Tooling Around the Northeast, 29 July – 06 August 2016

Last week we took a driving tour around parts of the Northeast.  We drove 1093 miles over eight days.  Photos from our vacation are here on Google+.

We left OKC Friday evening (29 July). We had an airline Charlie-Fox right off the bat. The ground crew got us boarded and completely ready to go 10 min before departure (very cool). The pilot reported that the fuel guy loaded 1,000 lbs too much on the airplane. We sat for a while, and then the pilot announced that it would take to long to get the fuel guy back to defuel, and it would be faster to sit near the runway and burn it off (that’s REALLY strange to hear). We say there for 20+ minutes, then the pilot says they have a brake temp warning light, so we have to taxi back and have maintenance look at it.

We go back, but there is only one ground crew in OKC, and the airplane in the gate is having a maintenance issue, so we wait 20 minutes before they push back. In the meantime, the LAX-OKC EMB 175 has come in, and is waiting behind us. We finally get there, the maintenance guy agrees the brakes are not on fire, they sign out, and we head out again. AA booked us on a later flight, but we get into BOS at 1250, and to the hotel in Providence at 0230, and in bed about 0300.

A note here: we had a sail around Newport harbor scheduled for Saturday morning, I sent an email to the folks there (Classic Cruises of Newport) right before bed, and they changed us to the 1230 Monday cruise, which was darn nice of them. We slept until almost 1000.

After dragging out of bed, we headed to downtown Providence and visited the Rhode Island School of Design museum. They have an impressive collection of art from names I know, including an interesting piece by Rodan. The museum is connected to the Pendelton House, which has a lot of Revolutionary War era stuff in it.

After the museums, we headed towards NYC. We stopped in Milford and checked into our hotel, then headed to NYC. I wrote a blog post about driving there.

While Raegan saw Phantom of the Opera on Broadway, Erin and I just wandered around the Times Square area.  It was raining (occasionally pretty hard) while we were there, and it wasn’t quite as crowded as it was last year, but there was still a huge amount of life and elan around us.

Once Phantom was over, we headed back to the hotel, arriving around 0100.  We were now working on one loooong day, less than six hours sleep, then another looong day.  We woke up at 0900, getting a decent recharge, and headed out to Mystic.

We hit the Mystic Aquarium and spent a couple hours there.  I was not as impressed with this aquarium as some others.  While I enjoyed seeing the beluga whales, I liked seeing the rescue area (which was mainly populated by exceptionally cute baby harbor seals), and the couple of sea lions.  I was less than impressed by the one display area.  There was a “pet the shark” area, kind of cool.  The jellyfish exhibit was also very neat.  But it just seemed to me that there was a lot that was lacking.  A physically large part of the aquarium was a swampy area that was filled with lilypads, and had turtles (must have been on vacation that day 🙂 ), small frogs, and bullfrogs (very cool).  At the end of the swamp was a penguin area.  We ended our visit at the stingray “petting” area, where Erin and I were approached by a couple rays.

Afterward, we went down to the Seaport area and wandered around for several hours.  At one point, the drawbridge opened to let a couple ships through, very cool.  We drove the coast route back towards Groton, and drove down to Noank to look at the ocean from in front of some very expensive houses.  We had dinner in Groton, then checked into our hotel, and crashed early.

Monday was a big day.  We headed towards Newport, and part of the drive was through the beautiful woods between I-95 and RI 4.  The big Claiborne Pell Bridge over the Narragansett Bay is very impressive. As I mentioned before, we had moved our sail to Monday, and we arrived at the boarding area early (for us, a minor miracle).  We sailed on the Madeline, a 72-ft trimast schooner.  I *love* the schooner and sloop form, it’s very flowing and sleek.  The folks at Classic Cruises put on a wonderful sail.  The breeze was about 15 knots out of the SE, and when those big sails got filled, the boat accelerated nicely.   We had several heels in the 30deg range.  The breeze was fresh, the crew very nice, and the sail absolutely relaxing.  We didn’t get quite as far out to the ocean as I would have hoped, but it was a great experience:


After the sail, we had lunch and visited some of the shops in the harbor area.  Then we drove to the coast, passing some amazing, large houses south of downtown.  We drove around the coast and all the way to Fort Adams, then stopped and waded in the ocean for a while.

From Newport, we drove up the east side of Narragansett Bay towards Providence.  We stopped for dinner SE of town, and then headed on into the Boston/Norwood area for the next phase of the trip.

Tuesday and Wednesday were work days for me, so we had activities in the evening that mainly involved shopping.  I found some pretty interesting robotics kits and parts/supplies at a hobby shop in Dedham, and visited an Eastern Mountain Sports to buy a hiking trail map of the White Mountain National Forest.  We also hit an REI, and Raegan and Erin visited the Boston Museum of Fine Art, an amazing museum.

We tried to visit the Blue Mountain Observatory, supposedly the oldest continuously operating weather observatory in the United States.  I noted on their website they were open until 1630, and that was enough time for a quick visit.  We got there, and I was surprised that the road to drive up to the observatory was not open to private vehicles.  I noticed in the parking lot just to the west the sign that said you needed to walk up the road.  Note:  I submitted a correction to Google, as Maps shows the road as drivable.

Regardless, Erin and I walked up there.  It’s just about a mile, and a couple hundred feet of altitude gain, but it was easy for us.  We got up there and saw nice views to the south, northwest, and north.  But… the observatory was closed.  A sign there noted that it was open weekends.  Well, crap.  We walked all around it, petted a couple dogs a couple had brought up, and then we decided to walk back down.  We went back down the road, and decided to walk over to the ski area just a bit down the road, and ended up at the top of the ski lift.  After checking all that out, we walked down the ski slope, and then over to the parking lot.

There was a Massachusetts Audubon Society Blue Hills Trailside on the way.  It has exhibits on the local environment, and displays of rescued animals.

Thursday we got up and checked out of the hotel, and headed northwest towards New Hampshire. My intent was to leave early enough to be able to hike in the Franconia State Park area, but that didn’t work out.

We got to Manchester and visited the Lawrence L. Lee Scouting Museum, which is located at Camp Carpenter, a council facility just southeast of Manchester. The Museum as a lot of vintage uniforms, handbooks, patches, and gear. I was fascinated by the backpacking baskets they had (people actually used them!). The docent was amazingly knowledgeable. We also visited the Scout Shop and I scored a Wood Badge patch.

We drove a sorta roundabout path from Manchester to Concord, then to Lebanon, and north on 91 until we got to 301, where we cut across the corner to Littleton. Tomorrow, we hike.

Friday, Erin and I got up and drove to Franconia Notch State Park.  I-93 is two lanes through here.  We got to the park about 1000, and found every parking lot full of cars.  We parked on the shoulder of I-93 and walked underneath to the east side.  We hiked about 1,000 ft up the Falling Waters trail, marveling at the beautiful waterfalls.  It was hottish and fairly humid.

After the hike we drove back into Littleton, and the three of us had lunch, drove back to the Park, and walked around the Flume Gorge area.

Then we drove down I-93 to Tripoli Road and drove through the White Mountain National Forest.  There were a huge number of campsites along the road!  Many of them were occupied.  We rejoined civilization at Waterville Valley, then drove back to I-93 to our hotel in Manchester.  We tooled around Manchester for a bit, then got up the next morning and flew back to OKC.

This was a nice trip.  Aside from work days, and the flight situation getting to Boston, we got up and out of the hotel in decent time, saw a lot of pretty scenery (always a priority for us), did some cool stuff, and generally relaxed.

Food was very expensive on this trip.  We typically pay about $35 for the three of us to eat, and we were getting meals at family restaurants in the $50-$60 range, with no real evidence of additional quality.

There were some nice towns that we would like an extended visit at, including Manchester and possibly Littleton.

There is always next year for more exploring.

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