Monthly Archives: July 2016

July 29, 2016 Glen, N.H. & Millinocket, ME

20160730_143604On July 29th we left the RV rally fairgrounds in Essex Junction, Vermont and headed back to New Hampshire for a week in the White Mountains. Along the way we saw many signs on the highway warning of moose crossings, but we never saw any moose. We arrived at our campground in Glen, New Hampshire. This is a touristy town in the White Mountains advertising among other things snowmobile rentals and scenic train rides. The town is busy year round with summer tourists, fall foliage viewing and winter skiing.
20160730_13115120160730_131212We were in this area back in September, 2011 and took the cog railroad to Mt Washington so we passed on doing it. We did drive the scenic Kancamagus Highway, the first National Scenic Byway in the northeastern United States. The highway is named for Kancamagus, the grandson of Chief Passaconaway. The road was first begun in 1837 and much of the work was completed by the CCC. It was opened in 1959. Along the drive we passed many areas with people lounging on the rocks or swimming in the Swift River. Over time the Swift River has worn a narrow cleft in the rock forming a rocky gorge. We walked two short trails to the Rocky Gorge Falls and Sabbaday Falls, so named because it was discovered on a Sunday.20160730_13234420160730_13235720160802_12022420160802_12024520160802_12072520160802_12080320160808_102433
On August 5th we left Glen and headed to Maine. A few days before we left, Bill discovered there was an amateur radio gathering, called a Hamfest, in Milo along our route. I had thought many times about taking the exam to get my amateur radio license with the FCC, but never took the time to prepare. When I learned they would be doing testing in Milo, I decided to go for it. I got busy studying using the test preparation materials available online. It wasn’t easy for me because I do not have any background in electronics or radios. I studied hard and had lots of questions for Bill. The morning of the test I was pretty nervous. Three examiners are required to be present during the written exam. It turns out one of the examiners attended medical school at UVA many years ago. What a small world. I passed the exam and was pretty proud of myself! As Bill said, I am now radioactive!
After enjoying the Hamfest festivities we continued on to tiny Millinocket, Maine for five days. This was a pretty remote area of Maine and our most northern point for 2016. The roads in this part of Maine are pretty bad from frost heaves which causes the roads to buckle. We bounced our way along over bumps and dips, swaying from side to side. When we finally arrived at our campsite, our exhaust pipe cap had worked its way loose and the ladder attached on the back of the RV had shifted!
20160808_103349While in this area we wanted to visit Baxter State Park. The park is unique because it isn’t really a state park. It was a gift to the people of Maine by former Maine Governor Percival P. Baxter in 1931 on the condition it remain a wilderness. The park is made up of 209,644 acres, including Katahdin, Maine’s highest mountain. Baxter Park is Maine’s largest public trust and is administered by a special authority and is independently funded.
According to Baxter, the land and animals are primary and people secondary. Therefore visitors are responsible for their own safety and there are no facilities available except for the occasional pit toilet. There are signs throughout the park warning to treat the water before drinking. When we entered the park and paid the entrance fee (Maine residents are free), the worker took our names and emergency contact information. We were given a card to turn in when we left so they would know we left safely. When we asked about the possibility of seeing moose we were told it was the wrong time of year. In the summer they are further up in the mountains where it is cooler.
20160808_114256We wanted to take a hike in the park but it was hard to find a hike that was not too difficult. Keeping with the land and animals first theme, the trails throughout the park have not been altered to make hiking easier. The most famous trail in the park is the Katahdin Trail to the mountain peak. It is also the beginning/end of the 2,200 mile Appalachian Trail. I had read that the most difficult sections of the Appalachian Trail are in New Hampshire and Maine. In fact Maine and New Hampshire are the two most forested states in the country. It is recommended that hikers not start the trail in Maine. Less than 1,300 people have ever finished the famous Appalachian Trail if they started in Maine, which makes up 280 miles of the Trail.
We knew that trail was too intense so we decided on the trail to Small Niagara and Big Niagara falls. At the beginning of the trail was a sheet where you signed in and later signed out, just in case. The trail was less than three  miles round trip, but it kicked my butt. It wasn’t as hard for Bill but I think he was glad when it was over too. We had to watch our footing constantly as we clambered over huge tree roots and rocks. In the beginning we balanced ourselves on narrow boards placed over marshy areas to protect the fragile plants. The worst part of the hike was at the Small Niagara Falls and later at Big Niagara where some tricky footing was required to get down to see the falls. At Big Niagara we watched a woman hiking alone fall on her face before we could assist with a helping hand. Bill helped her up and she was fine.20160808_12461420160808_12454220160808_13152220160808_131534
Back at the car we had a late lunch and continued our drive through the park before leaving at the far entrance. Unfortunately we never saw a moose. Besides being the wrong time of year I also read that the moose population has significantly declined in recent years due to calves dying from an illness caused by ticks.20160808_16170320160808_161734
Maine Facts:
Geographically, Maine is larger than the other five New England states combined.

  • The state animal is the moose and there are more moose per square mile than any other state.
  • Maine has over 32,000 miles of rivers and streams and over 6,000 lakes and ponds.
  • Maine has over 542,629 acres of state and national parks.
  • Maine produces 99% of all wild blueberries in the country, making it the largest producer of blueberries in the country.

Next stop: Eastport, Maine

July 22, 2016 Plymouth, NH. & Essex Junction, VT

20160722_144234The day before we left Hanover, New Hampshire we drove to Plymouth, Vermont to visit the President Calvin Coolidge State Historic Site. We were quite surprised to find not only a small museum but grounds that included among other things his birthplace, his boyhood home, a church, a general store, an active post office, a one room schoolhouse, a cheese factory and a large barn.20160722_14441220160722_15070320160722_14524520160722_145257
First we watched a video in the museum on his life from his birth in 1872, to his presidency.  It was a nice video but I wish it had continued through his presidency so we could learn more about his accomplishments and challenges while President.  The small museum also told us very little about his presidency.
20160722_152629Calvin Coolidge is the only president born on the 4th of July and he also was the 30th president of the United States.  Vice President Coolidge was actually at his home in Plymouth, Vermont when he received word that President Harding had unexpectedly passed away.  Coolidge’s father was a notary public and swore his son in as president of the United States in the family home on August 3, 1923.  We don’t usually take tours of homes but the tour of his birthplace and boyhood home was included in the admission to the grounds so we took the tour so we could see things like the room where he was sworn in as president.
20160722_145402The church was built in 1840 and was the church the Coolidge family attended.  It was beautiful inside with pine wood cut at a local mill.  The 1900 Estey pump organ is still used today.
Coolidge was president from 1923 to 1929.  20160722_144820He was known as a man of few words and as a small government conservative.  Coolidge’s presidency was during the “Roaring Twenties”, a time of rapid economic growth.  Some historians argue that Coolidge’s laissez-faire ideology and disdain of regulation led the country into the Great Depression.20160722_15433820160722_15450820160722_15345720160722_15574520160722_16084420160722_144044
20160722_153511Coolidge chose not to run for a second term, saying that would mean he would spend ten years as President and that is too long because the office of President takes a heavy toll on the President and his family.
He retired to Northampton, Massachusetts.  He died in 1933 at the age of 60.  He is buried in Plymouth, Vermont down the road from his birthplace.  We stopped by to visit the gravesite.20160722_161818
20160722_165755On the way home we stopped by Quechee Gorge, advertised as Vermont’s Little Grand Canyon.  What a disappointment.  Calling this a little Grand Canyon is quite a stretch.  Thankfully it was on the way home and we didn’t make a special trip to see it.
Saturday we drove to Essex Junction, Vermont for the Escapade RV Rally, held by our camping group: Escapees. Along the way we stopped at the Vermont state capitol building in Montpellier.  20160723_105110Now that is a beautiful gold-plated state capitol building and one of the most picturesque we have seen.  Nestled in the hills, it is one of the oldest preserved state capitols in the country.  The House and Senate Chambers are the oldest legislative chambers in their original condition in the United States.  The building was constructed in 1859 and the Greek Revival Architecture is similar to the US Capitol. The dome was gilded in the early twentieth century  and on top of the building is a statue of the ancient Roman goddess of agriculture.  Montpelier is the smallest capital city in the United States.
20160724_11434320160724_114533On Sunday we took some time before the rally began to drive 45 minutes to the Chester A. Arthur Historic Site in Fairfield, Vermont.   There is some mystery about where Arthur was really born and the granite marker is located where their best guess is for his birthplace.  The house is a replica of what they think his boyhood home looked like and inside is a very small museum with some display boards about Arthur’s life and presidency.  The museum is only open July through mid October.   Arthur, born in 1829 in Fairfield, was the 21st President of the United States and succeeded President James A. Garfield when Garfield was assassinated.  Strangely enough, the only other president from Vermont, Calvin Coolidge, also became president when the incumbent president died in office.  Arthur served from 1881-1885 and did not have a Vice President the entire time he was president.  Our museum volunteer guide and the museum displays were open about Arthur’s early career when he was seen as a corrupt man who used his position as Collector of Customs to collect bribes and was the political puppet of New York Senator Roscoe Conkling. This political control by Conkling continued into Arthur’s vice presidency.  Less than four months after Garfield’s inauguration, he was shot.  President Garfield lingered near death for 80 days.  During that time Arthur was often accused of having something to do with Garfield’s death, reportedly causing him much anguish.  When he assumed the presidency many expected him to continue to be a political puppet of corrupt politicians.  But according to the guide, the museum displays and what I have read, the presidency seemed to bring out the best in Arthur.  As president he is known for signing the Pendleton Civil Service Act:

  • mandating that certain federal government jobs be distributed based on merit rather than political connections
  • The act also forbade workers from being fired for political reasons and prohibited compulsory political employee donations
  • The Civil Service Commission was established to enforce the law

20160724_120904He did not seek reelection due to poor health.  He died in 1886 at the age of 57 and was buried in Menands, New York.  His wife, Nell Arthur died the year before he became President.  Arthur’s sister served as the unofficial First Lady during his Presidency.
20160728_151812We enjoyed the Escapade RV rally. It was a time of fun and fellowship as well as learning new things at daily seminars. Vermont is a beautiful state. We enjoyed being in Essex Junction in the Champlain Valley of Vermont. Nearby Lake Champlain stretches 125 miles to the Canadian border. To the east are the Green Mountains and to the west are the Adirondacks. Vermont:

  • ranks 43rd in population with approximately 626,000 residents
  • was the first state to abolish slavery in its constitution
  • has the highest number of sugar maple trees in the United States
  • the largest producer of sugar maple sugar, producing about 1.3 million gallons per year, which is one third of the country’s supply.

Vermont is a very popular state to view the fall foliage.
Next stop is Glen, New Hampshire for a week.

July 18, 2016 Contoocook and Hanover, New Hampshire

We left our campground in Brookline, New Hampshire and drove a short distance to Contoocook. Along the way we drove through quaint small towns with Main Streets lined with American flags and stores and homes adorned with red, white and blue bunting from July 4th.
It was hot and we were glad to get settled into our campground. The friendly camp hosts helped us find just the right spot.
20160718_10551120160718_10554420160718_11033720160718_11035220160718_11042320160718_11064320160718_110718Monday we drove to nearby Hillsboro-ugh to visit the Franklin Pierce Homestead National Historic Landmark, the boyhood home of the 14th president. Even though it is a national landmark, it is maintained by the New Hampshire state parks. Along with the 1804 restored mansion, there was a very small Visitors Center/gift shop. The workers in the gift shop really tried to talk us into taking the admission fee tour of the home, but we are not fond of old home tours where you walk down a hallway peaking into roped off rooms. The Visitors Center had a small bust of Pierce and his sleigh. I remarked that Pierce was one of the least liked Presidents which seemed to slightly offend one of the workers, so I quickly added he was one of the least known. Perhaps he is one of the least known because he was the least popular?? Some historians say he is one of the worst presidents but I didn’t want to say something that negative to the workers. Regardless, we have the goal of learning as much as we can about all our presidents in our travels.
Franklin Pierce was president from 1853 to 1857. He was a Democrat who saw the abolitionist movement as a threat to national unity. At first the Democrats saw him as a good compromise candidate who could unite northern and southern interests. However while president some felt his policies helped push the United States into Civil War. The downfall of his presidency is attributed to his championing and signing the Kansas-Nebraska Act and enforcing the Fugitive Slave Act. The Kansas-Nebraska Act opened the territories to settlement and railroad building and repealed the ban on slavery in Kansas mandated by the 1820 Missouri Compromise which prohibited slavery north of latitude 36°30′. This new bill gave the citizens of each territory, not Congress, the right to choose whether to allow slavery and infuriated northerners. His enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Act confused people and he was seen as someone who couldn’t make up his mind and he became very unpopular. All of this confusion led antislavery Democrats and Whigs to form the new Republican party. Kansas soon became a battleground of tensions over sectional slavery. Because of what became known as “Bleeding Kansas”, Pierce was denied the Democratic presidential nomination in 1856. Instead it went to James Buchanan.
Until Kennedy, Franklin Pierce was the youngest president ever elected. His family life was tragic. He married Jane Appleton who was devoutly religious, constantly ill and despised politics which created tension in the marriage. They had three sons, all of whom died in childhood. Their youngest son died at the age of eleven when he was killed in a train accident while traveling with his parents from Boston shortly after Pierce was elected president. According to wikipedia, both Franklin and his wife suffered from severe depression after the accident which most likely affected Pierce’s performance as president. His wife avoided social functions for the first two years of his presidency. She did not attend the inauguration. Pierce chose to affirm his oath of office on a law book rather than swear it on a bible.
In his later years both his wife and author Nathaniel Hawthorne, his close friend died. Pierce drank heavily and died from severe cirrhosis of the liver in 1869 at the age of 64 with no family present.20160718_115745
20160718_112638After leaving the Pierce Homestead we explored the area, enjoying the beautiful stone and covered bridges and finding a couple geocaches.
20160719_10592920160719_105852Tuesday we drove to Concord, capital of New Hampshire since 1808. We like to visit state capitals wherever we go, however this one was a bit of a disappoint-ment because the roof was covered with scaffolding. This state house is the country’s oldest state house in which the legislature continues to meet in the original chambers.

20160719_11050120160719_112342The Memorial Arch was built in 1891 to honor New Hampshire’s soldiers and sailors.
Next we drove to the Franklin Pierce grave site in Old North Cemetery. With no directions as to where to find his grave, we wandered around a bit. Suddenly a lady hustled up the cemetery road and said she noticed us wandering around from the window of her house and wanted to know if she could help. She led us to his grave site, eagerly giving us a history of various citizens interred in the cemetery. She was very kind and helpful and we would have surely wandered for quite awhile before eventually finding his grave site in a more remote section of the cemetery.

On Wednesday we moved a short distance to Hanover, New Hampshire.  We are on our way to an RV rally in Vermont and this was a convenient p!ace to stay for a couple days on the way.  Hanover is the home of Dartmouth College.  Founded in 1769, Dartmouth is the ninth oldest college in the country and the northernmost of the eight Ivy League schools.  We drove around some areas of the beautiful campus.

20160721_115719On Thursday we drove to Windsor, Vermont to see the Windsor-Cornish Covered Bridge.  Along the way we passed through a small corner of Vermont.  Windsor is in Vermont and on the other side of the bridge is New Hampshire.  Windsor is nicknamed “The Birthplace of Vermont” and is where the state constitution was written and adopted on July 8, 1777. The general assembly met in Windsor until 1805 when Montpelier became the permanent capital.  In the 19th century Windsor was the center of invention, including firearms, the hydraulic pump, the coffee percolator and the sewing machine.  We enjoyed driving through this small, picturesque town.

20160721_114655Built in 1866 at a cost of $9,000, the Windsor-Cornish Bridge spans the Connecti-cut River between Windsor, Vermont and Corning, New Hampshire.  It is the longest WOODEN covered bridge in the United States and is the longest two span covered bridge in the world.20160721_11480620160721_11485420160721_115227  The bridge was a toll bridge until 1943.   It is featured on many New England postcards.

July 14, 2016 Boston, Mass.

On Thursday we once again drove to the Airwife station and took the subway into Boston.  Boston had the first national subway system in the nation.  With so much to see we got off at the station near the Boston Common and hit the ground running.  20160714_10014820160714_121656The Boston Common was established as the nation’s oldest public park in America by the Puritans.  Years ago cattle grazed here and British soldiers camped.  We walked up the hill to the State House built in 1798.  This hill, called Beacon Hill, is Boston’s tallest hill.  Samuel Adams and Paul Revere laid the cornerstone for the State House in 1795.  The beautiful dome on top is gilded in 23 carat gold.  Beacon Hill received its name because in the event the city was attacked, a beacon would be lighted on the hill as a symbol for help.
20160714_120326Here on Beacon Hill we caught an open air bus by Old Town Trolley.  Though pricey, it gave us a nice tour of the city, helped us orient ourselves as to what we wanted to see, and allowed us to hop on and off throughout the day which would allow for less walking.  Once we boarded the trolley it took two hours to make the loop through the city, with the driver giving a nice narration of the sites.
There was so much to see and do, it was almost overwhelming.  We got off the trolley and focused on the historical places in the city.
20160714_151927The “first school site” was where the oldest public school in America was established by Puritan settlers in 1635.  Benjamin Franklin, Samuel Adams and John Hancock all attended school here.



Old State House

The Old State House was built in 1713.  A cobblestone circle under the balcony marks the spot of the Boston Massacre in 1770 when British soldiers fired on a crowd of Bostonians, killing five. Some say the dispute began over a bar bill that led to a riot with five killed.  The  Patriots used this as propaganda to stir up anti royalist feelings.  Today the building is a museum of Boston history.  From the balcony the Declaration of Independence was first read publicly in Boston on July 18, 1776.20160714_14420320160714_143459
Old North Church, located near the Paul Revere mall, was built in 1723 and is Boston’s oldest church building. It is still an active Episcopalian church today.  On the night of April 18, 1775, Robert Newman hung two lanterns in the 191 foot steeple to warn the patriots the British were coming by sea.  At that time the church was the tallest building in Boston. Interestingly the steeple has twice been destroyed by violent storms and rebuilt.  The church was immortalized in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere”.  20160714_142538A quick side note here: we learned from the guide on our trolley that Paul Revere was married twice and had 16 children, eight children by each wife.
At the Granary Burying Ground are the graves of Paul Revere, John Hancock, Samuel Adams and the victims of the Boston Massacre.20160714_15281220160714_15323420160714_153345


The tea was dumped overboard in the river behind this building and boat

We rode by the Boston Harbor, site of the Boston Tea Party on December 16, 1773.  20160714_123100We also saw the Boston Trade Center where cruise ships dock.
20160714_115116And of course no visit to Boston is complete without riding by Fenway Park, the oldest operating MLB stadium.  In 1903 the team, known then as the Boston Americans, defeated the Pittsburgh Pirates during game eight of the first modern World Series.20160714_11495020160714_114753
20160714_111324We also rode past the location of the Cheers neighbor-hood bar which inspired the TV series.  The front entrance of the bar was used in the opening scene of the series.


Park Street Church

The Park Street Church is where the hymn “My Country Tis of Thee” was first sung publicly on July 4, 1832.
20160714_143353As we walked around the city we often followed the Freedom Trail, a brick lined path along a two and a half mile route detailing sixteen significant places and events on the road to freedom.  The Freedom Trail originated in 1951 as a way to help tourists find their way around the city and to promote tourism.  More than 1.5 million people walk the trail a year.


Faneuil Hall

We had lunch at the Quincy Market (1825) a historic market complex near Faneuil Hall (an old market building built in 1742).  Town meetings were held here and Samuel Adams and others protested taxes on the colonies at this location.  In fact so many fiery speeches denouncing British rule were delivered here that Faneuil Hall is often called “The Cradle of Liberty”.  At the top of the hall’s bell tower is a gilded copper weather vane in the shape of a grasshopper.  During the Revolutionary War, suspected spies were asked to identify the object atop Faneuil Hall.  If they couldn’t identify this easily recognizable landmark, they were convicted of espionage.  In the 1800’s Frederick Douglass and others spoke here against slavery.
20160714_164729By late afternoon we were really feeling the heat but we still had one more place to go.  We got off the trolley at the closest stop and trudged up the hill to the Bunker Hill Monument located in a section of Boston called Charlestown.  Dedicated in 1843 with a speech by Daniel Webster,  the 221 foot obelisk commemorates the first major battle of the Revolutionary War.  It is actually misnamed because the battle really took place on nearby Breed’s Hill.  Control of these hills on the Charlestown peninsula was critical to the British occupation of Boston.  The British advanced and the Patriots, being low on ammunition gave the legendary order not to shoot until they saw “the whites of their eyes”. The British won the battle but lost half of the 2,200 Redcoats fighting the battle.  The Patriots lost 400 to 600 men.  While the Patriots technically lost the war, psychologically it showed the Patriots they could stand their own against the British.
We walked back down the hill to the closest subway station and rode back to the Alewife station.  By now we were really really hot and tired.  We had parked on the 5th floor of the parking garage and it seemed to take forever for us to work our way down five floors through traffic leaving the garage.  By the time we got out on the road it was past 6:30 and some of the traffic had passed.
The only other thing we really wanted to do but ran out of time was touring the U.S.S. Constitution (Old Ironsides).  Launched in 1797, is a wooden-hulled, three-masted heavy frigate of the United States Navy, named by President George Washington after the Constitution of the United States of America and it is the oldest commissioned warship afloat in the world. It is the engagements with the British in the War of 1812 that earned it the nickname “Old Ironsides”. The 44 gun frigate had its timbers secured by bolts and copper sheathing made by Paul Revere. However it is currently in dry dock undergoing restoration until summer 2018.  Because of this, the tour times and accessibility of the ship has been significantly reduced.  We thought long and hard about going into Boston for an additional day to see it but decided against it. Between the 90+ minutes drive each way to Alewife station and the 30+ minutes each way to get to Boston on the subway, it would mean another four hours of travel time.  Not even Old Ironsides could entice us to make another trip. We will come back again.  The traffic and heat really wore us down.20160714_17094920160714_14581420160714_12083920160714_11322920160714_10543920160714_10470820160714_103825
We really liked Boston.  The city was clean and felt safe.  Walking in the footsteps of those who thought liberty was precious and worth fighting for, was simply amazing!

July 13, 2016 JFK Library & Quincy, Mass.

20160713_095821We heard lots of stories about how narrow the streets are in Boston and how bad the traffic is in the city. Parking for the day runs around $35 in the parking garages. So with all that in mind, we knew we decided to take the subway into the city. We drove to Alewife, the closest station to our campground, which in good traffic is an hour away from Boston. But with traffic it could take 90+ minutes each way just to get to the subway station. Nothing in big cities is ever easy.
20160713_10295020160713_12464420160713_111035On Wednesday we drove to Alewife which with backups took a little less than two hours to get to the subway station. We rode the subway from Alewife to the Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Columbia Point just outside of Boston. We were pleasantly surprised to see the Boston subway system is clean and easy to navigate. When we arrived at our stop we rode a free shuttle bus to the Library. The Library is in a beautiful location over-looking the water which Kennedy loved so much. His favorite boat, Victura, was on display outside. The Library was dedicated in 1979 and is the only Presidential Library in New England. President Kennedy was our 35th President of the United States of America.
20160713_112727Much like other Presidential Libraries, this one focused on Kennedy’s early years, his schooling and rise in politics, the 1960 election, and his accomplishments and challenges during his presidency. During his presidency he would give dignitaries a replica of George Washington’s sword. Kennedy’s PT 109 boat during WWII was destroyed and he inscribed a note on a coconut that summoned help for the eleven survivors.  20160713_110902Later the preserved coconut was returned to him and he kept it on his desk in the Oval Office throughout his presidency.20160713_114011
Downstairs was a special Ernest Hemingway exhibit. When Hemingway died in Idaho in 1961, a large portion of his literary and personal estate was in Cuba. Despite a ban on U. S. citizens’ travel to Cuba during the Cold War, President Kennedy facilitated the travel of Hemingway’s widow to Cuba to retrieve his belongings. She shipped crates of Hemingway’s papers and artwork on a shrimp boat back to the U.S. Hemingway’s widow decided to offer the collections to the Kennedy Presidential Library since President Kennedy was instrumental in recovering the possessions. This made the Kennedy Library the world’s principal center for research on the life and work of Ernest Hemingway.
20160713_143431We grabbed a quick and expensive lunch at the café inside the Library and then hopped back on the bus back to the subway for the ride to the town of Quincy, “the City of Presidents”. Here we would discover the town where John Adams (2nd President) and John Quincy Adams (6th President) grew up and lived.
We arrived in Quincy and first went to the small National Park Service Visitors Center conveniently located across the street from the subway station. We watched a movie about the lives of four generations of Adams. We could have taken a two hour guided tour of the inside of several homes but it was very hot and we decided to spend our time exploring the town rather than looking at furnishings in homes.
20160713_141042Everything we wanted to see was within walking distance of the subway system. We walked down to “Peace Field”, The Summer White House, home to four generations of the Adams family from 1788 to 1927, including John and John Quincy. Along the way to the house we passed a bust of John Hancock.


The Old House at Peace field, built in 1731, became the residence of the Adams family for four generations


Stone Library, built in 1873

20160713_143456We really wanted to see the grave sites of John and John Quincy because it is the only place where two presidents are buried together. They are buried, along with their wives, in a basement crypt at the United First Parish Church (completed in 1828), known as The Church of the Presidents. Outside of the church we passed statues of First Lady Abigail Adams and a young John Quincy. Across the street was a statue of John Adams which was hard to photograph because of construction in the area.20160713_14340020160713_15042220160713_150401
In order to view the crypt we were required to first listen to a tour guide talk about the history of the church and make a small donation to the church. It was dreadfully hot inside the church and we didn’t really want to listen to the guide, but we followed the elderly guide inside where we were seated in the Adams pew, where a bronze marker said it was the pew the Adams family owned and sat in. The guide did a nice job, explaining how in early times your pew position showed your wealth and importance. At that time you bought your pew in the church and even had to pay taxes on it.  John Adams and John Hancock were both baptized in the original church by Reverend Hancock, father of John Hancock.
20160713_145129The tour guide then took us down a steep flight of stairs to the cool basement where we entered a small crypt with four tombs, John Adams, Abigail Adams, John Quincy Adams and Louisa Catherine Adams. A wreath lay on the tomb of John Quincy, recently placed in honor of his birthday. The guide told us the federal government pays to have wreaths put on the graves of every President on their birthday. He also told us that John and Abigail had originally been buried in graves at the Hancock Cemetery nearby and it was John Quincy who requested they all be buried in a crypt, possibly thinking the graves would be safer from vandalism or theft. Between the small room and the heat, the flowers gave off a heavy scent reminding me of a funeral home. I think I was expecting something a little more presidential in appearance and instead it all seemed a little creepy in the small room of the church basement. During John Adam’s presidency, there were fifteen states so there were fifteen stripes and fifteen stars on the U.S. flag.  You can see this on the flag on his tomb.  At some point it was decided to change to thirteen stripes because it wouldn’t work to add a stripe for every additional state. They settled on thirteen stripes for the original thirteen colonies.  The flag on the tomb of John Quincy Adams has thirteen stripes.20160713_14514420160713_145212

As you probably already know, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were bitter enemies for many years, in part because Adams lost his presidential reelection to Thomas Jefferson.  After many years, and at the suggestion of a friend, Adams wrote Jefferson and a friendship began again between the two men.  Amazingly, both men died on July 4, 1826, the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.  Adams last words were, “Jefferson lives”, not knowing that Jefferson had died hours earlier.

By this time the heat was really getting to us and we were anxious to catch the subway back to the Alewife station and hopefully beat the traffic home. No such luck as we were caught in stop and go traffic and the drive home took over 90 minutes.
Tomorrow we are really looking forward to visiting downtown Boston!

July 11, 2016 Concord, Mass

We were apprehensive about the amount of traffic we would encounter as we left Cape Cod and the rain and fog didn’t help.  Thankfully the traffic wasn’t bad and the worst of the rain ended before we pulled out of the campground.
Our next destination was Brookline, New Hampshire about an hour from Boston.  We were grateful for an easy travel day as we pulled into our new campground.
With so much to see in this area, we headed out Monday to explore Concord, site of “the shot heard round the world”.  Concord is a really lovely little town with beautiful churches and a patriotic feel.
20160711_155215Our first stop was the Minute Man National Historic Park.  There are two Visitors Centers in the park and we wanted to visit both of them.  We stopped first at the North Bridge Visitors Center where we saw a short film.  20160711_14383420160711_143943We walked a quarter mile down to the North Bridge where “the shot heard round the world” was fired.  It is a little confusing because the first shot was actually fired in Lexington by the British at the minutemen, but the minutemen did not fire back.  Eight minutemen were killed and ten wounded.  Because the minutemen did not fire back, this was not considered the start of the war. In Concord at the North Bridge, both sides fired upon each other and thus this is the place where the war began with the shot heard around the world.  There seems to be some disagreement between Lexington and Concord as to where the war began.  What do you think?
We also learned that the correct term to use for the British is “regulars” not redcoats.  They were regular members of the King’s army.  In all our years of reading history, we had never heard them called regulars. Have you? 20160711_14255520160711_14240120160711_142753
At the North Bridge is a nice Minute Man Statue and a tall Minute Man Monument commemorating the events at this location.  There are also the graves of British soldiers, the first British to die.20160711_142838
As we traveled through the 20 miles of road with so much history, we stopped at the site of Paul Revere’s capture.  Did you know he was captured as he made his midnight ride spreading the alarm?  Revere and fellow patriot William Dawes had ridden to Lexington to warn Samuel Adams and 20160711_152245(1)20160711_15260020160711_152543John Hancock and to rouse the militia.  They were on their way to Concord and were joined by a young patriot doctor by the name of Samuel Prescott.  Revere was stopped and captured by a British patrol.  Dawes managed to escape but lost his horse and had to walk back to Lexington.  Prescott escaped and rode to Concord to continue to spread the alarm.  Paul Revere was held for an hour or two until the British were distracted when they heard the guns of the Minutemen as they approached Lexington.
On the way to the second Visitors Center we stopped at two homes.  The first, The Wayside, was where Louisa May Alcott lived as a child and was also once the home of Nathaniel Hawthorne (“The Scarlet Letter”, “The House of the Seven Gables”, etc). We also saw The Orchard House where Louisa May


Wayside House where Louisa Alcott and Nathaniel Hawthorne once lived


Orchard House

Alcott lived as an adult and wrote “Little Women”.  There was more to see in Concord than we had time for.  We didn’t have time to visit the homes of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau.
Our last stop was at the second Visitors Center where we watched the award winning presentation of “The Road to Revolution”. It was quite different in that it was a multimedia presentation with Revolutionary War props and sets located in the auditorium with us.
In the next blog we will write about our visit to Quincy, Massachusetts to learn about John Adams and John Quincy Adams. We will also tell you about our visit to the Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.

July 8, 2016 Cape Cod, Mass. Part 2

A man may stand there and put all America behind him.” Henry David Thoreau
After seven days in Sandwich we moved further east in Cape Cod to Nickerson State Park in the town of Orleans.  We only reserved two nights at this park since it was dry camping.
20160707_151108We had a lot to see in this area and a short time so we had no time to waste.  Bill wanted to visit the Chatham Marconi Maritime Center in nearby Chatham.  Here numerous exhibits and short films tells the story of Marconi’s role in the history of wireless communication.  20160707_150752

Marconi’s original 1914 TransAtlantic Wireless Receiving Station where telegrams were sent from ship to shore was on display. Exhibits showed how the U.S. Navy used the station during WWII as well as displaying a highly classified Enigma cypher machine used by the German Navy for communications.20160707_15082320160707_150109
20160709_110033On Saturday we had a busy day exploring the Cape Cod National Seashore Park and the small towns and villages in the upper part of Cape Cod.
Cape Cod National Seashore has two Visitors Centers at each end of the park and we stopped at both of them.  At the first center we toured the museum about the history of Cape Cod and saw a movie detailing how the it  was formed. Cape Cod is a glacial deposit always undergoing natural changes as water and wind move sand along the shoreline, tearing away some places and building up others. The harsh North Atlantic winters contributes to these changes which can quickly take place. Native people began living on Cape Cod about 10,000 years ago. The Pilgrims arrived here in 1620 and briefly stayed before sailing across the bay to Plymouth.
20160709_115333We then stopped at the first Marconi Station Site where the first transatlantic wireless communication was sent from President Theodore Roosevelt to King Edward VII of England. Marconi built his first towers here in 1901. As just described, the forces of nature has eroded much of this high cliff to the extent that the towers and station had to be removed. We visited the plaques and exhibits now placed a safe distance from the edge of the cliffs.20160709_114343
20160709_14025220160709_135347Next we drove to Provincetown at the end of Cape Cod.  Here we found a Pilgrim Tower to commemorate the first landing of the Pilgrims.  We then went to First Landing Park where the Pilgrims first set foot on American soil. (No, it wasn’t at Plymouth Rock).  The area wasn’t to their liking so after a short time on the cape they sailed across the bay to Plymouth.20160709_13543720160709_135310
20160709_15374520160709_153643Afterwards we drove back towards home, stopping at three more historic places.  At Corn Hill there is a plaque commem-orating the place where starving Pilgrims stumbled across a stockpile of corn the Indians had left for later use.  The plaque says the Pilgrims said they didn’t know what would have become of them if they had not found the corn. I am sure hungry Indians were not happy to find the corn missing and we read that the Pilgrims later paid restitution to the Native Americans.
20160709_164611Next was Encounter Beach.  Here a plaque commemorates the place where the Pilgrims and Native Americans first encountered each other.  Bill and I both love historical places like this.
Our last stop of the day, very close to home was Nauset Beach.  It is here at Nauset Beach in Orleans, Mass. that a German submarine fired on a tug, four unarmed barges and sank them during WWI.

20160709_173258Nauset Beach is the only place on American soil attacked during WWI.
At several of the historical sites we visited today we found geocaches. What fun!
I mentioned in an earlier blog about meeting Bob and Sue during our trip to Europe and the wonderful afternoon we spent at a cookout at their house.  Our good luck continued since it turned out Sue’s mother and stepfather live 5 minutes from Nickerson State Park where we were staying.  So Friday night we went to Earl and Bea’s house and had a delicious dinner and were able to spend more time with Bob and Sue.  A great time was had by all!  We could get use to this!
Next stop: Boston area.  Can’t wait for more history coming up!!


July 6, 2016 Martha’s Vineyard, Mass

20160706_085104Visiting Martha’s Vineyard is an all day under-taking (and not cheap), so we left home at 7:00 AM to catch the ferry at nearby Woods Hole.  We left the car at the parking lot provided by 20160706_082126the ferry company ( for $15 a day) and were taken by shuttle bus to the ferry.  Due to the high cost of taking a car on the ferry, we decided to take public transportation on the island.  Ferry tickets are $17 per person round trip so we bought the tickets and boarded the ferry which we 20160706_082226discovered was brand new.  We enjoyed the 45 minutes across Nantucket Sound and arrived at the town of Oak Bluffs.  We bought a day pass for the public bus around the island for $8.00 per person, quite a bit cheaper than the almost $100 to bring the car.
20160706_14033720160706_14045620160706_140310Martha’s Vineyard is 100 square miles of mostly wooded land with six small villages made up of  pricey homes, shops and restaurants.  A third of the island is undeveloped conservation land. Approximately 17,000 people live year round on Martha’s Vineyard with the population swelling to more than 100,000 during the summer.  There are no traffic lights, no fast food restaurants and no chain stores.  Outdoor lighting is kept to a minimum to better enjoy the night sky. The homes of the rich and famous are behind gated compounds and not visible to tourists.  The beaches are the most popular feature of Martha’s Vineyard.  It is interesting to note that Massachusetts allows private ownership of beaches so not all beaches are public.20160706_102716
20160706_100852We first explored Oak Bluffs, built between 1867 and 1872 after its first beginnings amid the oak trees as a Methodist revival meeting place. It is the first island town to have electricity, movies, a skating rink, a carousel, a bowling alley, a dance hall, telephones, cars and airplanes.  While exploring Oak Bluffs we found Flying Horses, a carousel built in 1876 and moved from Coney Island to Martha’s Vineyard in 1884, making it the oldest operating platform carousel in the country.  It is registered as a National Historical Landmark.  There are 22 wooden horses with real horsehair tails.  20160706_10162320160706_101632We then found a geocache and while headed to the bus stop we came across a small park with a statue of a Union Civil War soldier placed by a Confederate soldier from Virginia who settled on Martha’s Vineyard after the war.  At first he was shunned by the locals for being a Confederate soldier but later was accepted and became an active member of the community.  He placed this statue to show his support for the United States.

20160706_110231We waited in line for the bus to the next town.  The temper-ature was climbing and waiting in lines in the hot sun was starting to get to us.  We found the buses to and from Oak Bluffs were very crowded with people often having 20160706_105934to stand.  Making it even more uncom-fortable was the fact the buses were not air con-ditioned and the windows could not be fully opened.  Along the way we passed the popular Jaws Bridge where scenes were filmed for the movie “Jaws”.
20160706_142346Our next stop was Edgartown, the island’s oldest European settlement and once an important whaling center.  Edgartown and nearby Vineyard Haven are the principal commercial centers of the island.  Edgartown was founded in 1642 and underwent a building boom from 1830 to 1845, the golden era of whaling, when profits from whaling and trade with China brought huge fortunes to the island.  We learned many roofs of homes in this area have platforms known as widow walks which were really used as perches from which to pour sand down chimneys in case of fire.20160706_150059

After lunch we decided to continue exploring the outer reaches of the island by bus.  We ended up in Aquinnah on the far tip of the island.  Knowing how long the bus ride would be back to the ferry, we decided to head back.  We had hoped to stop at a cemetery to see the grave of John Belushi, but if we got off the bus we would have to wait an hour for the next bus and we decided we didn’t have the time.  John Belushi loved Martha’s Vineyard so much his family decided to bury him there.
We had to change buses in the town of Vineyard Haven and by the time the bus reached us, it was standing room only and very crowded.  It was further complicated by roadwork on a bridge which slowed the bus down to one lane.  We finally reached Oak Bluffs where the line waiting for the 3:15 ferry seemed endless.  We went in the ferry office to buy our return ticket back to Woods Hole.  The ticket seller told us the 3:15 ferry was sold out AND because of a ferry accident there would be no more ferries leaving Oak Bluffs the rest of the day.  Our only choice was to catch the bus back to Vineyard Haven and hope to get on the 5:00 ferry to Woods Hole.  So we went back outside and waited in the hot sun in the long line for the standing room only bus down the one lane road in heavy traffic back to Vineyard Haven.  Thankfully we were able to get two tickets to Woods Hole and not wanting to take any chances on not getting on the ferry, we took our place in line early.  We stood an hour in the blazing July sun for the ferry.  By the time 20160706_165537the ferry began loading, the line stretched far in the distance and a loud speaker was telling people beginning to get impatient not to worry, that it was a large capacity ferry and everyone would get on.
We had an uneventful trip back to Woods Hole.  Now all we had to do was find a shuttle bus back to our car.  Us and hundreds of other tired, hot people.  Luckily we made it on the first bus though once again we had to stand.  A minor rant here.  I don’t consider myself too old and thankfully not handicapped, but it did surprise me that on the four buses where I had to stand and in some cases really had to hang on for some distances, there were many teenagers and young people who never once offered me their seat.  I must say it surprised and disappointed me, both for the young people who didn’t know better or didn’t care, and the parents who sat there and didn’t teach their children more respect.  Only one gentleman who appeared to be in his 50’s offered me his seat which I declined after thanking him.
We finally made it back to the car, tired, hot and dehydrated.  In spite of it all we enjoyed our day on Martha’s Vineyard and were glad we went.  However next time I think we will visit Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard in the fall when it is cooler and the crowds have left!

July 1, 2016 Cape Cod, Mass. Part 1

20160707_153640We left Sturbridge, Massachusetts and headed to our campground at Sandwich, Massachusetts on Cape Cod.  We knew it was the Friday of a long holiday weekend so we left Sturbridge early to beat the traffic.  All was good until we were about two miles from the Sagamore Bridge from the mainland onto the Cape.  It took us an hour in stop and go traffic to get across the bridge.  We were glad to arrive at our campground in Sandwich and get set up.
20160707_120526Sandwich was incorpo-rated in 1638 and is the oldest town on Cape Cod. While in Sandwich we visited the Cape Cod Canal Visitors Center.  The canal is an artificial waterway connecting Cape Cod Bay to Buzzards Bay and is part of the Atlantic Intra-coastal Waterway.  The seven mile long canal moves along the narrow neck of land joining Cape Cod to the mainland.  It is approximately 480 feet wide and 32 feet deep, cutting off 65-166 miles of coastal travel around the tip of the Cape.  Another benefit of the canal was no longer having to sail around the treacherous outer shores of Cape Cod.  At the height of the commercial shipping era from 1880 to 1900 there was nearly one shipwreck every week.   Approximately 14,000 people use the canal yearly.
It was interesting to learn that in1623, Miles Standish of the Plymouth Colony scouted the land for a potential canal route but the idea was too much for the settlers to consider.  Then in 1697 the General Court of Massachusetts considered the first formal proposal to build a canal but no action was taken.  More energetic planning with surveys took place in 1776 with George Washington but none of these actions was completed.
Commercial construction began in 1909, it was first open to vessel traffic in 1914, and has been operated by the Army Corps of Engineers since 1928.  It is designed to be a sea level waterway and is operated 24 hours a day, toll free.  There are no locks even though it connects two bays with very different tidal cycles and ranges.  Two highway bridges and one railway bridge cross the canal from the mainland to the Cape.  During World War I 20160707_120448the canal was used to move shipments when German sub-marines were off the coast of Cape Cod. We enjoyed touring the Visitors Center with their friendly volunteer, movie about the building of the Canal, and numerous exhibits. As a side note, Bill met and talked with some people later in the day who grew up and live on the Cape and they think the canal is too expensive to maintain and keep running and it should be filled in.

20160703_16083120160703_14114420160703_141039On our trip to Europe a couple months ago we met Bob and Sue, a couple who live near Cape Cod.  When they learned we would be visiting their area this summer, they invited us to stop by and visit.  On Sunday we were invited to a cookout at their home.  We had a great time meeting Sue’s mom and step-father, some of their friends and neighbors and of course their adorable bulldog Stella.  Thanks Bob and Sue!!

Another day we drove 34 miles along beautiful, scenic Route 6A (Old King’s Highway), passing through quaint towns and villages. Centuries ago the Route was a Native American Trail and then as Colonial settlements grew, this route became an extension of the Plymouth Colony and later a major route for Cape Cod. Route 6A ranks among the top scenic byways in the country. One thing that struck us was how patriotic all of Cape Cod looked for the Fourth of July holiday with so many homes and businesses displaying red, white and blue buntings and flags. Back in the days of the early settlers the wealthy merchants and sea captains did not covet waterfront property like people do today, so most of the older homes are along this highway rather than the shoreline. Needless to say the area has strict town codes and many efforts have been made to preserve these old homes. It is the newer homes you see along the waterfront.
20160705_13212320160705_12350620160705_12194320160705_12192020160705_13004720160705_13205220160705_14331820160705_143326Cape Cod is divided into fifteen towns, and within those towns are villages. For example Hyannis is a village in the town of Barnstable.
We stopped in the village of Hyannis to visit the JFK Hyannis Museum. This is not the Kennedy Presidential Library but a small museum focusing on the Kennedy family and their time on Cape Cod.
We stopped by the JFK Memorial at Veteran’s Beach. While there we looked for a geocache at the nearby Korean Memorial. We quickly discovered a young couple from Germany were also hunting for the same geocache so we had fun finding it together!
We took pictures in picturesque Wychmere Harbor, one of the most photographed places on the Cape.
The town of Yarmouth is the Cape’s second oldest town with more than 600 buildings of historic architectural significance. At one time more than fifty sea captains had homes in Yarmouth and a one mile stretch of road was known as Captain’s Row. In South Yarmouth we found an eight sided windmill. The windmill was built in 1791 in North Dennis on Cape Cod by Judah Baker to grind corn. In 1886 it was moved to South Yarmouth. Since 1953 the town of Yarmouth has been responsible for the windmill. It has undergone extensive restoration but still contains the original mechanical equipment. It is located in a beautiful setting near the Bass River adjacent to Nantucket Sound.

Our next blog posting will be about our day on Martha’s Vineyard.20160707_16101320160707_16113920160707_15375720160707_153705