ends, all those quiet, beautiful lanes and impasses with names I don’t remember.

Paper maps, which are rarer these days, can also get in the way.

“There are map people whose joy is to lavish more attention on the sheets of colored paper than on the colored land rolling by,” Steinbeck wrote in “Travels With Charley: In Search of America.”

“Another kind of traveler requires to know in terms of maps exactly where he is pinpointed every moment, as though there were some kind of safety in black and red lines, in dotted indications and squirming blue of lakes and the shadings that indicate mountains. It is not so with me. I was born lost and take no pleasure in being found.”

It is by being a wanderer, and not, to borrow a term from Steinbeck, a “mapifier,” that one is most likely to stumble upon less-frequented haunts.

Off Dublin’s Dame Street, through a stone arch near City Hall, past the Treasury Block building and a parking lot, around a corner and onto what looks like a service road, there is a wall of stones. On and on this gray wall goes with stones that are fat, wide, narrow and tall, and then — a gate.

There, through decorative whorls of black iron, one sees a vast, green oblong field ringed with benches and crisscrossed with paving stones in a ribbony Celtic-inspired design. On the wall that leads to the field, which dates to 1680, are the words: “Dubh Linn Garden.” Step inside, as I did one June afternoon, and you’ll be on the site of the former black pool, or “dubhlinn,” from which Dublin gets its name.

On that same trip, again mapless, I wandered by centuries-old Georgian houses with Crayola-color doors and, by chance, wound up at No. 1 Merrion Square, where Oscar Wilde lived as a child, from 1855 to 1878, and where his mother held salons attended by the likes of Bram Stoker. Yeats lived nearby, at No. 82.

Other aimless walks through Dublin were less historical but no less enjoyable: With little regard for time or where I would go next, I strolled through the Victorian park St. Stephen’s Green one morning, stopping to watch a man at the lip of a lake feed two white swans and a flock of fuzzy cygnets.

Freedom is being guided by a mood, not a map. One winter, in Italy, I arrived in Bologna for the day without a plan, having driven from Florence with a friend.

Overhead, garland arches were wrapped with gold ribbons in anticipation of Christmas and, on the streets below, a chocolate festival with edible wrenches, bolts and other tools jumbled amid stalls of marshmallow rabbits and owls.

In the spring, in the Netherlands, a bus ride to Keukenhof from Amsterdam allowed me to spend an afternoon lost beside snaky rivers of grape hyacinth and tulip fields that blanketed the land like red and yellow quilts.

In the summer, in Spain, I got disoriented in Barcelona trying to find my way back to my hotel from Barceloneta Beach and was instead swept up into some sort of flag-waving celebration.

Even a trip to the most touristy spot can feel personal and spontaneous if you forgo turn-by-turn navigation. I advise glancing at a map to determine the general direction you wish to walk, then winging it.

By doing just that in Paris, I didn’t see the Eiffel Tower grow closer from a cool distance. Rather, I was instantly dwarfed by it when I happened to glance skyward from a street in the shadow of the tower’s lattice belly.

Similarly, my inability to figure out how to get beyond the roundabout to the Arc de Triomphe made my (eventual) arrival there that much sweeter. I walked the last of more than 250 steps to the terrace and sat on the cool limestone to watch the sun disappear, with the avenues of Paris fanned out around me like pleats of a skirt frozen in mid-twirl: east toward Sacré-Coeur, west toward the woods of Bois de Boulogne, north to the Levallois-Perret cemetery, south to the Sorbonne and the lucky foot of Montaigne.


“We travel for romance, we travel for architecture, and we travel to be lost,” the writer Ray Bradbury said in a 1990 interview with Rob Couteau. “There’s nothing better than to walk around Paris and not know where in hell you are.” — I look forward to being lost in Paris with grandson Alex in summer 2016.

My iPhone finds the most direct route to anything I wish to see, which is why I turn it off.

Paper maps, which are rarer these days, can also get in the way. (but I do love them so I know how things are “wired together”)

It is by being a wanderer … that one is most likely to stumble upon less-frequented haunts.

Freedom is being guided by a mood, not a map.

ENJOY and SHUNPIKE — As always, yours, RAY

OXYMORON in Walpole – 18 April 2015




Posted in Miscellaneous Musings | 2 Comments


Actually there was no need to document today, but one thing leads to another. The weather is finally in a spring like mode, and yesterday I cleaned out the stable and all the ladies got some exercise. Today had to be a road trip.  But earlier in the week Rob posted on Facebook that he was going to be at the Flavors of the Valley 2015 –  I clicked that I would attend.  Tara emailed me, “can I go with you?” An adventure was formulated – but going to a food festival does not justify a post.

Now, Tara as you may know is my partner with A CHRISTMAS CAROL.  And we have done some road trips (she has given permission for this mention and publicity). What is great about her is that as we are cruising down a road she will say, “did you see that sign?”  I hit the brakes, we do a u-turn, and stumble into adventures.  That is why you are getting today’s post.

I picked her up at 11AM, and her husband ran out to get pictures – of course, I arrived in BLUE BELLE.  “Move up a little,” Eric said, “so you are not in the shade.”  I complied, and then off we sped. The plan was to head north on US5 in Vermont to the fair at Hartford High School in White River Junction (next to a school she had attended), and return on Route 12 on the New Hampshire side of the river.

As we were leaving Hartland, Vermont, she yelled out, “did you see that sign? Sumner Mansion it reads.” Brakes, U-Turn, dirt drive, and WOW.


BLUE BELLE wants to move – sorry, not happening. But the door was open, and before I could get my seat belt unbuckled, Tara was inside.


To the left of the entranceway was the reception/dining area for events, but then she (not me) opened a door, and we explored the first floor. We “chickened out” and did not go upstairs – no one was there.

Continuing up US5, I sidetracked to show Tara a double covered bridge side route that you can see from I-91, but have to search out while shunpiking.


We then got to the Food Fair and paid our $10 admission.  Essentially, in return you get to eat and eat. But also to learn of new restaurants, farming techniques, etc. I have a couple ideas to pitch to my “Wednesday at 44″ friends.

Tara is a NH State Representative, and very influential on the Environment and Agricultural Committee (one time we were out together and chatted with the governor of NH). The food fair was right up her alley so to speak, and she was learning from Vermont exhibitors, and sharing with them, and New Hampshire residents.  Here she is detailing to NH farmers and restaurant owners of Ariana’s Restaurant in Orford, NH, the bill she sponsored, and was passed, allowing local farmers to process and sell their poultry and rabbits directly to restaurants. They were thrilled to hear of the passage.


This exhibitor, a caterer, has a fantastic five course meal coming up in May at The Shaker Inn in Enfield, NH (very strong hint to my local friends). Their scallops were amazing.


And, at this event Rob served over 1,000 people a sample of WALPOLE CREAMERY ice cream.  The favorites today were UDDER JOY and STRAWBERRY  LEMON. He scooped constantly for four hours. Glad I saw him bending and serving – now I know to say no when he asks for help.


But it was after 2PM and we were stuffed. Time to head home. So, backroad to cut back over the Connecticut River to New Hampshire and down Route 12.  We passed all the strip malls in West Leb and started cruising south.

Tara yelled out, “did you see that sign – Meriden, New Hampshire – have you been there? “and another one saying Kimball Union Academy.”  “Never heard of either,” I replied.  Brakes, U-turn, and off we went, and went. We had to have gotten there (was only supposed to be three miles), but still in the wilderness there was a covered bridge, farm and sugar house.  “I know them,” says Tara. “Just tell me who you do not know,” I replied.

We stopped and chatted (forgot to take a picture), and  found out that the town of FF-10Meriden was just up the hill, and from there we could take Route 120 south to Claremont. Ends up that Meriden is part of Plainfield, and a hill town (elevation 928 feet) with commanding views, including a unique view back to Mt. Ascutney.  And, all that is there is the Kimball Union Academy, founded in 1813 and the 22nd oldest boarding school in the country (tuition currently just under $48,000 a year – for college prep!).






Tara and I both were overwhelmed with the beauty and architecture, and solitude. Note she is wearing a sweater color coordinated with BLUE BELLE.


And, I trust you have noted how wonderful the skies were today.


We then headed down the hill to pick up Route 120, but never, never make a turn without first crossing an intersection to see what is on the other side.  So, we got to see the few houses there, and off to the left an old school which is now the Aidron Duckworth Art Museum. Closed until 25 April, but intriguing.

Back then to head south on Route 120 to Claremont. Again, no reason for you to ever be on this road, but we both recommend that next time you are at Saint-Gaudens that you jog over to this route to head south instead of the parallel and to the west Route 12A. And you have to see the Academy’s campus.

FF-13Entering Claremont Tara suggested we find The Common Man restaurant and have a glass of wine. What a lovely surprise, and I will have to get back.

Great restoration and use of the old mill buildings along the river, and when the weather is nice, the manager told us they open hatches in the floor so you can see the water sluice under the building. The sound of falling water on the patio is worth the trip back.

The Common Man in Claremont, New Hampshire

The Common Man in Claremont, New Hampshire

The sluiceway going under the dining room

The sluiceway going under the dining room

Great surrounds for dinner.

Great surrounds for dinner.

So, for a day I was not planning to write a post, RAY RECOMMENDS:

1) Plan to attend next year’s FLAVORS OF THE VALLEY
2) Visit Meriden, New Hampshire
3) Plan on dinner with friends at Ariana’s Restaurant in Orford, NH
4) Experience The Common Man in Claremont, NH
5) Shunpike with Tara – she knows what is is all about !!!


Posted in Day (or maybe two) Trips | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

EXPLORING THE GOLDEN SQUARE MILE – 31 March and 1 April 2015

But first you have to get there. Five months ago I bought a TravelZoo deal for a boutique hotel in downtown Montreal – a deal at $209 for two nights with parking and breakfast. But I never had time to book, or time to plan. A couple weeks ago with the voucher expiring 31 March I called to book 26 and 27 March. “Sorry we are full,” I was told. But then given the option for these two nights, one past the expiration date – now that was nice.

Other than digging out my Montreal travel collection, I still did not get to planning (do shunpikers really plan? – sounds like an oxymoron). On Monday night the 30th I did start screen saving maps to my Ipad, and realized that I could pickup backroads before Burlington to the border. I have been to Montreal maybe 10 times, but I had to “fill in the map” in one area of town. Montreal you may not know is a large island, and its preeminent feature is Mont Royal.

I departed a tad after 9:30 AM, and whenever heading north on I-91 I always stop at the Vermont Welcome Center and Veterans Memorial which is about an hour from home.  Always need to check the brochures to see what I may not have for planning purposes.

Sharon Welcome Center and Vermont Vietnam Veterans Memorial

Sharon Welcome Center and Vermont Vietnam Veterans Memorial

There had been some fresh snow coating high elevation trees and making some wonderful mountain vistas once in the hills. This image does not even come close to the beauty today.


Taking exit 11 I picked up Route 117 for Essex Junction in 8 miles.  Appropriately named for all the converging and crossing train tracks, sadly there was no old train station, just a small modern Amtrak whistle stop. I followed 2A out of town north to Colchester (nothing there), and soon turned onto US 2 and US7 north (you know my favorite road, at least along the Housatonic River). I continued through Milton (still nothing) and got back onto I-89 for Canada. Once you cross the Green Mountains and head north, it is amazing how flat the land is, simply farming land well into Canada and continuing until almost in downtown Montreal.

I have driven a number of times to Montreal, and it is easy. And there is no traffic in downtown Montreal to speak of.  I arrived at my destination – Chateau Versailles Montreal on rue Sherbrooke within the Golden Square Mile just before my 3PM check in time.

Château Versailles Montreal. One of the former residences in the area. My room is second floor bay window on left.

Château Versailles Montreal. One of the former residences in the area. My room is second floor bay window on left.

and my room, not bad at all:


Originally the richest district in Canada (in 1900, 25,000 residents here controlled 70 percent of Canada’s wealth), this square mile is just below Mont Royal and includes McGill University. Sadly most of the early homes have been demolished. I got settled, and in moments “hit the streets” for almost four hours. In one of my guide books there are four suggested walks, so I headed off west on the longest walk touring this residential area reaching Greene Street before heading back towards the more built up downtown.

All along Sherbrooke there are signs explaining the historical buildings. This sign:


explained the current College Dawson which was built in 1904-08 as a nunnery. It is an imposing Beaux-Arts building, and the second in the world to be entirely constructed of reinforced concrete:

Built originally as a Nunnery in 1904-8.

Built originally as a Nunnery in 1904-8.

Back in central downtown I dropped into the renowned underground which consists of maybe 40 kilometers of subterranean walkways to protect folks from the weather changes.

COMPLEXE DESJARINS - just one "mall" sandwiched between buildings unobtrusively and connected underground to everywhere else.

COMPLEXE DESJARINS – just one “mall” sandwiched between buildings unobtrusively and connected underground to everywhere else.

With the walkways connecting metro stations and major buildings, I wanted to get to my favorite train station via underground.



I just wanted to wait in the special waiting area for my next sleeper train to depart — well again someday. I then discovered an adjoining area I had missed before, Les Halles de la Gare with exquisite food booths, restaurants, bakeries, liquor store, and flowers.


Anything you would want to pick up for your train ride home.

And when I came back out I found some great reflections.  Remember when I first became enamored with reflective windows in Vancouver in 2011?


And, I could not resist, here is a slide show of more – if you wish to open.

On the streets there were many fun things to see. Some great architecture: (remember you can “click” my images to enlarge.


Various statues:

Even a statue can get cold, and a kind soul add a shawl to warm it.

Even a statue can get cold, and a kind soul add a shawl to warm it.

A McGill student hard at work.

A McGill student hard at work.

And, this poor cow is just waiting to be allowed into The Museum of Fine Arts on rue Sherbrooke.


Wednesday’s route as I planned out took me west from my hotel to McGill University (founded in 1821 as an English speaking college), around the more central part of downtown, south back through Gare Centrale, and I had to see the older Gare Windsor.

On the way to McGill I popped into the Ritz Carlton which opened to a New Year’s Eve party on December 31, 1912, and essentially is unchanged in all its elegance. I had to sneak at least one image.

As you enter the Ritz Carlton, Montreal. A great lounge area.

As you enter the Ritz Carlton, Montreal. A great lounge area.

Next came McGill University taking up most of the area from rue Sherbrooke to Mont Royal and environs.

McGill University from the entrance on rue Sherbrooke

McGill University from the entrance on rue Sherbrooke

I read about the Redpath Museum and wanted to see it (admission free). A museum of natural history, it was built in 1882 as a gift from the sugar baron Peter Redpath. The museum itself is a museum, however the exhibits (which are excellent – that coming from a museum aficionado) are not as large as they originally were because the side spaces have been changed into office space. Old images show case after case of mounted specimens – the old way done in natural history museums.

The main floor of the Redpath Museum and upper floor balcony.

The main floor of the Redpath Museum and upper floor balcony.

On a couple of these panels (if you open them up) you can read about Sir William Dawson and Peter Redpath.


London has Harrods and Canada has The Bay – The Hudson Bay Company’s store, an outgrowth from its history. So, I had to see it.

THE BAY - Hudson's Bay Company store in Montreal.

THE BAY – Hudson’s Bay Company store in Montreal.

I was disappointed. Nowhere near the excitement of Harrod’s – just soft goods on the upper floors with some housewares. The first floor (as is Department store custom) was all cosmetics and women hawking fragrances. RAY RECOMMENDS – hop British Air for a day or two holiday at Harrods’ main store in London.

Next I had to see Gare Windsor – the commuter rail station. You know I like trains.

The main waiting room - Montreal's Gare Windsor.

The main waiting room – Montreal’s Gare Windsor.

and what it was during World War II.


So sad, but fortunately saved from the wrecking ball. The station was relocated to the west (and is small) to make room for construction of Centre Bell –  a sports and entertainment center and home of the Montreal Canadiens. Centre Bell takes up the space where the tracks came into the old station. The old station is in nice repair and used for office space.

I next visited The Cathedral St. James the Greater, begun in 1894 and completed in 1904. The cathedral was designed to replicate St. Peter’s in the Vatican. The Baldacchino is even a reproduction of that in the Vatican, and was created in Rome in 1900.

Cathedral-Basilica - Mary Queen of the World and St. James the Greater

Cathedral-Basilica – Mary Queen of the World and St. James the Greater

Close up of The Baldacchino - just as you would see in Rome.

Close up of The Baldacchino – just as you would see in Rome.

And it was close to 5PM (after over 7 hours touring “downtown”) and time to go to the McCord Museum. I read that it was open on Wednesday nights, and free from 5 to 9 PM. Great, and that gives daytime for other adventures.  Actually, I am glad it was free because it would not have been worth paying for.  I am not into aboriginal history, so rushed through that floor. On the second floor was a very good overview of the city of Montreal and the history of its sections, but not something you could not read about. Glad I saw it, and glad I did not have to pay admission.  Here are the three most informative panels I saw:

Wednesday evening I had dinner at a Moroccan restaurant. Doing research for an upcoming adventure – wow, just wait!

But Thursday, April 2nd, came, and time to head south – not that far south! But you know I never go directly. There was a route back to the border I had not been on, so get out your maps.  I left Montreal on the expressway number 15, a tad to the west. I knew what route number I wanted to exit at, but guess what – the expressway signs only had town names (in French of course) and not route numbers.  Well, I exited where I thought I should be, and picked a route – no route number signs there either.  Soon came to a town with a Route sign that I wanted – Route 221 which I followed south until I found what I wanted – Route 219 to the border. No need for you to explore here -I did it for you. Nothing but flat rural farmland with nothing of interest.

At the border I provided the US Customs agent with some entertainment. He could not understand why I was on the little back road instead of Expressway 15 to I-87.  He now knows all about shunpiking and filling in the map. Plus I wanted to say I was at the beginning of NY Route 22.  Which I then followed to Plattsburgh where I had lunch.

Then it was time to cross Lake Champlain into Vermont. I posted this “maps” image on Facebook asking, “Where am I?”  That was either a quiz question, or a request for help to sort out my confusion, depending upon your perspective..


I picked up US Route 7 (you know my favorite) and headed south to pick up Route 103 to Chester thence home.  I stopped at some favorite antique shops – sadly no expenditures. It was fun to explore with leaves off, the views across the lake to the Adirondacks amazing, and the Green Mountains to the east. But the cities of Burlington and Rutland are wearing thin on me.

I stopped at Crows Bakery in Proctorsville, VT. On Tuesday night I got an email from a web designer working on a website for the bakery, and she wanted to use an image from my very first post “from away.” I love to share, and of course said yes.  Little did she know that Proctorsville is on the way home from Montreal.

5PM Thursday 2 April 2015


and, 10 April 2011

Proctorsville, VT - Crows Bakery and Cafe - April 10, 2011

Proctorsville, VT – Crows Bakery and Cafe – April 10, 2011

More trips in the planning stage – catch you soon, HAPPY EASTER – as always, yours, RAY

Posted in Day (or maybe two) Trips | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments


Well, there were road trips in February, and then I had to stay put for a few weeks Radio-Follies-2015for our CABIN FEVER RADIO FOLLIES 2015 (view it on-line).  But to get the 2015 momentum really rolling, it was time to treat myself to The Red Lion Inn for my birthday.

In getting ready for this trip I perused my travel dutchess004literature collection for Dutchess County, New York, the Catskills, and Albany, not knowing what I would be able to take in. I packed a few brochures, including a lovely booklet “Dutchess County Scenic & Historic Drive Tours.”

As I was leaving the house on Sunday I checked a real paper map (I love maps) wanting to see if there was a route I had never been on. YES – there is Massachusetts Route 66 that I can take from Northampton through Westhampton (never been there) and then head south on 112 to Route 20 in Huntington. Thence, up over the hills west towards Lee and Stockbridge. I was dreaming of a hamburger, and all of a river-cafesudden on the right was Linda’s River Cafe in Huntington. I had remembered turning around there once looping back to US 20. This time I went in and had a Cowboy Burger – bacon, cheese, fried onion rings, and great sauce on the burger. Sadly no TRIP ADVISOR  page for me to give them a great review –


Turning west in Huntington on Scenic US Route 20, I was traveling on a route I had traversed once, but now in the opposite direction with leaves gone, and snow on the ground. First I pulled into bucollic Chester, and visited the train station.


When I first discovered the station years ago, a lovely young lady saw me looking in the windows, and came across the street and said she could open up the museum for me – what a treat. I am hoping to get back this year on May 16th for the “Chester on Track” celebration.

Shunpikers take note. US 20 is essentially the original road across Massachusetts that the Mass Turnpike replaced. In fact, known as the Jacob’s Ladder Trail,

Monument at the high point erected in 1910.

Monument at the high point erected in 1910.


because of the high mountain elevations crossed, this was the first highway built in 1910 “specifically for the revolutionary new horseless carriages.”    The other great road I enjoy crossing Massachusetts is Mass. Route 2 – but particularly the western end from Greenfield to Williamstown. Know as the Mohawk Trail, the road was begin in 1912 and completed in 1914. In following my adventures, you know I am often in this section of territory.

Arriving at The Red Lion Inn at 3PM check-in time, I settled into my spot to read and write but soon engaged in hours of conversation with three couples. One young man is a senior editor and writer for Hemming’s Motor News, and he and his Dad and I talked cars, people we know, and the Hershey car show. But soon dinner time came.

By 8AM the next morning I was planted back in my spot with the travel brochures I had brought along with laptop and iPad (soon you will understand why it is important to have all your toys with you.) Delving into “Dutchess County Scenic & Historic Drive Tours,”  I saw several routes cutting across the county that I had not been on – no reason to unless you were exploring there. So, for more map detail I went to “maps” on my iPad, found the areas I wanted, and then did screen shots to iPhotos. RAY RECOMMENDS – SAVE MAP IMAGES TO YOU IPAD FOR USE WHILE DRIVING – you pull over to the side of the road and park before looking.

Next I saw a website address for Dutchess County Tourism, and when on the site saw the new brochure was available on-line in PDF format. When it opened up I saw that I could save it to the Ipad, and lo and behold, it opened up in Ibooks, and was there for traveling too for off-line use.  RAY AGAIN RECOMMENDS USE YOUR IPAD TO THE FULLEST (and get one if you do not have one)

Off I went down US Route 7 through Great Barrington to cut over to Massachusetts 41 WP-12south to Salisbury, CT.   This is a route I highly recommend, the views great and extensive without leaves (especially southbound). Even with leaves off the trees the STAGECOACH TAVERN is still hard to spot. With the leaves off I saw something strange in the distance, and homing in on it discovered the Salisbury Ski Jump – of all places.



From Salisbury I cut over to the antique center in Millerton, NY, but sadly did not find any treasures to resell and pay for an outing.  Now it was time to start cutting across northern Dutchess county on “new roads” Actually great routes, because no reason to be on them unless exploring the area.

Up over great hills towards Route 199 and Pine Plains.

Downtown Pine Plains. Gives me an idea for my house, or better yet the east side of the Town Hall.

Downtown Pine Plains. Gives me an idea for my house, or better yet the east side of the Town Hall.

Then west to pick up the Taconic State Parkway one exit to cut back east on Country Road 19 towards the small village of Stanford. I did some looping around in this expansive horse country, stumbled into Bangall, Stanfordville, and finally got a sandwich at the deli in a country store (a favorite thing to do).

Heading west on CR 19 I turned north on 9G for Rhinebeck which I have always enjoyed. Again, finding no money-making treasures in the antique center I decided to revisit the Beekman Arms where we would often have lunch.


Operating continuously since 1766, and retaining much of its colonial charm, the inn is said to be the oldest continuously operating inn. A perfect location, I need to stay there sometime to intensely explore the area that I have been touring for 20 years. Then a quick turn down to the Hudson and Rhinecliff (never had stopped there), and then back to Route 9 to NY 23 to cut back to US 7 in Great Barrington.

A full day on new trails and retracing steps to refresh my memory.  And, then realizing much more time needs to be spent in this area.  I will never run out of things to do in this area. RAY RECOMMENDS – Tour there too.

Time to head home on Tuesday, but it had been awhile since I had been on US 44 from Canaan, CT to Winsted. Even longer since I had been to Riverton, and I had never gone around the Barkhamsted Reservoir (over 8 miles long) and through West and East Hartland. So take a look at your maps.

Arriving in Winsted I turned north on Route 8 then back roads to Riverton – home of the Hitchcock Chair Co., which someone told me had closed.

Original 1818 Hitchcock Chair Company Factory

Original 1818 Hitchcock Chair Company Factory

I bought some furniture here in 1967.  After seeing this building, and this potential overnight on the other side of the river …


I turned around to check out a building proclaiming The Hitchcock Chair Co., Ltd. Yes, the original company did close in 2006, I learned.  But a gentleman who restored original Hitchcock furniture purchased the brand in 2010 along with the original drawings and patterns, and re-opened the company, albeit on a smaller scale in 2011. I enjoyed my visit with co-owner Nancy Swensen, and recommend you make a side trip to peaceful Riverton, and see the fine craftsmanship in the shop.

My final spot to explore (curiosity because of expensive books I have owned on Suffield furniture) was Suffield, Connecticut, known for its colonial homes.  Easy to get to from I-91, but again no reason to do so — but now you must go to see the vast architectural eye-candy. I look forward to returning when the museums are open.



A collection of Suffield, Connecticut architecture:

From Suffield I was going to jog over to I-91, but that is cheating. So, I headed north on Route 159, and crossing into Massachusetts I now know where Six Flags New England is. Just a tad north is the BIG E exposition grounds, and then a right turn to jog over to I-91 and home.

This post has been two weeks in the making, and I am wondering why. My Detroit posts were delayed because we were running hard, and the fantastic New Orleans experience has yet to come – again because of running hard. And, with this post I wanted to add my May, 2014 adventures at The Red Lion Inn, but this is now getting too long.  I need to improve. I love to write, but am getting verbose and philosophize too much.

I also need to figure out what I really want to do – there is just so much.  Using the Dutchess County tour book as an incentive, I think I am going to develop some day trips – step by historical step – in the area and post them as PDFs here that can then be added to everyone’s iPads as travel aids — so watch for that. But, in the meantime, go back and look at the RAY RECOMMENDS in this post, and HIT THE ROAD !!!

Posted in Day (or maybe two) Trips | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments



As I told you on 19 February in “Coming Soon,” a revisit to Dearborn, Michigan, after almost 58 years was on the horizon. In the last post on Detroit I told you I had to devote a page to The Henry Ford (formerly the Henry Ford Museum and originally the Edison Institute). Here it is, mostly images, and not even a fraction of what I saw from 9:30 AM to 5 PM at the museum.

I was surprised upon entering the museum to see such open space. When my Dad and I were there the museum was packed with transportation artifacts.


A typical scene in 1957. My Dad in the bicycle exhibit with a “bone shaker.”


The museum was begun in 1929 with Thomas A. Edison signing his name in concrete. When last here, this was right inside the door as you entered. There is now a video showing the ceremony.

FORD-9Much of what I remember is not there – but then, museums change to meet the times, and I discovered that the museum is more interpretive now, as most museums are.  And that is good (but I do enjoy just seeing collections).

Henry Ford’s Highland Park Plant office had been moved into the office, and I was allowed during my previous visit to sit at his desk on his phone.



Just to the right upon entering is a collection of Presidential vehicles.

Car in which Kennedy was riding when shot

Car in which Kennedy was riding when shot

DRIVING AMERICA was my favorite part. The romance of the road, backroad traveling before the big slab roadways – “shunpiking” before there were pikes to shun.  I love this history, love to attempt to re-experience it, and love to share. I captured images of much of the exhibit – for my memory mainly, but do open the slide show if you wish to read along.




Above is the “map” of this exhibit – click to open to large size.



And, here are the interpretive panels and some exhibits (remember that you can click on any image to enlarge and open a slide show – easier to read the words).

As I mentioned, when a guest of the museum in 1957 I was allowed to touch anything. Here I am at the “wheel” of Ford’s 1902 racer 999 which Barney Oldfield drove. Racing was the way then to get recognition for your autos.


Today I stayed behind the railing.



In the 1950s at our antique car meets, this famous Locomobile racer Number 16 was often there. It won the first Vanderbilt Cup Race in 1908. It was purchased in 1941 by the famous automobile artist Peter Helck.




Part of the “road experience” was the diner.  When on GIANT STEP in 1957, Bert Parks asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up. “Own a diner,” I replied. Well, there is still time. I remember our Friday night shopping journeys from Wilton going either south to Norwalk or north to Danbury. First was a stop at either the MARSAM Diner in Norwalk, or then Ridgefield Diner when going north.  I always had a Western Omelet sandwich.



This was the greatest exhibit – an exploded Model T Ford showing all the parts.  My Dad restored a 1919 Touring Car just like this. I know every piece in a Model T, and in Model As.




Here are a few views from the aviation area:



Replica of the Wright's plane

Replica of the Wright’s plane



So much to show you, but here are a few final high points to hopefully entice you to make your own visit:

Henry Ford's 1896 Quadricycle

Henry Ford’s 1896 Quadricycle

Here is a link to learn more about this vehicle (which on my last visit was in a glass case on the second floor of the entryway).

The actual bus the Rosa Parks was riding when she refused to move to the “rear of the bus.”


And, the view she probably had.



I have a similar Polaroid of these trains. On the left is the 1825 De Witt Clinton, actually a replica (with some original remaining parts) made to exhibit at the 1893 Chicago Columbian World’s Exposition.



My Dad always loved the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile.  I have a couple of his toy ones. This image is for him.


Here is General George Washington’s camp cot and equipment.


And the chair President Lincoln was sitting in at Ford’s Theater when he was shot:


When I visited in 1957, the chair was in the Courthouse in the adjoining Greenfield Village in this glass case.  I was not allowed to sit in it!!! How did the chair get here you ask? I did, so googled. The government took the chair from the theater following the assassination. The family that bought the chair for the theater petitioned to get it back and it was finally returned in the 1920s. They sent it to auction, and in 1929 Henry Ford bought it for $2400.



After 8 1/2 hours at the museum, we had to leave. It was closing. I know I could have spent more time really delving into history.  We next stopped to see the DEARBORN INN were I was a guest in 1957. I had to replicate another image.




And, around the corner is Henry Ford’s home FAIR LANE, now owned by the University of Michigan, and being restored.


Click to read the history plaque.


Lots here, and I hope you got this far.

RAY RECOMMENDS – Visit The Henry Ford, and also Greenfield Village

And, refound in my archives 4 hours after posting this page, and now added for your (really my) enjoyment, are these real tintypes taken in the Photo Studio in Greenfield Village in April of 1957. Tintype images come out in reverse, so the background (lettering) had to be done in reverse. As I recall the home is Henry Ford’s birthplace.





Posted in 2015-b DETROIT, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

DETROIT IN FEBRUARY? Actually not too bad 21-25 February 2015



And, I am running hard with Chas who asked me to join him. As with New Orleans (still owe you all that) I am finding it hard to find the time to “tell all” to you. The first full day here (22 February) we opened and closed The Henry Ford, and I will share that day later. Here I will give you our second day, first.

I was last at The Henry Ford Museum (as called then) in April of 1957 when I was a guest of the museum with my Dad. We also were toured through Greenfield Village, and our personal tour continued at the ore boats at the Ford Rouge Plant all the way through to a 1957 Ford Fairlane rolling off the assembly line. “Would you like to pick a new car fresh off the line and buy it now?” our guide, Sally Hume, asked my Dad. Not something we could do at that time.

Deciding to devote a full page later just to The Henry Ford, first I will tour you through Detroit during my second and third full days (23 and 24 February).  DETROIT MUST BE EXPERIENCED. Detroit is a French name meaning “The Strait.” This is the narrowest point of the Detroit River between the Great Lakes Erie and Huron. Forget the bad you have heard about Detroit. The history and culture is fascinating and important, there is much to see and do, wonderful food, and you will not be able to comprehend the current landscape of the city without seeing it.

The second full day we began our experience at the Rouge River Plant where Ford pickup trucks are currently assembled by 6,000 employees.  By 1928, the complex was the world’s largest industrial center, and over 100,000 workers entered the plant daily.

View of the Rouge River Plant from the observation roof.

View of the Rouge River Plant from the observation roof.

The tour starts with two multimedia experiences, then a view of the 2,000 acres from a rooftop, and a catwalk tour above the moving assembly line (no pictures allowed).  At the conclusion you get to see some of the most famous vehicles that have been produced here.

Representative "famous" cars made in the Rouge River Plant

Representative “famous” cars made in the Rouge River Plant

Remember my “galleries” may be opened into larger slide shows:

What you hear most about Detroit are the abandoned homes, commercial buildings and factories. Detroit is a large land area, and so much land is vacant. The destruction (both from the 1967 riots, Devil’s Night, and plain old walking away from it) is everywhere, even in “downtown.” So, here a just a few of the images I took.

This is the iconic view of abandonment – the Michigan Central Station train station




And more abandonment, which is everywhere. Of amazing note are all the vacant lots and blocks.

“Midtown” was being developed in the 1920s, but now is mainly vacant blocks. The Hotel Eddystone  (and the Park Avenue Hotel to the left) had been surrounded by city, but “a combination of factors -including the 1967 riot; the introduction of the freeway system; white flight; businesses moving to the suburbs; and increase in blight and crime – bled Detroit of its population and its tax base. Office towers went dark. Hotels closed up shop. Detroit, simply put, became a city of fewer people – and people with lower incomes.”


Also protected by historic designation, and sadly deteriorating alone is The Lee Plaza




What we found fascinating in driving around was that there are a few pockets of lovely homes somewhat untouched in just a few block square areas.. These were the homes of the automobile barons, and upper management. Homes that are now valued at $500,000 or less for up to 8,000 square feet (over 8 million plus for sure in Westchester County) would back up to problem streets with values of $10,000 plus (or less for burned out frames). Of particular fame is the Boston-Edison historic blocks where Henry Ford lived from 1908 to 1915.

Henry Ford's home from 1908 to 1915.

Henry Ford’s home from 1908 to 1915.

Click image to read history:


You may know my love for “old cars.” My Dad had me first drive a 1919 Model T Ford – not something people of my age did. And my first car was a 1929 Model A Ford Roadster.  And after about 7 Model As, LADY RAB – a 1931 Tudor Sedan is in my stable.  My Dad’s favorite treasure was his 1910 Model T Touring Car.  What a treat it was to be able to get into the building where the Model T was born, and Ford had his first factory from 1904 to 1910 – The Ford Piquette Avenue Plant. 

FORD PIQUETTE AVENUE PLANT - Birthplace of the Model T Ford.

FORD PIQUETTE AVENUE PLANT – Birthplace of the Model T Ford.

Click to enlarge to read history:




The museum's prize - a 1909 Model T Ford Touring Car - Just like my Dad's 1910

The museum’s prize – a 1909 Model T Ford Touring Car – Just like my Dad’s 1910



Where do you go from the “holy grail?”  To the Highland Park plant, of course, where production of the Model T went into high swing. Production continued here until the late 1920s when the Rouge River plant came into full swing.

The south side of the Highland Avenue Plant. This entrance opens to the interior where the iconic images and videos were taken with tons of Model Ts rolling out.

The south side of the Highland Avenue Plant. This entrance opens to the interior where the iconic images and videos were taken with tons of Model Ts rolling out.

Since 2011 part of the complex has been used to store archives and artifacts for The Henry Ford.  I cannot even imagine the collection of cars and transportation items inside since I did not see any of the bicycles or boats from my 1957 visit to the museum.

We started Tuesday at the Detroit Historical Museum. I don’t know whether to recommend you start your visit to Detroit there, or after a few days as we did.  Several of the permanent exhibits provide exceptional history and culture.  Start with the Gallery of Culture, where the 20th century is detailed by decade.

Gallery of Culture in the Detroit Historical Museum

Gallery of Culture in the Detroit Historical Museum

I also enjoyed the Streets of Old Detroit, Frontiers to Factories (200 years of history), and America’s Motor City (kind of weak). A temporary exhibit on Detroit’s restaurants and speakeasies was up my alley, and provided us ideas for that evening’s repast.

We then began touring neighborhoods heading about 3 miles from downtown where the new center city was developing in the 1920s. Fortunately there was a parking space and I convinced Chas to park so we could see the interior of The Fisher Building.  The Fisher family (“Body by Fisher”) put 29% of the building’s cost into art and decoration, and it shows. It puts The Empire State Building to shame in my opinion, and should be visited. First click to read this plaque in larger view, then come back to see the slideshow of the interior. I hope to get back someday for a tour and to see the Fisher Theater.


For 75 cents you can ride the Detroit People Mover – an elevated railway – around downtown. And we did.  I felt like a kid on a NYC Subway traveling with my grandmother back in the 1950s.



Chas and I were the only ones aboard the two car train.


One night we were not hungry so got beers and burgers in a unique and “seedy” little bar across the street from the hotel.  Open 24 hours we would not have stayed if it were not for the entertaining conversation with the “bar keep,” Tara (yes there is another one) who was simply filling in.  The short order cook encouraged me to add my name to the wall. Then he went back to sleep with his head on the bar.


Another night we had a fantastic meal in Greektown at the Redsmoke Barbecue 


We could have settled with just this fantastic appetizer – Loaded Brisket Fries Golden crisp steak fries, tender beef brisket, cheddar sauce drizzled, bits of green onion and a side of sour cream.  As a result we split a Combo Dinner.


And, at the “Out on the Town” Drinking and Dinner exhibit at the Detroit Historical Museum we decided to give Foran’s Grand Trunk Pub a go — it was great. Get the meatloaf dinner, and look at the interior shots on their website – nothing has changed.




Coming soon – a post devoted to The Henry Ford – mainly images; and, yes Barbara, there is still NOLA to come.

Posted in 2015-b DETROIT | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


In 1957 I was a star of GIANT STEP, a TV Quiz program hosted by Bert Parks.  One of my prizes was a trip to the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan with my Dad.  Soon to be re-explored.

A younger me and my Dad in the Museum (I could touch anything)


The letter which sent me the picture above. I cannot find the professional picture of me driving Ford’s 999 Racer, but I have a Polaroid. Note what they thought of me. (click to enlarge)


The Newsletter announcing my upcoming visit


And, the detail.  Note the “z” by mistake, and Larry should be Bert


A snap of me on TV in 1957


And, following my visit with Julie and grandchildren to Grand Central Station last month, I cannot wait to get back to explore the terminal and the city.  Here I am on a visit a few years ago, and my interview on the upper level for the evening news (TV studios were in GCT).  You know I am not shy, and love an audience, even if unseen



Above is the note I typed at that time and affixed to the back of the photo.

So…..stayed tuned for great adventures to come in 2015.

Posted in Miscellaneous Musings | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

A 21 HOUR RESPITE – 16-17 February 2015

For school break, David, Mari and Alex rented a condo at Killington for several days skiing. They usually stay with me and take day trips to the various ski areas nearby, but they wanted an extended stay to hit the slopes early each day.  “Come up and visit,” David had asked, and I did. But the snow and cold delayed their arrival, and I was behind in work due to my delay returning from New Orleans (still owe you a detailed report on that).

On Monday I had gotten enough things checked off my list to feel comfortable to head up. I left about 2 PM.  And, if you know the Vermont landscape you realize that I had to pass Plymouth Notch, Calvin Coolidge’s homestead, and as you may know, one of my favorite spots to drive to.  Two miles off the route — but you know I went, and here is what I saw.

“Downtown” – note the old gas pump is covered up in front of the general store.


Calvin’s homestead and where he was sworn in as our 30th President.


Union Christian Church (1840) – click to enlarge – too bad that pole was in the way


Another view of the church looking back to the general store. Calvin was born in the brown building adjoining the store. (this image can also be enlarged, as may all those below)


The old “tea room” (now offices) opposite the country store and small post office.


And below are the early tourist cabins.  Secret Service stayed in them when Plymouth Notch served as the summer White House.


And, then I got to Killington and the warmth of this fire. We headed to the lodge for drinks, David and Alex swam while Mari made dinner (David forget to tell me to bring a suit). And then we visited before the fire and turned in.  I headed home at about 9:20 this morning as they were preparing for skiing.  A perfect visit with “the kids.”


Posted in Day (or maybe two) Trips | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments


And to make matters worse, I have been “snowed in” in New Orleans.  Yes, snowed in having to endure 70 degree temperatures because the northeast is again “closed.”  But there are stories to tell, and hopefully within a week my life will be back to normal (never – ha, ha) and I can fill you in.  Let me just say that a quick trip with friends has been extended due to snow miles away, and we have to suffer the heat and sun.  More to come, but to tempt you to “stay tuned:”


Costume Convention - the "excuse" for being here

Costume Convention – the “excuse” for being here

And, then there were parades a week before we thought they were (they extend for weeks we learned)




And, there were museums (throw me in those buildings)


And the food !!!!  COMMANDER’S PALACE – A must before you die !!!


Just my appetizer:

Foie Gras “Du Monde”
Black skillet seared Hudson Valley foie gras over a Ponchatoula strawberry beignet with toasted hazelnuts, warm sugarcane syrup and foie gras infused café au lait


And, then tonight at Irene’s in the French Quarter (recommended by a book email customer) — one of my best meals ever, just after the Commander’s Palace and Chesterfield Inn last month.


More to come, but give me time — having too much fun to sit back and write.

Bye, catch you soon, love, RAY


Posted in 2015-a NEW ORLEANS | Tagged | 2 Comments


Yesterday I planned to go to the Amherst Railway Society Railroad Hobby Show at the Big-E in Springfield, Massachusetts, but the weather was iffy, so I stayed home and researched and wrote various articles all day instead. At one point I emailed Rob and said, “if I go to the show on Sunday, what time do I have to be back to meet you for dinner?”  “I’ll go with you to the show tomorrow,” he replied.  And that is what we did.

As we got on I-91 we realized that with the Robbie Burns dinner at 6PM, if we waited to

I love this stairwell at the entrance to the Springfield Armory

I love this stairwell at the entrance to the Springfield Armory

have lunch after the train show we would not be hungry.  Rob suggested several places to eat downtown Springfield, but settling on Student Prince in Springfield, we had about an hour to do something else.  “We can stop at a few antique shops on US 5,” I said. “Wait, have you seen the Springfield Armory?”  The Armory it was, so off we continued to Exit 7.  You may remember my “Day Off” last April when I first visited the Springfield Armory.  We arrived and entered, and Rob was impressed.  We got to see the introductory video and quickly looked at the Daniel Shay Rebellion exhibit (his protest stormed the Armory on this date, January 25, 1787).  I realized that I need to visit again a third time, and learn more about Daniel Shay.



It was then time to get to the Student Prince Restaurant so we would still have time at the train show. Serving German Food and Beer since 1935, the Student Prince is on the site of the original fort in Springfield erected in 1660, and where the settlers took refuge during an Indian attack October 5, 1675.  Worth a stop!

The Student Prince is said to have the largest Stein collection in the world - ROAD TRIP SCOTT

The Student Prince is said to have the largest Stein collection in the world – ROAD TRIP SCOTT


And, my “Wurst” meal:


We got to the Big E for the train show about 1 PM.  I had never been to the grounds before — and was shocked!  We both were overwhelmed by the crowds.  And, upon entering the first building we found out that there were four buildings with over 500 exhibitors.  Thus we quickly became “train dead” (a form of “brain dead”) in a very short time, and realized that it is good to do some things once, but then “some things you don’t have to repeat.”  Of course, that is unless you can take grandchildren to see such an extravaganza (hint, Julie, David).  At any rate, here is the view of what we faced as we walked in, and then a slide show to tempt Nikhil and Alex at some future date.


But my day was made complete at the Central Massachusetts Steam, Gas & Machinery Association exhibit.  “My grandson and I were watching a movie about Penn Station last week,” I started, “and in talking about steam locomotives they mentioned a Sand Dome.  What is that?” They told me, and you can see it in the “toy” locomotive below (that is what prompted my question).  The dome holds sand on top of the boiler to keep it dry, and high for gravity. A lever is pulled and the sand is released down tubes to the rails to improve traction in wet or icy conditions.  Hope that fast fact made your day too.

Small "toy" steam engine from an early amusement park. Note SAND DOME.

Small “toy” steam engine from an early amusement park. Note SAND DOME.

Cutting the HAGGIS

Cutting the HAGGIS


We arrived back in town before 5PM, time to get ready for the Robert Burns Dinner at Burdick’s. Such dinners are held around the world on this date, his birthday.  Five courses, each with an appropriate Scotch — and, fortunately I have but a short walk home.




And, here are the courses following the Scotch Broth above:

So, I consider this day’s outing worthy of a short post with lots of images to share.  And now it is onto the next adventure(s).  Night, as always, yours, RAY

Posted in Day (or maybe two) Trips | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments