The 2001 trip to America would, we decided, take the New England route to Portland, Indiana. With the help of a set of guide books from AAA, this part of the journey was planned in some detail in order to make the most of a relatively short time. We landed at Newark, New Jersey, on August 9th, which, according to local radio, was the hottest day in New York City since 1945, at 109ºF. There are times when luxuries like air conditioning are much appreciated!
Feeling like old hands at this, we collected the hire vehicle and headed north and east, through New York City and out to the coast of Connecticut. The intention was to find a coastal nature reserve where we could walk off the 8 hour flight, but weren't able to locate it, and found, instead, a small resort called Captain's Cove, at Black Rock Harbour near Bridgeport. Not only were we able to enjoy the scenery, but also had a good meal overlooking the marina and Jim was delighted to see the first engines of the trip - an Associated engine fitted with a winch, and a rather forlorn marine engine.
Our first full day was a busy one as there are many interesting attractions in that area of Connecticut. We began by doing something I had wanted to do since our first trip to America in 1999, which was to visit a Native American museum, the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Centre. We all thoroughly enjoyed it, as it was well presented, and we felt we had learned a lot about the history, culture and daily life of the coastal Indians in that area. Had it not been as interesting, we would probably have had time to visit the submarine base at Groton, but instead took in the regulation New England lighthouse, this one at Stonington, and containing a small local museum.
With difficulty, we found a motel close to Boston in order to make an early start in the morning. Saturday morning was an enjoyable walk around Boston, taking in the sights such as the "Cheers" pub, Boston Common, the Old Statehouse and the wonderful harbour, even having fresh Boston lobster for lunch! Walking back to the car park, we saw Faneuil Hall, the Union Oyster House, and Boston's impressive Holocaust Memorial. Then it was across to Charlestown to tour USS Constitution ("Old Ironsides") and USS Cassin Young, which was an interesting visit to compare with one made earlier in the year to the Historic Dockyard of Portsmouth, where HMS Victory resides.
That night's motel was the only one pre-booked ready for an even earlier start next day, and was memorable as being our first ever "delivered to motel" takeaway - an excellent Chinese. The only thing lacking was a corkscrew for the wine!
Sunday morning's trip had been booked for several weeks - whale watching from Cape Ann. There are many companies which run whale watching excursions in the Boston area, and the one I selected for us presented itself as a knowledgeable company who studied the whales, rather than just collecting the tourist bucks!! The weather was unexpectedly cold and wet, but this doesn't affect the whales at all. The two hour trip out to the feeding grounds was spent learning a little about their feeding and social habits, then 45 minutes spent on the feeding ground watching the whales swimming, feeding, lob-tailing and spouting. They are notoriously difficult to photgraph, but I did manage to get a few shots, including one of a mother and her calf. All in all, it was a fantastic, never to be forgotten experience.
In gradually clearing rain, we drove along a picturesque coast road before heading inland to New Hampshire (including a slight unintentional detour to Maine!), eventually finding our number one motel of the trip on the shore of Lake Winnepesauke. Our cabin looked directly over the lake, and the boys were in swimming before our suitcases had landed in the room! That night, we collected an Italian takeaway from a nearby town (well, fairly near ... just over the next mountain!) and once again discovered that our room was lacking an essential item - a corkscrew!
7am and the entire family was swimming in the lake again before heading off to find one of those real American breakfasts which sustains you for the rest of the day and to the Squam Lakes Natural Science Centre to get a close look at the wildlife of New Hampshire, including beaver, black bears, skunks, bob cats and a vast collection of native birds.
My itinery for the day was such that I knew only a miracle would ensure that we achieved everything, and that came with a roadside maple syrup farm, the Sunday Mountain Maple Farm, at Orford, New Hampshire, where the owner gave us a personal guided tour of the sugar bush and demonstrated the art of making maple syrup. This was, of course, followed by a tasting session of the various grades of syrup!
Our final intended destination of the day was the American Precision Museum in Windsor, Vermont. It is housed in the Robbins and Lawrence Armoury and Machine Shop, and for anyone interested in precision engineering it is well worth a visit. Particularly fascinating were the working models made by John Aschauer of a steam power plant and the machine shops he had spent his working life in.
Windsor is also home to the longest covered bridge in America, so we drove through it and made a brief trip back to New Hampshire before driving west through the mountains and ski resorts of southern Vermont to find a bed for the night. Once again we struck lucky in the oldest house in Bennington, which was a family run guest house where the owner's father entertained us with his vivid wartime memories. It turned out that he had been stationed about 8 miles from where we live during WWII!