Tuesday, July 31, 2012

What's in a name?

When you think of "witches", what's a location that comes to mind? Salem MA! Salem's full of them...or rather stories about them. There is no shortage of "haunts" to visit and hear (again and again) about the witch trials of 1692. They certainly make use of it in everything to see, eat & do there! ...but it was fun. We actually only took in one "attraction" regarding the famous witches, and spent the rest of the day enjoying Salem's harbor and other historical sites. The house that "The House of Seven Gables" was written by a hometown guy, Nathaniel Hawthorn. He often visited with the owners of the house he used in his book. Both his home and the one of "Seven Gables" we toured.

They also have a great harbor there, as this was Salem's main source of income in those long ago days. They even had a small lighthouse, lucky me!

It was just a leisurely day walking the small town, enjoying the various buildings & museums. A "must stop", but with more of a "chuckle" than a "wow".

If you wish to view the rest of the photos from this trip, you can at my Flickr account at:http://www.flickr.com/photos/74905158@N04/

...on the road in New England, Marie

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Lost treasures...

There's an old saying "that you can't go home again", that bears truth. When I was 12 & a half (as kids say), I went with my Mother and her new husband to live in Lowell MA for about 15 months. That was a formidable time for me. We arrived in winter, with everything covered in snow, to stay with my Grandparents. My Grandparents were both French and living in a part of Lowell that the whole community was French Canadian, so my Grandmother never bothered to learn English, and my Grandfather only broken English. I didn't know French, so "communication" with them was a bit difficult at best. School wasn't very far from their home, but everything looked the same to me, all covered with snow, so I kept getting lost. I finally made a friend who would walk with me, breaking off ice cycles to suck along the way.

I loved my Grandparent's home. It was big, and my room had a feather bed that when I woke up in the morning, I was engulfed by the feathers like a cocoon. It also had an old roll top desk that allowed me to put "treasures" in all the nooks and drawers. The yard outside was the best tho, her back yard was a big vegetable garden along with all kinds of berry bushes, while the very large side yard had fruit trees, lots of flowers and a small pond that had a little bridge over it. My Grandmother would hand me a small bucket and shoosh me out the back door to pick berries that she would then bake into a pie. They also had a great cellar. Half was for my Grandmother's canned goods & pickle barrels, while the other half was my Grandfather's (what we now call a"Man Cave"). He had a shuffleboard & darts, but what was best of all, he collected smoking pipes and had them from floor to ceiling along the walls. He had big over-stuffed chairs and would sit down there and drink and smoke. I loved the smell, and to this day, whenever I step into a cellar, I flash back to my Grandparent's.

After a few months, we moved closer to the city where my Mom worked in one of the mills. She had worked there as a young girl, in the days when girls had to quit school by the 9th grade and go to work in the mills. This time, she worked where they made sweaters and did assembly work, sewing buttons. Looking back, I realize that we had moved to a pretty poor area of Lowell, in their "row houses". Ours backed up to the Merrimack River and I spent many an hour wandering it and sitting under the trees. I made friends with a small group of other "latch-key kids" (even tho that term hadn't been created yet) and received my very first kiss on my 13th birthday! Some pretty dangerous things happened while we lived there and I think my Mom decided it wasn't safe enough for me, so we moved once again, to what I thought was "the country"! Dracut, is actually just next to Lowell, but it felt and looked like a whole other world. When we went house-hunting, we looked at one that was two stories with a big staircase in the front hall, and a small one that lead directly into the kitchen (for servants?). I thought it was really cool. It also came with an upright piano, that was the "selling factor" for me! I begged my Mom to rent this one, and much to my delight, they did. She also got me piano lessons; not that they did me much good.

Months later, I left Massachusetts and returned to California; never to return again. While I was there, I was able to get to know some of my Aunts, Uncles and Cousins; and for years corresponded with them. Then, years later, my Grandparents died, first my Grandfather, then only weeks later, my Grandmother. When my Mother flew back (she had since moved out of Massachusetts as well) for the funeral, she and her brother got into quite an argument. This caused a rift in our family and my relatives stopped keeping in touch with me. I continued to reach out to them, explaining that this was between my Mom and my Uncle, and had nothing to do with me, but to no avail.

A number of years ago, while stationed in Rhode Island, my brother stopped by my Grandparent's home and learned that our Cousin was living there with his family. They visited for just a little bit, as my Cousin was on his way out to attend a wedding. They never talked again.

Well, here we are in Massachusetts, so I decided to go to Lowell and see if I can find any traces of them, or at least see my Grandparent's home one last time. So that's what we did.

I've always remembered my Grandparent's address, so finding the location was easy. The hard part was seeing that it had been torn down, yards gone, and a plain tri-plex had been built in it's place. It was for sale. No use knocking on that door. I just kept staring, not believing what I was seeing. The whole street, the whole neighborhood was old, tired, and run down. Many of the old buildings gone. Afterward, Jack suggested we go find the school. We didn't have to much difficulty and found it pretty quickly (much faster than I did at 12!). It looked so small! When I went there, it seemed so big! It too, looked old and tired. Well, that found, it gave me hope we would be able to track down my other two homes! Nope. No such luck. After driving around and around, I pretty much put together that the row houses had been torn down and a highway was now where they once were. No luck in Dracut either.

That settled, we decided to check out the mills. Many were torn down, some still needed to be, some turned into artist lofts and one large one turned into a museum. We went to the museum where I learned about how tough a "mill girl's" life had been. One of those girls had been my Mother at age 15. When we moved from Lowell to Dracut, it was probably because she lost her job, as that was when the very last mill closed it's doors for good.

I had the chance to talk with a gentleman who has lived in Lowell his whole life. I shared my story with him and he shared that many of the "old neighborhoods" were gone, that even what once was one of the largest communities (French Canadian) had dissipated and now the largest group is Cambodian. The movie theater I had walked to, gone, the church we went to, gone, stores we went to, now something different. The Lowell I knew was no more.

I left Lowell feeling very sad for all the lost treasures...of relations as well as a since of my own history. I now know what Thomas Wolfe meant...and now must move on and only look forward...

If you wish to view the rest of the photos from this trip, you can at my Flickr account at:http://www.flickr.com/photos/74905158@N04/

...on the road in New England, Marie

Monday, July 16, 2012

One if by land...Two if by sea...

As with most folks, I believe, when I think of Boston, I can't help but think of all the incredible history that lies at it's shore. Jack nor I had ever visited Boston, so this was going to be an exciting day. We were all prepared to "walk the red line"(Freedom Trail) and see, hear and touch history!

The day started out a bit overcast, which we thought would be a good sign that it wasn't going to be "to hot". Deciding which day to do the visit, we opted for Saturday over Friday, hoping that would mean less traffic. No such luck. A planned 30 min. trip took twice that long, most of it at 5 mph. First stop (only fitting), was the USS Constitution! Now, those of you that know me well, know that I don't like to carry a purse, and whenever possible, I strike out with only money & keys in my pockets and my camera around my neck. True to form, this is what I did on this day...only to be asked at the ship's boarding area, to produce my "ID Card" for entry. Oops, none on me. I sent Jack ahead and I took a few pictures from the dock and headed into the gift store (of course)! I wasn't there long before Jack found me, and explained that the wait for the tour was more than an hour, so "forget it!". Okay then. So after my purchase, we headed to their museum. THAT was great! Lots of displays and hands on activities.

As we left the museum, we quickly realized that the cloud cover had burned off, and the temperature was now in the mid 90's with as much humidity! Ugh, this Californian still hasn't gotten used to that, so we opted to do a "hop-on-hop-off tour instead of the "walking" one we had planned! With open-air windows and even a harbor cruise included, that sounded like the way to "see it all" a bit more coolly. Bought our tickets and headed for lunch on the waterfront! Lunch was okay, but I was anxious to "start my history tour!"

As we toured the city, stopping to see the requisite sites of the Old North Church, Boston Common, King's Chapel & Bury Ground, Old State House and visiting the graves of John Hancock, Paul Revere, Samuel Adams, etc; I couldn't help but notice all the gorgeous architecture throughout the city. Blending the old with the new on every block. I found myself looking up more than looking down, in awe of all the "black lace" (ironwork), English architecture, tall steeples & golden domes, bowed fronts, windows framed by blind arches, balustrade roof lines with cupolas, Frederick style with Victorian and then the additions of the new contemporary buildings like the glass-sided John Hancock Tower and the breathtaking Zakim/Bunker Hill Bridge. All so beautiful, I found myself taking more pictures of that, than I did of "history"!

Either way, I learned a lot and both Jack and I enjoyed ourselves as we got to see, hear and touch history!

If you wish to view the rest of the photos from this trip, you can at my Flickr account at:http://www.flickr.com/photos/74905158@N04/

...on the road in New England, Marie

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

H2o weekend in Connecticut

A quick weekend stop in Mystic Connecticut lent itself to exploring "all things around water"!

Our first night there, we took a walk along the Mystic River, walking across the interesting Mystic River Bascule Bridge. We got to watch it's exposed cement counterweights lift the drawbridge sky-high while tall boats pass under. Quite a sight to behold, I must admit! A dinner "must" was to test out the pizza at the famous "Mystic Pizza" shop. Julia Robert's character wasn't wrong, it was some of the best pizza we've eaten! Nice to know that some legends are real.

The next day was New London's Sailfest that included the "Tall Ships" sailing into port. So, we headed into that town to check it all out. Now, the ships were due into port at 11am. We got there at 10:45, found a great parking spot (lucky for us)and dashed onto one of the piers in fear that "we might be late". Food vendors were up and cooking away, merchandise vendors were ready, Coast Guard & local police all doing their jobs, everyone and everything was ready...and waiting. Wait, we all did, for hours! The temperature was in the 90's with as much humidity. People were holding sun umbrellas, fans, cold cloths, while volunteers past out water, anything to help with the heat. Finally, 2 hours late, we saw the first ship come around the bend. It was the Coast Guard "Eagle" leading, with the Navy following behind. No other ships were in view. It seems that each one was about a half hour behind the next. After a couple of pictures, we called it a day. To darned hot to stick around. I have to admit, having lived in San Diego where these types of events are put on frequently, spoiled us. San Diego's have hundreds of vendors (they only had a few dozen), and is so much more organized...we just kept telling ourselves that this is a small town and not to judge it harshly. We tried.

We decided to go and check out their lighthouses. There were two in New London. One is very small, perched out in the water, while the other is on "private property". Being a lighthouse, it's not hard to snap a picture without ever having to go into some one's property! Must be interesting to live in a house that has a lighthouse next to it!

The last day we headed to Groton to see the USS Nautilus Submarine. This was on Jack's "must see" list, so he had really been looking forward to it for some time. This 1952 historic ship was the first nuclear powered submarine. It made the first crossing of the North Pole by ship in 1958. The museum had a number of exhibits, stories and a film about submarines as well as the opportunity to board the Nautilus and see for yourself what it was like aboard this small ship.

From there, it was onto Essex for a Steam Train & Riverboat Tour! We arrived just in the nick of time to board the train before she headed into the Connecticut River Valley for her 12 mile long ride. It is always so much fun to sit in one of these historic old trains, listening to the click-clack along the rails, the squeaks & groans and the wonderful sound of the horn blast letting folks know "we're a 'commin!" The train arrives at the Deep River Landing where we all boarded the Becky Thatcher Riverboat for an 1 1/2 hour cruise down the Connecticut River. We slowly glided by big beautiful homes (mansions, really), yachts, kayakers, an Opera House, a school for wayward boys, and a castle. Boat cruise done and we headed back to the train station once again. A truly lovely way to spend an afternoon.

But that wasn't all. We had worked up an appetite, since the last thing we had eaten was a bowl of cereal that morning. This called for an early dinner, and our first opportunity to have a real "lobster dinner"! Delicious to the last bite!

Tummies full, and still daylight, we struck out to see another lighthouse, this one in Stonington. It is a really unusual one, quaint & built out of stones! Built in 1840 using stones from an earlier lighthouse that had been threatened by erosion from the sea. Afterward, we came across the Stonington Cemetery (c1849). What caught my eye was this very large Gothic style Mausoleum. Wow. It turned out to be for the Billings' family (whoever they were). There was an additional Gothic style building, smaller, that we later found out was the original "Receiving Tomb" for funeral ceremonies. It seems that in the early 1800s, people treated cemeteries as "rural gardens" to visit and socialize in. Hm mm, things have changed a bit since then... Afterward, we turned another corner and came across an adorable fire boat up on stanchions. It looks a lot like a tug boat, which is my most favorite kind of boat ever!

We jammed in a lot those two & half days, making for a very fun stop. We might not have spent much time in Connecticut, but we saw a lot!

If you wish to view the rest of the photos from this trip, you can at my Flickr account at:http://www.flickr.com/photos/74905158@N04/

...on the road in New England, Marie

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Color our world fun!

As you have probably figured out, Jack and I love "factory tours". It's so much fun to see how things are made, what goes into it, American pride & resources. We have a book Watch It Made In The USA, that we frequently open and see if a factory tour is in our path of driving from here to there.

We've even been known to drive two hours to get to one - our recent trip to West Chester PA to the QVC Studios, being one example.

While visiting Jack's sister, I saw that the QVC Studios weren't to far away, and since the family was working that day, why not go check it out?

Now, I'm really not a QVC shopper - actually haven't even watched it but for a minute here or there on my way to finding a channel. So what, that's no reason not to go see them!

It was fun! We got a great tour of their TV studios - all 17 sets of them. Saw a cute "bloopers" film, met a hostess and got to ask a lot of questions. At the end, we shopped in their store, but I only got a pen & post cards...I'm just not into their type of merchandise, I guess.

When we left Kathy & Bob's, we purposely headed towards Easton PA where the Crayola Factory and Martin's Guitars are made.

Who doesn't like to color? Checking the web to make sure of the times and directions we learned that the Crayola Factory is open daily from 9-5. Unfortunately, Martin Guitar's closed shop for the week (nice for the employees, not so nice for us). Oh well, more time to play with crayons!

It was a blast! There are 4 floors at "The Crayola Experience". Each level has different activities showcasing their various products. For the "factory" portion, they have a theater that shows the process on large TV screens and a person demonstrating. As he creates crayons & markers, he hands the "freshly made" to everyone. Cheers were heard all around!

The best part was the shopping! With 6 grandchildren, that's the kind of shopping I get into! We grabbed the large shopping bag and s l o w l y made our way around the store. So many choices, so many things I never even knew existed! With a very full shopping bag, we checked out and went to find lunch - shopping works up quite an appetite! The day was topped off with one of the best salads I've ever had. Take all the things you like about "Buffalo wings", switching strips of breast meat for the wing part, toss them together with lettuce, tomatoes and French fried onion rings (the kind you buy in a can), mix blue cheese dressing with a little (more) of that Buffalo sauce and you have a great "Buffalo Chicken Salad"! Yum! A wonderful way to end the visit to Easton PA.

If you wish to view the rest of the photos from this trip, you can at my Flickr account at:http://www.flickr.com/photos/74905158@N04/

...kicking back in Pennsylvania, Marie

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Family Fun!

One of the challenges of living the "RV Life" is that it's pretty much done alone. 24 hours a day, it's just Jack and I. Now, don't get me wrong, I love my husband and enjoy his company (thank goodness!) but sometimes it's nice to converse with someone different! Most of the time, chatting with "neighbors" isn't but a quick sentence or two, and then they & us continue on our way.

Seeing the (new to us) country everyday adds to our conversations and activities, so I'm not (really) complaining here. Merely an observation, ;-)

These past two weeks have been an exception - we've been visiting with family! Jack is originally from Pennsylvania, and his cousin and sister still live here. It's been years in-between visits, so there was much to catch up on and enjoy together.

Cousin John and his family live in Somerset PA. It's quite a lovely town, small but big enough to have food and activity variety. John and Linda took time off to show us around, feed us and talk with us. "Talking" is a wonderful thing - one that most of us take for granted and don't think much about. But take it away, and boy, you notice it! What lovely conversations we had, and about so many different topics! They have two delightful kids who are going into & are in college that added to the mix.

John & Linda made sure that we saw all that this area had to offer! We went to the Flight 93 Memorial that plays tribute to all those brave passengers during the 9/11 catastrophe. It is not complete yet, but still very moving and well done. We also visited the Museum for the Johnstown Flood that happened in May of 1889. Not to keep with "sad subjects" we were whisked off to view the Horseshoe Curve for the Pennsylvania Railroad. Both Jack and I love anything that has to do with trains, so this was quite fun to see. We even got to ride the Funicular up to the top of the hill (& back). What a hoot!

On our own, we visited Fallingwater, one of Frank Lloyd Wright's most famous homes. It's well taken care of by the Conservancy and quite beautiful to visit. We took lovely drives all around Laural Highlands County and enjoyed seeing unique barns, gorgeous woods and even a couple of covered bridges! We even got to tease their daughter as she waited on us at the restaurant she works at! We really enjoyed this visit and plan to return in September en route back "home" (California).

Jack's "baby sister" lives in Camp Hill PA, which is just outside of Harrisburg. Their three grown children live nearby, two with families of their own. The youngest, Ben, just got a job working for the very new casino Live! which actually is in Baltimore MD, as a "Compliance Manager". We had the opportunity to visit him and have lunch together at Live! It's quite the casino, as it has NO dealers of any kind of game! Every game, and they do have all the standards, is automated! They are still working on the "addition" which will include some dealers as well as entertainment. Very cool. We spent one day visiting Gettysburg together. Bob had been a number of times, so was a great host in taking us to all the "important" areas - as one could actually spend days & days there (which we didn't choose to do). Very impressive. They have a new Visitor's Center that shows a film, telling the story of what happened, as well as a great diorama. It also has rooms and rooms of terrific exhibits and stories. I felt "very educated" on the subject after we left! ;-)

While here, we took ourselves to see how QVC is broadcast. They have a great behind- the-scenes tour that included watching the live show, a cute "bloopers" film and even got to meet a "hostess". We did, however, escape from buying anything beyond postcards, from their on site store! We spent a little time visiting Harrisburg and had a lovely lunch along the docks.

All that said, the very best part was just being with family! Phone calls and e mails are great, but there really isn't anything like the "real thing"- visiting, talking and warm hugs!

If you wish to view the rest of the photos from this trip, you can at my Flickr account at:http://www.flickr.com/photos/74905158@N04/

...kicking back in Pennsylvania, Marie