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!


  1. I love hearing about all of your experiences... You obviously have a huge love of people --and remind me of my friend Judy and hubby Charlie. They meet new friends everywhere they go...

    George and I are a little more shy --and stay to ourselves... I'm sure we miss alot that way, but it's just the way it is....

    So glad you met Mary and then got to walk to the harbor... How interesting... Glad you got your ice cream also.


  2. Wow, what some awesome adventures you're having. I've never been that far north but seeing your photos makes me want to head that direction. Bet the harbor walk was wonderful!

    1. Sharon, those photos are absolutely beautiful — and so green. Such vibrant green is one of the things I miss now that I live out in Arizona (that and the brilliant multi-colored leaves of fall). The things I don't miss? Humidity and mosquitoes. ;)

  3. I've finally been in the states you are visiting! I've been to both VT and NH. Absolutely beautiful. Glad you are enjoying your trip still.

  4. Now you are in my old stomping grounds! When I was growing up, we spent almost every summer in NH. We had homes in Sunapee before we moved to the Lake Winnipesaukee area. We'd drive to Hanover sometimes for a day trip. They had a great toy store back then and I remember very fondly how our parents let each of us choose a small box of Lego.

  5. The Wal-Mart thing, LOL... yeah. You know what I would like? A TARGET!!! Not a single one in the state, and we're the only one without one. When we go Wal-mart we usually go over to Ticonderoga, NY instead. :) Nice adventures! Hopefully you were unscathed with the storms yesterday!

  6. Thanks for your Support Sharon!! So is Mr. B's goal on this trip to try a different ice cream in every state?! Ha! I'm like you guys and Walmart. When we went to CO, we wanted to hit one up in Boulder, only to find there was not one! It took trips to 4 stores to get what we could have gotten at one Walmart...*sigh*.

    Keep having fun!!

  7. Hi, Sharon...just wanted to let you know that I'm really enjoying following along on your journey. Thank you so much for posting about it. Between you and Betsy (from Tennessee), I'm doing a lot of wonderful vicarious traveling. And seeing lots of new places to put on my Places-to-Go-Before-I-Die list!

    I love that you are flexible and bold enough to go through all those doors you see. It certainly can be a way of discovering unexpected pleasures and/or adventures.

    And yep...I get you on the Walmart thing. It is a necessary evil where I live. Except for one grocery, it's the only big store within ten miles. It's either go there or use a lot of time and fossil fuel to go into Asheville.

  8. Much better surprise with this stop than on the last one! :)

    I don't buy flour too often, but when I do, it's KA all the way.

  9. What a beautiful day you two had. I love how your curiosity takes you through the doors and the adventures that it leads to. So much fun!

    I am so jealous that you found the King Arthur flour store. That of course caught my attention. Love it!

  10. I don't know if you were planning on attending, but this weekend: http://www.strollingoftheheifers.com/

  11. Hi Sharon! Thanks for the thoughtful comment on my blog.

    I happen to really enjoy pictures of *very old* buildings. So thanks for the photos above. Sounds like you had a marvelous time.

    :-) Marion

  12. Oops! Just went back and found your Dartmouth pictures. I spent my junior year of college here, just before the college became coeducational. This year is my fortieth reunion year. School was still in session and they have a very active summer semester, too, which starts in a week or so. I froze in the winter, but loved it in fall and spring.