Santa Land’s new owner and Santa’s being restored

Did you notice? It has taken me more than two weeks to get to writing and posting this fascinating 12 hour adventure that I highly recommend. The day before my Quabbin (The Meeting of Many Waters) visit I got to meet the new owner of Santa’s Land in Putney, Vermont. I then updated my Santa’s Land post and made mention on Facebook of the news of its reopening. That lead to over 400 “likes” and over 600 “shares” which in 2 1/2 days equated to over 5,400 page views of that post – AMAZING. And, then it was CLARION time, and I spent 4 days working on the October issue – which is one of the best yet. Where did the rest of the time go? It just goes.

Before I went to Santa’s Land that Saturday, I stopped at the library to “hold court” and mentioning the Quabbin excursion, friend “Skippy” exclaimed, “may I come?” We left a little after 8AM Sunday down I-91, exiting to cut over to Sunderland, Mass, then to Amherst to get Route 9 to Belchertown to continue east the Quabbin Visitor center. I have always been fascinated with the building of this reservoir that supplies Boston and environs, but I have recently been reading a great book titled WATER FOR GOTHAM about the struggles to get water to New York City – that renewed my desire to explore more at Quabbin (click to open for easier reading).

This project, envisioned even in the 1890s, caused four towns to vanish under as much as 150 of water, and many other villages vacated that were in the proposed watershed. Almost 3,000 people were displaced (homes and businesses lost beginning in 1927), and almost 8,000 bodies from cemeteries relocated. Learning from earlier projects, the new reservoir bottom was totally cleared of homes, vegetation, everything for the purest water. The dam and dike were completed in 1939, and it took 7 years for the reservoir to fill. There is a small museum in one room in the Administration building built alongside the dam.

What was great in the museum, and make sure you see it, is the introductory video. We saw that, and a second one on the system to move the water to Boston. Upon leaving, the fog was beginning to lift finally, and the reservoir coming into view. Do you see the coyote in the grass towards the left?

Do you see him/her? Actually a statue they move around to scare away Canadian Geese flying through. If you have ever seen a gaggle of geese, you know what they leave in great quantity. The plan was originally to have a seaplane housed under the admin building, and there is a ramp into the lake. They never used a plane to patrol the lake, but there are patrol boats, and they use sounds and blanks to encourage birds to continue along. Walking east then to the dam.

It was amazing to learn how caissons were sunk down to bedrock (see the video) to construct the dam, and the complicated procedure to create what you see below.

The fog finally was starting to lift.

Leaving the visitor center we then entered the Middle Gate to loop around a peninsula to the East Gate. The first stop/view is Winsor Memorial Park (named for the engineer) looking back to the dam.

Of course, at the high point is Quabbin Tower so you can get 84 more steps above Terra Firma.

to take in the views (click to enlarge)

Just outside the East Gate of the park area is the Quabbin Park Cemetery where the remains of 6,601 graves from the Swift River Valley were moved.  7,613 graves were disinterred from thirty-four cemeteries scattered throughout eight towns, the others relocated elsewhere.

and even statues were relocated

In preparation for this trip I had read my copy (I squirrel books away in my own collection that catch my eye – have not run out of books to sell yet) of QUABBIN: THE ACCIDENTAL WILDERNESS. Just look at a map of Massachusetts, and you will understand. In the book I learned of The Swift River Valley Historical Society – I did not know of it. Open only Wednesday and Sunday afternoons, it closes the end of September for the season. I had to see it.

As people were being displaced, the museum had its beginning saving items from the towns of Dana, Enfield, Greenwich and Prescott. The main museum building, the Whitaker Clary House (built in 1816) was purchased from the Massachusetts District Commission (MDC, now DCR Watershed Division) in 1961 for $1.00. In the Quabbin watershed it was originally planned for destruction, but fortunately that never occurred as the interior is essentially all original – a visual and historic  treat.



This is one of the original road sign posts from one of the towns. It was recently restored. Below is a map of the reservoir showing you the location of the towns that disappeared forever.




here is the original kitchen in the Whitaker-Clary House.

In the front parlor are these three wedding dresses. All the same, worn by three sisters married the same day in the same ceremony.

and detail of the great original wallpaper in this room.

going upstairs, I now have a new plan for my home, which is ten years older than this wonderful house/museum.

In one of the front rooms upstairs is the Dana room (each of the lost towns has a room dedicated to it with momentos from the town).

and, a newly constructed barn structure has signs and artifacts from the towns. The North Dana Post Office sign was found just weeks ago and gifted to the museum.

I have driven through New Salem a number of times, and just love it. Ironically, the museum is a tad north of the “village” which is why I have missed it. There is essentially just Main Street in New Salem (but I just did see on Google Maps a few roads I have missed – next trip). Here is the Common in New Salem.

around the common there is a former private school (now a residence) and an early church.

How cannot you not love this drive down a “dead end” Main Street? Main Street ends (after turning to dirt) at a gate to the Quabbin grounds.

Part of this long day was to hopefully get to see the Memorial Hall Museum in Old Deerfield.  Closing at 4:30, I knew it would be tight to get to finally visit, but off we headed – back roads across country, of course. Getting there 10 minutes before closing time, we still went in.


Hey, if you are nice, you get to see something. And, we got a quick look at a couple rooms, an introductory talk, and a peek at the gift shop. Two to three hours will be needed to do the museum justice, so still “on the list.” And, finally, “on the list” for the day was dinner at  the Whately Inn,  in Whately, of course.

I had hoped to do this trip with an overnight on Saturday night and run hard on Sunday, but every place I called (that I would consider staying at) was booked, including the Whately Inn. Once entering, I realized that I would not have enjoyed staying there overnight, and the dining room was not decorated as it should be, BUT the food — plan on stopping for the food. Dinner is four courses, and reasonable. Appetizer, salad, entree, and desert. Here is my marinated mushroom appetizer, and lamb. I brought home the next night’s meal.


— Learn what you can about Quabbin Reservoir, and how Boston and 40% of Massachusetts gets its water
— At a minimum read QUABBIN: THE ACCIDENTAL WILDERNESS  by Thomas Conuel. There are so many interesting environmental facts and balances of life from the development of the area.
— Tour the area including New Salem and (when open) The Swift River Valley Historical Society
— Stop anytime in Old Deerfield. I have been touring through for over 54 years.
— Take in dinner at the Whately Inn
— Report back to me with your comments on these recommendations.

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If you read my posts, I have surprises for you, and often things I enjoy repeating. Today was a repeat, albeit different. I remember as a pre-teen a hit-‘n’-miss engine at a car show I was at with my Dad, and I was fascinated. Love to own one, but have enough engines to worry about, but that does not mean I cannot enjoy them. I introduced Alex to these versatile engines in Orange, Massachusetts in 2015, and first attended the Dublin meet in September of that year, last year in 2016, and again today. Click on the highlighted links above for those experiences. Today in attending the 46th Annual Dublin, New Hampshire Gas Engine Meet the plan (besides simply enjoying) was to document and share with you anything I had not seen before, nor shared in the above posts.  I was not disappointed as you will see below.

I arrived a tad after 11AM today, Saturday the 9th, and was waved onto the field at no charge to park in the exhibitor area. BLUE BELLE settled in about where she was last year.

Near her were other “old cars” but I am most attracted to unrestored and original, and many were near BB2. The 1914 Metz on the left below was probably repainted in the 1950s, and the 1926 Chevy is totally original with great upholstery (remember, when you see my images side by side, that is a gallery that you can click and open up for larger images.)

The theme for this year’s show was vertical engines, and several were on special exhibit near the entrance – by the way, as I entered a warm chill came over as I saw the largest crowd I had seen there.

this engine is just so colorful it had to be shared.

around the corner was this amazing contraption – a combination lawn mower and roller powered by a hit and miss – what a heavy monster to manage.

on a trailer in the “flea-market” area, each for sale at $500 each was a hay machine, and a cement mixer. Trust you can see the installed hit-‘n-miss engines.

you should know that mini-trailers from the 60s and 70s are all the rage now (think tiny house craze). He is one appropriately towed by a 1960s pickup. See what is in the bed of the pickup?

Yes, American Pickers Mike and Frank (and Dewey) – an INDIAN

I know, kinda campy a toy Ferris wheel driven by a hit-‘n-miss engine, BUT

the fascinating thing here was the opposing cones that as the belt is moved back and forth regulated the speed at which the drive belt moved, thus the speed of the Ferris wheel.

how about a Rock Crusher driven by a hit-‘n’miss – or in this case the drive wheel off an old John Deere???

of course you want to see it in operation

Most people I know buy their wood already split, but here is a DIY outfit.

and this hit-‘n-miss gas powered saw can be put on any log and put to work

as you can see here

sitting down I hope?  How about a loader (think moving stuff into a dump truck or rail car) powered by a massive mounted engine. Note the toy loaders on the trailer fender.

I think there may now be easier ways to shuck corn.

The gentleman who owns this tree spraying device answered all my questions as to the flow of the pump (and the bypass to change the flow and resulting pressure). You could buy this rig complete with the engine, or without the engine if you want to use the one already on your farm.

many clubs exhibited member’s models or related collections. I may have a new quest – if you watch American Pickers you know brass bladed fans have a premium, but did you know that brass bladed fans predate electricity? How about this assortment of early 1900s models powered by alcohol and water. Heat from a kerosene or alcohol lamp heated air in a piston, which turned a crankshaft with a fan blade attached. Off tomorrow on the hunt.

BB2 can attract attention, and when I was almost done and stopped for some water I started chatting with a couple fellows from North Walpole who walked by and admired her (she should be a chick magnet, but great conversation always welcome). We had fun, and I learned a great deal from them. But it was time to head back, but I thought I would be different (last year I took roads home previously unexplored by RAB) and took 136 north off 101 heading towards Hancock. Was going to reproduce a map for you, but want you to explore your paper map on your own. If you are on the right road(s) you will be surprised that Fall is upon us. No kidding, the below is this afternoon just south of Hancock common.

From Hancock I continued on 137 to Bennington and then north on US 202 to Antrim. Both new “discoveries” having never been to either before. From Antrim I took Route 31 to Route 9, turned south until reaching 123 west — and home.  Check out the route on your maps.

I still owe you some more from my route to and from Fall River last month – in time. But, if you have have a chance to see these old gas engines, or a farm implement related show may I encourage you to do so — they are fascinating. Yours, RAY


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WHACKED IN Fall River — 16 and 17 AUGUST 2017

Have you noticed that recently I seldom get to complete my posts while on my adventures as I used to? Some of my recent experiences have continued well into the evening hours impinging on my sitting down with wine and words. Hoping to put everything together when I get home, I still am too busy. I have been home from Fall River, Massachusetts for nine days, and finally started putting together a three day tale. But, working with my images, 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.

230 2nd Street, Fall River Massachusetts

My infamous bedroom is on the second floor above – the left two windows. Do you remember what happened here August 4, 1892? Maybe this will help —

Lizzie Borden took an axe
And gave her mother forty whacks
When she saw what she had done
She gave her father forty-one

Although the child’s skipping rope rhyme is not historically accurate (there were about 19 blows to Abby, her step-mother, and 17 to Andrew) you know where I was. And I had the room where Abby was whacked. Most expensive B&B room I have had, but (remember this) in checking out I saw a small sign “Show your AAA card for discount.” I saved $50! And, now I can share the story about this crime that still fascinates after 125 years, partly because Victorian women were thought not capable of such an act, this was the first nationally publicized crime and first carried by the new wire services. And, the first time actual crime scene photos were used in court in the US, and only the second time ever used in court (four years prior crime photos were used in England in the Jack the Ripper case).

Check in is after 4PM since there are one-hour tours during the day (when did you last sleep in a museum?). Did not have to go on one because guests receive a tour from 8PM until 10:30 or 11. I had to do “all things Lizzie,” so off I went after checking in to the massive Oak Grove Cemetery. Borden is a large family in Fall River, but here is Andrew’s marker.

the individual head stones:

and, after her trial, Lizzie decided she would be Lizbeth

Once acquitted, Lizzie purchased a house up on the hill where the wealthy, well-heeled residents resided. Her father could have easily bought there, but was frugal to a fault.

and the house that Lizzie renovated naming it Maplecroft, where she entertained and lived until her death in 1927. The current owner is hoping to open it as a B&B.

I really do not think I need to relate the Lizzie Borden story in detail because you probably know something, or can easily research (as I did for background prior to going – including watching the Elizabeth Montgomery movie on YouTube.) You just want to see her home which the current owners spent over $500,000 bringing it back to its 1892 appearance – thanks to all those crime photos.

Below is heading up the stairs to my room, and the view from the seventh step.


and, entering my bedroom, and looking over my bed

here is THE SPOT

Abby’s body had to be moved some for the crime photos. It would have been inappropriate for any of her legs to show, thus in pulling down her dress she appears to be propped at an angle – not so. You will want to open this gallery of images for sure to see the larger images.

My first evening I had a wonderful dinner at the Abbey Grill , ironically in the old church Lizzie attended and where she taught Sunday school. It was great. Getting back for the 8PM tour I joined six other guests. Rich, our guide for the night, gave an in depth architectural, and history tour of the property and the events. Here are a couple images during the tour. First, up the front stairs with my room was Lizzie’s room that she traded for with her sister following returning from a tour in Europe with oodles of souvenirs,

See the door to the left? Originally a two family home, Andrew did not make too many changes. He and his wife used the back stairs to the two rooms in the rear, and this door was kept shut with the bed at an angle in front. The girls then using the front stairs (viewed earlier) to their rooms (second bedroom off the one above to the left) and the guest room in the front.

Here is the front parlor – just about perfect Victorian (well milk crate on floor has binders of Lizzie Borden clippings)

And, the dining room which was two bedrooms when the home was a two family. Our host for the evening has arms extended.

Did you note the contraption hanging on the wall to the left? That folding framework with caning was used when laying out a body for autopsies, or wakes in a dining room. Instead of being laid directly on the dining room table, a body was placed on the frame, thus bodily fluids drain off. The second night one of the guests was a young mortician — was she full of stories, loving her work and its history.

Upstairs on the third floor was the maid’s room and another guest room at the time of the murders. Bridget Sullivan was called Maggie by Lizzie and her sister, the name of the former maid. The new owners have added two additional bedrooms on the third floor in what was storage.

Thursday I did other things that I will report to you in the next post, but I ended the day at the Fall River Historical Society. A wonderful old home, but the “hook” that got me there was one of the things my guide, Rich, had said the night before. With Lizzie acquitted, all the evidence of the trial was given back to her lawyer, Andrew Jackson Jennings. He took the evidence home and stored it in a hip-tub in his attic. The collection is known as the “hip-bath” collection. In 1967, Jennings’ daughter donated the items to The Fall River Historical Society. The items were put on display finally in 2010 in the room shown below.

Hard to see because of the glare, here is some of that evidence including the infamous broken hatchet found hidden in the basement. Even with the glare, I bet you cannot resist opening up this gallery for larger images.

I read a great deal, viewed videos on Youtube, listened to Rich the first night, and also the other guests who had ideas. My tour hostess for the second night I was there had more of an interest in the paranormal which this Borden home is also noted for. Along with that evening’s 8 guests I gained even more insight. So, I have my theory, and can happily entertain you with the details, but basically I believe the only victim was to be Abby, whacked by Lizzie’s uncle (fantastic alibi). Sadly, Lizzie’s Dad came home 1 1/2 hours early, and not sure what to do, I think Lizzie whacked him. She then lived strangely ever after.

And, one last image — the end of night one, guests helped pose me correctly as Andrew. THE END

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I cannot keep up to share my adventures. Still I have not yet gotten to my Fall River report, and when asked why by a friend days ago, she said, “that’s right, it is CLARION time.” Yes, the September issue of my newspaper, THE WALPOLE CLARION, went to press this morning (23 August), so I can now write about other things. But before I report on surviving Fall River (teaser at the end), I want to encourage you to follow the roughly 20 mile trip I took on Sunday the 20th.

Sunday I met a bookseller friend in Hopkinton, NH. He was cleaning out the books in a house there, and invited me to pick what I wanted. Arriving there at 10, I finished up at noon. My plan, since I was already across the state (time for this adventure does not include time it took to arrive at the start, or travel home from the end), was to explore a few towns I have missed. DO NOT MISS Hopkinton – it is a delightful small colonial village lasting but a few blocks. Ultimately I wanted to see the Muster Field Farm Museum in North Sutton – and the back roads to take were NH 102 and 114. The first stop was Contoocook Village in Hopkinton where I had lunch.I realized that on this route I could share three covered bridges with you. You can click on the image to the right (above) to read the importance of the bridge below. Hopefully you get the sense of the height to accommodate a puffing steam locomotive.

This village is also charming. I stopped at Union House Oddities which was packed with colorful eye-candy accessories for the home. I struggled, but could not think where to put any of the items that caught my eye. In the center of town is the railroad station, and a car that a citizen bought and gave to the town to restore.

From Hopkinton to Warner I was on the Currier and Ives Byway (Route 103 – the old main road that I-89 now parallels. In recent years a number of states have designated scenic drives, and I hope to share those state websites with you in time .  Sadly in Warner the New Hampshire Telephone Museum is closed on Sundays, but I walked around town, and drove up to the Mt. Kearsarge Indian Museum, but decided to wait when I could visit both museums at once. Glad I did not go in, because I would not have made it to my final tour destination in time. You can click the image above left to read the sign about Warner.

New Hampshire Telephone Museum – Warner, NH

Turning on Joppa Road, next to the post office, I came to the Dalton Covered Bridge built 1853 spanning the Warner River, and one of the oldest bridges still in use.

Leaving Warner on Route 103, and passing under I-89, I started looking for Newmarket Road to Waterloo. What a treat when I found it, first seeing the old train station.

and, then the Waterloo Bridge, again across the Warner River, built originally in 1840, rebuilt in 1857. Listed only for 6 tons, the clearance is 8 1/2 feet.



Just before you head down the hill to the river is this sign about Waterloo (you can click to enlarge for readability). This area was an important mill area, and on a stage route. The few homes extant are amazing, and a sample is below (please click to open up the gallery and enjoy the images).



One of South Sutton’s prominent citizens of past.


Then I continued on Route 103 to Bradford to pick up Route 114 to Sutton. Ends up there is both a North Sutton, and a South Sutton. Arriving in South Sutton a few people were on the common, and a small cardboard sign said “Old Home Days 10-2” – I had just missed it. What a gorgeous village. Meeting house on the hill, obviously an old tavern to the left, and a fantastic old country store packed with original items. I clambered up onto the porch to peer inside the windows.


As I left the store’s porch two ladies called over to me. Yes, Old Home Days was over, and the store, owned by the historical society, had been open for its one day a year. They tried to think who could come back with a key, but I said it was alright. We chatted about the lovely area, and I learned the historical society owns the meeting house, old school, store, and a few other homes. Again – you need to visit there, and maybe bring a picnic to enjoy on the common.

I then continued on to North Sutton and Kezar Lake. I cannot wait to get back and re-
explore. Ends up this was a summer camp and resort area. If you look at the map you will see the area is on a parallel, and to the east, of Lake Sunapee. I turned off 114 keeping the lake to my left looking for the turn for Muster Field Farm Museum –  an 18th century homestead, restored farm buildings, and bicentennial working farm. Of course there is a book MUSTER DAYS AT MUSTER FIELD FARM. I thought I had it, and just found it in my private New Hampshire collection, complete with notes I made when reading it in November 2014. Now on my writing list for a future article “New Hampshire’s Muster Day Tradition”.

Dating from the 1790s the home did serve as a tavern since it sat on one of the main turnpikes for drovers heading to Portsmouth.

Sundays in the summer the homestead is open for tours — I made it just in time. Original – I love it – owned by one family until the 1940s, then one last owner. Upstairs is a ballroom where the militia would have dances – yes, musters were held in a flat field across the street – thus the name. No pictures allowed inside (understandably so the treasures are not publicized) but I could shoot through this pane of wavy glass.

Around the fields…

are 17 farm buildings that have been moved and preserved here to create the museum, including this Mineral Spring House from the complex of buildings that were the Bradford Springs Hotel.

and the various buildings (I did not get into them all, wanting to save some for the next trip) are packed with 19th century treasures. I was thrilled to see this item below – you may guess. But a teaser (not the big one) this is an implement that I will mention in my Did You Know That… article in the December issue of THE WALPOLE CLARION. Already read two books researching the subject.

Back into the center of the village, small green, church, and store.

and at the corner of the lake is the Follansbee Inn – now “on the list.”

There is much more I could share about the farm, and its many events. But RAY RECOMMENDS that you visit during one of the special events. It is really very easy to get to off I-89 from a New London exit — BUT — RAY ALSO HIGHLY RECOMMENDS that you follow Routes 103 (starting at Hopkinton) and 114 (from Bradford) to visit Sutton.

Did I say there was a teaser???



Yes, eventually to be posted a great three days – August 16, 17 and 18.

Thank you for getting this far, as always, yours, RAY

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I have not taken an overnight, or more, since early March when I stayed at the Red Lion Inn for my birthday, but had to leave early due to an incoming bad snow storm. I have gotten out of practice, and to be truthful, become afraid to plan anything. Part of the reason as some of you know (besides lack of time and windows of opportunity) has been developing hip problems (since April 15th), and most recently a neck muscle (or new arthritis) problem. But I couldn’t take it anymore — I love being home, but I love exploring.

While BLACK BEAUTY was being refurbished in 2010, I discovered (on-line) Bascom Lodge atop Mount Greylock in Massachusetts. I thought I had camped there in my Model A in 1963. I promised BLACK BEAUTY that when she was done we would head there for an overnight. But with seasonal hours, it did not happen, and for whatever reasons, has not happened the last almost 7 years. I have been struggling  to get back in “travel mode” – Finally, I just picked up the phone, and booked a room and dinner at Bascom Lodge.

I left on Tuesday the first about 11, took Route 63 to Chesterfield to cross the river to Brattleboro. Hopped on I-91 for one exit to Route 9, exiting to head to Wilmington. While there had lunch, wandered around, then stopped at Austin’s Antiquarian Books. Long time bookseller friend, Gary, was there chatting with a customer who I also knew from decades ago. We had fun.

Continuing west on Route 9, I turned south on VT 8 which becomes Mass. 8 once crossing the border. West on the Mohawk Trail (Route 2) in North Adams before getting Notch Road to go up the forested north approach of Mount Greylock to Bascom Lodge and the granite War Memorial atop the highest point in Massachusetts.

The original part of Bascom Lodge (on the right below – where I slept) was expanded by the CCC in the early 1930s, and is nicely maintained in its original Arts and Crafts style complete with a complement of Mission Oak furniture.

Once I checked in, it was time to explore and climb the 90 foot War Memorial which recently was reopened after restoration. Remember, you can open the gallery below (just click) to see larger images.

And, this to give you the view from the lodge back to the memorial

And, here is where I planned to read and work.

HELP – with 43 unique candlesticks on my porch and in my kitchen, I thought I had enough. BUT NO — HELP, I love these Mission style candlesticks — reward offered for a source.

The plan to read and write in the lobby did not materialize. On the Appalachian Trail, the lodge is a great place to stop, eat, shower, and have a bed maybe for the first time in weeks for the trail’s hikers. I started listening to 5 hikers chatting (one couple and 3 singles) and then chimed in asking questions to learn. They had started in April in Georgia and planned to finish in 6-8 weeks in Maine. Did I enjoy this – totally unexpected, and a learning experience (hey, is that not why I do this?)

Dinner is served at 7 – reservations made in advance for a fixed price three courses (salad, entree, desert). I brought my book in thinking I would be alone, but everyone was seated together filling tables. So, the conversation continued, and my learning of hiking experiences broadened. Hikers have “trail names” (people do not know their real names Blue Deer told me – and he also told me – as did another – how they got their names); there are “angels” along the way to assist, often with caches of useful items left; most hikers have boxes of supplies shipped to various places to save carrying; and many lodging and food facilities (and individuals) will pick up hikers and bring them into towns for doing laundry, etc. Many of these “hints” are in a small guide the hikers carry.

My dinner at Bascom Lodge.

And, the view from the dinner table, where I thought I would be seeing the sun set.

but, I assumed wrong, since the website said “enjoy a glass of wine while watching the sun set over the Catskills.” I asked, and was told, “no, sun sets the other way.” Well you do get turned around as the road circles the apex, and after thinking about it I realized that the lodge was sited away from the cold westerly winds. So, I headed out (before desert) and saw many local youngsters up for the evening to see the sun set.

and (looking west) this is what we all saw:


The War Memorial lights at the observation level were on as the sun set, but later turned off and the light on the beacon turned on – but alas, it is so bright that I could not get an image to share.


And, then I walked back to the lodge for desert, and more conversation until after 10PM.



In the morning when I awoke, I looked out my window to see BLACK BEAUTY with dew on her windscreen.

I am usually in the Berkshires “off season” because I “don’t do crowds” – but the downside of having everything to yourself is that many places I wish to experience are only seasonal. Such is the case with Arrowhead – Herman Melville’s home from 1850 to 1862. The plan was to visit first thing Wednesday before meandering home. I arrived 5 minutes before the first tour was to begin at 10. A few moments later a couple joined me and my great docent, Tom. I really never knew anything about Melville, but now I do.

Arrowhead – Herman Melville’s home 1850-1862.

Melville did not start as a writer, but a sailor, jumping from one ship to another. It was finally writing those experiences that brought him acclaim. After getting some introductory history in the el at the back of the house we entered the dining room.

There are panels above the fireplace and writings on the fireplace coming from Melville’s “I and My Chimney.”

The final room you visit upstairs is his study on the north front corner of the house facing Mount Greylock. It is here that Melville wrote MOBY DICK during the winter of 1850-51. His original desk is in the Melville Memorial Room at the Pittsfield Library, but the study is still set much the same.

and looking out the window at Mount Greylock said to look like a whale from this viewpoint, but the debate is whether the whale’s head is to the left or right.

There is a walking tour around the grounds. Melville could not conceive a house without a piazza, so he added this one. Here he is reading, facing the mountain, with a few of the fairies that currently are in residence.

RAY RECOMMENDS that you visit Arrowhead, and here is some more detail (click to enlarge) from a sign on the grounds.

Almost 11:30, and my plan was to head to the Pittsfield State Forest, and then towards the NY State border and follow roads I had not been on north to Vermont. I wanted to see where I had camped in 1963, thinking it was Mount Greylock, but before I left home I dug out my photos from that trip, and there I found my $1.50 receipt for a tent site at the Pittsfield State Forest, August 5, 1963 – 54 years ago tomorrow (posting this the 4th).

My campsite at Pittsfield State Forest, August 5, 1963, in my 1929 Model A Ford Roadster,

A friend from High School, Roger Ahrens, was with me, and we stopped at Berry Pond where I took his, and BELZEBUTH’s picture.

So BLACK BEAUTY could have her picture taken next to the same sign, she and I headed back through downtown Pittsfield, and towards the park. But BB1 had a different plan. She cut off her power, restarting roaring with backfire, and sporadically repeat the process. If she totally died, I could restart her, but soon she faded totally. Fortunately I was close to a residential corner and coasted off under a tree – it was about 11:30. I checked under her bonnet, seeing nothing obvious I called Dr. Dewey. I recounted the various motions, hiccups and sounds, and he diagnosed the Pertronix  Ignition System had failed – nothing I could rig to limp home.

I got off the phone with AAA at 12:19 with the promise help would be there within an hour. I have the plan with 100 free miles of towing – and that can be to home. I now will make a long a tedious story as short as possible – if you wish to skip the next five hour saga, that is fine.

I called after an hour asking when the truck would arrive, “well, it reports it is on location now,” was the reply. Sorry, not so. “Well give them another 5 minutes.” “What then,” I asked. I called back after another 20 minutes, and got bounced around from state to state – seems as though Massachusetts is not in the New England Region – and they make maps? I was then told that a truck had just been sent from Lee. “Alright,” I said, “Lee is just about 20-25 minutes south.” I waited, and called again after almost another hour.

After the couple referrals, someone told me to hang on for awhile – it seemed like I was on hold 15 minutes. “We found a truck in the Pioneer Valley to send to you,” I was told. Mind you, this was the third promise of someone on the way. “Pioneer Valley, ” I exclaimed. You see, that is the region surrounding the Connecticut River, and I am on the NY State Line almost. Then the tow company dispatcher calls me from South Hadley – now that is a good sign. “Our truck is heading your way, and GPS says about 60 minute trip, but it is raining real bad, and he could be slowed.” Now, I too had been watching clouds build, thunder clap, and the occasional lightening display around me for a couple hours. I called the dispatcher after about 90 minutes. “The rain was real bad, and he is just exiting the Pike at Lee now.” The rain had finally hit me too – no need for a shower that night – I finally slid under the porch at the rest home down the street. Twenty minutes later I got another call, “My GPS shows he is two miles away.” And, at 5:20 — five hours after I originally got off the phone with AAA — a nice young 22 year old shows up, and it is now BB1’s turn for a piggy-back ride.

Yes – another 2 plus hours to get home – nice ride, nice company – and 97 miles on the truck’s odometer (back roads home will do it) and within my 100 mile allowance. The young man said, “you want her in the garage? Just watch.”

I did not get to Pittsfield State Forest, or the back roads between there and Williamstown that I have not yet been on – but they should still be there because this trip is now only “half done.”

I have not been scared away from traveling, and as my friends know, even something like this (put into perspective) is nothing to get upset about. I just roll with it, and that is me. Thanks for traveling again with me, yours, RAY

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When our play was done on June 25th I figured “I’m out of here – and Shunpiking.” But lengthy sojourns and overnights have not materialized. Hip provided hiccups, and between threat of rain almost every other day, and other commitments almost every other day — an overnight break has not yet worked out. But I still have not driven the “new” 2008 Dodge van in a month – BLACK BEAUTY has seen some miles, and BLUE BELLE’s rebuilt engine had a checkup Thursday – and she has seen over 200 mile since. You know I enjoyed the 4th of July in Plymouth Notch, on Saturday the 8th, inspite of a threatening storm, I headed to Nelson’s 250th Anniversary Celebration. Oh, I may add a new feature – your new word – so read through to learn anadromous.

You can only get to Nelson from here (or anywhere) on back roads. Passing into Sullivan, “do you see what I see?”

If you are observant peripherally while sailing at 40 +/- MPH, as I am, you spotted a Model A Ford.

Yes, a 1930 AA truck (note larger wheels/tires and bumper), still in use on the farm, and as I passed the next barn, in the barnyard sat a matching Model AA Ford dump truck, and in use.

As the dark clouds were arriving in Nelson, so did I. So I secured the tonneau cover over BLACK BEAUTY’s cockpit. And, walked down the hill to Nelson’s green (where everyone – population about 600 – probably gets their mail.)

There was an exhibit of Things Made and Used in Early Nelson from clothespins to samplers at the Old Library.

I thought this original shipping container of clothespins fascinating (yes, I am strange with what catches my eye)

Did you see the dresser in the image above? I have an almost identical chest. My home is filled with period Colonial pieces and wonderful (I think) Mission Oak all purchased in the early 1990s when I went on house calls to buy books. Ironically, the homes with the worst books had the best furniture which I bought. In central New Jersey in about 1994 I bought my chest. Today thinking the provenance written on the back on my chest traced to NH, I thought I had better check to see if I had a matching Nelson chest. I do not, mine is from Vermont. But maybe someone in Nelson gave it to Eunice?

It was approaching noon and the ceremonies began (crowd numbering maybe in the dozens) with proclamations read from the Governor, Senators, etc. Very nice, perfect, and the downpour came minutes following the conclusion when I was walking over to see the Colonial kitchen garden. Fortunately, a tent was there, and I happily sat alone for 30 minutes enjoying the rain.

On the way home the day broke into a delightful one. Arriving in Stoddard, Old Home Days was fizzling out (don’t think I missed much), but the Historical Society was open. I had fun chatting with the docent, and looking around. You may know that I have liked country store post offices ever since seeing my first one in Greenfield Village in 1957 – I decided then I would someday be Post Master General. Here is the original Stoddard Post Office unit.

and, it always amazes me what I may see out a second story window.

On the way home I stopped at the Vilas Pool where it was Vilas Pool Days – I had another snack.

Finally on the 20th Dr. Dewey said he could make time to check BLUE BELLE’s power plant. He wanted to do it after 500 miles, somehow I got to 600 and he told me, “please drive BLACK BEAUTY until I can change the oil and re-torque everything. I am good, I complied. After she passed her checkup with flying colors we back roaded to Landgrove, VT and then over another hill to Hapgood Pond (think I camped there in 1963 in BELZEBUTH – 1929 Model A Ford Roadster). I stopped for lunch in Peru (population about 375). Then I crossed Route 11 to cover some unexplored territory to the back side of Magic Mountain, and back onto Route 11 towards Chester. Fun outing – sorry no images.

Saturday, 22 July — I had to get out, but where? I had a news clipping on a museum, and I needed to see where Route 32 ended up in Massachusetts. I made my check on my garden, and headed to Jaffrey. I have to look at these Black Eyed Susans constantly adjoining my porch – too bad. Always wanted some – bought a couple plants last year, and was told that with luck they would reseed themselves, well did they.

My lunch at Sunflowers in Jaffrey – also had a crock of French Onion Soup


I stopped at the library in town before leaving, and mentioning I was heading to Jaffrey. Carolyn said, “eat at Sunflowers.” Well I did. Service terrible, wait lengthy, roast beef had a strange taste — must have been a bad day, probably worth another try — food presentation was nice.



And, then I headed back to Jaffrey Center. The center is where the town started, but once the mills were built to the east, the “main town” moved a couple miles (the same thing happened in Stoddard). I drove around a tad, and when it opened at 2PM entered the Melville Academy Museum which is run by the Jeffrey Center Village Improvement Society which was organized in 1906. Do check out their great website.

The building is so similar, and the same age, as our “academy” and historical society, but one main room on each floor. Here is the first floor once you pass through the entry room.

Here is a gallery of some of the things I enjoyed at Melville Academy Museum. Remember you can click on any image to open up for larger views.

Then I headed over to the Meeting House. The walls of the Meeting House were raised by local citizens June 17, 1775. And, the cannon shots at the Battle of Bunker Hill, 75 miles away, were said to be heard as the walls were going up.

Nine of the original 12 horse sheds were saved from demolition by the Jeffrey Center Village Improvement Society which has owned the Melville Academy since 1920.

and just to the right in the cemetery and down the hill is the grave of one of Jaffrey’s famous summer residents – Willa Cather.

overall perspective from the common to the Meeting House, horse sheds, cemetery behind, relocated school house, and a blue speck under the trees. Yes, that is Mount Monadnock in the background above the sheds.

the New Hampshire history signs really tell it all, and give you an introduction for further study.

the rest of the plan for the day was to head west on Route 119, and head south on Route 32 from Richmond having not been on the road before. Perfect day for cruising with the overcast, and only caught one rain drop on my face and four on the windscreen while on 32. But, RAY RECOMMENDS, you do not have to explore this road – nothing of note. And, arriving at Route 2A in Athol, Massachusetts, I headed west towards I-91 for a high speed run back home. Passing through Orange, however, I saw Route 78 heading north to Winchester, NH. Remembering that road, off I went — better than a super slab with nothing on it — and I am glad that I did.

At the intersection of 78, 10 and 119 I headed straightish on 119 towards Hinsdale. Believe I have only been on that stretch once before. Worth the trip – packed with history, and would you believe, we have Covered Bridges in NH also? Here is the bridge in Ashuelot (an unincorporated village of Winchester), crossing the Ashuelot River which starts in Washington (NH not DC) dropping 1,000 feet and providing power for scores of mills.

Continuing on towards Hinsdale, I do not recall these signs before. Packed with history, and I encourage you to click and read. You may even get the answer to the question I posed earlier.

And, arriving in Hinsdale I revisited this historic building. Last time I drove through I got inside because it was a junk shop, and open. I vowed I had to write about what happened here.

and here are the details – thanks again to a NH Historical Marker.

A great deal happened in Hinsdale (now a sleepy village hanging on), but here is the answer to the next Jeopardy question:

hopefully you read the sign on the right – OLDEST CONTINUALLY OPERATING POST OFFICE BUILDING SINCE 1816.




And, crossing the river and going up the hill, I saw this mailbox, and remembered what was across the road. How could you not want to live here?



It was then north on Route 63 which eventually ends on Route 12 just south of the border of Walpole. Last time BLACK BEAUTY and I headed south on 63 through Chesterfield we vowed not to return. Seems as though without trying we went totally airborne – the road was that bad. Guess what? No improvement – good thing BLUE BELLE’s frame was rebuilt last year.

Couple adventures, lots of fun, and I wanted to share. Hope you learned something, and found something you may wish to experience also. If all goes well, I will be able to avoid the “new” car for another month – just as well too since the GREY GHOST is shy of 100,000 miles – not bad for nine years.

Thanks for reading my ramblings and rantings, as always, yours, RAY

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Over cocktails the 3rd, with neighbors Lil and Dave, Lil asked, “why don’t you join us for lunch with our new neighbors tomorrow?” And, she then quickly said, “oh, I forgot, you will be at Plymouth Notch tomorrow.” Predictable, yes – my friends know me. Ms T., I am flexible, but when it comes to tradition on the 4th of July, you will find me celebrating the birthday of our 30th President – now 145 years old. And, this was the best time there yet. And, for several reasons. The weather was absolutely perfect, and former Walpole Player, Tracy Messer made his debut as President Calvin Coolidge.

Friend, Carolyn, journeyed with me in BLACK BEAUTY, and we arrived in plenty of time to see the largest crowd (again a relative term in Vermont) yet assembling for the noon parade to the President’s grave.


We positioned ourselves at the former Top of the Notch Tea Room operated by “Midge” Aldrich with tourist cabins (occupied by Secret Service agents during the President’s stays) and gift shop. I have not shown you this angle of her Tea Room before –

nor of her “gift shop” –

the clouds, the temperature, the humidity – all was perfect as noon approached, and the “crowd” gathered –

and then it was time for the parade to the Plymouth Notch cemetery to begin. Compare this image to those I have taken in previous years — basically all the same – LOVE IT !!!

and, the parade began (you will see site director Bill Jenny waving to me) –

and the largest assemblage I have seen headed off to the cemetery

for the laying of the wreath and ceremonies

Laura V. Trieschmann, State Historic Preservation Officer, gave a wonderful speech, and when I saw her later I asked if I could share it with my readers. Many points she made relates the significance of Plymouth Notch, and lessons from history adding to its importance. You will find her complete speech at the end of this post, which I was able to add on July 6th, having received it from Laura.

Getting through the all afternoon line for hamburgers and hotdogs it was time for President Coolidge to be interviewed by syndicated columnist Cal Thomas prior to the traditional group reading of the President’s Autobiography. In his fifties, Tracy Messer is a former Walpole Player and intense historian with many connections to our 30th President, who he now portrays.

Cal Thomas interviewing President Coolidge (Tracy Messer) in the Union Christian Church 4 July 2017

In its email announcing the event, The Coolidge Foundation included this interview with Messer (if you want to come back to read this, there is more following, then you may come back):

Coolidge Foundation: How did you first become interested in President Calvin Coolidge?

Tracy Messer: As a boy, one of my favorite books was an old paperback collection of presidential biographies.  President Coolidge intrigued me for many reasons: mostly because he was cut from the same cloth as my Dad, my grandfathers, and their Yankee forefathers. Underneath my Dad’s high school yearbook photo is a quote by the English writer Martin Farquhar Tupper, “Well-timed silence hath more eloquence than speech.”  They were all men of quiet action, engaged in their respective families and communities, and endeared themselves to others through their characteristic wit and wisdom.

By the way, my maternal grandfather started his career as a dairy scientist working for Department of Agriculture during the Coolidge administration.  As a girl, my 97-year-young Mom used to participate in the Easter Egg Roll at the White House while the Coolidges lived there.  My Dad was born in greater Boston just as Governor Coolidge was beginning his first term.

CCPF: What kind of preparation have you done to portray the thirtieth president?

TM: I’m reading everything I can by and about Calvin Coolidge.  Jim Cooke, Jennifer Harville, and Jerry Wallace have all been wonderfully supportive in sharing their knowledge about President Coolidge.  I’ve been visiting various Coolidge-related landmarks in New Hampshire and Vermont and plan to do some more sight-seeing in Western Massachusetts and Boston.

CCPF: What is the most difficult aspect of portraying President Coolidge?

TM: The initial challenge was practicing his particular brand of Yankee speech.  Listening to his recorded voice and recalling my own grandfathers’ patterns of speech helped considerably.  Learning the proper pronunciation of local place names is especially tricky. Now, my biggest challenge is going beyond the known facts to begin thinking and acting like President Coolidge.  That’s what makes Jim Cooke’s portrayals so fascinating.

CCPF: Do you have a favorite Coolidge anecdote?

TM: Every new anecdote I come across seems to become my favorite.  Here’s the comeback I’m now using to start out my current presentation, Calvin Coolidge: The Monadnock Region As I’ve Known It: After an opera performance at the White House, President Coolidge was asked what he thought of the soprano’s execution. Coolidge replied, “I’m all for it.”

CCPF: What do you view as President Coolidge’s most enduring legacy?

Perhaps his most enduring legacy is not his legislative record, but his personal record of leadership with dignity and humility.  In his own words he once observed, “It is a great advantage to a president, and a major source of safety to the country, for him to know he is not a great man.” Certainly, he was a good man.

For the first time I sat in on part of the reading of the Autobiography, and now I am very anxious to read it. Outside the church the wagon was waiting to give tours, so off we went.

and, down the lane to the fields — “hey, look at that neat car!”

President Coolidge built an addition off the back of his home, but when the State took over the property in 1956 the addition was moved across the field (by the same movers who transported The Ticonderoga from Lake Champlain to its solid ground home at The Shelburne Museum) and expanded. This home remains in the Coolidge family.

I always try to sit right behind the driver, as he is a tremendous raconteur. He started, “I had a visitor from Kansas who was complaining because he could not see anything because of all the hills and trees in the way. I told him that is too bad because I understand in Kansas you can see nothing for 50 miles, but standing on a tuna fish can you see 100 miles of nothing.” Continuing he said, “If your dog runs away, you can watch him run for two days.” What can I say, except I should ride with him all day instead of just once a year.

The fiddlers who before noon were playing at the Wilder Barn were still playing, but now (three hours later) under a tree between the Wilder House and the Coolidge Homestead.

President Calvin Coolidge portrayed by Tracy Messer


spotting the rocking chairs empty on the porch at the Florence Cilley General Store, we claimed two. We hailed the President (aka Tracy) and he joined us while chugging down a traditional Moxie. For an hour or more he entertained and educated not only us, but others who stopped intrigued. I look forward to helping the President on some of his various projects, and have him speak on Monadnock experiences at the Historical Society’s lecture series this coming winter.



Would you like to know about the village of Plymouth Notch? Here is a link to a page on the Historic Vermont website that details all, and you will enjoy reading this page —

And, finally, below is Laura’s graveside speech in its entirety.

Plymouth Notch Cemetery Talk, July 4, 2017
Laura V. Trieschmann
State Historic Preservation Officer

It is my great honor to welcome you on behalf of Governor Phil Scott to Plymouth Notch Cemetery and the President Calvin Coolidge State Historic Site.

The State of Vermont, now in partnership with the Coolidge Presidential Foundation, has been directly associated with this significant historic site since the 1940s. We strive to preserve this site as a museum to Calvin Coolidge and his ancestors, a museum that tells the story of 19th-century Vermont life and farming, a museum that documents the modest swearing in of an accidental president around 2:30 in the morning in August 1923. Not all historic sites should be frozen in time as this one has been, but Calvin Coolidge was who he was because of this place and that is certainly worth historic preservation.

Today, we celebrate the 145th birthday of Calvin Coolidge, the only president born on the Fourth of July. The tradition of laying a wreath on the grave of a former president on his birthday began soon after the death of George Washington in 1799, and was informally and irregularly practiced for over 165 years with other presidents. President Lyndon Johnson—at the request of his nature-loving wife Lady Bird Johnson most likely—made the tradition official in the 1960s, with the White House sending a beautiful wreath from a local florist to mark the graves of every presidents on the anniversary of his birth. The sitting president is represented by the Vermont National Guard.

In 1872, when Calvin Coolidge was born here in Plymouth Notch, the doughnut cutter and the wireless telegraph were patented, the automated toothpick manufacturing machine was designed, and Yellowstone becomes the world’s 1st national park. In 1923, when Coolidge became the 30th President of the United States here, telephone service between New York and London began but it didn’t reach Plymouth Notch, congressional sessions were first broadcast, and cars, radios, vacuum cleaners, and washing machines become new products available to all households. In 1933, Calvin Coolidge was laid to rest at the place of his ancestors here in Plymouth Notch. He was always a Vermonter—despite serving as governor of another unmentioned state and living in Washington, D.C., for nine years to serve first as vice president and then as president. When asked why he wanted to be buried here, he said “we draw our precedents from the people, I came from them, I wish to be one of them again.” Seven generations of the Coolidge family are resting here in this historic cemetery in the Brave Little State of Vermont, and we honor them all.

And, just now (Friday 7 July) I stumbled on this fine article in the Rutland Herald documenting the day covering all aspects include Walpole Player Tracy Messer.



and, I have categorized my experiences about this special place, and to read them click on this link – https://shunpikingwithray.com/category/plymouth-notch-vermont/


Posted in Plymouth Notch, Vermont | 3 Comments


Today was BLUE BELLE’s turn, and now with over 600 miles on her rebuilt power plant she is due for a checkup and tightening. Again using Joseph C. Nelson’s  SPANNING TIME: VERMONT’S COVERED BRIDGES – today was Tour 13 – THE WINDSOR AREA. Now that I have travelled this — you do not have to, nothing overwhelming like yesterday’s Green River Village, but I am glad that I did the route seeing some new territory – “my thing”. Several of these bridges are just off the main road (but out of sight). Well, in Vermont and New Hampshire main road is a relative term (state route number, paved, two lanes – state numbered being the key). I will mention those you can see without effort if you find yourself if this area. Tour 13 has eight bridges, but two on private property (and small reconstructions) I did not find, but I added two New Hampshire spans to round out eight for you.

West of US Route 5 and I-91 on Route 11 heading to Springfield you will see a small state history site with the Eureka one room school house and the Baltimore Bridge, built in 1870 but moved here and restored by Milton S. Grafton 1969-1970 (you need to get his book too – THE LAST OF THE COVERED BRIDGE BUILDERS.

Forty-five feet long, I am going to let you learn all about the various structure systems on your own, but this is a plank lattice truss.

It was then up Route 106 (past the Inn at Weathersfield) to the junction with Route 131 at Downers Four Corners. Left on 131, short distance, left turn onto dirt – Upper Falls Road – and short distance down the hill to Downers Bridge, built about 1840 spanning high above the Black River for 121 feet. The stone abutment is most impressive of old dry wall construction – the other side has been cased in cement. the bridge appears to have been raised a tad during renovations (you can see the extra supports)

Downers Covered Bridge

all the rivers (including the Connecticut River) were terribly unusually muddy as a result of the downpours yesterday.

and a few views out the windows on the bridge

Having seen a sign for Upper Falls Road as I headed up 106, I continued on that great dirt road (following a grader for awhile) looping back to 106, then turning back north – recommend you take the route. Then east on Route 131 at the four corners looking for Henry Gould Road. Easy to miss, barely passable loop road, and the bridge a stone’s throw hidden from passersby on 131.

Salmond Bridge – east of Amsden Village, Vermont

Interesting interior construction (first of two seen today). Used for awhile as a town storage shed, the bridge was restored and moved to this site in 1986.

Back to Downers Four Corners, and a pulled pork sandwich at Villagers.

Back north on Route 106 towards Felchville, but I somehow missed Churchill Road to the next bridge. No problem, right turn on Route 44, and right onto the northern terminus of Churchill Road, where (as described by Nelson) “Bests Bridge stands hidden in a cluster of buildings.”

Refurbished in 1991, having been built in 1890, Bests Bridge is 37.5 feet long.

I continued east on Route 44 to Brownsville looking for the next bridge on Bible Hill Road. Brownsville is worth a visit, sure I have driven through before, but did not remember. Also found I had missed Bible Hill Road, so I headed back west finding it heading north to Bowers Bridge of forty-five feet spanning Mill Brook and built in the early 1900s.

again the interesting support, and obviously recent renovations to the exterior – the purpose of which is to protect the wooden bridge and it supports and road bed (now you know why they are covered).

Instead of turning around I assumed (I am good with sensing directions and spacial relationships) that if I headed up Bible Hill Road and eventually took a right that I would end up back in Brownsville.  Take this road — WOW the homes (newer) and views back to Mt. Ascutney, amazing. Here is a panorama I stitched — do open it up for full screen impact.

I continued west on Route 44 to Windsor, turned north on US Route 5. Just after you cross over I-91 at Exit 9 is Martinsville Road to the right. Not a thriving neighborhood. Deteriorated homes with probably more furniture in the yards than in the houses. Road (dirt of course) got smaller, heading down hill. Roar of the river and falls (this was an early industrial area) and there was Martin’s Mill Bridge.

Martin’s Mill Bridge, Hartland, Vermont

once BB2 and I passed through and looked back I realized that traffic was speeding by on I-91 high above the tree line to the left of this image.

and looking at both ends of the bridge, the shed appears to be canting. Only sharing this one end with you — any idea why?

My plan was to end up at the St. Gauden’s concert which started at 2PM – it was well after 3 now, but I went anyway. Of course, I had to cross the Connecticut River on the Cornish-Windsor Covered Bridge, the longest covered bridge in the US, and the longest two lane span in the world.

Cornish-Windsor Covered Bridge – entry from Windsor, VT

I pulled into the field, many cars, but not many people on the grass for the concert. I sort of lost interest just ready and wanting to go home. But on the way down NH Route 12A I turned off at a corner to add this bridge to today’s collection of images.

and, another interesting internal structure.

Back 12A to Claremont, Route 12 then home, but stopping in Charlestown for a fantastic ice cream cone. Last visited there with BB2 when she first came to live with me — we will go back.

Hard to believe today, July 3, is not a holiday — it feels that way, even with simply entertaining myself. I listened to the concert on the common at my front door last night, visited with a few friends. Was invited to an event tonight on a lake, but sadly declined because I just want to “veg out” and get rejuvenated for Plymouth Notch tomorrow. You will get that report too.

Thank you for traveling with me, yours, RAY

“To write about something is to live it twice.”

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My friends know that my local commitments the first half of this year (in a play, and producing a play, plus…) have impinged on my “shunpiking.” In addition, there is always something else. My spine surgery and fusion last year was great, but now the arthritis in my hips is impacting on my mobility. Sadly I cancelled out (losing my deposit) on a fantastic trip to Spain and Morocco — I am afraid to fall on uneven surfaces. Swallowing pride, I often can now be seen with a cane to be safe. Now trying to orchestrate buying a new hip. BUT, I had to get out and explore.

I am now sitting on the porch enjoying rain (10PM), and even with this being the worst weather day of the long weekend (back to work Sunday AM – rain and flooding horrible upstate), BB1 and I only had to sit under a tree in pouring rain today for a few moments. Bad cloud cover all day impacting on images, so sorry with what I have to share. Remember the covered bridge discoveries in May with Gary, Davide, and Elisa leading to my repurchase of Joseph C. Nelson’s  SPANNING TIME: VERMONT’S COVERED BRIDGES? Well, that book has several routes outlined, and today I hit Tour 15 – The Deep South. Starting with the West Dummerston Bridge (I showed you the west side in my last post). And, here I approached from East-West Road in Dummerston (from the east)

and crossing through (pardon dust/dirt on bonnet – and my handprint – rain cleaned it off later – beats washing)

heading north on Route 30 you enter Townshend, and if a comedy movie aficionado, you know that the winter carnival scene in Chevy Chases’ FUNNY FARM was filmed on the green here (his home was in my favorite Grafton – I think I know where).

The next bridge was Scott Bridge (1870) just below the Townshend Dam. A combination of three bridges put together, it is no longer open to vehicles.

Remember with my galleries that you can click on an image to open large sizes.

Back south on Route 30 to Newfane, which is idyllic and I recommend you visit.

Court House Newfane, Vermont

Jogging off Route 30 to the village of Williamsville you find the last of Newfane’s seven covered bridges, originally built in 1870. Of course I stopped at the country store, hoping to see an old antique interior, but it is now an evening eating and entertainment venue. But, you have to (and should) pass through the village.

Then I approached the bridge

How can you not enjoy this view? When I parked on the other side a couple from Saugus, MA came up asking, “are you following us, we saw you at Scott Bridge.” “Gee, BLACK BEAUTY sort of sticks out doesn’t she.” I replied. We chatted bridges and Vermont back roads, and exchanged tips. You may wish to open and read these panels for the Bridge’s history and rebuilding in 2010. It was evident on this trip that Vermont is carefully preserving and rebuilding their covered bridges carefully maintaining the original appearances.

And, then back across the bridge, exploring the dirt roads of Williamsville, hiding under a tree, and back on Route 30 to Brattleboro.

to see Creamery Bridge off Route 9 west in Brattleboro.

The bridge was closed in 2010 with a new bridge built just to the east. I walked across the bridge, and back on the covered foot bridge built about 1917. This was the most heavily travelled bridge in the state. Note it appears that power or telephone lines were strung through the gables.

It was then head south on Creamery Road into Guilford — WOW – Guilford needs more exploration. Before I left home I found a Vermont Road Atlas I forgot I had put away in Black Beauty’s boot, and that did not even help to find the village of Green River. Amazingly I got a connection on my phone, and WAZE guided me in (sorry!). I arrived – to the highlight of the day.

cannot wait to come back during foliage season

people were enjoying the water below the crib dam – note that recent wood replacement has occurred.

Crib Dam in Green River Village

and, details about the dam (click for larger image if you wish)

I walked across the bridge to the junction of Stage Coach Road and Green River Road to the center of the village

and, I could not resist —

As BB1 and I were preparing to leave a lovely lady, Ruth, stopped her bike and we visited sharing philosophies of life, and she sharing various routes I should explore. “Head down River Road,” Ruth said, “turn right on Jelly Mill Road, and you will eventually loop back here.” She also told me there are over 100 miles of roads in rural Guilford, and she was surprised that I actually found the bridge the way I came in. I was persistent I said, but did not share I gave into WAZE. I loved the routes she recommended, and do hope she calls sometime so we can have dinner and share more stories.

This view (not my drone, sorry) is an aerial of the bridge, village and dam.

Back dirt roads abound in Guilford, and you have no idea what you may see around the next bend.

Dinner then at The Top of the Hill Grill on US Route 5 in Brattleboro – and I highly recommend the Roasted Root Vegetables.

Home – about 6 hours on the road, fun, great conversations with strangers. And preparations for today to explore the covered bridges in the Windsor, Vermont area, and hopefully make the concert at St. Gaudens. And, I will help Calvin celebrate his birthday in Plymouth Notch on the 4th.

1 – Plan some fun trips from covered bridge to covered bridge – and use back roads
2 – Explore Guilford, Vermont — I saw fairgrounds in the middle of nowhere – can’t wait
3 – Spend the Fourth of July in Plymouth Notch, Vermont

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And, the Differences continue
An Update – 26 July 2017

Early July – Overcast

26 July 2017 – Overcast

And, how the change happened 25 July 2017
(remember, click to enlarge the images- please)

And, the answer to the question you have wanted to ask – Removal of 47 year old Sugar Maple – $1250 — Purchase and Planting of a 12 year old Sugar Maple – $1400. But I have continued the photographically documented 150 year tradition, and I’m happy I did.


Now, how can you not out of curiosity find out about the “Only One in the US” (almost in my backyard and hidden) after you learn that “Only the Trees are Different?”

Overwhelmed with play preparations (opening night this coming Friday, 16 June) for Old Home Days through the 25th, has impacted upon adventures, but also caused some action on my behalf for safety sake. My maple tree in from of my home was dying, dropping dead limbs from the top, and I did not anyone hurt. Sadly, I knew the tree must go, and on Monday the 5th, another difference with the trees at “44.” Below, now a “new look” at “44” – the stump has since been ground away.

Here are but a few images of that process, removing large sections at a time (click on any image to enlarge the photo gallery):

My home from the front is essentially as it was when built in 1806, except the “trees have changed.” Well, the original attached barn decayed and was removed in the late 1960s. The couple I bought from added an attached garage in 1971 (where the barn was), Then I added the “book shop” beyond the garage when we bought in 2002, and my almost four season porch was completed in 2007.

Cathy commissioned a local artist, Howard H. Hill to paint our home when we purchased in July 2002, thus documenting it at that time.

The red maple of the right of the house expired, and in time I removed the inappropriate plantings in front of the house. Inappropriate for what would have been the early 19th century appearance. But, you can see the majesty of the sugar maple on the left.

Jerry and Diana purchased my home in February, 1971, raising their children here. When they bought, that sugar maple had recently been planted by Guy Bemis (Mr. Walpole) who had saved the house from disrepair. Jerry gave me two polaroids that he took upon their purchase, and you can see the baby maple, and a massive one on the right (remember to click to enlarge).

In December 1970, my home was featured in YANKEE MAGAZINE in the “House for Sale” column in which “Yankee likes to mosey around and see, out of editorial curiosity, what you can turn up when you go home hunting.” Again, you see “baby maple” on the left (you can click to enlarge and read the article)

Before we “closed” on our home, a welcoming party was given us, and one attendee, Frank, retrieved these two earlier images from files at the Historical Society (he was the President at the time).

Great image above with my original barn sited when the garage now exists. Ironically in designing my “book shop” addition I came up with something very similar without have seen this image previously. And, below, long before the sugar maple was planted. Note the old “two over two” windows that Guy replaced, and the web lawn chairs and appropriate (not) laundry rack at the end of the drive.

The above images are probably from the 1950s. The postcard below would be from the 1940s, and you can just barely see the front porch over the stoop at that time, and a tree in the spot where my late sugar maple was planted in 1970.

And, this is a wonderful postcard documenting my home in the late 1930s, early 40s, with even another tree in the middle of the front elevation.

And, my earliest image of my home from a circa 1877 stereo view (doing the math, 140 years ago)

Not much has changed, “only the trees are different.”

And, now to the “Only One in the US” and maybe
the only one in the world!

You have listened to me lament not having the time to explore recently (and wear out the tires on BB1 and BB2). Production and directing of GEORGE WASHINGTON SLEPT HERE for Old Home Days has consumed most all of my time. But when we learned a piece of set furniture would not be delivered on Saturday, all of a sudden I had a window of opportunity to “hit the road.”  But, what to do? I am out of practice, and planning. BLUE BELLE and I headed out the drive to head north to explore roads in Acworth. At the end of the drive, I turned south. Recently in my collection of great historical ephemera I found a 1958 tourist guide to the “West River Valley Region on Vermont” and you will eventually get a full post on that. In that little 8 page booklet there was one thing I had never heard of, and probably close to 100% of the world’s population is totally unaware of too. Off we went.

I turned off Route 12 to Route 63 in Westmoreland to River Road, and turned left on Poocham Road – great dirt, winery, and two small cemeteries. Second time down this road, but this time at the crossroads turned west figuring I would end up in West Chesterfield and close to the Connecticut River. And, soon, there I was at the Universalist Church in West Chesterfield, about only thing there besides Actor’s Theater in the old hall.

I was getting hungry, and crossing the river I headed south on US 5. Once before I enjoyed the Top of the Hill Grill in Brattleboro and that became the plan. While sitting there looking at the Brattleboro Retreat across the way I decided to head there and up Route 30 toward Newfane instead of taking the back road past Rudyard Kipling’s Naulakha to the Covered Bridge in West Dummerston. It had been a long time since I had been on this initial stretch of Route 30.

I toured the grounds of the Brattleboro Retreat (no photos allowed), and once I exited I remembered that the ski jump should be close. I choose the first left, and there it was. The Harris Hill Ski Jump completed in 1922.

Harris Hill Ski Jump, Brattleboro, Vermont

Shortly arriving at the West Dummerston Covered Bridge I need to share a few images with you since you are now “hooked on” covered bridges after my last post.

West Dummerston, Vermont Covered Bridge

Driving through Newfane (a must visit for you) I was looking for the road to Brookline, Vermont  (population about 500) and my goal for the day. I found the road just before the closed Newfane Flea Market. I crossed the river, and crawled along looking everywhere. I saw someone in his drive, and pulled in. “Can you direct me to the Round School House?” I asked. “Continue down the road, turn left at the T on Grassy Brook Road,” he replied. Soon, there I was at


Round Schoolhouse, Brookline, Vermont

and, yes there is a story. Built in 1822, as recorded in my 1958 booklet, “A certain Dr. John Wilson who taught here had it built according to his specifications with windows facing all directions so that no one could approach the schoolhouse unnoticed. He kept a revolver within easy reach for it was said that he was none other than Captain Thunderbolt, a highway robber long wanted for murder in Scotland and Ireland.” One place I read that 60 students would be in attendance – hard to believe. I encourage you to Google the Round School House and Thunderbolt, and even better to visit. The building served as a school until 1929.

Looking from the other direction – the privies are in the left side of the wooden shed addition

I then continued north on Grassy Brook Road towards Athens — and I encourage you to do the same. Just remember, you have to plan to travel this route — it is not along any path that you may just happen to be on. Macadam to dirt, dirt without telephone poles, poles reappear, and you can tell when you are in a more depressed area – Athens. But, up on the hill above a concentration of buildings and the town buildings is the Meeting House (you have to know where to look).

It was interesting to find as I walked around that the back, which you do not see, is clapboard instead of brick. I had a view through the first floor windows, and would love to see the second floor.

And then I continued on Route 32 to Cambridgeport, right towards Saxtons River and home. BLUE BELLE had to stop and travel through Hall’s Bridge where we started the last adventure.

And, then it was home, but a much needed four hours off.

“To write about something is to live it twice.”

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