2004-05-31 Gerry and Kim LaVallee: Scouting Trip
by Gerry & Kim LaVallee 5/31/04
May 29th & 30th, 2004 our first "scouting trip" to New Hampshire. Strictly to form first impressions.
We arrived in Clairmont around 8:00. First impression was fairly clean small town, loved all the motorcyclist with no helmets. We stopped at a diner called "Daddy Pop's Tumble In". Your basic ex-diner car type place with a lot of folks there, food was okay-not great, service was very slooow as it was every where that we ate the two days that wew were in-state. Looked around downtown area a little while and was impressed with the fact that there was very few empty storefronts.
Perhaps this is a good time to give some of our background to explain any coloring of our perspective. We live in a small upstate NY town that is surrounded by farmland, inexpensive real-estate, property taxes are not too bad. Some businesses are doing great while others are dying (textile & leather). Ours is one of the few conservative areas of NY, conservatives outnumber liberals about 5-3 which is not the norm especially downstate. Lots of rolling foothills to the Adirondack mountains, lots of lakes & ponds. Also, lots of empty storefronts and empty factories, declining real estate values. And of course, state taxes just plain suck the life out of a person.
Back to our trip. We noticed that the towns were a lot cleaner than at home. Generally they seemed like the stereotype "quaint New England town". But, being in the building trade, I noticed not very much new construction, mostly maintenance and remodeling going on.
Next town was Newport, great little downtown area. We bought a newspaper and realized that there is no local paper, only a state wide and one for the upper valley. Culture shock number one, there will be others-stay tuned. Then we stopped at my name-sake, LaValley Building Supply, this is a pretty good sized yard for a small town and found out that a good size chunk of New Hampshire is serviced by them, good job opportunity for me. Still haven't seen a lot for my wife (she's currently a computer systems administrator for a manufacturer).
Culture shock #2, real estate prices? .wow. There are no cheap seats, even building lots/land is higher than we expected. The lesson here is, leave any preconceived notions at home. We had to remind ourselves that this is a by-product of a growing state. Then we drove around more rural settings and realized that another of our preconceived notions was wrong, that the geography would be the same. While similar in respect to lots of trees and mountains, there were hardly any rolling fields, like we are used to. The mountains seemed more "abrupt". Maybe they are younger here? We loved all the covered bridges, by the way.
Culture shock number 3 was when we wanted some lunch, we were near Lebanon by this time and all we could find was national chain type of places, maybe we were just unlucky? Also, Lebanon has one heck of a lot of John Kerry supporters-signs everywhere. We ended up Saturday at our hotel, a little disappointed- watch out for those pre-conceived notions. Then decided that Sunday to include Grafton into our tour. Grafton was a very quiet little place, lots of dirt roads. We have them around home, but they are seasonal only, for farm access, hunting, etc. Here they are a year round access to homes, not a big deal, just an observation. The lack of nearby medical access, bothered my wife. Again this was a first impression trip, nothing in depth-anywhere.
By this time, we were getting a little tired and decided on a more southerly sweep and head back towards home. Keene was the next stop and a surprise. Another great downtown area, very artsy and reminded us of Saratoga's downtown. Lots of traffic. Lots of motorcycles, gotta love the no-helmet law thing. There were quite a few places to eat here, and also great architecture as in most of the places we went through. Got the impression that this would also be a very liberal area though.
We are definitely looking forward to the Porcupine Festival to talk with other folks to confirm or correct our first impressions of these areas. Our next scouting trip is tentatively the Concord area.
Gerry & Kim LaVallee