Do I need a new excuse to travel? No, but it is nice to have a focus for a sojourn. In February 2016 when I was staying with Alex, Davide (yes with an E) had just arrived days before from Milan to work for Mari. He was staying at their house. Since then I have enjoyed seeing him when he stops by at David and Mari’s. When I last saw him, he told me his girl friend was coming for another visit. “There is more to the US than Boston and New York,” I told him, “make sure you come visit me to see the countryside.” And the plan was laid, with Gary bringing them out. As plans developed, Davide said, “I have never seen a covered bridge.” Say no more, I began planning. The visit was delayed one weekend due to inclement weather, but they arrived the afternoon of Saturday 20 May (see how hard it is becoming for me to find time to write a post? Too much to do). The plan for their arrival day – drive to Grafton, VT for dinner, and three covered bridges on that 17 mile trip.

First stop – Hall Bridge spanning Saxton’s River on Route 121 between Bellows Falls and the village of Saxton’s River

Gary, Elisa and Davide on the north side of Hall Bridge in Rockingham

Originally built in 1867, a dump truck crashed through it in 1980. The bridge here now was built to the same specs and opened in 1982 by covered bridge builder Milton S. Graton. Yes, I have his book THE LAST OF THE COVERED BRIDGE BUILDERS, and laid inside I have articles about Graton, his business card, and the dedication ceremony program for the “new” bridge. Erected off-site, reassembled in the field to the north of the river, a team of oxen then pulled the bridge across the river and into place. Wish I had been there.

This will give you an idea of size – at 120 feet it is the longest covered bridge in Vermont. Vermont has more covered bridges than the rest of New England combined.

You know I like to “look through windows” framing a view.

and, who can resist a country stream (river) scene? Where is your picnic basket?

There were a few interesting notices posted inside the bridge. Reference to a Vermont Covered Bridge website, and a weathered flyer for a Covered Bridge Post Card Collectors Association – right up my “alley” of interests. When we got home Saturday night we discovered the postcard group no longer existed, but the other website lead to information about the book SPANNING TIME: VERMONT’S COVERED BRIDGES by Joseph C. Nelson. I checked my office computer, and last sold a copy in December 2009 for $60. Quick check on-line and I bought a copy for $12.45 (prime example of what has happened to book prices adversely affecting my business). My “new” copy is now to my right on the counter, and answered some questions we had – and it will serve as a future tour source. Also I have brought downstairs two classic unread 1950s covered bridge books that I have had in my library for over 25 years — now being read. …  But back to the weekend and images.

We travel through Saxton’s River on towards Grafton, and crossing into the preserved village I knew where to turn for Kidder Hill Bridge.

Kidder Hill Bridge – Grafton, Vermont

Sixty-eight feet long, notice how it is built at an angle and with a multiple roadway decking. We were intrigued by the massive wood along the sides, assuming they were there to protect the sides.

But, one answer from a book makes the purchase worthwhile. SPANNING TIME tells me that when this 1870 bridge was reconstructed in 1994-95 that the one foot by five foot laminated wood beam on each side were developed to support the bridge from abutment to abutment. Buy the book before you tour. The bridge leads to a now closed soapstone quarry. If you ever find the Grafton Historical Society open (I did once) do stop in and learn all about the soapstone industry. I thought I documented that visit here, but cannot find it – guess I need to go again – and also find the booklet I bought.

It was then out another side road to the site of the Old Grafton Village Cheese Factory and MacMillan Bridge.

MacMillan Covered Bridge – Grafton, VT

A reproduction, built in 1967, it is a footpath to the fields behind. You know I like images of texture and through openings. Think covered bridges will serve me well with both.

The plan was to eat dinner at Phelps Barn and Tavern at the Grafton Inn. As we were entering Elisa noticed the sign – CLOSED FOR PRIVATE EVENT. Think fast, Ray. And, we headed back to the Saxton’s River Inn for a nice dinner.

The plan for Sunday, 21 May, seven more covered bridges. We made it to two. Remember, have a plan, but if you do not make it all the way through, that is because you are having fun and doing more along the way.

First stop off Route 102 on the way to Chester – Worrall Bridge crossing Williams River.

Worrall Covered Bridge – Rockingham, Vermont

Built in 1868, another bucolic spot, with comparisons looking to the old railroad bridge.

In the gallery below (remember you can click my galleries to see larger images) you will see one of the old signs posted inside. Reading last night, I learned that the inside of bridges were plastered with ads, circus announcements, patent medicines, and the like.

Then, just up the road, and off on Bartonsville Road is Bartonsville Bridge. Originally built in 1870, I had traversed the bridge on the way to our vet’s office many times. But Irene in 2011 was not kind to the bridge, as seen in this video that was seen worldwide following that devastating storm. (from YouTube, an ad will start, but in 4 seconds you can click skip)

Below is the “new” bridge – nostalgically replacing the lost treasure.

and, all the history (you can click to enlarge for easier reading)


It was then Chester and a drive around another village green before heading over Andover into Weston. I figured they had to see an old country store and wares from years gone by. You know my love of old country stores (as shared here) and my history in Weston from my visit with the founder of the store in 1946 – Vrest Orton – while I was camping in the area in my 1929 Model A Ford Roadster in 1963. You have heard that before, and will hear it again. It was at this potbelly stove that I chatted with Mr. Orton who ironically had known my great-grandfather – Franz Boas.


Well, I was wrong about the short visit. The Vermont Country Store was a hit with Davide and Elisa. Almost a two hour visit with the first 20 minutes the boys “playing.” Elisa was very sad that she had limited space in her bags and could not take everything home.

Gary and Davide adequately absorbed.

And, where would you expect me to take them to experience a rural 19th century Vermont “hill town?” No second guess needed – my favorite Plymouth Notch. President Coolidge’s site not open until Memorial Day – but you know I love to visit and share.

Gary, Davide and Elisa on the President’s front porch

Rocking chairs on the President’s front porch, to be added to my Rocking Chair Studies page.

Although not yet opened, I just felt we would see the site’s director, Bill Jenney, and we did. He was unpacking things inside the country store, and invited us in sharing some Presidential stories.

We walked up to the cheese factory which was open, enjoyed seeing the goodies, and particularly the museum. I don’t recall studying the plaques on making cheese (and there are many more groupings of history etc.) so decided to share them here with you. Click on the first to open up larger readable sizes.

And, I know you have seen many of my images of Plymouth Notch, but you should realize that everyday a view changes, so here are some more walking back from the cheese factory. I realized that Plymouth Notch could be the most photographed village in Vermont, and I am probably the one who has taken the most photographs.

President’s home on the left

The country store, and the President’s birthplace to its rear (bedroom is the window to left of doorway)

When we were heading back to the car, Bill came out of the store and said, “would you like me to open up the upstairs so you can show your friends the Summer White House?” No need to ask twice. What a treat, and here is the 1924 Summer White House as it would have appeared at that date.

And, you know I like “views out windows” so here are two from the White House windows.

It was approaching 3 PM, and the plan had been to head to Woodstock, pass by the Taftsville covered bridge, cross into New Hampshire and show them the Cornish Windsor Bridge (longest covered bridge in the US, and longest two lane covered bridge in the world), and a couple more covered bridges in Cornish. But we were all hungry, and having had so much fun doing things along the way could not complete the itinerary. Where to eat? “Gary, call Crow’s Bakery in Proctorsville and see if they are still serving lunch.” The bakery was open, and off we went. (you may remember that is where I posted my first travel blog from)

We were there alone with the staff of one who introduced herself as “Crazy Melody.” We all had fun, but I wonder what Davide and Elisa will share about that experience back in Italy.

A very full and fun day and a half. In closing:



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

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


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

Today’s informative, eye-opening adventure (for me at least) stemmed following a lecture I presented two weeks ago at the Historical Society of Cheshire County. The day before I received a phone call from a gentleman in Richmond, NH, asking how he could buy my book, AS IT WAS… AND STILL IS… WALPOLE, NH. Asking how he learned of it, he replied, “I saw it in a doctor’s office in Chesterfield, and the doctor told me how to contact you.” We chatted, and moments later he called again asking if I would wait after the lecture to meet him. That conversation lasted almost two hours – tons of serendipitous coincidences (I was floored when he said he collected country store items, “well I have been doing so also for decades,” I replied). The coincidences and parallels of interests just continued to multiply. Emails followed, and I was invited for dinner on Saturday the 15th.

I traveled down Route 32, and immediately became upset with myself because I had never been on this road below the center of Swanzey. The route heads into Massachusetts, and when it crosses with Route 119, that is the center of Richmond at the blinking light. Beautiful early architecture, peaceful, and historical including a marker for the birthplace of Hosea Ballou, considered one of the fathers of American Universalism. I had a few moments (I am good on planning trip arrivals) so headed in both directions at the junction of 32 and 119 out of curiosity. And, out of curiosity, you may enjoy these two images of one thing I saw.


At five I arrived at Bob and Jan’s original 1775 home (on an abandoned road – first of six I stumbled on in two days. President Garfield’s mother lived there as a child for six years until her father’s death in 1808. Seven years prior to his assassination, the future President and his mother visited. Garfield wrote of his visit with his mother, “I cannot tell you how strange and touching it was to me to see her go back over the old ground which she left sixty years ago.” They had tea in the front room, referred to as the Square Room – 16 1/2 feet by 16 1/2 feet – the size required for Town Meetings.

We toured their impressive grounds. Jan is a master gardener, and they have eclectic and humorous touches though out. Then we toured the restored period barn filled with country store and other collections, not to mention the living room done in Rufus Porter style — I was right at home (if you know my home). After cocktails it was back across the abandoned road for a tour of more collections, and one of the best dinners I have had. But the important thing was the connections and conversations the three of us had with similar interests. The conversation lead to PERLEY: THE TRUE STORY OF A NEW HAMPSHIRE HERMIT. Bob and his family had known Perley, and he helped write and edit the 2008 book published by the Cheshire County Historical Society.

I had planned a rare day off on Sunday – Easter – and had no commitments. I wanted to take a drive. Saturday night when I got home I had started reading my copy of PERLEY at 11:47 PM. Shunpiking destination solved — and the plan was for Stoddard on Sunday to Perley’s environs.

Sunday – 16 April, Easter. Off BLACK BEAUTY and I went over Route 123 into Marlow. Instead of continuing into Stoddard on 123, I saw on my real paper atlas of southern New Hampshire (that I remembered not having touched in ten years) a parallel road, Fox Hill Road. It was dirt, BLACK BEAUTY swelled with tears of joy. We reached the top of a hill and a brick 1823 farm house, and the end of the road. First abandoned road for the day.

I arrived in the “center” of Stoddard where my map said roads would lead to Taylor Pond and Perley’s home.

Original center of Stoddard, New Hampshire\

turning around you see the Congregational Church of Stoddard and the road (beginning on the left) I wanted to travel for my explorations.

Congregational Church, Stoddard, NH

Heading up School Street I came upon a roadside plaque pointing out a cellar hole. Thinking I had seen something down at the bottom of the hill, BLACK BEAUTY turned around, and we went back to the corner and parked. WOW – we learned so much. This placard (somewhat deteriorated) gave a late 19th century view of the spot where we stood.

Actually, we parked at the corner where the marked Blodgett/Ireland Store had stood. Just about all the buildings on the right side are gone now, as well as the horse sheds behind the church. I started collecting images of the center (in gallery below that you can open up) and encourage you to visit and explore.

It was then back up the hill to explore the three roads on my map that headed in the direction of Taylor Pond. School Street – pile of dirt and overgrown path just past the school (Abandoned Road Number Two for the weekend). Mt Stoddard Road – promising, suddenly chain across and “private road” (Abandoned Road Number Three). Back up to the cemetery and left turn onto Center Pond Road – wide (for dirt) populated, and promising. I arrive at the pond and the dirt diminishes to ruts. A mother and her children are playing on the beach to my right. “Nope, impassable Class-6 road now, and even an ATV cannot get through.” she tells me. (Abandoned Road 4). Starting to see a pattern? This is really SHUNPIKING.

Sadly I headed back to paved Route 123 to paved Route 9 (Keene – Concord road) and headed south to Granite Lake, exiting before the lake on (of course) Granite Lake Road where I took the first right onto North Shore Drive never having been on it before. I encourage you to see the lakeside community, and particularly the couple buildings I am sure were originally Victorian inns or boarding houses. I arrived at Aten Road — my destination road to Perley’s property and Shinbone Shack and the failed estate of Florence Cornelia Ellwanger Brooks Aten.


I was so close, but arriving at the estate the road became private, and I was greeted by signs, motion sensors and cameras. We wisely turned around, but first “stole” a few images. (Note – Abandoned Road 5 for the weekend)

Fortunately saved from total disintegration, the property is now Lakefalls Lodge.


Back down Aten Road and West Shore Road to downtown Munsonville.

Then under Route 9 to the “old road” – back on Route 9 for a short distance, and exiting and picking up Valley Road heading back up in a northerly direction. I figured if I picked up Bowlder Road (mentioned several times in PERLEY) I may have one more chance to enter his wilderness.  Great little traveled dirt road, passed Bolster Pond mentioned in the book, and up a hill saw Seward Mountain Farm (1799)

and looking to the other side of the road

But it was time for Abandoned Road Number 6. I thought I may have been looping back to the other end of abandoned Aten Road, but when I got home and studied the satellite views on Google Maps I believe I had passed overgrown Aten Road and really was close to Taylor Pond, and Perley’s old homestead. But alas, I respect signs.

I mentioned earlier, that this serendipitous adventure (you know me and my knack of timing) started with Bob calling about my book, an evening with he and his wife and much fascinating conversation including his involvement in the writing of PERLEY: THE TRUE STORY OF A NEW HAMPSHIRE HERMIT. Of course, I just happened to already own the book, and could not put it down when I got home and picked it up. And Saturday when I started reading it, Sunday’s drive became self-evident. I strongly encourage you to get the well-written book and enjoy it (available at the Cheshire County Historical Society). And if you can, explore the Stoddard countryside. And if you look on Google maps, you will see these roads all dotted, but in my atlas were solid lines — but that made the fun.

What is next for Ray — two weeks of playing Grandpa Vanderhof in YOU CAN’T TAKE IT WITH YOU. A role that means a great deal to me as Grandpa’s personality and philosophies mirror mine. And when I last played the role in 2008, Cathy died, and the play was instrumental in my getting through that. So attend if you can, and I hope to be writing more soon. As always, yours, RAY

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

2190 SHUNPIKING DAYS – 10 APRIL 2011 to 10 APRIL 2017

FACT – BLACK BEAUTY and I traveled to Proctorsville, Vermont, and accomplished our first “on the road” posting on April 10, 2011.

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

FACT – Since that day, in six years I have written 240 adventures and stories to share here – Averaging One Every Nine Days. But with mobility restricted in 2016, 102 days passed without your hearing from me.

FACT – In the six years of SHUNPIKING WITH RAY there are been 67,641 page views – 31 per day on the average.

FACT – August 30, 2015 there were 403 separate pages views – the most for any one day.

FACT – Today I posted a new page LOG OF ADVENTURES YEAR BY YEAR. I will use this chronological list to both relive my fun times, and plan future explorations.

FACT – I cannot wait to write more, and share more. Hopefully I have brought some joy and education with my writings, and provided some ideas for your own adventures.

Yours, RAY

and, an added FACT on 11 April — BLACK BEAUTY and I took at 60 mile round trip to visit BLUE BELLE in hospital down a dirt road in Vermont. Her engine block was due back from the machine shop today. Soon…

If you look closely you can see BB1’s tears over BB2’s condition. But all will be well soon.

Posted in Miscellaneous Musings | 1 Comment


Title catch your fancy to read? I hope so. I am just about booked solid until the first of July, and even had to “skip out” of a few commitments to stay with Alex while David and Mari made a quick trip east to Berlin (before you thought north in NH). In fact, Gary had to cover for me on Friday the 31st, then I ventured to their home as the snow diminished falling on April 1.

Sunday the 2nd, Alex wanted to visit the New England Aquarium. So, following brunch at the family diner a few blocks away, downtown Boston we headed arriving a tad before 1PM

New England Aquarium in Boston

Save up for admission – seemed pricey, but actually very well worth it. But, a hint right up front — find a parking garage 3-4 blocks away for twenty something dollars, the garage next to the aquarium was $39 for my four and a half hours — I only wanted to rent a space, not buy one.


Upon entering, the first thing we saw to our left was the “Shark and Ray Touch Tank.” I volunteered to get in to also be touched, but the “fish keeper” did not enjoy my humor. The wide variety of rays moved fast, and I never was able to capture the largest spotted one on “film.”


Shark and Ray Touch Tank

The interesting plants with roots extending down (Faux in the exhibits, but so well done) are Mangroves that have adapted for coastal shores. These extensive root systems filter out most of the salt out of the Mangroves’ needed water. What salt does get into the plant goes to the older leaves that then die and are shed. The root systems also provide protection from predators for many small fish, and safety for larger ones to mature in.

In my days in Antarctica I played with Adelie and Emperor Penguins that scientists had in enclosures “on the ice.” Here in the aquarium on the first floor were about 5 other Penguin species that I did not know about. Also one of the information panels explained why Penguins are black on top, and white on the bottom, It is camouflage from predators. With white predominantly on the under belly, when a predator looks up the Penguin will blend in with the light above, and when a predator looks down, the dark side of the Penguin will blend in with the darker ocean below or bottom. Another fast fact I can share.

Surrounding the massive ocean tank are displays on four levels. Most amazing fish I have ever seen, and lots of information to read. Sometimes a fish will even pose for you.

Alex pointing out various fishes in a colorful tank.

Can you find the 6 Dragon Fish in the center of this image?

And the top of the ocean tank is open for informative talks. There is a scuba diver in the tank, answering questions from the lecturer and audience. Projected for all to see is a view from a camera worn by the diver.

I have always enjoyed turtles, and this 90 year old youngster is fed lettuce.

You know I like to share things you may not know about or have seen. Alex and Gary spotted a sign for artwork by the North Atlantic Fur Seals after we left their play area. Here is one of their pieces on display. The seals only see shades of gray, so their keepers help them select colors. The seals hold the brush, attached to a mouthpiece, and go to work. Original pieces were for sale in the gift shop for $70 – to benefit the seals.


About 4PM we left, and walked along the harbor towards the North End. We cut through the Paul Revere Mall. Here are Gary and Alex with the statue.

That is the Old North Church in the background. As you know, two lanterns were hung there April 18, 1775. One is on permanent display at the Concord Museum. The second, seldom seen lantern, will be exhibited by Prof. RAB in his Wagon of Wonders at Old Home Days on June 24th.

It is MondayApril 3 and I accomplished my plan and more. When asked by strangers where I live, to my reply they usually exclaim, “oh, you have the prison and fence place.” “No,” I hasten to explain, “that is Walpole, Massachusetts.” It was about time that I saw Walpole, MASS, but I also am searching for the right fencing for a garden project off my porch — it made sense to visit.

Heading south on I-95 (sorry) I exited on route 109 and WAZED back country roads through lovely Walpole, MA, countryside to Walpole Woodworkers, now called Walpole Outdoors. Remember my mission after visiting Fort Griswold where I saw the type of fence I would like?

Walpole Woodworkers, Walpole, Massachusetts

Pretty close to what I would like to have — still need to figure it all out.

Some things you just have to do — and since always asked, I had to see Walpole, Massachusetts, and the Walpole Prison, now (because local residents did not like having a prison named for the town) called Massachusetts Correctional Institution—Cedar Junction (MCI-Cedar Junction) after an old railroad crossing. In the 1970s (when still called Walpole) it was one of the most violent prisons in the country. Remember that with my “galleries” you can click an image to open a slide show of larger sizes.

Before I left the house I searched for other things I could do on the way home if I had time.  Of course, The Adams National Historical Park in Quincy. The houses would not be open until mid-April, but (according to the Google sidebar) the Visitor Center was open – NOT. The center is in the “city” itself, with the homes around town. There was a rack of information brochures which I feasted on, and with the DISCOVER QUINCY Guide (visit the website) I was off punching addresses into WAZE. Of course, wrong time of year to visit – everything closed, but Quincy is close enough to spend a day in season.

I stopped first at Peace Field – residence of four generations of the Adams family from 1788 to 1927, and home to Presidents John Adams and John Quincy Adams.

Peace Field – Quincy, Massachusetts – Home to Two Presidents.

I then drove over to the John Adams and John Quincy Adams Birthplaces – and encourage you to discover what all happened here. I was intrigued reading the history of the Quincy Granite Quarry and industry, and did remember that the railway to move the granite for the Bunker Hill Monument was the nation’s first commercial railroad in 1826 (remember I was in Jim Thorpe, PA, with Scott and Betty where the second railroad moved coal – the Mauch Chunk Switchack Railway in 1827).

Next I stopped to see the USS SALEM , CA-139, a heavy cruiser built in Quincy just after World War II.

USS SALEM CA-139 Quincy, Massachusetts

From there I followed Quincy Shore Drive (along Quincy Bay) north toward I-93 and Boston. Never had I been along this area – great “filling in more map.” I turned onto the road for Squantum Island first settled about 1638 to explore. But now just mostly 20th century homes. And below, a different view of Boston.

But I was there. Soon onto I-93 – through the Big Dig tunnel, and about 8 miles back to David’s house.

With the collection of material I picked up in Quincy were a couple great Boston maps. After chatting with Gary about the fun things to do that are relatively close, I think I will have to explore more in Boston, just have not done that (you know I am a country boy, and prefer that lifestyle).

Tuesday, raining and working on projects. Plan to head to Lawrence and a big antique center and lunch. Will report on that later. Now evening, and the day has been a WASH OUT with rain and a worthless Canal Street Antique Mall which instead of over 30,000 square feet of antiques had simply worthless junk, and not even junque. BUT, it got me to Lawrence, MASS, and seeing the sign “Welcome Center” I got to experience the Lawrence Heritage State Park. RAY RECOMMENDS you make a stop to learn all about how Lawrence was planned and its importance in textile and labor history (1912 Bread and Roses Strike).

Lawrence Heritage State Park – Lawrence, MA – entrance into former Mill Boarding House.

Remember it is raining, so no good outside images (but now I regret I did not take one of the front of the museum and the north canal). I have history panels in a gallery at the end that may be of interest to you. On the Merrimack River, Lawrence was built in open agricultural land taken from two other towns in 1845. The river was dammed and parallel canals dug to then power the mills (more later). The Merrimack River, which begins in the White Mountains, powers mills in Manchester and Nashua, NH, and then Lowell and Lawrence Massachusetts. We think of most rivers (Hudson, Connecticut, Mystic, Mississippi) flowing south, but the Merrimack turns back up northeast at Lowell, finally emptying into the Atlantic at Newburyport, Massachusetts.

Here is the first floor exhibits of mill operations and the development of Lawrence.

This panel will give you an idea of how the river was dammed, and the flow of the north canal to the right, and smaller south to the right.

This cutaway below is fantastic telling all (and better display than what I saw the end of last year in the Manchester, NH museum). The canals are higher elevation than the river due to the dam. Water will flow through a turbine or waterwheel under the mills to drive the belts to drive the machinery before flowing back into the river.

Let me come close to concluding before the information panels in case you want to skip those. The tad over an hour I spent in this Visitor Center/Museum was great, and the State of Massachusetts has other state parks where you can learn more about Massachusetts’ industrial heritage: Blackstone River and Canal HSP, Holyoke HSP, Western Gateway HSP, and Lynn HSP. I have been to the to the Western Gateway HSP in North Adams, and now want to go back.

So in just a few hours over two days I experienced and “filled in the map” in Walpole, Quincy, and Lawrence along with the aquarium in Boston. I hope what I shared may bring you to experience these at some time. HAPPY SHUNPIKING, Yours, RAY

HISTORY PANELS from the Lawrence Heritage State Park that you can click to open larger for reading.

Posted in Day (or maybe two) Trips | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments


My tradition with The Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, has now begun its 21st year. Cathy and I first experienced the Inn for Valentine’s Day in 1996, continued coming and had a grand time for four days during the Millennium Celebration. It took a year after we lost her before I could return, and now do so as many times as I can each year, including simply stopping on the way driving home from elsewhere for a sit on the porch or dinner.

And, as I have been doing, I am here for my Birthday. I left Sunday morning and picked up the Mohawk Trail in Greenfield. First stop, enjoyable as always, was Shelburne Falls. Visited in the book shop, had lunch, and continued west on the trail. It has been awhile, and usually I am heading east and not west, and seldom with the leaves off — a whole new experience – I love this route. And, as you may know, my favorite sign is just west of Charlemont.

The sign sits at the entrance to a great roadside area along the Deerfield River – reminder to self – picnic here in BB1 and BB2. I like to take images of informative signs to refresh my memory and share – so if you wish, click on these to read more about the area and Mohawk Trail.


Sometimes when you are Shunpiking you get a tad off course. I was saddened to see that most of the snow in FLORIDA was almost gone.

And once through the forest, and around the hairpin curve you slide into former industrial North Adams. Before leaving home I realized that I never had explored north of Route 2 and the Hoosic River. I studied, realized that was where the mill workers lived, and location of PORCHES.

An update – 10AM Monday, as I am writing this in the lobby. Snow supposed to be so bad, I am going to head home today (a day early), instead of being stuck until Wednesday or Thursday — I will be back, but now back to writing this post.

PORCHES – North Adams, Massachusetts

PORCHES is owned by the Fitzpatrick family that owns the Red Lion Inn. With the establishment of MASS MoCA they purchased a row of abandoned, boarded up mill worker tenements and created unique lodging. I knew of it, but never saw it, until now. The row buildings have a u-shape allowing for porches and railings for hanging laundry to dry. In the renovation, skylights were installed to enclose those spaces between buildings. Hard to explain, stop and see, hopefully tempted by this gallery of images (which you can click on to see larger).

And, above the mantel in a sitting room.

And, below are some period (and one new) travel booklets I have of the Mohawk Trail which was first completed in 1914 as probably the first scenic road built for that purpose in the US. I have decided that many of this year’s early explorations in BB1 and BB2 will cover all the historic “nooks and crannies” and maybe I will start searching for some unique collectibles of the road as I saw at The Porches on display. “On the list” to publish here for you is RAY’S RECOMMENDED ROUTES and ROADS – watch for it.

I then headed down Route 8 to Adams. I wanted to collect lots of travel information at the Visitor Center there for this summer’s explorations while staying atop Mount Greylock, but the center was closed. Oh well, probably have more in my archives than they have anyway. Picked up Route 9 to Pittsfield, then my favorite Route US 7, and into Stockbridge, and The Red Lion Inn.

Not sure if I have ever showed you “my room” before, complete with flowered Victorian wall-paper (inside joke).

and, looking back from the window – the Rockwell print on the wall is signed, of course. Rockwell lived across the street, and when the Rockwell Museum was built his studio was moved past my window to the new location.

Having made the decision to cut my stay short, I enjoyed the lobby until about 11:30, went upstairs to pack, and checked out shortly before noon. Actually, all I was going to do on Monday was retrace some of my favorite routes south and west of Stockbridge – but I will be back.

I did have a return trip plan to look at the fences around the Colonial homes in Old Deerfield (remember what I told you on my last post while at Fort Griswold?). So onto the Mass Pike (toll booths gone, simply transponder reading gantries spanning the road at intervals), north on I-91, exit onto US 5 (the old route) and then loop into Old Deerfield. Now, whenever possible I take in lunch at The Deerfield Inn.

I had the dining room to myself, and had and loved the soup of the day – Smokey Tomato Soup, and Pulled Pork special.

And, then it was home shortly before 4PM – a day early, but safe and sound.

14 March 2017 – 1:30 PM


Now on Tuesday it is hard to see across the Common with the snow falling and blowing. I just finished my first sweep of the drive. I find it easier and faster to do multiple snow blowings of 6 or less inches rather that deal with 12 or more. Inside now to finish this up, but I also just finished a brand new page on THE ORIGINAL HISTORIC INNS OF NEW ENGLAND, and I highly recommend you click on the link above to view the page and plan your visits accordingly as you will not be disappointed.

Posted in Day (or maybe two) Trips, The Red Lion Inn, Stockbridge, Massachusetts | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments


I needed another rejuvenating break, but where to go? I focused in on eastern Connecticut, and booked a fabulous B&B. Then I started researching the various museums and sites I wanted to visit. All reopen by Memorial Day – “my bad.”  But, no problem, just refigure, head off anyway, and something will work out when you keep a positive attitude.

Having just written about the 19th century Mulberry Craze and Silkworms, I wanted to see where it started in Manchester, Connecticut, and the old factories that eventually employed over 4,000 people. That was the goal for Monday on the way to the B&B. Disappointed, you  need not visit Manchester. Now what to do? On the plan was to start on Wednesday at the Submarine Force Museum & USS Nautilus in Groton (closed Tuesday), but I could make it there now, and have almost 3 hours to browse.

Entrance - Submarine Force Museum & USS Nautilus - Rings represent the first submarine, and the size of a nuclear sub

Entrance – Submarine Force Museum & USS Nautilus – Rings represent the first submarine, and the size of a nuclear sub

I am glad I am so flexible – and highly recommend you visit the museum (free).

Looking from the entrance to Sub Base New London - flag on hill. Open hatch in foreground is the top of a Polaris Missile Tube.

Looking from the entrance to Sub Base New London – flag on hill. Open hatch in foreground is the top of a Polaris Missile Tube.

My first ship while on active duty was the submarine tender – USS BUSHNELL AS-15 – and tied up alongside were WWII subs. Next I was Supply Officer of the FBM Submarine Training Center — thus I had somewhat of an idea of what I may see, and I was not disappointed. Moored outside on the Thames River is the USS Nautilus, the world’s first Nuclear Submarine launched in 1954.



Here is a gallery on board the sub (remember you can click on an image to open up to larger sizes). Only the spaces forward of the sail (conning tower) are open. The reactor and spaces to the rear are closed to the public. The material condition of the ship is amazing, and many bulkheads have been cut-away for better views.

In typical Ray fashion, my timing was almost perfect, and I arrived in the Mystic countryside at the Stonecroft Country Inn (built in 1807) shortly before 5PM.

Stonecroft Country Inn - Mystic, Connecticut

Stonecroft Country Inn – Mystic, Connecticut

“I shall return.” The Inn is wonderful. Besides the house, there is an original renovated barn with luxury rooms and the dining room. A few couples were in the barn, I had the house to myself (as usual in my journeys) with four common rooms besides my bedroom on the second floor (front corner on the right in picture above).

Monday night I went to dinner at the Captain Daniel Packer Inne built in 1756 in Mystic.

Monday night, besides working on articles for THE WALPOLE CLARION I had to figure out a plan for Tuesday. I thought about heading east to Watch Hill, RI, not having been there in decades, but then it struck me – “fill in the map Ray, you have not been along the shoreline from Mystic to the Connecticut River. Off I went — on the map below I have marked the B&B on the right, follow the route south, and clockwise back. You can see a small backtrack for Route 169 home on Wednesday.


Out of Mystic I took Route 215 toward Noank arriving “downtown” there.

Downtown Noank, Connecticut

Downtown Noank, Connecticut

Noank is right on the shoreline


And, this is the perfect old general store on the water – now the historical society – CLOSED.


Amelia Earhart married publisher George P. Putnam in Noank February 7, 1931. Here is a haunted looking Victorian on a windswept bluff on the bank.


And, even with this wrap on, this little gal looked cold.


I then continued west towards Fort Griswold State Park in Groton. Museum closed, but I walked the grounds of this Revolutionary Fort.


In September 1781, British troops under Benedict Arnold raided and burned New London in the Battle of Groton Heights. Fort Griswold was the objective on the Thames River, as was Fort Trumbull just across the river.

The wounded during the battle were taken to this adjoining home for treatment. Someday I will accomplish a Colonial garden such as this outside my porch.


I then crossed the Thames River, drove through New London to Fort Trumbull. Yes, also closed, but worth a trip back.



The original Blockhouse from 1794 when President George Washington authorized federal funds to protect seaports.


And looking back east across the Thames to Fort Griswold (you can see the monument on the hill to the left). The yard on the river is Electric Boat were subs are built.


Picking up Route 156 I eventually arrived in Old Lyme. No images for you, BUT DO NOT MISS OLD LYME. Wonderful Colonial architecture and setting, and an easy hop-off from I-95. I then continued north on 156 to Route 82. I highly recommend that you journey up Route 156 from I-95, no matter what time of year. If I had turned left, I would have rolled into Gillette Castle State Park and Gillette Castle, which I shared with you last August.

But the plan this time was to head east to Mohegan Sun, and then to Foxwoods. I thought that I had to at least say I had seen the Connecticut casinos. “I have been to the Casinos in Connecticut – DON’T BOTHER!!!” Well if you are like me, don’t bother. I expected something glitzing and with a Wow factor. Nope, nothing to “write home about” here. Mohegan is not even worth a stop in my opinion – here is a layout


But FOXWOODS is a tad better with a wide range of a variety of decor almost approaching eye-candy (did I tell you I am not a gambler – except with buying books – and have no idea what the games and machines are about?). I stopped first to browse through the Tangier Outlet Mall built between several of the buildings. I am not a shopper, no glitz, and nothing to entice me in. I went into the AS SEEN ON TV store – it seemed catchy. Thought it would be fun – NOT – actually all they had was crap that would NEVER be SEEN ON TV.  I wanted out.

I got my daily 10,000 plus steps just trying to find my way out. I even got desperate, and considered this escape.


Tuesday night dinner again in Mystic. Back to work in the Keeping Room, and soon it was Wednesday.

I had found a list on-line of the Four Connecticut Scenic Drives to Explore. Yes, been there, except one – Connecticut State Route 169 which heads from Norwich to the Massachusetts border. That was Wednesday’s plan to head home.

So, I meandered past FOXWOODS (will get back for the Native American Museum, however) and picked up Route 169 in Jewett City. Again, all new territory, and fantastic Colonial architecture, and the most amazing stone walls I have ever seen. Probably helped with leaves off the trees, but still!

Here is the first home that really caught my eye – as I approached Canterbury.


At the crossroads in Canterbury is the Prudence Crandall Museum (closed). Prudence had a school here in 1831 to educate daughters of wealthy local families. The school was extremely successful and in 1833 she admitted Black girls. The State responded by passing the “Black Law” which made it illegal for Miss Crandall to operate her school. Miss Crandall was arrested, spent a night in jail, and faced three court trials. The case was dismissed in July of 1834. Two months later a mob attacked the school, forcing Miss Crandall to close.


Just across the road was this old filling station. It was in front of such a store in Dillon, South Carolina that I bought my 1890 Bartholomew Sidewalk Peanut Machine in 1965.


I detoured into Putnam to an antique center that Cathy and I would visit. I found one treasure I needed for Prof. RAB’s Wagon on Wonders — arriving in town for Old Home Days 2017.

And then passed through Woodstock, and Roseland Cottage (closed for the season).


And, then home through Sturbridge and Brimfield still looking for one elusive item Prof. RAB needs.

I have been home and busy for six days. Getting harder and harder to write all I want to do. BLUE BELLE went to hospital for repair to some bearings, but Dr. Dewey has found that her entire propulsion plant must be rebuilt, so that is underway. She will be good enough to go cross-country, so I will scrap the CORVETTE idea, and also sort of decided that to be practical (since BB2 and BB1 will get all the attention this summer) that I should help LADY RAB find a new home — so that is the plan.

More adventures coming — I have a full plate until July 1, but who knows what I may be able to fit in. Bye for now, as always, yours, RAY

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It has been over 30 years since I was in the Bay Area – 10 May 1986 to be exact – when the USS MISSOURI (BB-63) was recommissioned. I was among the 10,000 invited guests, but that is another old “war story.” You may recall (from history) that on the MISSOURI the Instrument of Surrender with Japan was signed 2 September 1945. She was decommission in 1955, and years after the re-commissioning, she was struck in 1995, and is now a museum in Pearl Harbor. I explored San Francisco when here then, and now I am visiting with family (and some shunpiking too).

My daughter, Julie, and her husband and three children arrived here about a year ago. David and Mari have an annual conference in San Francisco this week, so Alex and I came along with them to visit (Alex and Mari headed home on the 30th). Saturday, after David and Mari headed downtown, we got the four kids going, and they agreed to see the “big trees.”  I love studying real maps, and do so both before an adventure, and after to solidify the map images in my mind. Do look at a Bay Area map, and you can see the circle route we took from Orinda, up over the San Rafael Bridge, to Mill Valley to the adventure, then back across the Golden Gate Bridge, through downtown on US 101, and back home. The “tall” adventure (which you can click for a taller version):


Heading down Muir Woods Road – the scariest “white knuckle” road I have ever been on. The “white” area you see on the left is the glistening water of San Francisco Bay.


you come to Muir Woods National Monument, and its Redwoods.


Twelve miles north of the Golden Gate Bridge, the park has over 1,000,000 visitors a year. We arrived around 3PM, and it was no bad. To preserve the ancient Redwoods, the land was purchased in 1905, and donated to the government. You may click on image below for a larger image to read.


This beauty was one of the first to greet us.


The bay area, and particularly along the water, is not forested at all, but the unique microenvironment on the ocean side with the fog and moisture has created this dense forest which may only see sunlight 5% of the day. The plants, lichen, etc. have adapted for survival. Below, very spiritual, reaching for the sky.


We took a number of trails, and the grandkids posed in this tree for us.


You may be wrinkled too at this age.


Sun was beginning to set:


Fast Redwood facts: Height to 379.1 feet, age to 2,000 years, diameter to 22 feet at breast height, bark to 12 inches thick. The tree below fell in 1930. Counting back the rings, it was a seedling in 909 AD – 1,021 years before it fell.


With more hiking than we thought we may do, it was night when we crossed the Golden Gate Bridge. A bad image of this iconic structure (painted red to stand out in fog), but here it is.


I am now back to working on this post, Monday, 6 February. So much to do, but with the passing of time it is fun to go back and work on a post because it further kindles my memory of experiences. Sunday (January 29) was a “day home” in preparations for Julie’s youngest son’s fourth birthday party. What fun to see 5 little ones from his nursery school class.

Shortly after everyone left for school on Monday, Alex and I boarded BART for a 35 minute ride into San Francisco. We exited at Market and Powell Streets, and pulled our bags a few blocks up the hill to the Sir Francis Drake Hotel. I was hoping to take Alex to Alcatraz, but since he wanted to met Mari at noon for lunch, the time was too tight, So, off we went to the Cable Car Museum. I have decided that the rest of this post will be mainly images – about 75 – sorry, but then you do not have to “listen” to me as much.



In this building the continuous cables are powered by electric motors for the three cable car lines.

Motive Power Source for San Francisco's Cable Cars

Motive Power Source for San Francisco’s Cable Cars

The museum is fascinating with nice exhibits and equipment.

We then went to the corner, and caught this car.


Alex and I sat on the side, and off we went.

Alex and I sat on the side, and off we went.

Great views of the city


and this “classic view” of Alcatraz


we passed


and later walked back up the hill – no small feat – to walk down the Crookedest Street in the World – Lombard Street.


We met Mari for lunch on Pier 39, and afterwards they went to pick up their bags and head to the airport. I decided to walk down to Pier 33 to see if I could get to Alcatraz. For over a week I had been checking the Alcatraz Tours website that came up on Google.  But do not be taken in by the website that says sells out early – BUY NOW. I could not narrow down the time and day I could go, and each time I checked the site that comes up on Google, the tickets were gone. Now — I have posted my revelation on Trip Advisor (I am a Senior Contributor, for whatever that is worth)  — when I walked up to the ticket window, I was on the boat 7 minutes later – AND, The TICKET WAS $10 LESS THAN ON the site that comes up – and, it is the same boat line . Seems as though that reseller buys tickets to the boat and gets top search engine billing (Alcatraz is free as a National Park) adds a hefty surcharge, and scares you into buying. I was scared, but glad I waited.

On the boat to Alcatraz Island

On the boat to Alcatraz Island

Back at the pier is this model of the island showing many of the buildings that are no longer there.


A volunteer ranger meets you as you disembark to advise what to expect. You can see remnants of the Native American occupation of the island in many spots on the buildings.


Following are some selected views of “my time in Alcatraz”. In the cell block you get a free audio tour – and it is GREAT! Remember, you can click an image in my “galleries” to see larger images.

And, the view back to San Francisco from the tip of the island. Treasure Island to the left, then the Bay Bridge — and make sure to click on the image below to fill your screen with this panorama.


The nearest cable line was “down” with a cable problem, so I took a trolley part way back and then a bus. Have I ever told you I have loved trolleys since the 7th grade? I have loved trolleys since the 7th grade (don’t ask when that was).


here is the back end of the trolley I caught


and, the inside


so I could enter back into the Sir Francis Drake Hotel where I was going to stay with David the next two nights.

Lobby and bar in the Sir Francis Drake Hotel in San Francisco

Lobby and bar in the Sir Francis Drake Hotel in San Francisco

Remember I like giving you the view out my window?


Tuesday my plan was to start touring on a “Hop on – Hop off” bus, so I headed a few blocks down Powell Street to Union Square to one of the main stops. I was attacked by the sales person for the “Deluxe Hop On – Hop Off” and soon accosted by the Big Bus representative. I had gotten on-line information about the Big Bus tours, and even downloaded their app. I put myself “up for auction” when a salesman for another came up. The tours for $45 became $35, and then the “deluxe” salesman cut to $25 – for a two-day, three tour pass. I turned over my greenbacks. You get what you pay for. The “deluxe” bus was probably a castoff from another company, the tour was delayed, but in the long run served my purposes just fine – and for less green. I headed off for the full two plus hour route, and then continued back to Pier 39. Here are some “views from the bus.”

San Francisco National Historical Park

San Francisco National Historical Park

approaching the Golden Gate Bridge


no explanation needed:


Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park

Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park

and, then — not much has changed at:


If you do not know what I am referring to you are way younger than I am. Following is a gallery as we headed down Haight.


I continued back past “go” to get back to Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39. My plan was to have lunch at the famous Boudin Bakery, famous for their sourdough bread, and many sculptures with their bread.


I had chile in a sourdough bread bowl.


Now, in my preliminary research I found MUSEE MECHANIQUE – A Coin Operated Arcade on Pier 45. And, it was my plan to visit – WOW. I often say I was born in the wrong century, and you may know that I enjoy Victorian and early 20th century amusements and resorts. I visited, and this is probably the LARGEST COLLECTION IN THE WORLD of the old amusement park machines. Amazingly in an old pier warehouse, no attendant or admission, and all operating – mostly for 25 cents. EYE CANDY, and worth the trip to San Francisco alone.


as I said, no attendant, but many of the machines had their eyes on you, as she did:


below a gallery of what I drooled over – remember to click to enlarge:

I could have spent two days in this exhibit playing everything and making movies, but here is a short one.

Over the door to the pier it said – see our submarine USS PAMPANITO SS-383. I headed out on the pier, but, sorry, I have been on WWII submarines (I was on the USS Bushnell AS-15 – a submarine tender – in the late 60s, and tied up alongside were remaining WWII subs that I inspected and toured) so I did not have to take the tour.


BUT – to her aft was the S.S. JEREMIAH O’BRIEN, one of two remaining WWII Liberty ships of the over 2,700 built. Now – that is a must do. With the war production effort, each was built in 60 days. What has happened to American since?


As a child I remember crossing the Bear Mountain Bridge over the Hudson River and looking down at the cove full of Liberty Ships, but they are all gone now. The Jeremiah O’Brien was one of the over 5,000 ships that was at Normandy for the D-Day Invasion, and of those almost 5,200 ships, she was the only ship that was there for the 50th anniversary.


In Hold #1 is the museum, and the vehicle on the left was at Normandy, and given to the ship by France.


France has given many items to the museum including this model of the beaches showing how material was landed after the beachheads were secured.


the close-up below shows how the S.S. JEREMIAH O’BRIEN was offloaded to barges that were then towed to the floating bridges. Ships were sunk to create break walls protecting shore operations from the tides and waves. Not having gotten to go to Normandy when I was in France in October, now I really have to go.


Well, getting late, and trolley time to head back to the hotel, get cleaned up, and meet David at his conference to visit, have wine, and then head off to dinner.



Did I tell you I like (love) trolleys? I absolutely cannot believe how well taken care of the trolleys are — the appear brand new inside and out. I joined David at the convention, then dinner.

And, then it was Wednesday. San Francisco has the largest Chinatown in the US — when in San Francisco, you have “to do” Chinatown, but I bet most tourists go through this archway, and down the couple blocks of imported gift items thinking they have “experienced” Chinatown.



WRONG — And, I was lucky. I mentioned to a fellow I have been buying books from for almost 20 years that I was heading to SF, and he said, “take Linda Lee’s tour.” And he gave me her company’s name – ALL ABOUT CHINATOWN. I was able to contact Linda for the Wednesday tour (at 10AM only), and David, who was worn out at the convention, was ready to leave and join me, including a Chinese lunch. All I can say is, buy your ticket to SF, and take Linda’s tour — not your usual tour, she really gave us history, insight, and sights in the back alleys with an understanding you would get in no other way. There were 7 of us, David, me, a young lady, and a lovely family of four.

After providing introductory history while in the community park, Linda took us into a Temple and explained everything we saw there.


HELP, I’M HELD CAPTIVE IN A FORTUNE COOKIE FACTORY – I know, old joke, but possible, since Linda lead us really “off the beaten path”. I wish I had take a video of the operation.


See where the batter is being poured out? Then the wheel goes through the oven coming out in baked disks. This woman (chains hidden) would decide if the disk was to be used for a fortune cookie, or separated to be sold as a disk (the locals prefer them this way – they know the fortunes are phony). The operator places the slip of paper (you can see the pile) on a rod, and then folds the disk over, and voila – a fortune cookie. Again, sorry I goofed, and no video.

If you were fortunate enough to walk by this shop, you would have no idea what was for sale.


But, Linda told us, and toured us through. Looks like a lot of gift items or toys – WRONG. All items for Ancestor Worship, and made of paper that when lit goes puff and disappears. The customer comes in, and wishing to provide something to a departed loved one buys something they should have, and then takes it to the cemetery where it is lit and consumed to join the deceased ancestor. Here are a few samples.

Of course we stopped at a grocery story. I maybe recognized 5% of the items, but would not buy any.

And, the herb and medicine store. Hey, these items have worked for over 3,000 years, who am I to argue.


And, that was it — lunch followed with a wonderful assortment, and then David and I got our bags and then the BART to the airport. Home to Boston at 1 AM, a few hours rest, and I drove home.

A GREAT TRIP — a good start for the year with the benefit of visiting Julie and her family.

I have a horrendous and broken up schedule of commitments from now until the end of June which will impact on me taking some serious trips. BUT, I will be taking some trip. So, “stay tuned.”  thank you for getting this far:


1- Take Linda Lee’s ALL ABOUT CHINATOWN tour
2 – Visit Alcatraz
3 – Tour the S.S. JEREMIAH O’BRIEN
4- Spend a day at MUSEE MECANIQUE


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If you get no further

If you have followed my travel posts, you should have noticed patterns to my travels, thus some traditions. If you enjoy something, or some place, what is wrong with repeating? Especially if you can experience at different times of year.

One such place I enjoy heading to is Fairlee, Vermont and Chapman’s General Store. Cathy and I discovered the old general store here a dozen years ago, and visited often.

Village Green in Fairlee, Vermont - adjoining Chapman's to the south.

Village Green in Fairlee, Vermont – adjoining Chapman’s to the south.

I now make sure I stop a couple times a year with BLACK BEAUTY, BLUE BELLE, or sadly (like today) in the “new” GREY GHOST.  One of the oldest country stores in Vermont, Chapman’s began in 1897 as a drug store, and remains in the family. I recall a display on one of my early visits that the store had a special salve that went to Antarctica with Admiral Byrd’s expeditions, and some of of you may know I made two trips to Antarctica, including the remote Byrd Station, and the South Pole (twice).


As you enter the store, you still feel as though you are entering the early 20th century with period displays, and “antique” merchandise, toys, and displays on the top shelves.


And, just like at my favorite inns and restaurants, when Rachel (the owner’s daughter) saw me she said, “Hi Mr. Boas.” “No, please just Ray,” I replied. Yes, one of the reasons you go back. But even without the greeting, I go back to see the amazing selection of unique toys, crafts, local gifts, and selection of wine they stock.

Looking at the old window above a stock of wine.

Looking out the old window above a stock of wine.

I went today to help “get in the holiday spirit” and select a few gifts. I tell everyone in the family “no gifts for me” – hey, I need nothing material, but if I do want something I just go get it – but I enjoy getting a few things here for the kids.


Upon leaving, part of my “tradition” is lunch at the Fairlee Diner


Classic, and filling. I had corn chowder and an open faced pot roast sandwich. I could have survived easily with just one of those choices.

Now, question to Ray. Cross the bridge to Orford, NH to travel south on Route 12?


or, head down US 5 in Vermont (the old road prior to I-91). If you know me, you know I love US 5, as do my ladies, cruising often faster than recommended (but I am turning a new leaf). Today, I choose to stay on 5 back to Norwich. Amazingly, I had never before seen Butternut Lane B&B in Norwich. Remote? Yes! But, minutes to Dartmouth College.


It was then grocery shopping in West Leb before continuing down NH 12, and a stop at Saint Gaudens. Never before been there with snow.


And, a tad further down the road past the covered bridge is Trinity Church in Cornish, completed in 1808.




The plan for the 20th was an evening at The Phelps Barn at The Grafton Inn – yes in amazing Grafton, Vermont. You may know the significance The Grafton Inn has for me being here, and that story is on my bookseller website. I have been back many times since with friends for dinner, or a pub experience. Last year on the way home from Christmas in Plymouth Notch, my lady friends and I enjoyed time in the barn in front of the fire, and that was the plan again to continue that tradition. Tara, Carolyn, and Joanie joined me tonight.


The Grafton Inn - 20 December 2016

The Grafton Inn – 20 December 2016

I called earlier to confirm the barn would be open, and learned it was “trivia night.” But, “timing is everything” and we arrived to capture the couch and armchairs in front of the roaring fire before others showed up.


Tara had in mind a wine she wished to order…


and we continued with three courses of appetizers…


Once “trivia night” began, we had a great deal of fun listening in and realizing we knew more than anyone else in the room. In fact, we may go back to show our prowess, and partake for real – price of admission is a donation to the evening’s selected local charity.

But, we really wanted to see the fabulous Christmas decorations around the inn. Here is a sampling, and you can “click” to enlarge.

Yes, I had to find out the answer to the “ball and chain”


Researching convex mirrors with eagle with a ball and chain from its beak I learned there was no significance to the ball and chain. Huh?? The convex mirror is to capture light at angles to allow a wider field of vision, surrounding ornamentations vary, BUT I found that this device is purely decorative. Oh, I am not satisfied, there has to be a good reason.

Well, in closing:

VISIT THE CHAPMAN GENERAL STORE in Fairlee, Vermont; and start a tradition of visiting peaceful Grafton, Vermont, and THE GRAFTON INN.


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Do I repeat doing what brings me pleasure? Do I want to share what brings me pleasure? Yes, so my son, Gary, and friends Tara and Carolyn journeyed off with me to enjoy the annual Christmas Open House at the President Calvin Coolidge State Historic Site in Plymouth Notch, VT. So, in case you have missed my other Plymouth Notch posts, please enter the “notch” with us for a bucolic time.


How can you resist this scenery and snowscape?




We arrived to have lunch in the Wilder House. Each year for this event The Tyson Ladies’ Aid Association serves lunch as a fund raiser. This year there was a folder on the table providing the story of the association. Founded in 1880, it operated until 1887, but was revived in 1910 and been active ever since. They help support a number of organizations in the Tyson (Vermont) and Ludlow area. Our server two years ago moved to the area full time to the condo she had for years.


We then walked up to the cheese factory, but I captured this panorama of the fields along the way — you can click on this image to open (recommended) for full screen.

pn-pano-fieldI had missed seeing these great wooden boxes before. You can buy them with cheese, or empty for $25.  Could not decide where I would put one, so did not buy. But maybe an excuse (like I need one) to go back to make a purchase.
















Then we walked back down the “hill” to visit the country store.

pnd6-6Not much different (except less snow) than our visit on December 15, 2013.


I have enjoyed 19th century General Stores most of my life, and collected and decorated with those items. The Florence Cilley General Store is no exception to bringing me smiles. Sadly, Plymouth Notch is an hour away from home, otherwise I would love to volunteer at the site. Hey, maybe I could stay in one of the historic Top of the Notch tourist cabins on the grounds. Maybe I better start hinting around.

Below is a short gallery of views (that you can open up) inside the store.



Bill Jenney relating much history in the homestead

Bill Jenney relating much history in the homestead

Bill Jenney, site administrator, was scheduled to give a tour of the Coolidge homestead at 1PM and 2PM. Not having heard him give a tour of this historic building, 2PM was my plan. Bill has served in his position since 1988 and was able to learn much from people in the notch who had known the late President and First Lady. Talk about bringing history alive, and I hope, Bill, that you have written down all you know. Maybe a book is in you?


pnd6-12For example, the summer after his inauguration in the homestead at 2:47AM August 3, 1923, the hall above the store served as the “summer whitehouse.” Eighteen secret servicemen (the greatest number up to that time) were there to protect the President, worried about Coolidge facing off against the KKK in the upcoming election of 1924. The hills around the notch provide way too many vantage points for a marksman. As a result, no other President has ever visited here, only Lady Bird Johnson visited when the site was designated a National Historic Landmark, June 12, 1967. That summer of ’24 one news report said there were 4,000 to 5,000 cars in the fields one day when the President was there. With at least two people per car, it was estimated that 10,000 people were in the village of 29 full-time residents.

Accounting for the homestead appearing as it was that night in 1923 is Aurora Pierce. Serving as housekeeper first for Calvin’s father, and then the President, she was there for 50 years. Not approving of indoor plumbing, or electricity, she would not let either be installed. The addition Calvin was building was hooked up, but this addition was moved in 1956 (by the same firm that moved the Ticonderoga from Lake Champlain onto the grounds of the Shelburne Musuem) when the State was given the homestead. Here are two interior views, as the house was in 1923, which (and Bill agreed with me) is really an 1880s look at America.

By now you also know I like to “look out windows,” particularly with wavy glass. Click to open for full effect.

It was almost 3PM, and we headed back to the Visitor’s Center for the antique hat fashion show presented by the Black River Academy Museum. But more important (for us) was the hat contest for visitors. Last year, the first time of the event, we were the only ones who had read the “fine print” and came appropriately attired. This year others had somehow gotten the word. BUT, never fear as we still maintained our winning positions. Winners again this year !!! NOT YOUR NORMAL ELF – Second Place (again) — THE RED LIGHT LADY – First Again — but, beat out by a little kid — OUR YOUNG KID.

Heading back to the east of the river, where would you guess we would stop?


Yes at the Castle to claim our seats in the library for wine in front of the fire. It had been a week since the last visit. Here are a few more images of this special place.

Arriving home, David and family pulled into the drive right behind Gary and me. The plan was for dinner here, Gary and Mari head back to Boston area, and then Alex and David were out at 7:30 this morning for Okemo.

I realized as I was categorizing this post as Day Trips that with 234 posts since April 2011, that I really should have a separate category just for Plymouth Notch. Did I say I like Plymouth Notch? Here are three more “parting shots” from my 10 December visit that I like.





Yours, RAY


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There is so much going on in preparation for the holidays – I cannot do it all. This weekend was the Norman Rockwell Christmas Festivities in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, but when I finally thought about going, the Red Lion Inn was already booked solid.  But, then I remembered that “I do not do crowds” anyway. About ten days ago a friend and I both got emails from the Castle Hill Resort in Proctorsville, Vermont, about a promotion, and buried in one line was — Inn-Dulgence Tour. In checking the link – that was it. Ten Inns and B&Bs, all close by, with decorations and goodies at each. I have experienced five of the ten locations, but how can you pass up Inn-Dulging and gorging yourself for five hours for ten bucks? Plans were hatched and made.


I planned the route (always best to start furthest away and work yourself home) with our first stop the Inn at Weathersfield in Perkinsville, Vermont at the noon hour when the tour began. I have enjoyed many a dinner here, and cannot give it a higher recommendation. When I called to reserve our Passports for the tour, Marilee said, “oh, I remember you Ray.”  Yes, a couple years ago I had shared with her a visit that BLUE BELLE and I made. Every time I walk into the Red Lion Inn I am greeted personally by several staff members, and the same happens at the Castle Hill Resort when I enter with my friends. HINT TO INN OWNERS – it makes a difference. Thank you Marilee (and Richard).

The Inn at Weathersfield, Perkinsville, VT on a December afternoon.

The Inn at Weathersfield, Perkinsville, VT on a December afternoon.

Richard showed us around downstairs, and gave us some history. We toured many rooms, each exquisite! And, below is a gallery of some of what we saw. Remember, with my galleries, you can click on an image and open up to larger views. You will see more galleries on this day’s tour.

We then drove north on Route 106 towards Woodstock, but turned left on Tyson Road in Felchville. I have only driven west to east on this road (in BB1 or BB2, of course) so this was the first time east to west – but scenery is always different every day, every season, and in different directions. The next stop Echo Lake Inn on Route 100.


My dear Cathy and I stayed here maybe 17 years ago before we moved to NH. I have had several meals here, and enjoy passing by on the way to my favorite Plymouth Notch. Need I tell you that is Calvin Coolidge’s home? On the menu here were two soups: Maple Butternut Squash Bisque and Stonewood Farms Turkey and Wild Rice — both worth the trip.

Next was heading south on Route 100, through Ludlow to the Golden Stage Inn in Proctorsville, before working ourselves back to 100.

Entrance to the Golden Stage Inn in Proctorsville, VT

Entrance to the Golden Stage Inn in Proctorsville, VT

I had never stopped here before, but have passed many times. I enjoy Crow’s Bakery and Cafe just down the road. In fact, at the bakery I made my first ever travel blog post in April 2011.  On the menu today for us to enjoy at the Golden Stage Inn (yes an original old stage stop) was “Saturday Night Chocolate Cake.”


PN-22Next stop was our “briar patch” — the Castle Hill Resort and Spa. First discovered and experienced 15 December 2013 (yes on the way back from Christmas at Plymouth Notch). I do not miss anything when driving, but one person is a tad better than I am. Coming home that day, Tara said, “what is that? turn around!” And we went in and discovered the most fantastic place. To the right is a favorite image I took that evening.

Up the hill we drove, and in we went. “Hi, nice to see you again,” we were greeted. Yes, I visit often with my lady friends. We cannot afford not to go to the three course dinners for $25 (we all carry half home there is so much, and so good. But we start with wine (and wine) in the library – oh such a life.

Today it was overcast and snowy as we drove up the hill.

Castle Hill Resort & Spa

Castle Hill Resort & Spa

On the menu here was Mini Beef Wellington and/or Creme Brûlée. We had both — fantastic. The decorations were amazing – enjoy these images.

It was then back into Ludlow to the Andrie Rose Inn. We learned that the Inn goes back to about 1950 — about 6 years before the Okemo Ski area was developed.


Large and very comfortable with lots of fun spaces, on the menu was braised pork butt over polenta – yummy!

Time to head south on Route 100 (the backbone of Vermont) to Weston (no I will not tell you again that I was first there in my 1929 Model A Ford Roadster in 1963 spending an evening with Vrest Orton, the founder of the “original” Vermont Country Store). There was the Inn at Weston – another “first” for me.

Entrance to the Inn at Weston

Entrance to the Inn at Weston

On writing this, I realize we never got to see any rooms. Our hostess, Linda, was cordial and immediately said, “let me tell the chef to get your food ready.” Shortly we sat down to mini crab cakes with a roasted red pepper coulis and wild mushroom and ricotta on crostini.


Wow — the inn has a full restaurant, and hours vary with the season and the performances at the famous Weston Playhouse. Here are two more images here:

Back down Route 100 to Londonderry, and left on Route 11. Then right onto Magic Mountain Access Road. Magic Mountain was a failed ski resort, but I read this past week that new owners are opening the mountain this coming weekend. The facilities and surrounding properties are dated and have seen better days. A short way up the access road was our next stop Blue Gentian Lodge. Lisa and Ken have been here since 1994, and are a lovely couple. Lisa’s cut paper ornaments are amazing, and you should turn up the few hundred yards off Route 11 and see her work.


Here are samples of her amazing craft – worth seeing.


This tree represents the Twelve Days of Christmas – wish I could have captured it better for you.


And, one of Lisa’s tree ornaments


Our next stop – number 8 – was the Stone Hearth Inn and Tavern in Chester.


Again, I just realized that we did not see any rooms, but we were getting “inned out.” After a short walk around the first floor we settled into the tavern with wine, and soon Tara’s husband joined us . His horse and donkey are boarded for the winter on the adjoining property.

There was no time left for Inn Victoria in Chester, or The Grafton Inn in Grafton. Some of you may know the special place the Grafton Inn holds in my heart – I would not be in the wonderful place I am in, if it were not for an overnight my late-bride and I had there. But, my friends and I will get back in the next week or so to see the fabulous decorations there. In fact, here we are in the Phelps Barn Pub just a year ago (after Christmas at Plymouth Notch).


Well, I got home a tad after 6PM tonight, and now it is almost 11:36.  I have fun reliving my adventures and experiences while preparing this posts — for myself — but to share. This was the first year for the Inn-Dulgence Tour, Okemo Valley, Vermont. It was fun, and I hope it was successful for the Inns involved, and they continue again next year.

RAY RECOMMENDS – Experience what our local Vermont Inns have to offer – just follow the list here.

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