2004-06-04 K and A: Memorial Day Weekend Trip
Memorial Day Weekend Trip
by K and A 6/4/04
A and I drove up to New Hampshire (from DC) for Memorial Day weekend, and it was the best exhausting trip I have ever taken.
First of all, let me say a huge thank you to the folks who welcomed us, and especially to Dave Mincin who was unbelievably generous with both his time and his apartment. We drank beer and talked so much that A and I both lost our voices on the way home.
But onto New Hampshire. We got into Dover late Friday night, so Saturday was our first opportunity to look around. We joined Cal's group (Merrimack Valley FSPers) for a lunch meeting in Manchester ($1 beers at Millie'sthank you, Norm), and hung around talking for a few hours with early movers and friendly natives. After that, a stop at Hampton Beach, where we played in the sand, and a lovely drive up the coast to Portsmouth. If I had any interest at all in living in a city, we would be moving to Portsmouth. We sat outside at a coffee shop (Breaking New Grounds) on Market Square and enjoyed the sun.
From there, it was back to Dover for dinner at Newick's, a justifiably popular seafood place. We met some great people, and PattyE's husband, Bill, kept me full of fried clams and scallops from his platter. More beer flowed, and we stayed an hour past closing.
Sunday was driving day. We drove through seven of the ten counties in the state (Sullivan, Cheshire, and Hillsborough excepted), starting in Dover, heading up Rt. 153 to 302 through Crawford Notch and back down through Franconia Notch down along the western side of Winnipesaukee and back down to Dover. Notes on towns (scratched sporadically in a little notebook) follow:
Rochester: Looked for a bakery for breakfast, and ended up at Dunkin Donuts instead. Discovered that "regular" coffee there means "cream and sugar." This may be a NH thing or a Dunkin Donuts thing.
Wakefield: Nice little town. Finally spotted local baked goods stand as we swallowed the last of our Dunkin Donuts breakfast.
Between Wakefield and Effingham, there's Province Lake. The road is in Maine, but the lake itself is in New Hampshire. Rough water, but quite a lovely spot, with tons of trees and mountains in the background. Some houses on the water and in close proximity. Also a marsh.
Freedom: Beautiful little town, full of white clapboard houses, with a nice sign that says, "Welcome to Freedom." It was Sunday morning, and the entire town was clearly in the pretty old church (except for one older woman I spotted manning a yard sale).
Conway: The town itself was kind of unremarkableit reminded me of the medium-sized Virginia towns of my childhood. We did stop at a farmstand on the north side of town, where we bought fruit, honey, raspberry bread, etc. A nice old man ran the place, but it was a bit pricier than we expected.
North Conway: Hippy outdoorsman kind of town, which has its good and bad points. Movie theater, bookstore, crafts fair, EMS (Eastern Mountain Sports) store, and places to eat. We stopped for lunch at Flatbreads, which offers pizza out of a wood-burning oven. It was very good. Then we stopped in at the bookstore, and with his purchase, A got a receipt that said, "No Sales Tax 0.00." Only real turn-off was the trafficthere was actually at traffic jam in the middle of town. It took us way too long to go a few blocks. Partly the craft show, but it's only the beginning of the tourist season up there, so...
Plymouth: Cute college town, with a nice little grocery store across from the college. They also have a movie theater, and a small but attractive downtown area. (Note: if you're dumb enough to stand in the middle of the road, cars will actually stop for you here.) We tried unsuccessfully to find the Bridgeside Diner, recommended by one of our guidebooks.
Tamworth: Tamworth had two stores in town, one called the General Store, and the other called the Other Store. There was also an inn and a public school. Someone in town apparently owned a backhoe with which he was helping a neighbor plant a tree in front of his house. It looked pretty, but didn't feel quite right.
Meredith: We ate dinner at a restaurant on Lake Winnepesaukee. Sat outside and ordered clam chowder, a lobster roll, a crab cake, and beer. Pretty developed town, so not for us, but we'd visit again.
Gilmanton: Gilmanton itself is a pretty little town, and the area around it is very hilly, so the views can be spectacular. Up by Loon Pond, we drove on a highway that was designated as such in 1765.
Northwood: Not sure, but we thought we smelled a paper factory. Worth checking that out.
Headed back to Dover to pick up Dave, and then met Joel (an early mover from Florida) in Manchester for "the biggest fireworks display ever in southern New Hampshire." They weren't kidding, and while the crowd was rowdy and drunk, everyone was also startlingly friendly. Big fair with four fried dough stands and a bunch of amusements (coin-toss-for-large-panda kind of things).
On Monday, we slowly headed home, driving from Dover to Concord, and then west across Vermont to New York. On the way we drove through:
Concord: Ate at a bagel shop on the main drag, about a block from the capitol. The capitol building is exactly what you'd imagine, and the AARP and the NH Republicans have both set up shop directly across the street. While we ate, I noticed two kids, about 8 probably, who had ridden over to the bagel place on their scooters. They had lunch, unchained the scooters, and headed for homeall without adult supervision. That's an awfully nice thing to see in a state capital.
Hopkinton: Another pretty place. This is where we first noticed the signs that forbid parking on city streets from midnight to 6AM, November 1 May 1. Must be for snow plowing.
Henniker: Now this is important: if you have a map that tells you that you can get back to Rt. 202 on The Oaks St, do not listen to your map. It's a dead end. Anyway, we saw two inns, a restaurant, and an elementary school. A very pretty place.
Bennington: Bennington definitely does have a paper mill, although we didn't smell it. Probably not working on holidays.
Dublin: Very hilly, and a consolidated school district. Home of Yankee Magazine, and a pretty view of Mt. Monadnock across Dublin Lake. There's a place called "Friendly Farm," with a petting zoo. We noticed that the temperature dropped 5 degrees between Concord and Dublin.
Keene: Keene also has the strange parking prohibition. The circle downtown was nice, and I could see the small-but-upscale-ish appeal, but it was big enough to have some suburbia issues, which we're looking forward to getting away from.
From there it was out Rt. 9 and into Vermont, which looked surprisingly poor by comparison. Again, thanks to everyone who welcomed us, fed us, guided us, answered our questions, and generally rolled out the red carpet. We thought this trip would be an introduction to New Hampshire (which it was, to some extent), but it turned out to be as much an introduction to the truly amazing people who are part of the Free State Project. I had hoped that FSPers would make good neighbors, to each other and to NH natives, and now I'm sure that we will.