OSWEGO CANAL – 7-10 MAY 2022 – Part II

Monday, May 9, was a bus tour starting at 8:40 at the Port of Oswego (still love how that sounds) and traveling south along the river for almost 22 miles to Phoenix. The river continues another two miles to where it joins the Oneida and Seneca Rivers. The Oswego drains an area of 5,122 square miles, including the Finger Lakes and Oneida Lake. Oneida Lake is the largest lake entirely within New York state, almost 21 miles long and a mile across at its widest point. If you have any interest in the Erie Canal you should join the Canal Society of New York State. On their field trips extremely well done historical trip guides are prepared, and well worth study – I have read this one three times now.

OCanal-May 2022-ya

At the Port of Oswego we learned of the importance of the port with lake commerce and saw close up the new $15 million grain elevator. Older elevators were torn down years ago. I find the operation of grain elevators fascinating, and need to learn more. I also subsequently have read that this project was controversial, and stopped and delayed by a lawsuit since it is blocking many historic views.

Next stop Lock 8 (right “downtown”), the northernmost lock, where construction is rapidly finishing up for the opening of the canal. All repair and new work must be done off season in the colder months. Again, I remind you that you can follow this same route with me along the water on the trip I took in September 2019 – just click this hyperlink.

Next? — Lock 7

One of the special and great things traveling and exploring with a society or club with a focused interest is the possibility to get places and see things not open to the public. And, Craig is well connected in NY State history and canal circles, and obtained permission for us to see the remains of an 1850s canal in a private backyard.

As a matter of introduction – some canal construction background. Originally many canals, including the Oswego Canal, were cut ditches (think the nickname for the Erie Canal – Clinton’s Ditch). Waterways were dug, and locks constructed for changes in elevation. The enlarged Lock 14 below (circa 1850s) that we next visited shows what happened over time. The Oswego River originally was small and to the west of the cut canal along the high bank you can see. In future expansions damns were built backing up the river, raising the levels, and creating “slack water” to sail on. There are six dams along this river to create the slack water for easier cruising and fewer locks. And, some of the damns are curved. And why you ask? It is not to increase the strength (although it helps) but to create a greater top surface length to allow more water flow downstream. All carefully calculated out I am sure to make sure upstream levels are kept at a safe and proper width. This first image shows walking down the private yard to the old lock which is almost covered by the river width increase due to the building of dams. Then the gallery (which you click and enlarge) shows close ups of the old stone constructions.

Next we headed to Lock 3 and lunch. We skipped Lock 5, and Lock 4 was never built as originally planned. The early engineers discovered it would not be needed, and instead of renumbering all the plans and lock sites, 4 was simply skipped in the numbering scheme.

First stop after lunch was at Lock 2, where the Oswego Falls East hydro plant is located. We were given a quick look at the inside of the plant, and then given a demonstration of the unique swivel bridge that leads over the canal to the plant.

Again, why do you tour with a unique focused group? – you get to go “behind the scenes” and the next stop was at the Lysander Canal Maintenance Facility to see the historic tug boats URGER and SENECA. Meeting us there was an enthusiastic Steve Wunder, a former captain of both tugs. Just the other day the leader, Craig, provided a link to Will Van Dorp’s Tugster blog for more on our visit there – https://tugster.wordpress.com/2022/05/10/urger-update/ – make sure you take a look as well (I am hidden in the group photo in the back)

how can you not resist this color from markers ready for installation for the season?

It was then a quick stop at Lock 1 in Phoenix, and then a return to the Town of Oswego with a quick look at Lock 6 and its impressive adjoining damn.

Back a tad after 4PM, the CSNYS May 9th Tour of the Oswego Canal was over, and folks headed off to their real lives. Yes, I could have deadheaded home and gotten to “44” by 10PM, but you know me (hopefully) and the plan was to spend all of Tuesday exploring a different route back home. And, that came next after watching another sunset over the lake, and actually enjoying a “Best Western” that was as comfortable as most historic inns or B&Bs I frequent.

Of on Tuesday, to refresh you, I have included below the map with my marked routes that I shared in Part I (you can click for full screen). Heading west I was on the more southernly route until Rome when I headed north to Port Ontario. Having traversed on the waters of Lake Oneida twice I wanted to skirt its northern shore (remember I mentioned above the lake is almost 21 miles long) and then take another NY State Byway -the Southern Adirondack Trail – that you can see my pink hi light on through the green preserve.

Leaving shortly after 8AM, I headed down the remote western side of the Oswego River to Fulton where I picked up Route 3 to Route 49 that runs along the shore of the lake to Rome. But having pursued the travel literature I had to stop in Central Square to see the CENTRAL SQUARE (Railroad) STATION MUSEUM which is only open on summer Sundays. A small museum, but on my route and they have some fascinating rolling stock on display. I arrived, and was impressed at what I saw on their grounds.

an overview of the grounds

In this gallery are the explanations of the Circus Car and the Gas-Electric Car. The green trolley is the last Syracuse, NY, trolley that was taken out of service in 1941. The undercarriage and trucks went to the scrap drives for the war effort, and the body became a “camp.” Rescued from that deteriorating fate in the woods, the next hope was to become part of a restaurant. That did not happen, and now the museum has it to preserve. Remember you can click for larger views.

I really enjoyed the views along the lake, but it was just too hard to find the perfect image to share – so, you will just have to make the trek yourself. At the eastern end of the lake is Sylvan Beach. It was here, on the Blount ship I was on, I remained overnight, but I could not find the spot on the canal, but tried. That night in 2019 we arrived too late for me to hike to the town, but I got to see it this time. Here is the entrance to the lake (looking west) from the Erie Canal Barge Canal.

a beautiful old-fashioned lake side resort, the village had a number of Victorian cottages along the shore, and a mix of interesting architecture. I bet this is a packed place in the summer months. Workers were preparing the Amusement Park, which dates from the 1870s, for its opening. I just found their video – what a classic piece of Americana – I will have to try to get back – when not a crowd. Just a sample of what I saw.

and then east on Route 49 towards Rome (New York that is, however the other Rome is east of here as well). But, wait, what is that sign – LOCK 22 – U-Turn and back down a dirt road.

and what can be better than another little dirt road off a dirt road but a little road with a sign that reads – Lock 21 where work was going on with a bridge that was out. Remember I have sailed through these locks twice – and in each direction.

From Rome it was backroads to pick up Route 8 and the Southern Adirondack Trail Byway. At times I really questioned where I was since there were signs for: POLAND – RUSSIA – NORWAY – scary sounding GRAVESVILLE – HOLLAND PATENT – SOUTH TRENTON – OHIO – wasn’t sure if I was still in NEW YORK STATE or the TWILIGHT ZONE. But to simplify your life and travels – I have been Route 8 up to Speculator (yes New York) and back down through Cranberry Creek to get to Route 29 to Saratoga Springs — and there is nothing to see or do along the way. Some rustic areas to escape to, that is about it.

But – RAY REMEMBER – Saratoga Springs is but 98 wonderful back road miles from home, and you still have lots to do there and enjoy. So close – just avoid race month. Those back roads home include heading ultimately to my favorite Arlington, Vermont, through Cambridge, New York, where I stop at a lovely antique center. It had been awhile since I had been through, and I forgot the train station (now craft beer, etc.) and all the original railroad side buildings – yes, driving back soon.

RAY RECOMMENDS
1 – Join a focused group that catches your interest (such as the Canal Society of New York State) and join in on their events.
2 – Explore Central New York State north of the thruway for some unique areas – well you can go a tad south into the Cherry Valley area and along the Erie Canal
3 – Learn about Saratoga Springs and plan a stay.
4 – And, stay safe and well.

5 – FLASH – as I was finishing this post someone emailed me with a wealth of sources for a tin chandelier like the one I showed you in Part I (not sure I know the woman, but I have replied to her asking) — and, I have emailed one source for the perfect lamp. Will share the sources on Part I – once I have mine purchased.

Thank you for traveling with me, luv, RAY

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OSWEGO CANAL – 7-10 MAY 2022 – Part I

I am trying to get back into exploring and traveling, 2019 (just look at those posts) being probably my best year. And, that year I discovered the Canal Society of New York State, and also the sadly now defunct (thank you COVID) Blount Small Ship Adventures. Yes, I have been interested in canals for ever, live close to the first canal in the US, and have a desire to learn more and more. Taking a focused trip with the Canal Society has now for the second time brought me into a geographical area I could learn more about. And, when I sailed with Blount in 2019, I came down the Oswego Canal, and wrote in that post “…I still need to get back to explore Oswego,..” Glad I made it this past week. And, how can you not enjoy saying — “Oswego?”

How do you get to Oswego on Lake Ontario, four and 1/2 hours away per google? Back roads, of course, with no tolls and explorations encompassing over nine hours instead. Below is a map (that you can click for full screen) to give you the routes I took west, and then back east, which I will relate in Part II of this trip report.

So, Route 67 from North Bennington, VT, west until it ends at Route 5 in St. Johnsville, NY. I hope you realize that the Battle of Bennington (Vermont) happened just off Route 67 in Walloomsac in the Town of Hoosick, New York. I have visited before, but had to drive up the hill to share with you the monument, and spot of the New Hampshire regiment that stopped in Walpole on the way there.

Close to where 67 dead ends on 5 is Fort Klock built in 1750. Just up from the Mohawk River (seen through the trees on the left) and the Amtrak line, the grounds were open so I could enjoy the spot.

Made of stone, you know I enjoy sharing images with texture. In the walls are slits for muskets to fire through.

Arriving in St. Johnsville I saw a small sign “Lock 33.” Quick left, cross the Mohawk River, and left onto Dump Road. Yes, one of the original locks built in the 1840, the lock became a dumping spot until reclamation began in 1999. Checking the map later, this lock was basically just across the Mohawk from Fort Klock.

Remember you may “click” images in my galleries for larger views.

Just outside Rome is where the Erie Canal was begun – basically the mid-point. The Erie Canal Village is there, but sadly has been closed and is deteriorating. Their website says soon to reopen, but as I crossed into the parking lot, the decay is continuing from what I observed over ten years ago.

I then back roaded on Routes 69 and 13 (along the NY Revolutionary Byway) to Port Ontario on the lake. Remote Oswego County that I have now been in. Then I followed the NY Seaway Trail west. Even though so labeled on the NY State maps there is nothing special about the NY State byways – little information on what to see as to why you should be there. Arriving in Oswego (say it twice or three times fast), a block of rooms for the society was in the Best Western Plus Hotel right on the river (not my usual “home away from home”). But, actually a very nice and spacious room with a sitting area and couch (better than what I had last month at the Mount Washington Hotel for almost three times the price) — but, the view from my balcony – right side image looking to Lake Ontario.

I then drove around a tad, looking out to the lake, and then south on the west side of the river.

and, then it was “good night Oswego” complete with storage silos for concrete from Canada.

SUNDAY – 8 MAY – I had until 1PM when the program began. I was not able to see Fort Ontario when I was quickly through in 2019, and was thrilled to learn the fort would open at 10AM for a War of 1812 Drill and Training Reenactment Event – and I was there before the guard doors opened. The current star-shaped fort dates to the early 1840’s with 1863 to 1872 improvements portrayed in the restoration. Its history, due to its strategic location, dates to the French and Indian Wars, and before. “The fourth and current Fort Ontario is built on the ruins of three earlier fortifications which were the site of three French and Indian War and two War of 1812 battles.  It was occupied by the U.S. Army through World War II.  From 1944 to 1946 the fort served as the only refugee camp in the United States for mostly Jewish victims of the Nazi Holocaust.” With a history of almost 300 years, I would not mind going back. I did purchase the fort’s history book, and for some quick learning here is a website to check out.

Below the fort at the entrance to the Oswego River and town with a population of about 18,000.

Outside the fort, this stone details the history of the fort – click for easier reading

and, entering the fort, the re-enactors were set up.

This group has not been able to assemble in two years due to COVID. So it was practice and training of new recruits.

some images around the fort. Inside one of the staff rooms it was gratifying to see a copy press properly described (in the rear of the lower right image). Used in the 19th century to make copies of letters on moist tissue paper, copy presses were also used for small book binding, and normally (by the uninformed) called book presses. The barrack’s tiers for sleeping were three high, and moveable for thorough cleaning for good health.

REWARD – I WANT ONE – I saw this tin chandelier in the mess room of the barracks – never seenOCanal - Fort Chandelier anything like it with reflectors. In another building a heard hammering, and discovered a tinsmith at work. Conversation of course, as you may recall I did tinsmithing with my overnight at OSV, and attended a demonstration at Historic Deerfield. And, this tinsmith learned from the fellow who was at Deerfield. Ends up the fellow here made this chandelier based upon an image he saw of one that had been in a sailing ship. He too never saw anything like it. With all my pleading he said, “sorry I just cannot make another for you.” So, FIND ME ONE.

In the intro video (always the place to start) I saw passageways in the fort walls. Of course I asked, and learned there were two openings atop the walls that are open. I found them, and down below found this musical group enjoying and entertaining.

Also “on the list” and I had time, was a visit to the Safe Haven Holocaust Refugee Shelter Museum. on the grounds of the fort.  Here 982 refugees from World War II were allowed into the United States as “guests” of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. These refugees were housed at Fort Ontario from August 1944 until February 1946. The museum is in one of the remaining brick buildings from the US Army days on the grounds

It was disturbing when the refugees arrived by train from NYC to find their new safe abode behind fences. They had left incarceration from behind fences, and were scared, and as well when all their clothing was taken for cleaning. No difference from their experiences under the Nazis, but remember this was a military installation. The image below shows where the wooden military buildings they were housed in were located – upper right. That area (remember aerial view above) is now athletic fields.

Remember you can click the above for larger full views. Originally all the refugees were to return to Europe after the war, but that changed, and those who wished were allowed to stay in the US and attain citizenship. Many of those individuals made significant contributions to our country and you may wish to learn more about this little known aspect of US history.

It was then time for the Canal Society of New York State to gather. Sunday started at the Coast Guard station followed by a too short a visit at the H Lee White Maritime Museum (hey, a reason to return).

US COAST GUARD STATION – Oswego, New York
H. LEE WHITE MARITIME MUSEUM – Oswego, New York

Lots to learn inside here, but I thought fun to share these facts about Teddy, and the workings of a Fresnel lens in a lighthouse

The museum has a tug tied up and also an old canal barge, now on land following its sinking shortly after it was acquired. The steam driven crane is fascinating – remember you can click and enlarge.

and two fact filled panels on the barge.

so, back to my balcony, then dinner with the group with a fascinating talk on the salt industry in Syracuse dating way back, and with that product transported on the canal. Back in my room more study on my balcony in preparation for Monday’s tour of the locks (shore side) which I will share in PART II.

Thank you for traveling with me, yours, RAY

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BACK TO THE MOUNTAINS – 30 MARCH to 2 APRIL 2022

Still hard for me to get “back on the road.” Things have changed so much due to the pandemic, but recently things appear to be rebounding, and folks are comfortable not hiding their faces. Remember in 2019 I had an opportunity for a stay at the Mountain Washington Hotel in Bretton Woods at a special rate? Again it happened, and three nights I booked, 30 March through 2 April. Arriving, how can you not be “wowed” by this view? (do click for full screen view)

For views around the Hotel, do visit my last post (link above) – the historic ambiance has not changed fortunately. But sadly Omni’s new ownership has detracted from many personal touches, and I am sure it is just not COVID responses. I paid this time for an upgraded room. Entering my room it was half the size of what I had in 2019. The first night the behavior of the people in the room above me was unbearable, and threatening to leave at 11PM, I was upgraded to another room. Yes, it was again half the size of the noisy room (I perceive it a downgrade – under a roof eave slanting my ceiling, no noise above me), but still with a mountain view if I could have managed to move the wing back chair that was blocking the minuscule window (minutes ago I had two chairs). I just received an email from OMNI for feedback – only one rating option of satisfaction on a scale of ten – no place for a comment or evaluation of separate things. I wonder if I will hear back when I check zero or one? Oh, and if you ask for bread at a meal, be prepared for the reply, “we don’t do that anymore.” I am sure deleting a roll really helps the bottom line on a $50 dinner.

Once relocated, Wednesday night still resulted in little sleep since I was so disappointed and upset. I struggled in the morning (already packed again to leave) but finally talking with friends opted to stay. I spent the day in the grand room viewing the Mount Washington, writing, researching, but again not getting to reading any of the books I brought.

Looking to Mount Washington – note Cog Railway route outlined in snow.

Friday I got out into a loop that I had planned. Below I have maps of this year’s explorations (left) as compared to 2019 (again you can click to enlarge for your own future plans).

I headed to Lancaster to visit Potato Barn Antiques, which I have enjoyed, only to find them closed (unadvertised) until May. But, no problem, I was headed on “new” back roads to St. Johnsbury, Vermont. The Connecticut River in this area flows basically east to the west (before sliding south to the Sound). Jumping back and forth, I discovered (and crossed) the MT. ORNE BRIDGE between Lancaster, New Hampshire and Lunenburg, Vermont.

Mt. Orne Covered Bridge looking to NH across the Connecticut River.

Arriving in St. Johnsbury I visited the Visitors Center in the wonderful old railroad station, and (as typical of Ray) collected brochures for study and planning. I decided to not hit the museums, but instead focus a trip in the North Country in the future to include St. Johnsbury explorations. So, I picked up the old route back to Littleton, New Hampshire, arriving at the Littleton Diner for lunch about 1PM. The diner opened in 1930, and I had a fun lunch, and for memories purchased their classic coffee mug – you can see them in the case on the counter in the image below.

Arriving back at the Mount Washington I got freshened up, and planted myself in my favorite public space. My son, David, was due in from Boston to join me along with friends, Tara and Bob, for dinner. When I first planned this adventure and told David he exclaimed, “I can join you for dinner, and then go hiking on Saturday.” Many mountain hikes he has done this winter until three weeks ago coming down a NH mountain he broke an ankle – end of hiking for this winter. But he said he would still love to come and have dinner and hang out on Saturday. Unfortunately the rest of his family could not make it. He arrived, and we all had a grand time and dinner (albeit without breads or rolls). Below is my beet salad and salmon.

My original plan for Saturday after David would have left to hike, was to take the Cog Railway (running since July 3, 1869) which two years ago began winter trips, but just to the water stop 15 minutes up the mountain. I had taken the full trip back in 2013, David has hiked the mountain (and slept on it) many times. You may enjoy the many pictures and videos I took on my 2013 trip on the “Railway to the Moon” by clicking this link. So, watching the weather, we decided to catch the 10:30 trip. After purchasing tickets (shown above) we had time to head into the museum.

During construction, workers would take these sled boards back down the mountain. A daring trip, now banned, but I told David to hop aboard – note his wrapped leg.

The call came out – ALL ABOARD.

Yellow to the left is the new bio-diesel locomotive, and a replica passenger car on the right. Originally run by steam (I got to ride steam in 2013) only the first and last trips of the day in season now are with steam engines. Protecting the environment from smoke, they are also slower, so with the new engines more trips can be made each day. Below, looking up from the coach platform.

seated and ready to go

looking from my seat as we started to go up—

the trees to my left below – and later you will see the trees on the other side of the route that are covered with ices crystals from the wind blowing towards them.


Mount Wash 2022-r

 

A short winter trip to Waumbek Station for the view, hot cocoa and a cookie. BUT, how many people have gotten to make the complete trip, and how even less have been able to have the winter experience?

 

 

yes, the open spot below on the right below the ski area is the Mount Washington Hotel. The road from Route 302 to the Cog’s base station is six miles. In the center you see the water tank that the steam locomotives top off from to make their runs.

Two happy “young boys” who love trains.

and, boarding for descent, but looking up the tracks to the top.

and a view of the trees on the other side, and how they are ice coated.

seats reversed, and down we go.

Back at the Base Station we headed off to the AMC Lodge at Crawford Notch only to find the cafeteria closed. But, down through the picturesque notch, along the river to Bartlett, and we lunched at the restaurant at Attitash Mountain Resort. Neither David or I had been through this stretch of road in a long while so it was a treat.

Heading back to get David’s car at the hotel, we said goodbye, and as I turned away with tears my phone rang. My friend’s conference was over an hour sooner than we thought. You know my uncanny luck with timing. So, off we headed, over mountain roads from Bethlehem to Franconia to Sugar Hill, and connecting then with Route 302 to head south. RAY RECOMMENDS the views on these two back roads looking back to the Presidential Range. Amazing, and seldom seen since not the main routes.

Maybe 18 years ago Cathy and I stayed a couple times at the Inn at Sunset Hill below. Sugar Hill, NH, is lovely, remote, and sadly a great shop is closed, and an original old stage stop, inn and then B&B has been demolished. Ray does not like change.

Inn at Sunset Hill – Sugar Hill, NH

I think I may be able to start planning more trips, I have plenty of ideas, and I enjoy the planning and anticipation. If you got this far, thank you, as always, luv, RAY — and,..

RAY RECOMMENDS

1 – The Mount Washington Cog Railway any time of the year.

2- A trip exploring back roads from Sugar Hill to Bethlehem.

3 – Join me in learning more about St. Johnsbury, Vermont, and things to do heading north into the Vermont Northeast Kingdom.

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SCOUTING OVERNIGHT – 18-19 MARCH 2022

I am forcing myself to learn how to travel again – it has been so long, and things are different. People are getting out, thus lodging harder to find. And, in the last two years it has become harder to talk to a real person to ask about room availability, details, and make a reservation. Labor shortages? Possibly, or just the proliferation of reservation “plug-ins” for Inn, B&B and Hotel websites. One night, when playing with LandmarkTrustUSA’s availability page, I was shocked to see their change. Harder to navigate, at least for me – easier for them – but for me? I guess you have to be younger and grow up with these “improvements.” Last week I started playing with different B&B and Inn website reservation pages. You can tell from the URL that these are outsourced. One vendor’s calendar shows all days open, but when clicking on a date the response is “no availability.” The best system I found was at The Old Stagecoach Inn in Waterbury, Vermont. I have stayed there twice For my second trip last year, when I called all my information was in their computer. But clicking on “Check Availability” their vendor – rezstream.com – has a user friendly system – well, at least to this “old user.”

But – let’s get to this overnight. I have often done one day book scouting trips along Antique Alley or Route 101A in New Hampshire. So, I thought why not an overnight going out to the coast, overnight, and back the next day. Yes, hours searching for the right lodging, but then I found the Silver Fountain Inn in Dover, NH, and their reservation system was workable for me. I did not really know that area, so plan and booking made.

SILVER FOUNTAIN INN – DOVER, NH – Evening 18 March 2022

From Concord I headed east on Route 4 and Antique Alley. I opted not to stay in Portsmouth, but a tad to the northwest in Dover not having been there (remember I need to know all, and how things fit together). Dover (population under 33,000 – “big city” near me is Keene at about a scary 23,000). Pulling into town I drove around and was thrilled to find a visitor center. Hostess was helpful, and in the main booklet I got I learned that Dover, settled in 1623, is the seventh oldest settlement in the United States and the oldest continuous settlement in New Hampshire. Called the Garrison City, its connection to the Atlantic ocean through adjoining rivers played a major role in its development as a successful shipbuilding community. The river powered its many mills, and for a time Dover was the leading national producer of textiles. Much more to learn and explore.

I highly recommend you consider a stay at the Silver Fountain Inn. Below is my second floor room, stairway outside my door, and the doorway vestibule where I spent some time reading.

For dinner the hostess at the visitor center recommended Ember Wood Fired Grill, and Pam at the Inn agreed. It was a walk, something harder for me recently, but I wanted to see the area architecture and downtown close up, so off my feet went for well over an almost two mile round trip. Not having a reservation, they were booked, but I slid into a space at the end of the bar and had a great Ricotta Gnocchi with roasted cipollini – snap peas – haricot vert – mushroom – radicchio – grana padano – romesco.

When I returned, several guests were assembled talking about the Murder Mystery event the next evening. I was invited to sit in and listen. Years ago I wanted to attend such an event so was intrigued, and now the quest is on to find such a weekend in rural Vermont.

One of the reasons I enjoy staying at B&Bs and old Inns is for the possibility of meeting people and sharing ideas and experiences. I overheard Bill talking about hoping to do a book for a museum where he volunteered. I interrupted saying, “I can offer advice.” And so started conversation for the evening, and at breakfast the next morning. Ironically the museum he is a docent at is new, and just the other month I discovered it on-line — The American Heritage Museum in Stow, Massachusetts. Absolutely amazing military equipment, aviation, and automobile collection, and so close with many activities. I will attend their events including the October Battle for the Airfield WWII Re-Enactment Weekend — but there is so much more. I just signed up for their newsletter. I showed Bill on my lap-top the 300 page book I am currently completing, and offered to help him get started. As I say, “I know enough to be dangerous.”

Breakfast – no words, just an image to entice you…

Originally I thought I would head Saturday to the Museum of Printing at its new location in Haverhill, Massachusetts, but playing with the map thought I would take back roads instead to York, Maine, to some antique shops I had not been to in many years. Yes, I bought.

And then, it was south on US Route 1 (no need to do it again – just junky urban sprawl in NH) to Route 111 towards Exeter. A great town. I stayed at the Inn at the Bandstand 13 years ago but forgot how quaint and busy the town is around Phillips Exeter Academy. Then Route 111A to Brentwood and eventually to Danville – both places you have to specifically go to since not on the main routes. What a treat to see this historical marker. I do hope you know that trees greater than 24 inches in diameter were property of the King for ship’s masts.

Danville is also interesting as an old community on the stage route as well.

And, I continued buying my way west on 101A, the plan being to arrive in Temple and have dinner at the Birchwood Inn. I arrived shortly after 5PM – and was pleased for them that all tables were reserved. But at the bar there was space for me. Hey, I am easy.

BIRCHWOOD INN – Temple, NH – evening 19 March 2022

The Birchwood Inn is a special place to me. Cathy and I would stay here when we came up from Connecticut book scouting. Why? A book I would always sell immediately was about the itinerant painter, Rufus Porter, and his murals. The Birchwood has his original work, thus we had to stay here. And, we were staying here with Bill and Judy on the trip up to NH when we bought our home in Walpole, thus changing life’s direction – most assuredly for the best. Here is that room with Rufus’s work, and you probably know that we did our dining room at “44” the same way. Remember you can click an image in my galleries to enlarge them.

My spot at the bar (again) and great wrapped meatloaf dinner.

So besides a break and experiment in getting back out, what did I accomplish?

1-I met Bill, and besides hoping to talk book making with him, he filled me in on the American Heritage Museum where I will have some fun – about two hours away.

2-I have a renewed desire to find the perfect Murder Mystery weekend and share that with friends.

3-I bought 38 books, and have since getting home catalogued them on-line for sale at a tad over $1200 – I am good at what I do.

Stay safe and well, as always, luv, RAY

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CHANGE OF SCENERY – 26 FEBRUARY – 1 MARCH 2022

Looking back, I have not had many adventures to share with you the past year plus, and we know why. But I just got home from another “Change of Scenery” at Kipling’s Carriage House – essentially replicating an adventure from 13-16 January 2021. I am not sure when and why I booked another stay with LandmarkTrustUSA, but I did, and so glad I did. A storm approached for my original dates, but with emails with Michele, we went in a day later to Kipling’s Carriage House avoiding the hill up Black Mountain Road in ice and snow. This was a break, a retreat with no plans. I worked on my next book, Gary had work projects and Zoom meetings, and Ilana was finishing up a year long contract – she is an accomplished attorney. Gary and I also had plans for a HOGAN’S HEROES marathon, with my video toys.

In the last about 14 months I have arranged seven stays at the impeccable LandmarkTrustUSA properties which are unequaled in history, restoration, and amenities. Make sure you look at the link above with the visit Gary and I made last year. Again we arrived, with snow on the ground…

Do look at Landmark’s website for professional images, but in my gallery below are images of the first floor of Kipling’s Carriage House. On the second floor is the bath and two bedrooms. Remember you can click my galleries to enlarge the images.

Plans for Sunday were no plans. Reading, writing, eating, and a start on the HOGAN’S HEROES marathon. Going in order we saw about six episodes – we estimate about 84 hours of watching to go. Two nights away staying at the same inn or B&B is good because you have one full day in between. Three nights away even better, with two full days to do nothing or something. The plan for that something on Monday was a tour through Guilford, Vermont. Based on my recent CLARION writings, Gary has started reading Royall Tyler’s THE ALGERIAN CAPTIVE, (first published in Walpole in 1797) so I wanted to introduce Gary to all things Royall. And, from my recent writings here you know I have developed an affinity for Guilford visits, and Green River.

Leaving shortly before noon we drove by Prospect Hill Cemetery in Brattleboro where Royall and his wife are buried (they moved from Guilford to Brattleboro in 1801). Still snow covered, we did not traipse around to find the grave on the far side of the cemetery overlooking the Connecticut River and New Hampshire. Excuse (none needed) for next road trip.

UPDATE 14 MAY 2022 — ROYALL TYLER’S GRAVE – yes on a nice warm day I found it. All I had was a small image on-line of his stone, but with the curve of the New Hampshire hills in the background of that image I was able to narrow down the location. And, Royall’s stone is straight on top, and in that on-line image I saw a larger stone to the rear, and a tiered base to the left. The cemetery has three rough dirt roads heading off the street and to the east. Take the center road, and about half way back, well plus a tad, park and walk to the left. Below is the row of stones of Royall and his wife, and a closeup of his stone. Historic and thrilling – enjoy, RAY

It was then lunch at the 1817 country store in Guilford (Algiers) – name no relation to Tyler’s book, but do read my stories on both – see the articles I wrote in the January 2022 THE WALPOLE CLARION on pages 12 and 14.

Do you enjoy “small world stories?” I do. Gary and I were at a table in a corner eating (Ilana stayed back to work), I looked over to the counter and said to myself, “that is Chris Parker.” I called over, and it was. He lives in Guilford. We visited for awhile. Chris, as a restoration contractor, advertises in my paper, and he currently has several projects a stone’s throw from my home. Have a project? Talk with Chris.

It was then off to Guilford Center to show Gary the Tyler historical marker, and where Tyler lived. In reading the town history the home he lived in was in the parcel of land that the mineral springs and hotel is located. Here is “downtown” Guilford Center – the historical society and library and old meeting house.

And, looking across the field behind the meeting house is the old beautiful Mineral Spring property and location where Royall Tyler lived, and most likely wrote THE ALGERIAN CAPTIVE.

Heading further west-ish, on bucolic dirt and snow covered roads we came to the Green River section, which I have mentioned I plan on picnicking often at. You may remember my sharing views here, but now in the snow.

on the other side looking back at the hill, and the restored Crib Dam.

more bridge and Green River flowing to Massachusetts — RAY RECOMMENDS, follow River Road south.

nowadays when people want to plan a route they look at a little screen held in their palm. I love paper maps, I love to study them and how an area “goes together.” Gary and I when exploring call it “filling in the map.” To show Gary where we were, and the route I planned “home” I reached back and pulled out the map of Guilford that the historical society gave me on my visit. He found the large size funny – you may have heard his laughter. With the topographical lines he teased it was on old piece of parchment.

Monday night Ilana made (from scratch) a cake for Gary and I – we both have March birthdays, but he is a tad younger than I am. As a result, currently I weigh a tad more than I would like.

And then, Tuesday morning came, and we left but to return another time.

RAY RECOMMENDS:

1 – Explore LandmarkTrustUSA’s website, and plan a fun escape. They have changed how reservations are made – now through an on-line service – not as personal and easy, but what you younger generations are more comfortable with. I still like to talk with someone, or email.

2 – Learn about and visit Guilford, Vermont. Plan to explore and picnic at the Green River Covered Bridge – there is a picnic area.

3 – Get out and explore – I have been afraid to, but have stayed healthy, and hope to get back into the “swing of travel.” Hey, I still have to find Royall’s tombstone.

Stay safe and well, as always, luv, RAY

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“THE HEART OF THE COMMONWEALTH” – EXPLORATIONS AT “THE WOO” – 12 FEBRUARY 2022

That title may get you to read further. Six weeks into the new year, and I drove about 140 miles on 12 February – more miles than I have driven in two months. Yes, I have stayed home and safe, but continue to explore, and learn via books and electrons. A month ago I gave an overdue report on the Blackstone River Valley in Massachusetts, but that and my interest in Isaiah Thomas, and other things led to my getting out to Worcester, Massachusetts for some initial investigations. First wanting to learn more of the city, which like Rome is built on seven hills, I started at the Worcester Historical Society, here at the second largest city in Massachusetts and also in New England. Population 206,000 – you know any community over 4,000 give me the shakes.

Often considered the seat of American industrial revolution, and the home to many famous Americans, the area is rich in history. It was the opening of the Blackstone Canal and the arrival of the railroad that changed the area from farming to an industrial center bringing in new workers and traditions from afar. At the historical society you are first routed into the industrial exhibit to get a focus on that flavor.

just some brief background on these two panels that you can click for a larger image

first below is a fascinating stove made in Worcester. In the center of the lower crossbar is a hole that can be used to heat a kettle of water

you should know that I enjoy old diners. The Worcester Lunch Car Company manufactured diners here from 1906 to 1957, and I sat at the counter at this display.

an enlargement of that image you see on the wall above the original panel “Diner Deluxe”

I have an affinity for all things Isaiah Thomas, the patriot and printer. Sadly his home was razed in 1923, but here is a shingle and some nails that were saved, along with some items made of “coffin wood.” Thomas died in 1831, and his grave moved to Rural Cemetery sometime after it opened in 1838. My guess is that these items were made of wood from his original coffin.

Another thing I have always had a curiosity about is old amusement parks. On the east side of Worcester is Lake Quinsigamond (still have to see that). And at the turn of the century there was an amusement park built there – THE WHITE CITY. You would find parks built all over the country with the same name coming after the nickname for the 1892-93 Columbian World’s Fair and Exposition in Chicago.

Now, here is the “pièce de résistance” of this post, and the one thing that you will probably remember – Worcester, Massachusetts, is the birthplace of the SMILEY FACE. And, in a small room in the museum, here is everything you need to know, and must know for that next conversation at the bar.

and, a slideshow of details

Clark University was founded in Worcester in 1887. My great-grandfather, considered the Father of Anthopology, taught at Clark from 1888 until 1892. He was the adviser for the first Ph.D. in anthropology which was granted at Clark in 1891. A course still offered –  Global Ethnographies in the 21st Century – in its description states, “…It also analyzes traditional ethnographies and ethnographic methods of the founding pioneers, including the work of the famous Clark University ethnographer Franz Boas.” If you wish – here is a nice bio and photo. In my uncle’s biography of Franz Boas is this image of my great-grandparents in front of the triple-decker (an interesting building type seen all around the city) where they boarded on the first floor – address 210 Beacon St. My grand-father, Ernst, was born in Worcester in 1891.

Checking street views on Google Maps, it appeared 210 was gone, so when I arrived in front of 212, it was not a surprise the building was gone. Replacing many triple deckers around the area are duplexes, and to the left of 212 Beacon Street are now two such duplexes – 204 and 202 – after a small opening.

I next wanted to revisit Union Station. Was last there exploring in April, 2011, when I met David and family in the area. I thought I could have lunch there, but alas a lovely station without any services. I am getting too old for all the “new ways.” Insert parking ticket here, credit card here or cash. Four attempts machine would not take my card, spit the cash back out. I push button for attendant. A voice comes on, “try again.” No luck, Voice then says try machine at exit. Once I find way to exit the machine is out of order. Turning around to go back to other machines I see a policeman coming. I jump out to ask for help. Sadly car was still in drive. I jumped in before my car hit a car and the wall. Telling me to “focus” the nice fellow opened the gate and let me out. I saved $4. Well, enjoy my pictures of Union Station, Worcester. I visited with the T conductors waiting to return to Boston.

Failing in getting something to eat, I was off to the Salisbury Mansion for a tour. Built in 1772 by the first of three Salisbury generations who were instrumental in the establishment of Worcester into the industrial center it became. Well worth the visit, and I had a personal tour by an extremely competent docent.

these two panels outside the home detail some of the family’s contributions. I learned more earlier at the historical museum.

Also on my list for the day was the Worcester Art Museum. My legs were giving out, and I did only a brief visit, but this is why I have a North American Reciprocal Museum (NARM) level membership at Old Sturbridge Village (OSV). My $18 entrance was free with my NARM membership – this now the third museum I have visited with my OSV benefit, and you do not mind not being able to “do it all.” I only saw a fraction of the exhibit halls, hitting the lower level and some ancient civilization exhibits.

I mentioned Isaiah Thomas earlier. You need to learn about him. In 1812 he established the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester. Yes, on my list for a visit (currently closed with COVID) and I need to do research there, but at least I was able to see the building which was endowed by Salisbury money. I cannot wait to visit.

Well, pelvis hurting, missed lunch busy exploring, it was after 3 PM, so I thought let me head to the 1761 Old Mill Restaurant in Westminster for a late lunch or early dinner. Did eat there once with David and family, and you would never know it is right off Route 2. A bucolic spot, great flowing water, many rooms, and extremely popular. But due to the size the kitchen must be pretty institutional. My salmon was good, but nothing special. Glad I stopped, but don’t have to again. Nice setting as you can see below.

I am so glad I got out again, and initiated explorations in this area that will lead to further travels. So close, so easy for day trips, or overnights. I cannot wait for better weather.

Thanks for getting this far, and do get out and explore and learn. Stay safe and well, as always, luv, RAY

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BATTLESHIP COVE and BLACKSTONE RIVER VALLEY

It is January 9, 2022, and I am getting crazier. I do well being by myself, but I do like to travel, explore, and learn. The past few months I have been reviewing and traveling with my posts of the past; but, there were not many to relive from 2020 and 2021. In my reviews, I could not find some areas I thought I had visited. I wanted to reread my visit to Slater’s Mill. Upstairs in the house I have an extensive archive of travel material that I have collected – much needs better organization – but in traveling through those piles and boxes the last couple weeks I found my notes from August 19, 2017, about the conclusion of my trip sleeping in the room where Lizzie Borden swung her axe. Remember that? If not – click on WHACKED IN FALL RIVER and enjoy a bloodless time. Who says you can’t have fun going through your writings and the material you’ve collected?

In reviewing those notes I found, and finding the raw images saved on iCloud, and looking at the date and time stamps, I was able to recreate and enjoy my visits to Battleship Cove and along the Blackstone River Valley. Slater’s Mill is but 2 1/2 hours away, and much is along the way to spend time with, and then even more fun traveling back home along the Lost Villages (Route 122) Scenic Byway (also check – Western Massachusetts Scenic Byways), and the Quabbin area. Remember I write for myself to remember, and for reference for continued adventures.

So, now I am planning touring this area in detail, possibly using a base in Woonsocket, RI. The region has much to offer in my areas of curiosity: canals, railroads, water power, and industrial development. In December I was also spending time in my chair touring and planning trips in the Catskills – but was afraid to head out – go away COVID! And, I want to get back to East Aurora and Buffalo, Eric Canal regions along the way there, OSV, and train whistles keep calling me. I found I also owe you my cruise on Lake George from this past fall, and still some Erie Canal and Hudson River cruising. But, for now, back to August 2017.

I have printouts from 15 August 2017 planning my route to Fall River through the Blackstone River Valley. On the 16th I briefly explored the route while heading to Fall River.

and stopped at the River Bend Visitor Center along the old canal

a great little museum – I need to get back. The one image I seem to have is of this model of a local canal boat.

In my post – WHACKED IN FALL RIVER 16 and 17 AUGUST 2017, I stated, “…I realized I should separate out this adventure to 230 2nd Street in Fall River– my B&B for two nights. The trip there and back will come later on.” But I did not think I would take almost 4 1/2 years to do so. Above is a synopsis of the 16th heading to Lizzie’s house. The day between my two nights there listening to stories and hoping for a ghost experience I headed to Battleship Cove in Fall River. On your visit, which I encourage, here is a sampling of what you will see, including a battleship, destroyer, submarine, and PT boat.

For size comparison — Note man to the left of gun turret

BatCove-d

 

To the left is a section of main deck plating from the USS Massachusetts BB 59, frame number 40 Portside. During the early morning hours of 8 November 1942, as flagship of Task Group 34, the Massachusetts was engaged with the shore batteries at Casablanca French Morocco. This hole was caused by a shell from the shore batteries which penetrated a berthing space starting a fire which was quickly extinguished.

 

You know I like to frame my images through windows, and doors — looking out at the submarine – USS LIONFISH

Looking forward from the Conning Tower on the USS LIONFISH

And the PT boat exhibit

after two great evenings at the Lizzie Borden House – now new owners, and more costly – I headed to Pawtucket, Rhode Island and Slater Mill.

fascinating, and I will go back this year. Instead of detailing all I saw, maybe I will do that following my next visit, so instead, here are some galleries of images around the site that you can open up if you wish.

all right, just a couple words since you will want to know that the “block” I was told is imported China tea for the mill worker’s table

finishing up around noon I asked where to eat in the area, and was provided a list of “Lunch and Diner Options in Nearby Pawtucket and Central Falls, RI.” One jumped out as a “must do.” And, that winner was – THE MODERN DINER

And my notes from 19 August 2017 remind me that my meatloaf lunch cost me $8.95

It was then time to meander home, and I choose to head off to Worcester, and then Route 122 – The Lost Villages Scenic Byway – towards the New Hampshire border. One of the markers I visited is below – COLDBROOK SPRINGS – and I collected many pamphlets on the towns on the route. I will be back in the spring, and I will report to you.

RAY RECOMMENDS:

1- If you cannot get out and explore – explore what you have written about before, explore the travel materials you have collected, and explore on-line what piques your curiosity in doing so.

2- Keep learning and working your brain to stay young.

3- And stay safe and healthy so when this pandemic abates we can again get out and SHUNPIKE

as always, luv, RAY

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A FOREST GROWS INSIDE “44” – Christmas Eve 2021

In the very early 1990s I was the lone book dealer at local antique shows. I saw some interesting boxes, and began collecting boxes that “spoke” to me (and I have a collection of books on boxes – of course). Then I started collecting things that look like books, but are not books, serving different functions instead. Cathy and I got real good at finding these items, and we called them “book-likes.” My formal living room looks like a library, but there is not a single book on those shelves. The book has yet to be written about this collectible – on my list to accomplish.

Stays at the Red Lion Inn prompted another collection – and again I probably have one of the largest hoards of Red Lion Inn souvenir items. Cathy and I had a few candlesticks, but after loosing her, this “hopeless romantic” found candlesticks and candelabra speaking to me – and there are over 60 around the house that have spoken to me – “take me home, please, Ray.” And then there are my miniature Christmas Trees – generically known as Bottle Brush trees, but I will not get into that history now. Why these? I believe I know the events in my life that lead to their attraction, but does it really matter? Main thing is I wanted to document and share them with you this Christmas Eve. Many I now leave out year round – they just fit in, and bring me pleasure.

My largest forest is in my kitchen. The trees in the center island come out for the season, lasting often until Valentine’s Day.

Below, in the kitchen, the trees on the mantle now “grow” there year round. The second from the right is really uncommon and unusual with “real faux” fruit on the boughs – not usually seen (well, only such example I have seen). You can see some RLI items here, including the souvenir plates we received during the Millennium Celebration. Below the hearth is an extremely desirable camphor chest (box) that I found a couple years ago in Peru, Vermont. And, those books? Not books, but “book-likes.”

Next, on the top of the pie safe with some of Cathy’s Westies providing protection. On my table in the kitchen on the lazy Susan, that group of trees is new to me. I found them in an antique shop in Bennington a couple weeks ago. The owner said, “they are old, I personally bought them 30 years ago.” Old? What does that then make me? The flanking trees are also new this year, but also “new”

And, onto the porch — well for images – I am awaiting a part for my stove there to enjoy the porch with snow on the ground. The tree in front of the door I keep lit year round. I found this, along with the pedestal it stands on, in an antique shop in eastern Massachusetts several years ago – both “spoke to me.” The other two images – surrounding a model of LADYRABIII are a group of trees I bought about ten years ago at the Sugar Hill Sampler in Sugar Hill, NH. The white trees? Different.

My dining room – and in looking at my images I realized I have not gotten out my special red German Christmas china ware yet, with, yes, green Christmas Trees. Well, something to do tomorrow as a reward to myself.

This is an uncommon music box. See the glass turtle on the left? From my grandmother’s home in the Bronx, this is a candy dish I would raid in the dining room when visiting. It sat on a tea cart, which is just to the left of me now in my “informal” parlor.

Don’t think I have to identify the candle holders, but in the rear is a special anniversary pitcher I got at OSV when I was there on opening day this year on their 75th anniversary. The red house – Sugar Hill Sampler. BUT, do you know the significance of the group of “three pines” on the right? I found this (and the remaining last three for friends) at Christmas Days in Sunderland, Vermont, just two weeks ago. “Three Pines” you ask? Think Louise Penny.

Below is what I am looking at while I am writing this. Throw me anytime in this “briar patch. I can even feel the “warmth of the fire.”

and a close up of the mantel — ironically, I had this image on the screen of my computer when Scott and Betty called saying how much they loved listening to A CHRISTMAS CAROL REDUX as they were driving to their son’s home. See the Airstream under the group of three trees I found as a lot last year at Stone House Antiques in Chester (another important turning point in my life)? Scott and Betty found it and sent it to me last year. The story behind it is on my LADYRABIII pages. See, I found the second owner down south of my Airstream, and she told me it was purchased as a Christmas surprise for her family. She placed an Airstream ornament on their tree, and eventually told her boys that the real thing, now mine, was delivered and in their drive. Betty has a great memory.

and, on 28 December, while in the bookshop, I remembered that I had forgotten to share with you the view I must endure while at my desk there. This tree grows next to the popcorn wagon every day of the year.

There are some additional trees around “44,” but these are my main groupings.

We have all missed much these past almost two years. Friends and I always have enjoyed our special dinners at THE CASTLE in Ludlow, Vermont. But it has been over two years since we have been able to go. A chance call yesterday, a call back thanks to a cancelation, and it was dinner at seven. How special. And a special place to be with your closest friends. Plan a dinner or stay.

the library at The Castle, where in the past we have started our evening with wine around the table in the center.

and this just behind our table

always a festive tree here — a great way to “get in the mood.”

Fezziwig's Ball

Just about done (and the fire is burning down – will have to press rewind). Time to make a special dinner before the Live Nativity just outside “44.” But I would like to remind you to enjoy A CHRISTMAS CAROL REDUX. Click the link on the capitalized title above, and enjoy. I have gotten emails and calls from folks whose sides are aching.

MERRY CHRISTMAS
and have a safe and healthy New Year, love, RAY

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A CHRISTMAS CAROL – REDUX – (Like You Have Never Heard Before)

This post has been eleven years in the making. About a year and a half after Cathy died, I learned of the Road Scholar programs and began devouring their literature. I found many unique programs, offering access to places and adventures unavailable to the casual traveler. In nine years, between August, 2009, and October, 2018, I availed myself of thirteen unique programs. Sadly since that time none of their offerings has piqued my interest. I believe I know why. Needing to learn, I talked with the leaders, and in many instances learned how they arranged the special events with special connections, but they were retiring. For example, I toured the Rideau Canal with the lead historian on her last adventure before retiring. That program is no longer offered. Likewise my experience on the Roycroft grounds learning of the Arts and Crafts movement was amazing. The most knowledgeable leader related she was soon to have heart surgery. I next got her obituary. That program is no longer available. But I am still looking.

Still offered yearly, I attended the program – Fête de Noël: Christmas in Québec City, December 21 to 26, 2010. It was great, and the tour leader was the gentleman who taught all the tour leaders in Quebec City for their licenses. Could not get any better. Besides the history there was Christmas Eve Dinner at the Hotel Frontenac, and a carriage ride in the snow around the city on Christmas Day.

Quebec City at Christmas Time

Heading home on Autoroute 20, the afternoon of the 26th, I was dial switching the radio. Now, you may recall that from 2008 through 2014 I produced, as a benefit for local food shelves, my own adaptation of Charles Dickens’ A CHRISTMAS CAROL. Having completed performances before I left for Canada, this tale of redemption as Scrooge faced three separate ghosts, was fresh in my mind. Landing on the CBC I heard that A CHRISTMAS CAROL REDUX, narrated by Russell Thomas, was about to begin. “Now I want to hear that,” I said to myself, and it soon began with a kazoo prelude.

Now it will help if you know the basic plot before you spend 54 minutes listening to this REDUX production, but not necessary. I was soon laughing hard, tears of laughter were streaming down my cheeks, and I feared that the car seat was not waterproof in case my bladder lost control. Fortunately I saw a rest area, and pulled in, parked, and listened to the radio. I had to find a copy to share.

I found part of the show on-line about five years ago, and then forgot about it. But the thought resurfaced recently. I went searching 29 November, and FOUND IT. But how to share it? I enlisted son Gary, and he went to work. It took some time, but he was able to complete the task.

So, now I invite you to the party. Pour some non-dairy eggnog, or glasses of wine, get some dry underwear in case, put your feet up and turn out the lights and close your eyes. Click the audio link below Mr. Fezziwig’s Ball. But my disclaimer – the show is irreverent, often politically incorrect, raunchy at times, and hysterical – ENJOY!

MERRY CHRISTMAS and HAPPY NEW YEAR, love, RAY

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HOLIDAY TOUR — 11 DECEMBER 2021

Yet again we face a difficult holiday season. Limited gatherings, limited holiday events. But 2020 was worse and there were none of the holiday tours I have enjoyed in the past. Most fun has been the Inndulgence Tour which friends and I enjoyed first 3 December 2016 and again 8 December 2019. To help you get in the mood with great decorations take a look at those two posts. Sadly again this year the Inndulgence Tour was cancelled out of caution since the festivities involved many people gathering in small spaces and sharing conversation and goodies of all sorts. Exceptional was the 9 December 2017 Manchester Vermont Holiday Inn Tour. You can read about it, and see great holiday decorations at the end of this link. The Manchester tour was scheduled for 2021 with additions and deletions from my last attendance. I also read of a holiday festival in my favorite Grafton, both on the 11th. Thus, I decided to travel and “get in the mood.”

Saturday did not look good, rain, icy roads, but checking the weather maps it appeared clearing by the time the Manchester tour started at noon. Off I went, first stopping for “Christmas in Grafton.” You can see my special Inn at Grafton below in the rain. Not much going on in the almost deserted village, so I continued west.

Compared to the joyous experiences of these past tours, today was a disappointment. I never want to sound negative, and choose to not say something if I cannot say something nice. Yes – COVID – it cancelled last year’s events and has dampened what has attempted to open this year. At some stops I was the only person instead of dozens as in the past. The decorations I wanted to see and become uplifted by were fewer or absent. The joy of sharing goodies around a table also was gone. No one to share with, and just a few cookies to take away. Don’t get me wrong, I had a full eight plus hour day out on my circle route west to Manchester, south to Bennington, and east back home. BUT – there were two very bright spots,

My plan was to start at the northern most stop in East Dorset, Vermont, and head to the two new additions in Bennington – at the southern most point of the tour. My first stop was amazing – well decorated, and an important historical spot I did not know existed here – THE WILSON HOUSE – birthplace of Bill Wilson, co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). You know I love to learn something new – and then share with you.

The Wilson House – East Dorset, Vermont – 11 December 2021

I arrived just before noon, and since this was my first stop purchased my ticket, with all proceeds going to the local food banks. Operated as a non-profit, Executive Director, Berta Maginniss, welcomed me, toured me, and shared local history of the Inn and the Wilson family. In the first image in the gallery below (hopefully displaying properly – WordPress is becoming less user friendly), the lamp is the spot (ironically behind the original bar in the inn) where Bill Wilson was born in 1895. Next the dining room, the back barn where meetings and seminars are held, and one of the showcases of AA memorabilia.

The Inn welcomes more than 10,000 visitors annually (surprising since this is really rural Vermont – but an important pilgrimage spot), and hosts about 300 meetings, and more than 35 seminars while providing over 150,000 cups of coffee. I had driving once into East Dorset which is just east of my favorite US Route 7 – my favorite Battenkill River – and a set of railroad tracks. Two trains a day Berta told me when I asked. “And, they stop the freight right here, and cross 7 to the general store for lunch,” Berta told me when I asked if the tracks were used. She also provided a map to the local cemetery and resting place of Bill W., and invited me to join in the community dinners on Friday nights – suggested donation $15. I already mentioned that to BLUE BELLE, and she is ready for the trip when it gets light out again (and a tad warmer).

I spent an enjoyable, learning time here, and recommend you stop to see the small village, and the displays in the inn – and maybe I will see you at a community dinner.

Then I began my journey south stopping at spots I did not see on the previous tours. The next three probably recently added – probably just for the publicity exposure, but not decorated, and for the two large venues nothing welcoming at all for the tour participants. But here goes. First on Route 30 just outside the center of Manchester on the way to Dorset is The Barnstead Inn. An employee was showing another person some rooms and suites – I joined in.

The Barnstead Inn – Manchester, Vermont – 11 December 2021

The old farmhouse has suites, and the rear cow barn as well. To the right (not in my image) is a bar and restaurant. Nicely done and appointed, but no holiday decorations or cheer did I see to share with you. Here are some interior views.

I then went into the “new” Kimpton Taconic Hotel which recently replaced a wonderful rambling old inn that stood here. Nicely done, high end, but nothing to share with you, and a holiday tour disappointment. Sadly the same feeling I had for The Equinox Resort. Hosting Lincoln’s wife and sons prior to that 1865 event, and in the early 20th century falling into disrepair, fortunately the Inn was saved. The resort is massive, the front desk people handing out a map and said you could walk around. Again nothing focusing on the holiday tour, Cathy and I had dinner here in 1996 while still living in Connecticut. We were staying at The Arlington Inn just down the road, and that was the night my first herniated disk popped – hard drive home and following recuperation. Here is the Equinox in the rain, and the one nicely decorated stairway I saw.

The Equinox Resort, Manchester, Vermont – 11 December 2021

Because the tour now extended to Bennington making it hard to see everything, I decided I was not going to stop at the spots I really enjoyed in and around Arlington, but I needed some good holiday decorations, so stopped at The Inn at Ormsby Hill. Glad I did, welcoming, chatting with the owner was nice, decorations as I remembered them, hot cider and cookies wrapped to take. Not the wine, cheese, music and crowds I experienced before, but at least some lovely decorations and atmosphere. Plan a visit here.

My next stop I did not make during the last tour. And my stop at the Ira Allen House made up for some of my other disappointments. Cathy and I stayed here a couple times in the late 90s before we moved to NH. Mike and his partner Kevin have now owned the inn for nine years. Kevin is a buyer for the Vermont Country Store, and Mike runs the Inn, and does a fine job welcoming and making you feel as though you belong. This is just what I expect of an inn owner, and an experience on such a tour (please remember – places I did not visit this year e.g. the Wilburton Inn, were and are outstanding)

I loved this image on the tour website, and since there was no great snow, I needed to catch this to share.

Here are some nicely decorated rooms here – main guest room and the dining room – and then an upstairs suite where we had stayed.

now, this feels like Christmas

and, an image to share on my “Rocking Chair Studies” page.

DEC-21-XMASTOUR-zzLeaving the historic Ira Allen House I figured I had enough time to get to Bennington to see the two inns that I do not believe had been on the tour previously. Passing CHRISTMAS DAYS in Sunderland I quickly turned around and went back. Not having seen many decorations as yet on the tour, I needed a fix. In business for 52 years,  and in this spot since 1972, I have been driving by for over four decades, and maybe only stopped once. So glad I did as you will see below. Open all year – make the stop.

Just west of Old Bennington, on Route 9, I have passed the Four Chimneys Inn, also for well over three decades. It was time to see it, and again I was the only one. I did not have to wake up the innkeeper however.

A lovely inn with exquisite appointments, I am glad I got to hop in and learn its history as a “farmhouse” in an area that residents of Troy, New York would venture to for second homes.

At least there was a lovely tree in the porch. The last stop in Bennington I will not even share the one sad tree. I went in, said something to a young girl playing games on her laptop on a couch. She said she thought the owner was in the kitchen. Lovely woodwork in an old Victorian spacious mansion, but I headed back out making some antique shop stops on the way home. Just disappointment reflecting back on the previous tour here. I would imagine that three places I did not go to again that were tremendous last time did so again, but it is hard to do everything. The addition of the Bennington properties was not a good idea, stretching the tour distance too much.

But besides the gracious visits and welcomes by Berta at The Wilson House, Mike at the Ira Allen House, and the owner of The Inn at Ormsby Hill, I “scored” at CHRISTMAS DAYS, and one other antique shop. For some reason I have been “hooked” on collecting “bottle brush” trees that “grab me.” Just like my candlesticks that I have shared on my FLICKERING FLAMES page. I am going to have to update my candlestick page, and it is about time I document and share with you the over 60 trees I have around the house – many of which I now leave out and enjoy all year. But, here is a teaser with the special one I got at CHRISTMAS DAYS (I seldom see this size ornaments on these trees), and a small forest I got from the owner of antique shop who said he bought them for himself thirty years ago. I usually do not see this much snow of these little trees.

and, a teaser of how I decorate – looking at this now as I “keyboard”

Hope you got this far. Not sure what else will come along to share with you this calendar year, so let me take the opportunity to wish you a MERRY CHRISTMAS and HAPPY NEW YEAR – as always, luv, RAY

and, one last thing – I research to learn – write to remember, and love to share. Two years ago I researched and wrote about the background to “candles in windows.” As the top “google hit” on candles in the window history searches, my published post has been read over 11,500 times in two years, and over 1,500 times in the past two weeks. Not quite “viral,” but you may also enjoy learning about “Candles in the Windows.” Click on this link – and please share.

The Candles in my Windows
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