We Made the Move! Karl Beisel
Date of move: June 19, 2004
After my first visit to New Hampshire in the summer of 2003, I could barely
think or talk about anything else. More than a year later, and after 5 months
of being a New Hampshire resident, I still can't think about anything else. I
love this place!
My decision to make the move was pretty easy. The city in which I lived,
Washington, DC, was already a cesspool of corruption and unfreedom. The
government's dysfunctional overreaction in the aftermath of September 11 only
worsened the situation barriers were erected around city parks, SAM
sites popped up on the National Mall, machine-gun toting "police men" put
everyone in their place at public gatherings. Even that perennial of terrorist
targets, the local DMV, had metal detectors and more guards installed. The
city, and its surrounding suburbs, had gone mad.
What a difference in New Hampshire! In December of 2003, I took a week off
to explore the southern part of the
state for a town or city where I could see myself living. When I passed
though Concord, I stopped at the State House. I had read that there were
(gasp) no metal detectors, and people could just walk in and go about
their business. I tested it out, and sure enough, walked right in, visited the
House chamber, and toured the facility on my own. The whole state seemed as
far removed from Washington, DC as the moon, but much prettier.
As a result of my tour, I chose to live in Manchester. The following
spring, I traveled back to Manchester to buy a house. There was plenty of
housing to choose from in the city, something for just about every budget. I
quickly found what I wanted and moved in mid-June.
After moving, I met a number of other Porcupines, as well as several
like-minded residents. There was no shortage of things to do for the freedom.
Activities like meet-and-greets, political meetings, conventions, campaigning
for political candidates, and informal social gatherings quickly maxed out my
schedule. Most of the folks who have moved are very active in various ways to
promote freedom. This is incredibly encouraging.
Of course, life isn't all about the fight for freedom its about
enjoying its fruits as well. As a hockey player and fan, New Hampshire's got me
covered, with several local leagues, a top college team, and a minor league
team. I'm looking forward to other winter sporting opportunities that were
less accessible to me before. I'm now in the process of starting an adult
kickball league here in Manchester, one of the very few good things to come out
of Washington, DC.
The bottom line is that moving to New Hampshire was the best decision I
could have made. I think I'll stay! :)
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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
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
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.
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Moving to Manchester Head 'em up! Move 'em out!
by Karl Beisel 6/9/04
I'm pleased to report that I closed on my house in Manchester last weekend,
and will be making the move on June 19, just in time for the PorcFest and NHLA dinner the
I want to take a moment to explain how I came to select Manchester as my
new home, and tell a little about my impressions of the city.
Last December, I did a week-long driving tour of southern New Hampshire,
stopping in the towns on a list of possible destinations. My route took me
through Keene, Claremont, Lebanon, and Hanover, then down to Concord and
Manchester, then up to Rochester, Portsmouth and finally Hampton. I prefer a
more urban lifestyle, so I did not stop in small towns and rural areas. I'll
describe my impressions of each town briefly.
Keene: This is a neat and vibrant medium-sized city, dominated by Keene
State College in the center of town. Its downtown has many businesses that
cater to a college crowd. By all appearances, Keene is a great place to live.
It is, however, a bit too isolated for my wants, and it has a reputation for
being one of the most "liberal" towns in the state, which has advantages and
disadvantages, I suppose.
Claremont: This city was mentioned months ago as a possible destination
for Free Staters. But be warned, this town is in rough shape. Claremont was
the town that originally brought forth those infamous Claremont lawsuits, which
resulted in the statewide property tax. The Claremont lawsuits are just the
latest attempt by the Claremont government to foist their self-created economic
disaster onto the rest of New Hampshire.
Although it has a reasonably pretty downtown with a beautiful City Hall,
about a third of the shops are shuttered. It has several abandoned mill
buildings that will soon be the home of a technical college that will be moving
from its current location north of town. Otherwise, the downtown is in a
perpetual state of "revitalization" that has apparently been going on for
decades, at great taxpayer expense, and to little effect. Despite all this,
the town manages to support BOTH a K-Mart and a Wal-Mart, among the many stores
located on Claremont's particularly ugly sprawl strip. There are few jobs and
worse-than-usual public schools. The good news: dirt-cheap housing, and the
city is nestled amidst some beautiful rural semi-mountainous country.
Lebanon: North of Claremont, Lebanon is like a smaller version of Keene;
it has a community college at the town center. It's much prettier than
Claremont, and there is actual industry there; it seems to benefit from the
nearby interstate highway and its proximity to wealthy Hanover a couple miles
Hanover: Home of Dartmouth College, with its premier medical school.
Georgetown on the Connecticut River, and absolutely beautiful. This is the
definition of a college town; Dartmouth College practically IS the town.
Downtown, the many shops, bars and restaurants cater to a college crowd, and
the many out-of-state visitors. There are a couple of ski resorts close by as
well. By most measures, a fine (though expensive) place to live.
Concord: A bit closer to what I'm looking for, though a tough egg to crack
politically, due to the large number of state employees and lobbyist-types. It
has a vibrant downtown, with the State House at the center. I visited the
State House, and the stories I've heard are true. No metal detectors, no bag
searches. I walked through the corridors unmolested. I walked by the office
for the "Speaker of the House." I could just walk in if I felt like it.
Living with the police presence of Washington, DC, this experience was quite
novel. I didn't stay in Concord long, because I wanted to get to the 2nd city
on my "short list", Manchester before the end of what, as it turned out, was
literally the shortest day of my life (the farthest north I've been on a winter
solstice). As I headed out, I noticed the Federal Building, which is oversized
and fronts the street at crooked angle, with its bunker-style architecture,
completely out of character with the rest of the city, like a UFO had landed in
Concord. Typical. Anyway, I decided to avoid I-93, and traveled back roads
through Bow to Manchester.
Manchester: There's a whole lot more going on here than anywhere else in
New Hampshire. Manchester is the largest city in the state, at about 108,000
people. Its downtown is dominated by a series of large mill buildings, many of
which had been abandoned for a long time, but are now mostly in use as
warehouses, offices, hotels, retail shops, apartments, a museum, and even a
branch of UNH. The downtown is bustling, and it promises to become even more
so, with the construction of a new minor league baseball stadium, and new
downtown apartments. Manchester may have a reputation for an industrial-grit
character, but its downtown is becoming increasingly "yuppie" with new
independently-owned coffee shops and restaurants. I'm a yuppie, so I like this
Transportation is excellent. I-93 and I-293 both go through town (I-93 is
being widened now), and there is a small bus system, apparently used mostly by
the elderly. As in most NH towns, homes tend to have a lot of off-street
parking, which is especially important because of the winter parking ban (most
towns in New Hampshire have ordinances that ban street parking during the
winter months). There is also rumored to be a future passenger rail line
connecting Manchester to Nashua and Boston, but its status is unclear.
Manchester has several identifiable neighborhoods. The very center of the
city east of Elm Street (Manchester's "main" street) is densely packed with
4-12 unit tenements, where mostly lower-income residents live. Along Elm
Street and in the Mill district along the Merrimack is the site of much
post-industrial redevelopment, and an increasingly popular area (read: pricey)
for those who like genuine urban living.
Outward, the neighborhoods are generally identified as one of four "ends"
north, east, west and south. The "West End" is the part on the west
side of the Merrimack River. This is mostly lower-middle income, mostly
apartments mixed in with businesses but also some houses. The "North End" is
the upscale part of town, with many large houses, especially along Elm Street,
which is ridiculously wide. The "East End/Hanover Hill" neighborhood is
largely middle class, as is the "South End" both of which consist mostly of
single-family homes. Beyond these urban neighborhoods is the customary
asteroid belt of sprawl, with its cookie-cutter colonial houses and strip
malls. Beyond that, it gets rural quickly.
Manchester has everything three pro sports teams (baseball, hockey,
and arena football), a major shopping mall (The Mall of New Hampshire), and a
newly updated airport with flights throughout the country (note to self: get on
Airport Commission and make them stop piping FOX NEWS throughout the airport).
There are also many parks, and a large lake (Lake Massabesic) where you can
enjoy fishing and light boating. The quality of life here is something to
Rochester: After visiting Manchester, I knew that was the place to be.
But Rochester was also one of my "short list" cities, so I headed up that way.
I've heard some not-so-flattering things about this city, but I didn't think it
was that bad. If you like the seacoast region, Rochester still has
reasonably-priced real estate, and a reputation, whether true or not, for being
among the more libertarian-leaning towns in New Hampshire. The city's main
newspaper has an emblem that reads "Your Rights, Your Liberty." Sounds good to
me. I think Rochester is a good compromise city for those who want a city like
Claremont but with less poverty. Some Free Staters have suggested Rochester as
a candidate for a larger "free town" but I'm not aware of any takers so far.
Portsmouth: I buzzed through Portsmouth pretty quickly. I hear it's a
great downtown, but fabulously expensive, being right on the seacoast. It's
also a major retirement destination, and a high-tech employment center, due in
part to the proximity of a US Navy shipyard that builds submarines (this base
has been under the threat of closure for some time). I hear the downtown was a
dump not so long ago. Now it's a major tourist destination and a choice spot
for uppity living. Lots of restaurants and touristy shops.
Hampton: After a few days in Portland, Maine, I headed back south to
Hampton, one of New Hampshire's beach resort towns. It is located adjacent to
the Seabrook nuclear power plant. Its downtown is right on the coast, with a
small beach, complete with a boardwalk and beachy trinket shops. It was the
dead of winter, so the whole place was shut down; even the McDonalds was
boarded up. From what I could observe, at least in winter, there must be a
rule that you have to be over the age of 65 to live in Hampton. Apparently,
like Portsmouth, Hampton is retirement destination. I'll have to return this
summer to get another take.
The decision: Manchester.
So, why Manchester? Having lived in very urban neighborhoods in
Washington, DC and Arlington, VA, I've come to prefer the urban, where I may
walk to most of my destinations, and where I feel I can take a more active part
in the community. New Hampshire is one of those special places where its inner
cities are, for the most part, still vibrant, productive, and safe. Manchester
in particular has a sort of aura about it that seems almost to brag about its
industrial ethic, an embodiment of the Yankee spirit that I find so appealing.
I want to be a part of that. Other towns share that spirit, but perhaps
Manchester's mill yards and the raging Merrimack River through the center of
town, and even its large buildings and traffic congestion on Elm Street, make
it stand out.
Manchester is the very heart of southern New Hampshire; anyone living there
has access to the employment opportunities and amenities available in
Portsmouth, Nashua and Concord, and even Metro Boston.
Politically speaking, I know only a little about Manchester politics, just
what I've occasionally read in newspapers. As the largest city in the state,
with its share of urban problems, I see living there as an opportunity to help
open up discussion to new ideas for solving these issues in a way that is
consistent with the principles of liberty. I certainly don't see Manchester
ever becoming a libertine "free town", but I can imagine that one successful
and innovative reform in local government, in a city of that size, could serve
as a powerful example of what such policies can achieve. I'll do my best to
take my time in becoming a member of the community; and I will pursue my goals
as such a member. And so, we'll see how it goes.
Meanwhile, on to the Manchester in New Hampshire, the Free State
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