Thursday, May 31, 2012

Two Days for the History Books

Vermont State Capitol - Montpelier, VT
May 29, 2012

Tuesday was the day we had chosen to visit our sixth state capital of the trip.  Montpelier, Vermont's state capital city, is the smallest of all the US capital cities with a population of just over 8,000.  It is about 65 miles from Woodstock via I-89 which, of course, we did not take!!  Our planned route took us up Vermont State Highway 12 with a return route via Vermont State Highway 14.  Unfortunately, much of Tuesday looked like this.................

Rainy scene on Vermont Highway 12 just north of Woodstock
May 29, 2012

................and we were quite surprised upon returning home much later that day, to find that we had managed to miss extremely SEVERE weather happening all around us and were currently under a tornado WARNING (something pretty much unheard of in Vermont)!   For us, it had just rained most of the time we were traveling, but fortunately, stopped the entire time we were in Montpelier allowing us to walk everywhere we had wanted to go! 

Our first planned stop at the Porter Music Box Museum in Randolph turned into a disapointment as we learned that despite every printed piece of material we found that said otherwise, the museum was not opening until June 1.  So we quickly moved on arriving in Montpelier just as the rain stopped.

A very helpful lady at the Visitor Center pointed us in the right direction for all the things we wanted to see and added a few suggestions of her own.  The capitol plaza and downtown are so compact that we were able to leave our car in one place for the entire day. 

Vermont's State House, just like all the others, is beautiful and unique in its own right.  Although the current State House is the third to be built, we learned that the House and Senate Chambers are the oldest legislative chambers in their original condition anywhere in the country.  The Senate Chamber still retains its original furnishings.

What stuck us IMMEDIATELY, was the complete absence of any security precautions whatsoever.  That was a first!  Security has been much tighter in some places than others and often those you might expect to be more rigid in their security efforts, are the most laid-back.   But nowhere, until now, has it been totally non-existent.  We entered through a side door as directed and proceeded to wander through the entire building hardly even seeing another soul.  In fact, the emptiness and silence were almost eerie!  But it is a beautiful building.  We particularly enjoyed the Vermont Marble checkerboard flooring in the lobby and the twin marble stairwells leading up to the second floor. 

 Checkerboard Flooring in lobby of state house and one of the twin staircases

 This was the Governor's Office - didn't appear as if it had been occupied in quite some time.
Written material indicated it is used when legislature is in session and for "ceremonial" events.
Not sure where he governs from the rest of the time!!!

Senate Chambers containing all the original furnishings!  

We entered, meandered around freely and exited the building without ever being spoken to by another individual!  Another very interesting experience.

We took a stroll through Faulkner Park, a large city park with many miles of hiking trails and an observation tower located at its highest point.  I couldn't find much history on the park or the tower, but it is obviously a well-used space and we did enjoy climbing the 64-steps into the tower.  On a clearer day, the views in all directions would've been amazing, but even with the overcast skies that day, the landscape was still beautiful.   The tower is not accessible by car and we enjoyed that hour or so of brisk walking.  

 One would have thought they were miles in the backcountry, not directly behind the State Capitol!

 One more picture of a Jack-In-The-Pulpit on steroids!  This thing was three feet tall!  
I had no idea they could grow that large.   

 Observation Tower in Faulkner Park

There were unobstructed long-range views in all four directions - just not on this day!

Following a walk through the downtown area and a delightful lunch at The Skinny Pancake, we headed back towards our home in Woodstock.   After arriving and hearing that we were under a tornado warning, we settled in for what became quite a rocky evening with one severe thunderstorm after another rolling through.  Thankfully it began to settle down by bedtime and we got a good night's rest after a long day.

Somehow, the fact that we would be spending all this time within 15 miles of the Calvin Coolidge birthplace and Presidential Museum had escaped me.  Another of our goals is to visit each of Presidential Museums.  Now I can hear many of you laughing at yet ANOTHER travel goal.  Technically, this one we refer to as one of the looser goals as it's not likely we'll ever meet it, but all of our goals help give us ideas and direction for planning.  

This museum, as it turns out, is one neither of us would have wanted to miss.   It was an excellent use of our time and in the most beautiful setting of Plymouth Notch, Vermont.  Bill's dad and his identical twin, were named after President's Coolidge and Wilson, so that made seeing this even more fun.  

Driving to Plymouth Notch took us along more areas totally washed away by Hurricane Irene.   Twice we crossed temporary roadways where the original road had been completely washed away.

And then we passed this former inn that was unfortunately, missing most of its foundation.  So sad!

At the Calvin Coolidge National Historic Site, which we visited on Wednesday, one is greeted by an awesome Visitor Center housing the Presidential Museum, gift shop and theatre area where an excellent introductory film is shown.  There are guided tours every half hour, but we learned that the tour only stops at two of the sixteen historic sites and then you are free to wander for as long as you like.  We enjoyed the introductory part of the guided tour and did learn some things that were not in the printed material.  The area is so compact and still functions as a tiny village and the lady who conducted our tour had actually been friends with some of the Coolidge's, so she was a wealth of facts and stories.  

Calvin Coolidge was our 30th president and the only president to date who was born on July 4th!  He was actually vacationing in Plymouth Notch when word was received that President Warren Harding had died unexpectedly.  So one is able to visit his birthplace, his homeplace and the place where he was sworn in as the President of the United States.  The room where the swearing in took place (administered by Coolidge's father) remains exactly as it was on that day.  

 Visitor Center at the Calvin Coolidge National Historic Site. 

 Birthplace of Calvin Coolidge.  The cabin is attached to the Plymouth Notch General Store where Coolidge's father was the general manager and eventual owner.

 The Coolidge Homestead.  Calvin and his wife, Grace, returned here often and it was here that he was sworn in as President of the United States following the unexpected death of Warren Harding.

Calvin Coolidge is buried in Plymouth Notch cemetery just across the road from the other buildings.  He died suddenly in 1933 after having suffered a heart attack at the age of 55.  His wife, Grace, who died in 1957, is buried beside him.  It is one of the most non-descript burial sites in a cemetery full of ornate markers.

These were two wonderful days full of seeing and learning new things. 

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A Day Full Of Surprises

Sunapee Harbor - Sunapee, New Hampshire
May 27, 2012

We will be in Woodstock, Vermont until Saturday, so following some laid-back rest days, we began working on a loose "plan" for the rest of our time here.  After Saturday's hike and time spent enjoying the village, we were ready for a day of exploring.  I mapped out a rough circular itinerary using maps. chamber of commerce websites and following designated scenic highways/byways as much as possible.  This type of planning most always yields some wonderful surprises and are often some of our most memorable days of the trip.  This day was no exception!  

Leaving Woodstock, we headed south towards Mt. Ascutney and over the state line into New Hampshire with the goal of our first stop being Claremont.   Why Claremont, you ask??   In a word - WALMART!   Not going to take up space here discussing Vermont's ongoing battle with Walmart, but bottom line is, they don't want them and currently, the entire state has four, only ONE of which is a Super Walmart meaning groceries!!  Quite frankly, I like the philosophy behind Vermont's stance, but I've also learned from traveling that sometimes you just want "familiar."  Guess it sounds like I'm walking both sides of the fence, but on this day, we needed a few staple items, not all of which were groceries and neither of us wanted to spend valuable time searching out where those could be found.  We just wanted in/out and to know what we were getting.  

So the Claremont Super Walmart went into Endora (our beloved GPS, who has only been fired twice on this trip so far) as the first stop.  But wait!  Something caught our eye as we were driving through the downtown area of Claremont (only because we refused to take the bypass which highly insulted Endora) and it became unexpected surprise #1.  

I love old mill towns even though many nowadays make me quite sad as they are long abandoned and often eyesores.  Not so in Claremont, New Hampshire.  We pulled into a very nice visitor center where we'd spotted a pedestrian bridge headed back across the river towards the old mills which had obviously been carefully put to new use as many things.  Here was our first look...............

Crossing the pedestrian bridge, we found ourselves on a very nice patio that seemed to go on forever.  Peering inside windows gave glimpses of what appeared to be a lovely restaurant not yet open for the day.  

Now my philosophy here is don't break any rules or cross private property or no trespassing signs, but beyond that, if a door is open and no one stops you, keep walking until your curiosity is satisfied.  I have had some of the most wonderful encounters of my life simply because I walked through a "door" because I wanted to see what was on the other side.  

In this case, we walked through the door and found Mary.  I am so sad that I failed to get a picture of Mary because she was an absolute delight.  Turns out Mary is the Special Events Coordinator for the Common Man Inn and Restaurant, the facilities we entered when I walked through that door.  Mary was a talking encyclopedia when it came to this extensive renovation and unbelievable revitalization of a huge former textile mill complex that had fallen into total disrepair.  We found ourselves being given a guided tour including a peek into one of the inn's amazing suites and learning tidbits one would've never noticed on a simple walk-through.  Things such as the reuse of materials from the original mill floors as well as a most creative use of the beautiful doors.  We learned that the mill made linens used on the Titanic and at the White House and that the large separate mill further down the river was where the first Buster Brown shoes were manufactured.  We learned that the hundreds of thousands of employees lived across the river (from where we'd just come) in employee housing and used the pedestrian bridges(there were three) to get to and from work.  A great video and a bit more history can be found here, but we have Mary to thank for a most memorable visit to Claremont, NH.   And all because of Walmart.................................

 Outdoor patio seating for restaurant

 Inn and Restaurant Entry Area

 Picture of original mill hanging in inn's lobby

Looking back toward Mt. Ascutney.  This mill had been renovated, but not yet fully occupied.  It appeared to be lofts/condo. 

With the quick trip to Walmart behind us, we headed east towards Sunapee Lake, a designated New Hampshire Scenic Byway.  A lunch stop at the conveniently placed bench.........

........beside the Visitor Center yielded surprise #2.  Another one that we would have totally missed had I not walked through the open door and started asking questions.  Because naturally, when I saw this......................
..........I had to know where it went and how far it was.  The very helpful lady in the VC said it was about a 10-minute walk along the river to the harbor and that we MUST do it.  That was good enough for me, so off we went.  
Sure enough, about 10 minutes later, after a long haul up and over a very steep hill which the lady failed to mention (LOL!), we stepped out into a lovely and quite bustling little harbor.  On a Sunday afternoon of a holiday weekend, there were lots of families playing, people strolling around and all kinds of boats coming and going.  And of course, there was ice cream...............
Sunapee Harbor, New Hampshire
May 27, 2012

By the time we returned to our car and thanked the lady at the VC for her insistence that we see the harbor (remember, it was NOT on the official scenic byway map), it was already mid-afternoon and we realized that our entire itinerary for the day was not going to happen.  

To save some time and get to our next destination, we did something we rarely do.  WE GOT ON THE INTERSTATE!  Granted it was only for 20 miles, but we still didn't like it!! Lebanon, NH, probably did not get a fair shake of our time because we still had two destinations left to cover, but we did enjoy a stroll around the town green and got a good look at the Lebanon Opera House, a venue well known for its summer programs and where a good friend of ours spent one summer as a performer in several of their productions.

A few miles up the road from Lebanon stands one of those places any baker aspires to visit at some point.  Because who hasn't heard of King Arthur Flour Products?  Unfortunately, those of us in the south don't see as many of King Arthur's products on the shelves of our grocery stores as I've seen here, but I'm well aware of the reputation and quality that defines them.  I knew we would be close by and hoped to be able to visit their store.  So to all my baking friends, all I can say is that I've never seen such a huge variety of wonderful things from which to choose.  I know this isn't saying much coming from someone who is NOT a baker, but there were so many things I'd never even heard of, much less would know what to do with.  And to top it off, they were having a Memorial Day weekend sale with 15% off EVERYTHING in the store.  We came away relatively unscathed, but not totally.  In addition to their store, they offer lots of classes and during regular production hours, you are able to see the bakers at work.  It was a neat place to spend some time.  

 When we arrived, the place was packed, but it was nearing closing time so the crowd had thinned by the time I took this picture as we were leaving.

 Shelves of all different types of flours lined the entire perimeter of the HUGE store.

Shucks, forgot to get pics of the 50 and 100 pounds bags!!

One more stop on the day's agenda and we'd be headed back to Woodstock.  This was an important one and we were both excited although getting a bit tired.   I've mentioned my goal to visit all of the Ivy League Schools.  Today, Dartmouth was on the agenda.   We were only six miles from Hanover when we left King Arthur, so didn't take long.

Dartmouth  was founded in 1769 and is probably best known for its three professional school, The Tuck School of Business, Thayer School of Engineering and Geisel School of Medicine.  It appears as if the town of Hanover grew up around the campus, but it's a quaint little college town in its own right.  On a Sunday afternoon, we knew the campus would have a different feel than on a weekday, but we were surprised at all the activity.  Without a brochure or guide, any of our thoughts were purely speculation, but it appears as if the original campus building were built around the huge campus green which quite obviously remains a center of activity.  Students were everywhere and we can only speculate that perhaps a summer term had already begun.  The campus is quite large with lots of newly constructed buildings and a very impressive fine arts center nearing completion.  We walked for a long way just enjoying the different buildings and discussing what a comfortable feel it had in comparison with the stern, gothic, very formal atmosphere we encountered at Yale. 

 Dartmouth Campus Green - Hanover, New Hampshire
May 27, 2012

All these pictures are buildings on or just off the campus green and were our favorites because they appeared to be original.  Further back from the green, buildings had been constructed using more recent architectural styles. 

We were about about 45 minutes from our "home" in Woodstock and after a very full day, we were happy to see it.  There is much to be said for all the time spent planning and researching things to do and see on these summer adventures, but more often than not, it's those unexpected surprises along the way that make a day truly memorable.  We will always remember Mary and the sweet little lady in Sunapee who pointed us towards a harbor we'd never have seen without her guidance.  

Another hike was on the agenda for the next day, so needless to say, it was a very early evening!

Thanks for reading!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Two Years and Going Strong!

Bleeding Hearts Along the Burlington Bikeway - Burlington, Vermont
May 21, 2012

This is a Healthy Living blog update.  If you receive the posts automatically via email and are ONLY interested in the travel updates, feel free to skip this one!!

I'm not sure exactly why or if perhaps, I'm just not looking in the right places, but we don't see a lot of Bleeding Hearts where I live.  I know where some can be found along the trails in my mountains, but that's about it.  I think they are one of God's most delicate creations and can't believe anyone could look at something like this and question whether or not there IS a Master Creator!  I found this plant along the Burlington Bikeway and found it to be one of the most perfectly formed I'd ever encountered.  Every single flower was just exquisite!  

As I stood mesmerized, I was reminded of more than one folklore story about how the bleeding heart got its name, but today, I'm writing my own.  

On May 14, 2010, "Gains and Losses: Life through Sharon Eyes" began when I hit publish for the first time and started with the words, "I love to write, I always will."   I was extremely unhappy with the 30 pounds I'd regained after having successfully lost 65 in 2006-2007 and maintained that loss for a couple of years.   I felt as if I'd tried everything to get my mojo back and nothing, absolutely NOTHING, was working.   I'd like to say that six months later, I was right back at my goal weight, but we all know that isn't true.  Life has very much happened and has included pain, death, illness, forward progress quickly followed by periods of total laziness.  But through it all, there has been constant support from so many of you that I wouldn't even begin naming names.  Along the way, others of you have joined that group and I'm sad to say that some have faded away.   

I'd always kept the faith that at just the right time, something would click and thankfully, last November, it did!  By then, I was up 40 pounds from my lowest weight in 2007 and 35 from my goal weight.   Although I didn't make it quite back to goal by the blog's second anniversary, I was within six pounds.   And I'll be at goal by my birthday on July 30th.  

What does this have to do with Bleeding Hearts?   That plant along the bikeway had at least eight stems, each with 8-14 perfectly formed bleeding hearts extending out from the base.  At first glance, they all would appear identical, but one need only take a couple of steps closer to see that every single one of them was completely different.  Not only were they ALL DIFFERENT SIZES, but their shapes were unique, the lines ran in different directions and yes, even the "blood" was many shades of pink!

Bleeding Hearts in Faulkner Park, Woodstock, Vermont
May 26, 2012

Exactly like all of us!   We blog in the Weight Loss/Healthy Living/Fitness community because our "hearts" have that in common.  We want to be at a healthy weight, eat correctly and maintain exercise routines that make us the best we can be.  Our roots are the same!  Our stems extend differently!  I'm still anxiously awaiting the day I can claim an active BlogFriend in every state and province!  Traveling has taught me we do things differently in different places and I love learning about that from you. 

But when you look at each unique heart, one-by-one, you'll immediately see how different, how intricately made and how absolutely gorgeous each one truly is!  No matter what size it is, no matter how its "lines" run, no matter what shade of pink it is - IT'S STILL BEAUTIFUL!   And so are you!   And so am I!   And each one of us "bleeds."  We bleed when we hurt, we bleed when someone we love hurts, we bleed when we see pain/sickness/suffering/devastation in our world.  We bleed at LOT!  And we should - sadly, there is lots in our world over which we should "bleed."

But the heart is strong.   And it's resilient!   It bleeds and then it continues to grow.   Let's take our "bleeding hearts," keep them side by side, connected at the stem and deeply rooted in the base of our desire for healthy living. Let's support each other unconditionally.   I have certainly found that from you over the last two years and I plan to continue drawing on that support for quite some time to come.   I certainly hope you have felt it from me.  

Thank you for two wonderful years of writing!

 November 26, 2011 - 35 pounds from goal!
 May 1, 2012 - Six pounds from goal!

Can you see the difference?

The first picture was taken by Mr. B on the day after Thanksgiving also now known as the day I began the 17 Day Diet.  The second picture was taken by my friend, Judi@Blue Roads to Hiking Trails

Sunday, May 27, 2012

At Home in Woodstock

Mt. Peg Summit - Woodstock, Vermont
May 26, 2012

This update has lots of pictures.   Remember, you can enlarge any picture simply by clicking on it!

Following a couple of restful days enjoying our new home in Woodstock, we were ready for some activity.  As you might expect, this.............................

...............made me very happy indeed!    We chose to hike up to the summit of Mt. Peg as our first hike from the Woodstock area.  It wasn't to be a very long hike and we were able to walk to the trailhead directly from our house.  In fact, we'll be able to do that several times while here.  We'd been told this was a very popular hike so we left early in hopes of having some quiet time at the summit.  The trail was different than those we have in the Smokies with mostly a pine straw surface, lush with an amazing array of ferns and oh my goodness, never in all my life have I seen so many Jack-In-The-Pulpits!  Until a few weeks ago, I looked for this exquisite plant in specific places I knew they were to be found, but thanks to my hiking friends, Judi and Gene, I learned that where one is found, ALWAYS look for others.  Along the trail to Mt. Peg, I am so glad I knew that.  My guess (verified by Bill) is that we saw at least 25 on this trail.

We thoroughly enjoyed our morning at Mt. Peg.  Hope you enjoy the pictures!

 View to the north

View to the west

Got back from the hike just in time to head downtown (remember, it's only 2 blocks) for the Memorial Day Parade.  We weren't quite sure what to expect.  The nice lady in the Welcome Center had told me it was "too long" which I sincerely doubt is the message the Chamber of Commerce would want her to deliver.  This is a very small town and we couldn't imagine where parade participants would come from that might make it too long.  Armed with an open mind and our own flag to wave, we meandered down to the grounds of the historical society where we encountered a parade comprised of approximately ten entries INCLUDING the police escort at the front and the fire truck escort in the rear!!  In this town, the parade route meandered through town and STOPPED at several places where those in the parade performed in different ways.  At the historical society, a gun firing demonstration was held and TAPS was played.  At the town green, bagpipes played Amazing Grace.  At the North Cemetery, the Drum Corp performed.  The crowd simply followed the parade as it moved from place to place.  A very unique and moving way of celebrating.  We loved being a part of it and we most definitely disagree with the lady from the visitor center.  It was NOT too long!  

 Firing demonstration in front of the Historical Society

I think a picture of every parade participant EXCEPT the police and fire truck escorts is included!!

Following the parade, we wondered around downtown enjoying the people and shops.  We'd been taking a walk each evening, but long after the carpet's been rolled up and everyone has gone home.   Our first stop was F.H. Gillingham's, a general store opened by Frank Henry Gillingham in 1886.   What a wonderful Woodstock tradition, a place one can lose themselves in for a long time.  The saying that if you can't find it here, you don't need it, could certainly be said about Gillingham's.

 F.H. Gillingham's General Store - Woodstock, Vermont

Grocery Aisle - Gillingham's, Woodstock, Vermont

This was the warmest day we'd experienced since arriving in Woodstock, so following a bit more meandering in town, we headed the two blocks back up the hill as the cool breezes we knew we'd find on the front porch of our little house beckoned.   I'd planned a pretty aggressive day trip for Sunday and we wanted to get started early.

My plans was to include Sunday's adventure with this post, but we covered so much territory and stumbled upon so many neat places that became totally unexpected surprises, I decided it deserved a post of its own.  To whet your appetite, think Ivy League and lots of flour!  I'll get it written in the next day or so.   Tomorrow, it's back to the hiking trails. 

As always, thanks for reading!