From Our Perspective
New England: Donuts, Pizza, Ice Cream, and Lobster
“The coldest winter I’ve ever experienced is the summer in San Francisco” this wrongfully attributed Mark Twain quote was actually uttered in a much different form but the sentiment is the same. The writer James Quin was asked if he had ever recalled such a cold summer day in San Francisco, he said “Oh Yes, last winter”. I propose that neither man had spent a rainy summer day in off the capes in Massachusetts.
The last few years have been tough on everyone that goes without saying. Elizabeth and I have quite the infection of the parasite known as Travelous-Insectourus. We were both infected with this disease on our trip to Chicago way back in 2005. Its symptoms often include wanderlust, extreme ability to eat large amounts of food otherwise not recommended, bizarre desire to walk absurd distances. These last few years for a variety of reasons have not allowed us to get access to the medicine required to treat this extreme disease we have picked up. But 2021 is looking up, we have been Vax’d and headed up the country as the song goes.
Elizabeth and I started off looking for places to eliminate from the bucket list as we always do. We would be proud members of the 50+ Club, and are working towards our membership. We usually have some conversation about where to go in the following form. 1. Where haven’t we been? 2. Where would we like to go? 3. Where makes sense to go? (Geographically). We started this quest off under still low vaccination numbers, and a lot of strange state rules around testing. Originally when we were looking, this changed by the time we were on the road, some states were requiring negative COVID tests prior to entry. We started looking for places we could drive too, and because we have a lot of the Midwest and New England to cross off. Not ones for road trips we figured New England made it easy to get here and allow us to explore, despite the general lack of interest in long periods of time in the car.
After soft confirming our region, we started looking at the stops along the way to make sure there is enough there to learn something new, get to experience something that we do not have near us. We are also NOT the outdoorsy types, and a lot of the “Things-to-do” lists included outdoors things. We did our best to find a balance of things to do. Number one on the list was see a moose, but those elusive bastards are hard to find even though they outnumber people in a lot of the places we went on this trip. Number two was Lobster rolls for Elizabeth, we found one of these in abundance. As usual we tried to find good food, walk a lot, have new experiences, collect refrigerator magnets and Ornaments. So here we go.
What should have been an estimated eight-hour drive was 12-hours due in part to Elizabeth’s very predictable bladder, but also the traffic through Connecticut. When we drove up to see Linda a few trips back Elizabeth’s bladder started to become an issue around the Pennsylvania boarder just about two hours in, so we stopped and used the restroom. This time around we unknowingly stopped at the same exact McDonalds. Predictable. We grabbed a small bit to eat to take with us, in an attempt to keep the drive at a reasonable timeline and got back on the road. This trip would take us through some of the most congested cities in America. D.C., Baltimore, Philadelphia, NYC, and Boston. The worst traffic on the way up unexpectedly was the 49-mile portion of 95N through Connecticut. Spoiler alert! This was a close 1a -1b situation compared to the GW bridge in NYC on the way back.
On the way up Elizabeth was driving first, I was distracted and we missed our exit just over the bridge from Old Town and into DC/MD this made us go all the way around the 495. Not long into New Jersey we were scooting along when we had to go over a big bridge and I was again distracted as we just crossed the over the bridge and did not tell Elizabeth where to go at the fork. I still argue that this was not MY fault and is in fact the civil engineer’s fault. I did not put the fork in the road at the end of the bridge. Well, went the wrong way, again. Elizabeth took the first exit thinking it would put us right back on the path. NOPE. It only put you back southbound on the 95 and back over the bridge. Through the toll booth, again.
The best part of traveling is the world around you forces you to experience new things. If you are from New Jersey, you may have known that those roads before and after the bridge are turn-abouts. But two Virginians did not see those as road regular cars would use. They looked like places you would see cops sit and shoot radar. Apparently, you can use those turn-abouts? or at least we did. We went back over the bridge, turned around again and went back over the bridge once more.
As we went along, things through New Jersey New York and Connecticut were pretty uneventful. I cannot believe the weird law that is still on the books in NJ about not being able to pump your own gas. I can imagine back in the day, regular people did not pump gas regularly enough, and car manufactures and pumps being non-standard could make it a dangerous proposition to pump your own gas. But now-a-days NJ, com’on. The gas pumpers union must have a strong lobby there. Not long after, we made our official planned stop in Newport Rhode Island. A nice port city south of Providence. We stopped and attempted to find parking (Lots were $20/hr not kidding) before walking to Diego’s for dinner.
It was cold, wet, and freezing here. We left Virginia it was warm and sunny, and now we were in 42F weather with drizzle rain, and cutting winds. Diego’s was our first interaction with the Gen-Pop not wearing masks etc and it felt strange. We ordered a bunch of appetizers which we often do at restaurants. We like a variety of foods and a lot of places offer good appetizers to share. We ordered the Nachos, Guac, and Grilled Corn. This also happened to be my first experience with “Tea” in New England. Wow…umm…diiiiiifferennnnt? I cannot really put it into words, it was surprisingly lemony without having any lemon. Strong but not in a good black tea kind of way, as if it was old? Maybe the folks up here are still all caught up in that tea incident back in the day? Clearly tea is not a priority up here. After dinner we attempted to walk around the city some but it was frigid, so we got our Rhode Island magnet and got on the road. We started to see several wind turbines. I love these things. I really love the potential of them, and maybe it is my love for aeronautics but I think they are pretty too.
We arrived at the hotel in Hyannis MA after dinner and a quick drive. Surprisingly we were quite tired from a full day of not doing anything. I do not remember falling asleep, but Elizabeth remarked in the morning how I just passed out.
Day one was a bit of a dull one, that is ok. We know, but day two has a bit of a plot twist stay tuned. We started the day off much to our chagrin cold, rainy, and windy again. The plan was to grab a bite to eat and go see some sights. We found a little place called “The Keltic Kitchen”, an Irish breakfast place serving up all the Irish/American staples. I had crème brulee French toast, and Elizabeth had eggs and such with a stuffed strawberry scone. Food was pretty good, nothing fancy. There was no brulee de crème, it was just thick french toast with some crème.
As we sat and ate, I started to notice that the overall demeanor of the people around us was what could be described as “perpetual scowl”. No one was rude or anything, but there certainly was no warm and fuzzies going around. Maybe it’s the cold, but probably not as things warmed up their personalities did not seem to change. The majority of people had a frump face, not dissimilar to what you would look like if you got a flat tire on your way to work. Editors Note: This week at home after vacation, I was listening to the podcast “Conan O’Brian needs a friend” He had John Krasinski a Massachusetts-ite on. They were discussing the overall demeanor of the people here. It made a lot more sense hearing two MA-ians talk about the people. The frump, I get it now.
We knew going into this trip we did not have anything planned. We knew our accommodations, but that was really about it. We went into this trip with no real plan on what to do while we were here. We just needed some time off. We looked into a few things but didn’t book anything or plan on this or that. After breakfast we pulled up the map of Cape Cod and figured we would just go around the cape, hit a few beaches, and end at Provincetown before heading back. So that is what we did. We found a little beach area that had a lighthouse nearby, and we headed in that direction.
We squealed wheels on over to the beach. As we lined up to go walk around, the rain and winds were really buzzing. Elizabeth was very cute in her outfit but was only wearing flats and the beach access was blocked off, so was the lighthouse. We were here though, so we popped out and grabbed a quick photo or two and got back in the car to defrost. We programmed the next beach into the GPS and headed off.
On our way we cut through the back-way which brought us off the main road and through a neighborhood. As we rounded the corner, we were confused by the two teenage girls very close to the road with their golf cart parked suspiciously close to the road. As we approached them at approximately 30-40MPH one of the girls lobbed a two-liter bottle at the car. It hit the car, ricocheted off the hood (luckily) and up and over the car.
I slammed on the breaks, threw the car in reverse, and backed up as the two girls went speeding off. Let the chase begin. Mind you, it is still 40-45F (4-7C) outside, it is raining and we are in a high-speed chase with a cartoonish purple golf cart with two teenage girls (Maybe 12-14 years old) who were wearing shorts, and long sleeve shirts. We rumbled down dirt roads as I followed behind the 12V powered T.G.T.V. (that is a Typically Grassed Terrain Vehicle) As we circled around and around Elizabeth was trying to get ahold of the police using the non-emergency number, not wanting to tie up the 911 lines with dumb kids. As the Barney purple golf cart and its low squatty balding tires bobbled down the streets, it slowly bled the batteries down. The initial high-speed (10mph) chase eventually turned into a meandering 5 mph. After much frustration, we just had to call 911. As we gave the dispatcher the details of the incident and the turn-by-turn directions of “Turning east on Epanow Rd, now north on Anawan Rd, now west on Squanto Rd, now south on Aquinnah Rd, now east on Epanow Rd, now north on Anawan Rd….”
The Club Cart was giving it all she had, but alas it did not have much more to give. The officers arrived very quickly, and put an end to the flight of the purple carts struggle. We met with the first officer and after a quick check of the car we realized that they and we were extremely lucky. There was NO damage to the car, a millisecond earlier and the bottle would have hit the grill. A millisecond later it would have hit the wind-shield. The potential to ruin the trip was real, but there was no damage to the car. I was CERTAINLY a stupid kid at that age and I certainly did stupid things. We asked that the officers just let their parents/police deal with their stupidity. The officer agreed that scaring the shit out of some dumb kids was the better option. This may have seemed like it was a bit of paying the good will forward, but I assure you it was selfish in nature. I did not want to be driving back here just to testify.
While standing out with the officer Elizabeth and I were legit freezing, and we were only outside the car four about 5-10 min. We were teeth chattering, jaw clinching FREEZING. The officer was not fazed at all. When we got back in the car to leave and let the officers handle the delinquents. We both looked at each other surely seconds away from hypothermic shock and said how we both were trying not to be embarrassing wusses. You would have thought we were in the artic, based upon our poor performance in the cold. As we left the scene of the crime, we gave the two juvies the death stare and sped off. A day or so later I checked the police blotter to see if the incident was in there, but the small town off the cape did not have a blotter available.
On we went on our tour of the cape. We found another beach or two along the way, attempted to get some pictures but the beaches were closed or inaccessible because of the cold, wet, lack of proper clothing to stand in such elements. Eventually we made our way to Provincetown. Another cute little town with scant parking. We looked up things to do in P-Town and nowhere did it mention Pilgrims Tower, a 252ft tall tower built 1907-1910 to honor the c.1600’s pilgrims that settled the area.
P-Town has a large gay community, surprisingly we did find on the list of To-Do’s was visit “Dick Dock”. Listed as an intimate place for a private romantic encounter. It seemed to be place for hand jobs under a pier/dock, but nowhere did it mention a cool tower that you could walk up and get great 360 views of the area. Sex sells, I guess.
Instead of making a stop at Dick Dock, we went for the hike up the tower. It was a cool tower that had windows along the way, and at the top the platform allowed for views all around the cape. EXCEPT it again was FREEZING and at the top the wind was blowing 40-50 mph. We snapped a few quick photos and got the hell out of there. We went down and walked around the streets, and shops of P-Town.
As we walked past our 200th ice cream/candy shop we started to notice a trend. There are a lot if Ice Cream and Candy shops. Upon further research Massachusetts is the leader in the clubhouse for tonnage of ice cream eaten by state. Which made us think is it a chicken or egg situation? Do they eat so much ice cream because it is FUCKING everywhere, or are there ice cream places everywhere because they eat so much?
While we are on the subject, Dunkin Donuts, candy shops, and pizza places are also on every corner. This could also be the cause of the frump faces. Maybe they are all constipated from the over consumption of dairy.
Along the route, we stopped had a hunk of fudge, got our magnet but the main reason for the stop here was the lobster. This was the first of many lobster rolls Elizabeth would have. “The Lobster Pot” had good reviews and that was the real reason for making our way around the cape. Unfortunately, due to covid the dining room space was limited and they were not taking anymore walk-in’s today. But they did also have a “Lobster Pot Express” just around the corner. It was an order window and take with you, not a place to sit down and have lunch. There are two basic styles of Lobster rolls, warm and cold. Warm is typically is just a toasted bun, lobster meat, and drawn butter. Cold usually have some sort or may-o dressing and served cold on a toasted bun.
It was an order window and take with you, not a place to sit down and have lunch. There are two basic styles of Lobster rolls, warm and cold. Warm is typically is just a toasted bun, lobster meat, and drawn butter. Cold usually have some sort or may-o dressing and served cold on a toasted bun.
There is a theory about the brains dopamine response to drug use the first time you use. Your first high is the best, and every experience after is an attempt to recreate that same high, but none can achieve the same euphoria as the first time. This may have been what Elizabeth experienced. As she absolutely crushed this roll, with its warm butter and soft toasted bun she was in love. Even though we had to lean against a pole, getting rained on, no drink, me holding her purse and the to-go box. We looked like a hot mess, but SHE was in heaven. All of the attempts to recreate the experience the rest of the trip, she would later reflect, were not as good as the first one in P-Town.
In a seafood drunken stupor, we strolled back to the car and headed back to Hyannis for a quick bite to eat in downtown Hyannis. Believe it or not lobster rolls are not that filling. At this point in the trip, I am struggling to find a wide variety of veggie options while out and about. If I liked seafood, I am sure the food would for me have been better this trip. I ate a lot of pizza on this trip because its widely available, not a seafood option, and pretty much the “Veggie” option on a lot of menus. Shortly after we headed back to the hotel where we again crashed for the night. Tired from a lot of do nothing.
Today we move on to Portland, Maine. Last night we just quickly looked at what was along the route and Salem, MA is right there. We looked up a witch trials walking tour and booked it. This was to be our stop along the way. BUT as we were driving up, we saw signs for Plymouth, MA. Quick detour we landed on Plymouth rock. Unceremoniously walked along the park where they have laid a rock to approximate where the Pilgrims landed in Plymouth. In a cage in dirty water that ebbs and flows with the tides to either expose or cover the damaged rock. The rock is old, and it has been moved a lot, broken a few times, repaired and trimmed down. Along the park there is a 1:1 Mayflower ship at the dock, and I have to say I probably would not have left England.
Three months at sea with a ship you know was over packed, smelly, no drinking water. Nowhere to use the bathroom, on a top-heavy ship that was surely leaning one side or the other from the wind in the sails and rocking in the waves. NOPE. I do not get motion sick as I have mentioned before, but I do have a pretty considerable fear of the water. Additionally, it is not like once they got here there was a nice hotel with warm baths. They were coming to nothing, and arrows in their asses. Again, NOPE. Give me the plague all day.
Plymouth, check, been there seen that. We moved on to Salem. Salem is another small New England town and Elizabeth’s bladder at full capacity. We arrived a little before our tour started and attempted to find a bathroom. We hit all the 1st tier places, coffee shops, malls, and Dunkin Donuts. No public restrooms. We then tried the 2nd level places, the random shops, dumpsters, and woods. No public bathrooms. As Elizabeth in nearly a pee-panic, we find out there are no readily available restrooms. In a tourist town, where a lot of people come to visit for witches, and such. The only public bathrooms that were available pre-covid were inside the federal parks department building. Which is now closed due to COVID. Last resort, the row of 8 port-a-shitters. Elizabeth attempted several as there was no paper available. When she came out from doing her business, she exclaimed “I think the same person shit in all of those. I saw the same shit in all of those” gross. Funny, but gross. We then hurried to meet the tour.
The tour was just ok, I think because we learned so much about it in school that there was not a lot of new information. There are also none of the original buildings left. Not surprising since it all happened nearly 400 years ago. There was nothing tangible to connect to story too. This made the whole thing just a story. Walking around and getting out of the car for a bit was worth it. The mall appropriately was called “The Witch Mall” it was small, no bathrooms and weird in a way that cannot easily be put into words. Time to go. Check, been there seen that.
We had read that North of Boston on Rt1 was a good tour since it takes you through a lot of cute towns. We hit the road and went Rt1 North. Not long after we found a quaint town that was very reminiscent of the England/Scotland, Newburyport, MA. The buildings and the stores below with the marquees with the business names etc. It was very UK. Hunger was getting to us, so I found another place serving lobster rolls. This would be Elizabeth’s first encounter with the cold variety. It was good but she liked the warm version better. I had a different version of pizza. I had a grilled cheese Sammy, and more weird tea. Later we would find out what the tea probably was at all of these places, might just have been brisk. After early dinner we walked around town a bit before getting back on the road.
We kept driving along R1 before we made an easterly detour headed to Kennebunkport Maine. A one street town worth a stop for a magnet and some window shopping. Not much else. We were there about the time the town closed. We were only able to grab a picture or two, a quick magnet. It was a one street town after all. On we went.
Not long after we would arrive in Portland, ME. Another small port town but welcoming. We settled in to the hotel before we went for a walk around the city to get our bearings. While out and about even though it was starting to get later than I would like to be eating, I started getting a bit famished. Wouldn’t you know it? There in-front of me stood a grilled cheese restaurant in all its cheesy gooey goodness. I thought to myself, I have not had much cheese and bread on this trip, and I am hungry.
The place was Cheese Louise, and it was pretty good. If you have ever eaten at Melt or other similar places it is the same concept. The exception here is that they made from scratch lemonades. I had the blueberry, It was delicious. Back at the hotel that night we found that there is a 3-hour food tour of Portland. Apparently, Portlandenites fancy’s themselves as foodies. Booked it, let’s see how deep the rabbit hole goes.
First day that we had some good weather. From here on out, the weather was beautiful. Typical of us we never have cash, and started the morning with a significant walk to find an ATM. As a preamble to the 3-hour walking tour. We had an ATM in our hotel, we later found out, but because we bank with the horse and coach we went looking for their ATM. The Wells Fargo that we found, was a Wells Fargo Advisors not a real bank. We found that out after a long walk, and got cash from a BoA atm instead. We were already hungry so we made a stop at HIFI Donuts, which Elizabeth had looked up as a place to eat along the way. Yup, you read that right. We stopped and got donuts before our 3-hour food tour.
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The food tour was really for Elizabeth, and truthfully all of the food choices on the trip were for Elizabeth. There was a lot of seafood on the tour. Including ANOTHER lobster roll. We met our guide as he slowly walked us from place to place giving us some details about the city, and the places we stopped. We stopped and had a fresh out the oven, blueberry muffin where we learned about Maine blueberries. How different they are from other blueberries. I scarfed down the warm muffin, and half of Elizabeth’s. Next stop we had nothing but seafood options. Elizabeth had the seafood chowder, it as chock full of seafood. It had whole lobster claw meat in a tiny bowl with other bits and parts as well. We continued strolling around where we tried different local brewery beers (Gross) and Fish Taco’s. More stops with local brewery blueberry beers, lobster rolls, and we finished the stop at a chocolate store for truffles.
At one of the stops (Gritty’s) they had a strange mural on the wall, there were naked adults with full painted bits all on display. When I asked Elizabeth what’s up with the mural and why the lady had her bits all out? She said “She’s been vaxed and waxed, she’s ready to go”. After the tour we had some time, and the weather was absolutely wonderful we shopped around looking for magnets, and such. We meandered around town walking a ton before heading to the hotel for a rest.
After a quick nap and some showers, we went for a little drive out to the light houses we were told about on the walking tour. There are a lot of light houses in the area, but there were two near enough to where we were staying. Head Light and Two Lights in Cape Elizabeth. We went for a quick drive out to the Head Light first, there was a very nice park surrounding the light house. We walked around collected some pieces of earth like we always do. Went rock climbing around the park, skipped some rocks on the water, and strolled around the old cannon and armory banks. Got some cool pix of the light house and park, before heading over to the Two Lights light house. This area was much more rural, and relaxing. There was an amazing overlook of the area, and we just sat in the sun, listening to the waves crash. It was great. We tried to visit the two light houses but they were literally in home owners’ yards.
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For dinner we grabbed burgers it was a chain place though so nothing too special here. and ice cream at the local gelato place. We love gelato, that is no secret. Ever since that near divorce on our honeymoon in Italy where we ate gelato twice in fifteen minutes, we are always looking for gelato. This one though was not spectacular, mine had ice chunks in the gelato. We did walk a lot today so we called it a night and headed in.
Today we strolled out of town to hit another place we learned about on the food tour. There is a nice easy hike that leads up to a small mountain that overlooks the area. Along the way we stopped at a breakfast place on the side of the road, when we entered, I was in love. The smell of breakfast (My favorite meal) and fresh baked goods were amazing. My addiction to flour/sugar was on full display. This place had gigantic Cinna-buns, iced blueberry lemon loaf, gigantic cookies, whoopie pies, and more. I was going to order a lemon blueberry loaf to go when we were done, but the experience changed those plans. The customer service was not great and the eggs were hockey pucks. I asked for another syrup because the small one they gave me was not enough for the pancakes.
I was advised that the syrup that came with the pancakes was pure maple syrup, there was a charge for another one, but I could have the corn syrup version for free. Well of course I wanted the good stuff, not realizing it was nearly $3 for a tablespoon. BONKERS. This was after they charged $5 for two over cooked eggs. It was just not a great experience, so instead of giving me another $.03 in syrup and making $5-10 on baked goods they charged me and ruined the experience. Instead of spending more money on baked goods, we just got the hell out of there. Yelp review over.
On to the hike then. We got to the trail/park in about 15 min, and it was a quiet stroll up the long way just about a mile, or a very steep two tenths of a mile nearly straight up. Because we loaded up on carb cakes just before we thought that the long stroll would be better. As we started going though, our stark opposition to being outside in the woods became very evident, were instantly bombarded by insects. Constantly swatting away flies and mosquitos. We were immediately triggered. We attempted to enjoy watching Chip and Dale, Montery Jack and Gadget chase each other around the forest, the bugs were just too much. We sped up the trail to the summit attempting to out run the annoying buzz sounds. We reached the summit met some other folks who were from Maryland. They noticed my Caps hat and inquired. We chatted it up a bit before catching a selfie and taking the short route back. Sweaty and smelly and TIRED of the bugs we hit the road back to the hotel.
We showered up and rested a bit. I have not had a good tea since we arrived in New England. There was a boba tea place with good reviews a little over a mile from the hotel, after our rest we went on a walk to get a boba tea. Uncharted Tea had a decent tea, and they were not shy on the boba. We sat and chilled at the tea joint for a bit, had our teas before our walk to dinner. We walked just about another mile down to the wharfs where they were serving up more lobster rolls. Since this was our last night in Portland, we felt we should really give the lobster rolls a real go of it. There were two places in Portland with good reviews on their rolls, so we had both. Well, Elizabeth did. I had a homemade oatmeal cream pie.
We went back to the hotel again stuffed from our tour of Portland’s lobster joints, but we found that just down the road there was an official #WATL place. With no plans other than what comes next, we booked an hour to go throw some axes.
We arrived at 9p for our 9-10p window, just to find out that I booked it for tomorrow. Luckily, they were not busy and let us in to heave some axi. This would not be the only time I booked something for the wrong date. More on that later. After a quick how to and a demonstration, we got to lobbing sharp objects at a high rate of speed. Elizabeth is a natural. Her aim and grouping were amazing. She hit the bulls eye pretty quickly but before I could grab my phone and get a pic she had already ripped it off the board. We chucked a lot of axi and had a good time. If you were interested, they allowed you to drink alcoholic beverages and keep throwing sharp objects around.
For a small fee of $20 they also had a box of other sharp objects, ninja stars, throwing knives and such that you could zip across the place. BUT if you are going to go, a little warning. They do not allow you to throw while wearing open toed shoes, but in order to keep you safe they will rent you socks and a pair of crocs, you know, for safety! After blowing out an elbow and Elizabeth needing Tommy John Surgery, we called it a night smiling from the destruction we caused. Tomorrow we head to Manchester N.H. and…ummm…it is a place that exists.
Today we made our way from Maine on over to New Hampshire. New Hampshire and Vermont have a lot of covered bridges and N.H. official site has a list of all of them. The list is quite helpful detailing where they are located, how old they are, and other little details about how much they cost to build etc. It allowed us to build a trip along the way to the hotel to stop and see some cool ones. The trip from Portland to Manchester the quick way is only an hour and half, but we wanted to see some covered bridges. I am glad that we did, because it was some of the prettiest driving we did. A lot of the roads we took to get to-and-fro were freeways, and not a lot of pretty along the way. Because we scheduled some back road ways that took us around some mountains and open spaces.
I do not want to drone on and on about the bridges but some were nicer than others. One had been removed and set on some blocks. What could have been an hour and half drive was a six-hour drive around N.H. At the beginning of this leg of the trip we stopped at a place called Snickerdoodle for coffee, and donuts. A cozy place with nice people serving up good donuts, at an unexplainably low price. There was good 50s music playing on an old radio and the (owner?) was in the back dancing around and singing along. Sugared up and caffeinated, we sped off toward the first bridge.
Several hours later and multiple bridges down we arrived in Manchester. We dropped the bags and immediately headed to dinner. I know what you are thinking. We just ate donuts, no? No. We found a place to eat just a few blocks away, and headed over. Elizabeth and I love to eat early. Frankly the earlier the better. It is not uncommon for us to eat dinner at places at the moment they open. When we saw that this fancy place started their dinner service at 4pm we were first inline. Literally. We felt a little odd about it until the two men brushed the two blue plate specialist rookies out of the way. These two men legitimately had canes, we knew we were with OUR crowd and we followed right behind them. I had the pizza again. During dinner though we Binged® things to do and found out that they have an AA Baseball team in town that had a game tomorrow. I confirmed the date with Elizabeth and we booked two tickets ($30 total) in great seats right on 3rd base because that side of the stadium would be in the shade. We also noticed just a few blocks away was a highly rated ice cream place. We scarfed down dinner which we are also notorious for doing. I eat extremely fast, and I think I have subconsciously trained Elizabeth to do the same. We headed back to the hotel to chill and let our food settle before we cram ice cream on top. On our way back to the hotel we passed a little person and a 6’6 guy sharing a cigarette, and three guys sitting outside of the hole in the wall bar. One guy had his Pitbull blocking the sidewalk and his Glock on his hip. Put a pin in that.
Back at the hotel thing got a bit weird. As we were entering the lobby we noticed a few odd characters, but this is Manchester so it was not that surprising. These folks were dressed nicer than most Manchester-ians, and some of them had a very MAGA vibe going on. There was a pretty noticeable police presence. In the back parking area there were 5-6 blacked out SUV’s with what looked like secret service agents, wandering about. It was clear that there was something going on, so when we got into the room, we were Binging® our phones to death trying to find out what was going on. Turns out that shit head Mike Pence was having a fund-raising dinner at the hotel. Who knew? Not us that’s for sure. Editors Note: While at home after the trip Elizabeth and I joked that the TV show Aerial America did not tell us about Manchester. We watched it again. Apparently, Manchester NH is the birthplace of the Republican Party, now the MAGA party makes sense.
The plan to not have any plans got punched in the mouth here. During dinner we attempted to find our usual educational, informative, foodie, magnet things in Manchester. The first sign of trouble was the top three things on the top ten things to do in Manchester were in order, Number 1: Visit the dump, Number 2: Get a Polio Vaccine. Number 3: Litter. Well shit, that is not a good sign. We then turned our attention to “gift shops” to find a magnet or ornament, a quick Bing® result brought up a dollar store. Fuck, that is not good at all. Lastly when we look up the official motto of the city it read “Manchester, a place so nice you will want to go to Vermont, it is so close, you probably should just go there instead, really” It is comically long, and a weird motto but I cannot say they were wrong.
The lack of options here certainly set us back. Not to be discouraged though we attempted to look up some food options and just a few blocks away from our hotel was a highly rated ice cream joint. After a little rest and the fact our usual things to do in this city was nonexistent, we thought it was worth the walk to get some ice cream. This is when the true colors of Manchester started to show themselves.
The walk over was not a long one and considering our routine on our vacations. The journey just under two miles there and back was not expected to be a remarkable one. Although as we left the hotel, which is situated on the west side of two public parks, there were some locals who appeared to be a little inebriated, rough housing. We continued Southeast, down and over, cutting through another park where there were a few homeless people stationed around. While that in and of itself is not a problem (socially, economically, and humanly not withstanding) it sets the mood for the area. We continued east for several blocks, passing the “store” selling…trash? I am not trying to be disparaging here, but there was one lady sitting on an old box just inside the doorway. She was surrounded by a few stacks of middle eastern dresses, but mostly what appeared to be trash. Piled up and smashed into the venetian blinds were old boxes and electronic parts. The brief eye contact we made, I felt despair in the connection.
Moving along towards our sweet cold delight, we had a five-block jaunt south along Valley Cemetery. Along the way the breakdown of society and infrastructure became very evident. The trash along the route was readily available. If you wanted a souvenir or ornament reminiscent of the time in Manchester a sun-bleached package of old Cheetos is really on brand here. The old buildings were in several deepening stages of decay. The balconies were not level, rotting away, over-weighted and in an unsafe state. The grasses are over-grown, broken down cars, dotted along the way. It was at this point we started to get a little more interested in the overall vibe of the city. We did some fast research and turns out. Manchester is not the greatest place out there. There is a 1:34 chance of either being a victim of a robbery, or violent crime. That made our buttholes tighten a bit.
We managed to get to the ice cream without incident. Well, that is not entirely true, both of our ice cream cones were smashed to bits and leaked everywhere. Considering the alternative, a smashed cone and some mediocre ice cream is a welcomed disappointment. As the light was dwindling and the prospects of being outside now did not seem like a positive environment, we might have walked a half step faster back to the hotel. Along the way back it appeared the evening’s festivities seemed to be just getting started. As we wondered along the park where the homeless people were gathering, the locals were setting up for the boxing matches. Elizabeth somehow did not see the 5-8 people getting all setup with their boxing gloves, and such. I just hope that they were people who wanted to be there to train, and they were not outfitting the homeless for some perverse fight club situation. Given the strange events and folks we have come across so far…does not seem that unreasonable. We got the hell out of there before we could get the answer of those questions. We strolled on back to the hotel unscathed, but as I mentioned the evening’s festivities were just getting started. As the sun set the local motorcycle club was just revving up, and for the next four hours the engines of the locals were echoing throughout the city. Fantastic.
Mindfulness is an emerging sub-category of experiencing/remembering self, it is focused on the active control of your thoughts and emotions through your existence from day to day, hour by hour, minute by minute. This is somethings that really intrigues me as someone who routinely try to understand my actions, thoughts. There is an interesting scheme related to travel within this realm, called “The peak/end rule”. The basic explanation of this is that generally with most events in our lives we tend to remember or recall when discussing the event as these two points in the event. We tend to recall the peak experience (good or bad) and the end (good or bad). Being mindful of yourself more in each moment allow for a better spread of time and reflection. After arriving to a (let’s be honest) less than ideal stop in the trip right at the end of the trip, this could seriously impact the overall feel and mood of the trip.
As the evening went on, I grew more and more disappointed with the status of things in Manchester. While being mindful of the impact this could have on the trip; I started to look for options to improve the situation. This trip officially crosses off 37 states visited, and we did not have plans to zip over to Vermont even though it was pretty close. About an hour to the border, and a bit further for any real place one would like to visit. Not going to Vermont would have left us with 36 states and requiring another trip to New England to cross it off the list. When the outlook of spending 10 plus hours in a town where the number one thing to do was recycle battery acid without protective equipment, and the logistics of making a special trip back up this way for Vermont; we knew we had to go. A quick Bing® or two we had our last day itinerary.
Last night we book some tickets for a AA Rivercats game here in Manchester at 630p. We knew that if we wanted to get to Vermont and back for the baseball game, that was NOT a part of the top 10 list of things to do, we would have to make a relative short drive. We decided that visiting the capital of Vermont would work. It was about two hours away, had a good breakfast place, some shops to walk around in.
Remember I was just saying how many Dunkin Donuts are around here? There is a stark lack of Starbucks or Peets coffee joints. Elizabeth would prefer Peets to Starbucks, Starbucks to Dirty Sock Water wrung out in a cup, Dirty Sock Water wrung out in a cup to Piss, and Piss to Dunkin Donuts Coffee. Unfortunate all prior options were in short supply so Dunkin Donuts was the only option to get her fix of coffee before we hit the road. We looked up the closest one that did not have an active Code 3 situation in the parking lot and stopped. As I reflect back I really tried to paint a picture of the weirdness of Manchester. It started with the walk back from dinner and the pit bull Glock guy. There was just a strangeness in the air. It is akin to the vortexes in Sedona, AZ you cannot see them, there is nothing scientifically to prove it, but there is something going on. We went inside to get the coffee since there was no drive-thru and the locals did not disappoint. We swiftly obtained a shit cup of joe and got the hell out of there. I can hear some of you asking why we even stopped there. Truthfully Elizabeth only thought that she remembered that she didn’t like their coffee. It was only when she ordered it that she did in fact not like their coffee, and did not even come close to finishing it. The only plus was it was national donut day and we received a free donut with the coffee. Side note, it feels like it is national donut day every three weeks.
We scooted down the road headed to Montpelier, VT the smallest state capital in the union. It has two main streets that run N/S and E/W with a few small streets around. To give you an idea we walked all of the main streets plus one or two back streets in about 30 min. It is TINY. We arrived hungry and had a quick walk over to the crepe place we had picked out the night before. They were good crepes and sitting outside was quite nice. After we ate, we window shopped and walked along the few streets. We got a picture or two from around town, I tried like hell to find Bernie but Elizabeth kept telling me that he was in DC. I was still looking though. We found us a magnet to add to the collection, enjoyed the fresher air before getting back on the road.
To this point we had enjoyed a sweet or three, and actually we were kind of sweet’d out believe it or not. BUUUUUUUT 15 minutes further down the road was the Ben & Jerry’s Factory. How could two sweet-heads forgive themselves IF we were so close to the source NOT stop. So we did. We popped on over and got us two more cones. Elizabeth does not really care for B&J’s because according to her they put too much stuff in it, which is kind of their thing. She had their plain strawberry and I had their Cookies and Crème, because I like all the stuff in there but I really was sweet'd out. We enjoyed our treats and got on down the road. We wanted to have a little time to relax before tonight’s baseball game.
Back in Manchester we set off from the hotel walking to the baseball game. This area of town was opposite of the purgatory we had just traipsed through the night before. This way was down towards the colleges. It was a nice walk just a little over half mile each way. We arrived and headed to the gate, where a nice man scanned our tickets. Error. Scanned again. Error. Once more. Error. Nice man looks at the ticket on the phone, tickets were for Yesterday. I told you it was a theme. Thankfully this was AA ball in a stadium that might have sold 1000 tickets in a 7000 seat stadium. The other nice man at the ticket booth gave us tickets to tonight’s game at no charge. That is a great way to enhance the peak/end rule.
We walked around the small stadium looking at dinner options for a Vegetarian and a T1 Diabetic. Not much it turns out. Guess what I had, if you guessed cheese pizza you nailed it, it was not good. We had a good time, the kids at the game though, completely reconfirmed our choice to not have those shitty whiney annoying little twats. The Mudcats played poorly, they lost 11-4 but the highlight of the game had to be the lady in the group a few rows ahead of us. We had moved seats, due to the kids driving us crazy, and were fortunate to sit just a few rows back from what would really just capture the true essence of Manchester.
The lady, we will call “Mary”, was in row F and was part of a decent sized group of about 8 people. They were enjoying each other’s company and just chatting it up. Most of them in their best evenings wear appropriate for a warm night at a baseball game. Mary wearing a T-shirt and tight workout shorts very familiar to a 1980s workout VHS tape. Mary’s mood was one of a friendly person who was the wife of to the person who knew the other people in the group but was not exactly close friends. But I surely hope I am wrong about that part. Her presence in the space was one of a slightly nervous or tense person in an environment where you have uncontrolled ticks to help dissipate the tension. Unfortunately for Mary her tick seemed to be an intimate one. We have all had issues with our undergarments being in places that are not comfortable and require adjustment. Mary, it seems was VERY uncomfortable with the perceived ill-fitting underwear as she routinely picked her butt. Mary was quite unpleased with the fit to the tune of an adjustment about every 30 seconds or so. Readjustment sometimes was a simple check by a swipe of the hand across the buttocks, to a full-on pick followed by a swipe check, to a full-on hand inside the pants way in the back adjustment. If I had to place an order of preference Mary liked for this task in that order, only separated by a fraction of a difference. If there was no swipe check it was a pick, if not a pick it was a full hand down the pants readjust. This went on for quite some time. Eventually Mary found a new seat and the absurdity ended.
“Mary” unwittingly became emblematic of the entire Manchester experience. A sweaty wedgie on the ass end of an otherwise great trip. This trip overall is not something we would consider doing often. The amount of time we spent driving was too much for our comfort. Surprisingly though I only had an issue with all the driving just about two hours from home. It may have been the several hours spent in the car the day before that added to the problem, but mostly we were able to keep a positive mindset when driving all those miles. This trip was not a lot of time “off” or relaxed, but it was time away, and we needed that.