This morning we woke up and decided to go on an aimless tour of the surrounding NH countryside. We left the maps at home and took off, initially going west. We ended up driving through some absolutely gorgeous rural areas with spectacular New England-style architecture. After a while, we turned north, mostly, and wandered about an hour that direction before heading east towards Portsmouth.
Before we made it to the Portsmouth area we found a terrific rural meat market where we stocked up on steaks, sausage, sliced honey maple turkey, local porter (of course) and some produce before continuing. Delightfully, Peg detected the presence of a Trader Joe’s market on the internet phone and we made another stop there before heading home. Thank God for Trader Joe’s. They have great food at fair prices and, since we are going into the wilds for the next week, we were able to fully stock our larders before going to the land of difficult shopping.
Today we decided to explore the area around Portsmouth, NH, which ended up being quite enjoyable. We started by heading to a restaurant called Linda’s in Seabrook and the food was great. From there, Peggy’s computer/phone let her know there was an L. L. Bean store right near the restaurant so we made a stop there and only left about $100 poorer. From the L. L. Bean store we departed towards our original destination. As you approach Portsmouth, at least from the SW, the residential buildings transition from nice, ordinary rural structures to very nice wood urban residences and masonry commercial and governmental buildings. The churches are quite beautiful.
Portsmouth streets are little narrow suckers but they are also one-way in quite a few places and even driving an enormous leviathan like our king cab Ford F-250 on the city roads was easy and not terrifying. The working waterfront is immediately adjacent to the main downtown commercial area so you can stroll around about a 10 block area and see most of the neat stuff in town. The sidewalks are brick pavers and grading was not their big claim to fame here so access if you are disabled or wheelchair-bound would be problematic. One must remember to look down often when navigating the ‘hoods here because if you don’t, you will be tripped up by the sidewalk surfaces and end up doing faceplants.
Despite the crummy sidewalks, downtown Portsmouth is gorgeous and strolling around is a treat. The buildings in the commercial area are pretty small so they can put about 20 businesses on each side of the street in each block. Fortunately for Peggy and me, there are bars and taverns liberally strewn throughout the downtown area so we barely had to cover any distance before being able to take side-trips into places where we were able to get porter. There are some nice places to sit down in the streets so if you get pooped, there are ample spots to sit and recuperate or sober up.
The first bar we went into, Portsmouth Brewing, did not have porter but we had a beer anyway. However, not having porter for us to drink is a sin only forgivable by God so we determined that we would be obliged to find a drink in some venue where they did have porter. In the Portsmouth Brewing taproom, they had an ad indicating that if you could produce your Portsmouth bar bill to the management at another brewery called Smuttynose Brewing, they would give you a flight of 4 sample beers from their products for half price. This offer was more than we could resist so we entered Smuttynose’s address into the Garmin and promptly arrived at Smuttynose. We were happy to discover that Smuttynose has not one but two porters which we felt obliged to try. These guys must really know what they are doing because their porters were great and we drank more than we should have. It was neat.
Before we became too blotto to drive we hopped back into Charlotte and drove home. When we arrived, we ended up striking up a conversation with our neighbors, one of whom had two rhubarb custard pies in her possession. Rhubarb pie has never been on my list of favorites but the neighbors brought over some of the pie which initially only Peggy tried. She was making yummy noises so I suppressed my cowardly instincts and tried a bite. I have now expanded my list of favorites because this pie was fabulous and I regretted only having one piece.
We can get four channels on the antenna here at Newfields. Unfortunately, they are all versions of the same PBS programming so our options are limited to cooking shows with boring hostesses or travelogues about places where you don’t want to visit. I ended my adventures for today by falling asleep to the background noises associated with Antiques Roadshow. Did you know that there are actually people that find worthless junk in their attics and can find out if their junk is valueless from an expert? If this kind of idiocy appeals to you, be sure to tune in this plainly worthwhile program.
Last night it started to rain around 8:00 PM and it was only a drizzle. The rainfall seemed to be increasing by about midnight and by this morning there was a colossal torrent of rain falling which turned the Gateway to the Gateway to Cape Cod campground into a nifty pattern of pools with some tiny spots where soil was visible above the widespread lakes. Strange items, some of which used to be live creatures, were bobbing around in the newly-established lagoons of murky water.
Unfortunately for us, today was a designated travel day. I was not eager to depart the GTTGTCC campground in the crummy conditions but we had a reservation at our next destination and would have to pay the fee whether we made it there or not. We got all our stuff stowed and hooked Charlotte to the Invader in a moderate rainstorm. We left the campsite by about 10:45 and noted the weather seemed to be deteriorating by the minute. By the time we made it to I-495 (about 4 miles) the rain was steady.
It is possible that I may have commented on the quality of Massachusetts roads earlier but I was unable to truly recognize the horror associated with driving on their roads until I had the opportunity to travel along them in lousy weather. In addition to being paved by workmen unable to understand fundamental concepts like square and/or level, the engineers have designed the pavements such that they do not drain. The asphalt mixes they have used are extremely slippery and any attempts to go near the throttle result in whining noises from the rear tires as they lose traction. Coupled with the terrifying Massachusetts drivers that like to take slow lane exits directly from the fast lane, traveling over these alleged highways is an exercise in abject terror. Even the newly repaired sections of I-95, one of my least favorite roads and the main north-south freeway on the U.S. east coast, were lumpy and seemed to have been paved by dropping asphalt paving mix from high-altitude bombers. The sections over the bridges, and there are a lot of them, have yawning craters in the surface which have a tendency to try to throw your vehicle over the guardrail into the river or pond or railroad tracks below. There were several times when I thought some poo may have come out.
However, we were finally able to leave the memorable Massachusetts highway system behind because we crossed the line into New Hampshire. We drove a very circuitous route around the only section of I-95 in N.H. (because despite being a Federal Interstate highway, the state has turned it into a toll road) before arriving in the rain at our new campground in Newfields, NH, called Great Bay Campground. The campground has full hookups and pretty good wi-fi but is a bit challenging to find. When we called for directions, the host told us to drive to a certain Shell gas station and to take the road that runs alongside the right side of the station. We followed his directions and soon arrived behind a gas station with a medium-sized parking area and two blue dumpsters. Peg exited the car and looked down a skinny dirt road that started sort of behind the dumpsters and quickly saw two signs that both read “Do Not Enter.” We called the campground host again for the second time in about 4 minutes and he told us the signs telling us not to enter were not really do not enter signs but actually a greeting to lost travelers. We entered where we should not have entered and, after driving on some squirrelly dirt road we emerged into an RV park where we checked in, set up and promptly had a few drinks to get us settled down from our exhilarating experiences.
Am I ever glad to be out of Massachusetts. We will explore tomorrow once the hangover goes away. We see that I-95 is a toll road in NH but, since NH only has 11 miles of coastline and 95 runs right next to the coast, we figure they can’t stick us for too much money unless they are very creative or bandits.
The mission for today was democratically decided to be a short road trip to Falmouth with a return along the eastern shore of Buzzard’s Bay which is the body of water between New Bedford and the Cape of Cod.
Our first segment was a freeway drive down to Falmouth and off onto basically city streets into Woods Hole. Woods Hole itself is a tiny little village with beautiful wood-framed houses and a downtown tourist area which, blissfully, only runs for about 2 blocks. Even the tourist area is pretty but once you wander off the main drag you enter almost a little wonderland of New England architecture which is almost magical. The roads are narrow but the traffic was very sparse when we were there.
A good portion of the town of Woods Hole is Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute which must occupy about 60 percent of the available real estate but quite a few of their assets seem to be old buildings and houses which they have done an excellent job of maintaining. It is a great drive through this area and a trip I would gladly repeat.
From Woods Hole we continued north (mostly) up the east shore of Buzzard’s Bay through Falmouth, Quissett, West Falmouth, Sippawisset and North Falmouth before becoming convinced that some comedian named the places and, once he settled on a name, he would use all permutations of the names before quitting. We stopped at a neat little city park named Wooden Neck Beach and Sippawisset Marsh. There were lots of birds to scope out and the parking lot bisects the marsh from the ocean. Peg and I watched as a large, fat gull did battle with a crab that was a dead heat for a minute or two but once the gull ate most of the crab’s legs, things became sort of one-sided with the crab yielding right before the rest of him was devoured. On the marsh side, there are beautiful dark blue backed tree sparrows doing aerobatics over the marsh in their pursuit of tasty flying insects. Their ability to maneuver is amazing. Human pilots following their antics would squirt right out of their shoes due to excessive Gs.
On our way back to Gateway to the Gateway to Cape Cod campground, we stopped in Bourne and picked up some seafood at a place called Sandy’s Seafood. It is a bit difficult to get into the place from the highway but well worth the challenge. Everything is fresh. I had lobster bisque and pub fish and chips and Peg had the clam chowder and clam strips special. I give the bisque a B and Peg gives the chowder an A. The clam strips and fish were tip-top and the best part was the bill was only $22.
From there we had the Garmin find our route home and returned to the GTTGTCC where we did a bit of truck maintenance before our departure from Massachusetts tomorrow. I would conclude my Massachusetts entries with an idiot’s conclusion: This is an interesting state to visit because of the wonderful building architecture, historical attractions and abundant seashore views. On the bad side – the roads are terrible, stuff is expensive, Federal freeways that are better maintained in other states and free require the payment of a toll here for a shit road surface, liquor and tobacco is expensive and a good portion of the folks we encountered seem to be miserable and unsociable. Perhaps none of them smile because they are toothless, but I doubt it. They just seem to be uncomfortable, like prison inmates.
The Gateway to Cape Cod campground is quite nice but there does not seem to be the big gatherings of campers at one trailer we observe in other locales. The folks seem to be sort of skittish about talking with each other. Maybe it is the proximity to so many mega-cities in this part of the world. It is a very short drive from Boston to Philly to New York City to D.C. We have congratulated ourselves and rewarded ourselves for our savvy navigation, cleverly avoiding these loathsome and turgid masses of humanity and remaining in mostly rural environments. We may be becoming hicks.
Uh-oh. Day of dread. Today was laundry day which is probably my least favorite activity that cuts into our crowded schedule of doing nothing except what we want to do. It sucks.
We started by gathering up all the stuff that needed to be washed and dropped into the campground laundromat where Peggy delightfully agreed to handle the clothes while sending me off to deal by phone with the contractor back home working on our pool and with the Good Sam Club Insurance. The part dealing with the contractor went very well. The part about the insurance company did not go as well.
Back on April 15, 2015, the electrically operated shade canopy on the side of our beloved trailer and home failed in the midst of a storm in King’s Mountain State Park in South Carolina. One minute there was a nice canopy. The next minute there was an expensive-sounding noise outside the trailer despite the fact we were almost alone in the campground. When we wandered out into the inclement weather to see what caused the ruckus, we were presented with a tangle of support arms and torn canopy cloth where there had been a nice shady thing before.
We sort of re-attached the canopy to the side of the trailer through an unorthodox use of stainless steel kitchen table knives and plastic zip-ties. It looked as if the failed canopy cloth and support arms were adequately secured for travel so we departed on April 16 for Charlotte, NC, to get to a repair facility that could replace what was necessary. The outfit, GGT, was quite cooperative after I gave them $500 to get things started. They indicated that parts would have to be ordered and delivered but they were nice enough to have a mechanic remove the carcass of the former canopy from the side of the trailer so we could continue on our journeys while we waited for parts. We traveled for two weeks and returned to Charlotte on May 1.
Unfortunately, at that time we found out that the replacement canopy and support structures ordered were not really the right parts but we had GGT install the new stuff even though the canopy was now a bit smaller and draped at a different angle such that our door brushes the canopy fabric when we extend it all the way. They only took another $1301 to install the new, not improved canopy because we were unwilling to spend another 3 weeks hanging around NC awaiting parts. At the time, I figured I would just be required to eat the cost. Alas, I was wrong, maybe.
When I happened to check out our Good Sam RV Insurance policy, I found canopy self-destruction was a covered loss and phoned the insurance company to file a reimbursement claim. It was at that time that the underwriting insurance company, National General, started their strategy of ignoring me and shuttling me through various persons, none of whom was any help whatsoever. They were quite nice about it – they were merely useless about getting my claim processed. Initially, they assigned me an adjuster named Andrea Crews who I believe may not exist. She was to contact me within 48 hours but 48 days later I had still not heard from the phantom. I made several calls to find out the status of my claim but was unable to speak with anybody possessing a brain so my efforts were for naught. Finally, I spoke with one of the drones at National General on June 24 and was assigned another adjuster named, of all things, Mileygha Wofford, who was to contact me within 24 hours. Of course, that did not happen. So today, I contacted the Good Sam organization who were quite nice about connecting me to another useless person at National General who tried fruitlessly to contact either one of their own adjusters or one of their own managers, all of whom are also phantoms because they were all “either on the phone or away from their desks.” I asked the nice, helpless person I was speaking with if she had ever actually spoken with anyone from her claims department and she dutifully lied that she had. I stated that I believed she was quite fortunate because I had been unable to speak with a human in the claims department in two months
I also tried National Substandard’s line again and was told by about the 50th moron that she was sending an email to the managers to get them to respond to me within two hours. At this time I went to help Peggy with the wash, which was almost completed. The laundry is located under the office facility in a dungeon so, sure enough, when somebody finally called back within about two hours, the call went to voice mail and my seven return calls within two hours to the person, Jennifer Birch, went unanswered because she was “either on the phone or away from her desk” despite a further recorded allegation that her office hours were from 8:30 to 5:30 eastern time Monday through Friday. My last desperate call to her was at 5:20 but it went to the phantom’s voice mail, just like the rest.
I can give my extremely small group of dedicated readers the following advice: Never use Sprint as your phone service provider because it only works where you don’t need it to and never buy insurance from National General unless you want to feel abused.
Today was another day with no fixed agenda so we started out the day guzzling coffee and Irish Cream before settling down for a nap. When we both decided we might actually want to do something we selected a trip to New Bedford (which the locals call newBEDfud in their charming, heavily-accented speech) where we wanted to check out the Whaling Museum.
After about a 15 minute drive on mysteriously rough back roads, we arrived in newBEDfud and the Garmin took us right to the museum. We were fortunate enough to find a metered parking spot across the street from the museum and stuffed 2 hours worth of quarters into the little bandit and entered the beautiful building housing this facility. After parting with $14 a head, we wandered into the museum where we got to see all kinds of neat whaling memorabilia. They have all kinds of whaling equipment, good interpretive exhibits, scrimshaw, artwork, re-created whaling ships, stuff made from whale bones and baleen, a nice 2nd floor viewing platform overlooking newBEDfud and all kinds of other things made from whale and seal parts. They also have some skinny little boats that men actually went out and killed whales from which is a testament to these folks’ bravery because the boats look like they would capsize in a calm lake. They must have had enormous cajones to go out into the sea, particularly those parts of the sea where whales exist, in these tiny, narrow, flat rowboats with some harpoons and a big store of rope.
We learned that New Bedford is the largest seafood production port in the world and the view from the second floor viewing platform gives you a good impression as to why. The port is filled with thousands of fishing vessels of all sizes and types. New Bedford is also a pretty little town with magnificent buildings, even in the grimy slums down near the waterfront factories. The streets are made from little rectangular stones laid side-by-side so they are bumpy and most of the streets we went on are one way, possibly due to their narrow width. Nevertheless, this was a neat place to visit and I would go back again as long as I wasn’t required to drive on the challenging Massachusetts roads.
Another day arrived without us having a fixed agenda so we mutually decided to leave the Gateway to Cape Cod campground and go north to see what might be interesting in that direction. Prior to our departure, though, we drove across the campground to what they call Leonard’s Pond which adjoins the campsite. It is a very nice pond with a little floating dock where Peg and I got out to check for wildlife. There are tons of birds you can hear, some birds that we actually saw along with the usual water creatures like frogs and ducks. There is a small picnic area at the end which is beautiful. The pond is down a skinny dirt road leading from the campground on which we were fortunate enough to not meet any oncoming traffic because the road is too narrow for two cars and maybe even two motorcycles to pass. The pond, however, is gorgeous and we felt we had a good start to the day by beginning here.
From the campsite we drove up County Road 58 for a bit and then turned east and we came out in Plymouth, where the Pilgrims landed. We drove by a temple-looking structure where they have placed a boulder with “1620” cut into one surface but there really is no “Plymouth Rock” other than this inscribed piece of granite. Plymouth is a gorgeous little town with a bunch of really neat old buildings lining the streets. It is quite a nice little bay where all this wonderfulness is located and I feel it is much more attractive than, say, Provincetown.
On our way back home we stopped in another seafood joint in Onset that some guy had told us was better than Lindsey’s, where we ate yesterday. He was a liar. The fare was much cheaper and there is no mystery as to why. The clam chowder was quite good but the clams seem to have more sand in them than the beach. Wear your disposable false teeth if dining here because they will be pretty scuffed up when you are done. The clam cakes are doo-doo, but cheap.
All my life I have heard folks expound on the magnificence of Cape Cod. To see if they were liars, we piled into Charlotte and departed the Gateway to Cape Cod, hustled down about 20 miles of I-195 and ultimately crossed the Cape Cod Channel onto the Cape. Travelers are required to pass through a Mecca of south Cape communities like Hyannis before actually turning north onto the real Cape. The roads are a bit better here but speed limits of about 45 miles per hour increase transit time to go anywhere. Eventually, you cross into the Cape Cod National Seashore which is almost completely inaccessible with the exception of about 4 or 5 spots where the Feds have little booths set up to charge idiots to park. The beach is free but the only available parking is not. Places we drove into wanted either $15 or $20 to park but we were again saved by our Federal Lands Access Pass we bought in Gold Beach, Oregon, last year allowing us to drive through the parking lots without cost.
We continued up the Cape until we reached Race Point Beach up near the very northern tip. We piled out of the truck and strolled down to the beach. Peg stuck her toes into the Atlantic and I took pictures and played with the dogs other folks had been considerate enough to bring along. From this beach, we continued on to Provincetown, the village at the end of the Cape. Provincetown is a quite scenic little burg with narrow streets, gorgeous buildings, quaint little alleys, thousands of tourists and virtually no parking where needed. We drove down onto Water Street which runs along the sea and were directed by Gestapo-looking cops to drive very slowly since the streets were clogged with ample tourists all trying to acquire Chinese-made knick-knacks with Cape Cod motifs. It was ugly.
We headed away from the waterfront and drove through the Provincetown graveyard where they have interred thousands of folks who croaked a long time ago. We spotted quite a number of formerly living who had died back in the mid-and early-19th century and that was kind of interesting. We skedaddled from Provincetown, happily without any Chinese merchandise, and headed back down the Cape to Truro, where we checked out the Truro Museum. It had a lot of pictures of old Cape natives and some oral history from each of them which was pretty neat. They also had a lot of stuff that appeared to have come out of locals’ houses when they cleaned out their attics. Some of the stuff is interesting but they charge too much for the entry fee when you consider what they have on exhibit.
In conclusion, I would have to surmise that those who say that the Cape is truly wondrous are suffering from a lack of experience traveling because we have found other places that are more scenic, easier to access, not infested with tourists and altogether more attractive than Cape Cod. It is nice to see once but I’m not sure I would travel again over the horrible Massachusetts roads for so little.
On the way home, we stopped to eat in a restaurant in Onset called Lindsey’s Seafood which was pretty good. I had crab-stuffed haddock which was tip-top and Peg had fried shrimp, which she stated was merely okay. The price was a bit high but the beer selection was okay so we left happy.
We had a travel day today. We departed Sturbridge and drove to another TT campground called Gateway to Cape Cod in Rochester, Mass. It is interesting that they have selected this name because to the end of Cape Cod is better than 80 miles from the campground. It should probably be the Gateway to the Gateway to Cape Cod or A Campground That Only Requires 20 Minutes of Driving to Reach the Cape Cod Channel Where Cape Cod Actually Begins. Regardless of the name, the campground is a big Jose with full hookups and amenities other than Sprint phone service and viable wi-fi. It is situated in a big grove of conifers that offer mottled shade for almost the entire day. The access road is ugly but, other than that, it is a nice place to set up for the week.
We arrived early in the day, thanks to the Mass Turnpike which is a toll road crossing the whole state from west to east. The road was wider than Hwy 20 that we entered Sturbridge on but the paving was almost as bad as the rest of the roads in Massachusetts. I would be pissed off if the government collected taxes for the roads and spent it elsewhere because the roads are in quite bad shape.
Our early arrival allowed us the afternoon with no commitments so we decided to wander over into Rhode Island to see what it looked like and to allow ourselves the ability to say we had been in that state. One thing is immediately clear when you enter Rhode Island: they have much better roads. The countryside we drove through was quite nice with mostly hardwood forests along with some farmland and some big estates. Rhode Island much be the rich brother to Massachusetts because it appears they live in better houses, have more acreage and the roads are properly designed and built. Rhode Island is also extraordinarily puny – you could probably cross the entire state west-to-east in less than an hour and cover it north-to-south in just a bit longer. We cleverly avoided going into the capital, Hartford.
It was a day for lounging for us. We drove into town to get diesel but other than that, we accomplished nothing during the day.
William, our neighbor in the park, came by in the evening with Deke who I suckered in with some Pup-peronis. William and Deke hung out at our trailer until about 11:45 when we wished them a goodnight and crapped out. William seemed to be having a pretty good time by the time he left. We had introduced him to porter which he eagerly drank until he was pretty blotto.