Rain poured hard during our morning in Deerfield. This was another Airbnb stay and these hosts were more ‘hands off’. They had a two story home and we stayed downstairs in their basement. They showed us the amenities and after that did not even come downstairs during our stay. It was unlike any of our other hosts but was totally fine. People are going to have different styles. The couple was very kind during the ‘hellos’ and ‘goodbyes’. We over heard the lady, Kathy, singing and playing guitar. She sounded great. As we were leaving, she stated she was working on some songs for a record. Her husband, Joe, was an album producer.
Given the torrential downpour, we decided to backtrack a little to Northampton, Massachusetts which is where the famous Puritan preacher, Jonathan Edwards, ministered for a good portion of his life. The museum was in an old house on a busy street in the city. Underwhelmed is probably not a strong enough word to describe this experience. On the Internet, this was billed as a Jonathan Edwards museum. This place was a collection of old artifacts like typewriters, pens, desks and stuff like that from the era. It wasn’t even clear that Edwards used any of these. Any trace of Edwards was in books for sale including George Marsden’s biography. I asked the clerk about this. She was a kind but very quiet (and perhaps shy) lady. She graciously brought out two Edwards sermons: one from 1734 and the other a farewell address from 1750. They were not originals but copies. This was a silver-lining of the visit.
We settled into a decent drive to St. Johnsbury, VT up the interstate that ran along the Vermont and New Hampshire border. Traveling along this Interstate, one immediately realizes that there is nothing along this stretch of road. It seemed like exit ramps were every 5 to 10 miles apart and there would be minimal businesses off those ramps or none at all.
We made a stop in Brattleboro, Vt as they had an indoor playground for Naomi. The place was tucked away down some stairs and was housed under a pharmacy. It was quite the play area with a large amount of toys, a giant wooden xylophone, and various playhouses including a castle.
After witnessing Naomi tear around the indoor play area, we settled in for lunch at a crepe place. Michelle had been talking about how her eye had been hurting her. Now, she was in considerable pain and thought was losing vision in her left eye. Immediately, we found an eye doctor in Brattleboro. The diagnosis: a blister had formed on her eye from a contaminated contact lens. Armed with eye drop medication and other optometrist phone numbers for the areas we would be traveling to, we continued on to our destination.
We had moved away from Airbnb and were staying at the Maplewood Lodge on the outskirts of St. Johnsbury, VT. Yes, the place was tacky. When we walked into the front office to get our room, the environment smelled and sounded like a pet store. The establishment was going for a tropical type theme with pictures and a chirping bird soundtrack that certainly did not resemble northeast Vermont. The pub that was connected to the office had Hawaiian type of paraphanelia lining the walls. The bar area behind the main dining area was white and shaped like a snow cave in the Hoth system that was patrolled by a snow monster.
We were only there one night.
If we had a few regrets of the trip, one of them was not spending a ton of time in Vermont. The idea of visiting Montpelier had been discussed but we had to get Michelle’s eye taken care of via an appointment we had setup in town. First, we had breakfast at the tacky, tropical place at Maple Wood Lodge. Michelle ordered a pancake and when the breakfast was delivered discovered the pancake was literally the size of a large plate. The only place I had seen a pancake bigger than this one was in the famous John Candy film ‘Uncle Buck’. ‘You should have seen the toast. I couldn’t even get it through the door.’
After the appointment which was at a rural Vermont mall, we hit the road to New Hampshire. The ‘Live Free or Die’ state would be one of my favorites on the New England tour. The state was immensely beautiful and of course, we were traveling through the White Mountain National Park area. Mountains lined the terrain. Trees had begun to show their fall colors. A future Airbnb host would tell me that the tallest peak in the region was Mt. Washington at 6,289 feet.
Stopping at Cannon Mountain, we saw abandoned ski lifts for the season and a mountain barren of snow. We came to this site to ride an aerial tram to the top of the peak (about 4,100 feet). The air was crisp cold, the coldest we had felt on the trip yet. The top of the mountain was blanketed in fog. Boarding the tram, we were pulled up the mountain getting better views of the national park as we went. Eventually after moving past the tower that was about halfway up, we were enveloped in the fog. For some reason, I thought of the Stephen King based film ‘The Mist’. There really is an eerie feeling about fog but it is more exciting than scary. Alas, there were no monsters.
When we reached the summit, visibility was still pretty much zero. Walking off the platform, we went down to a small network of trails that went a little further up the mountains to a wooden observation deck. The host had stated that an earlier traveler had been on the observation deck when the fog and clouds briefly parted resulting in a glorious view. Upon going to the deck, we realized this was a false hope. Visibility zero. We ate lunch at a cafeteria at the top before descending the mountain.
On the way down, the fog did indeed lift. Our guide/ tram operator pointed out a peak in Quebec 95 miles away. Fall colored canyons extended out in front of us. Far below was a glacial lake, Echo Lake, that the host said was a maximum of 40 feet deep. I imagined my body becoming instantly encased in ice upon falling into at lake.
We continued on our way. All along the route through the national park would be turnoffs for hikes and also waterfalls just off the road. The fact about killed me that I could not hike any of these paths due to my back (if you have time to read my whine). We did pull over and Michelle snapped a shot of a long cascading waterfall. We continued along our way to North Conway where we would be spending the night.
Waking up in North Conway, NH we realized we were going to have the best amenities on the entire trip. We were staying at Isaac Merrill Inn which we found on Airbnb. This place was originally built in 1773. It had the creaks and uneven floors of an old structure but there was definitely a historical charm. Our room was spacious, maybe 500 square feet and our bed comfortable.
Coming out of our room, there was a common dining area with juices, toast and bagels laid out. A worker at the inn came out and asked us if we wanted eggs, waffles, pancakes, bacon or sausage and all of this was complimentary. We were blown away and ate…a lot. (I haven’t even mentioned the wine and cheese at check-in or the free drinks they offered after dinner the night before which included Amaretto and Irish Whiskey among others.)
After taking care of another eye appointment for Michelle, we drove back into the heart of town to take the Conway Railroad through town and beyond (a little bit). We were disappointed with the lack of spectacular scenery on our route. Sure, there was some nice fall scenery and enticing camping spots overlooking a river but that was about it. However, it was worth it to watch Naomi stare in wonder at the passing trees and shout “choo choo!” every time the train whistle blew. When the train stopped to adjust the cars and track for the journey back, Michelle got some solid pictures of Naomi walking on train tracks.
After lunch at a cozy town cafe, we trudged across the street for Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. I figured we had to as we were so close to their world headquarters (in Vermont).
Saying goodbye to North Conway meant settling in for a drive to Portland, Maine where the adventures would continue. We would be staying two nights in Portland (great to not have to haul bags around when we woke up). Embarrassingly enough, our two nights would be at a Motel 6. We did have a splendid Italian dinner that night at a local place in Westbrook.