I am hoping to move back to New England in the new year, to be closer to family, and to paint with my new-found friends in the plein air groups in New Hampshire and Maine.
My extensive RV traveling days are greatly curtailed now that I am more-or-less permanently settled, and am painting from a fixed location. Trips up and down the east coast will be replaced by monthly sojourns and overnight trips to paint the changing landscapes of New England and my favorite marine locations.
I first came to Florida in 1960. From 1976 onward, I have spent the winter months here with few exceptions. I love Florida for many reasons. There are reasons to despise it, as well. But let’s not get to politics at this time. Having established a studio in Orlando, painting daily without the hassle of packing up and moving my RV continually has been a real change. I am not fully adjusted nor resigned to it yet. I long for the open road continually. But sacrifices must be made as considerations of time and space intrude.
I am committed to the change of scene and to the opportunities that lie ahead in a new, but familiar clime. I’ll be writing more, and developing this blog so as to share experiences with all my new friends.
Happy New Year!
I’ve been visiting my daughter in the ‘Port City’ of New Hampshire these last days of Summer. She has returned after living away from the seacoast for a couple of decades and is catching up on the history and culture of this vibrant city on the Piscataqua River.The river was named by the Abenaki tribe with their word for rapid waters. They weren’t kidding. The tidal currents are very powerful in from the Atlantic and the Gulf of Maine. The tide actually rises over 9 feet at Portsmouth and into Great Bay, where there is a confluence of five river systems; the fresh water meeting the salt.
A gundalow is a flat-bottomed barge- type of cargo vessel constructed and operated in and around this estuary, and was designed to carry timber and wares to settlers making their homes in this colony. With a draft of just 15 inches, it could be operated in shallow water and in close to shore. The Great Bay is rimmed with salt marsh and mud flats. Wares were loaded high onto the flat decks since there was no cargo hold. The forward mast was about 20 feet tall, and the long tapering spar, which bore the triangular ‘lateen’ sail, was lashed to the mast so it could be lowered to the perpendicular for passage under the river bridges, then raised again into the wind.
The non-profit Gundalow Company has re-created a gundalow, the “Piscataqua”, and conducts sailing tours for 4 miles up-river to the mouth and the Gulf of Maine. Andrea has been volunteering as a deck hand. As the boat moves away from the dock and into the river’s current, the volunteers encourage the passengers to help pull the ropes raising the sail on the spar. Moving past the historic Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, there are views of lighthouses and defensive emplacements along the shores. The pleasant crew is very helpful in making it an enjoyable voyage back in time. Coming-about and beginning the return journey, one can feel the relentless power of the surging waters. A volunteer recounts the impossible attempts of those who tried a swimming escape from the shore-side prison still seen at Kittery, Maine.
Should you be lucky enough to find yourself in Portsmouth, whether climbing aboard the nuclear submarine “Albacore”, sipping espresso at a sidewalk table in Market Square, visiting Strawberry Banke , the nearby John Paul Jones house or strolling the gardens at Prescott Park, plan to spend a few leisurely hours on the brine with the knowledgeable crew of the “Piscataqua”. The whole family will have a nautical blast!
Many years ago I worked with a gentleman who was a beekeeper, doing all sorts of interesting things, when not converting buses to motorhomes. We often made van runs from near Boston, Massachusetts, to Amherst, New Hampshire. We roved through the discarded metals and fabrications that had been abandoned in a scrap yard there.
On the way, we always pulled in to the seafood purveyor at Dover Point, just over the bridge (the old one,then) from Newington going west, and from Pease Airport in Portsmouth.
At about this time, my daughter went to work there, while attending the University of New Hampshire in Durham. She was a terrific waitress, and you were lucky if your table was at her station. The name of this place is NEWICK’S. Try to find fresher fare from the briny deep….I dare you. My favorite is, and was the Fisherman’s Platter (called a COMBO, with several offerings). In a huge barn-of-a place, the restaurant sports checkered vinyl tablecloths. There is real silverware, but the glasses and cups are of plastic and paper. There is a kind of outdoor picnic atmosphere….the huge windows around the entire seating area give proof to that openness. The shore…in this case, the shore of the Piscataqua River, leading to the Great Bay, and to Portsmouth harbor is just outside these windows. The catch comes ashore at the dock within view. Fried whole clams, haddock, scallops, onion rings, smelts, on a bed of french fries. Take your pick. Lightly breaded, and deep-fried to a honey-colored perfection (Jack, you can send my check to the address in your file).
Jack Newick is the proprietor still. The customers vary from tourists from all over, bankers, tradesmen, fishermen, students and foodlovers who know no bounds. On a recent trip from Concord to Portsmouth with my daughter to a “Fishtival” at Prescott Park, near Strawberry Banke, Andrea and I had appetizers there, but couldn’t drive past Newick’s without satisfying our palates, while watching the hunting skills of a blue heron out on the rocks.
Try it…you’ll find your way back, too.
While driving from Las Vegas to New Hampshire this past two weeks, I sent Email to friends describing the roadscene. This post is a compilation of those observances. It was a relatively quick trip, for almost 3,000 miles; two weeks at an average of 215 miles per day, although I stayed for two days at Flagstaff and Springfield, MO. I only made a few side trips, and nothing very far off my route northeast.
The object was to get to New England for a visit with my daughter, a side trip to Loon Mountain (in the White Mountains of NH), a get-together with friends in Boston, and an appointment with the surgical team that replaced my right wrist, just nine weeks ago.
My love of the “blue highways” had to be filed under ‘too slow for this trip.’
I had spent about a week in Las Vegas, where I rescued my vehicle from storage. A long-time friend who is a gambler now living in Nevada , was in a ‘ slot tournament ‘ at Harrah’s on the Strip. I had flown in from New Hampshire, post surgery, and stayed at the Imperial Palace for two nights. I wanted to be sure that my vehicle was roadworthy after eight months of being stored in the sun. Doug came into town a few days later, and we visited for a few days.
I was spending my nights out at Las Vegas Bay campground, on Lake Mead. It is a beautiful desert site just 20-odd miles from the Strip. The story goes that the once –Las Vegas Wash operators of the nearby marina complained to Lake Mead Park Service that the name didn’t compete with the Boulder Beach and CallvilleBay marinas, for inducing boaters to use the facilities. The name was changed to the more attractive Las Vegas Bay, although today, there is not as much water in Lake Mead, and the marina has closed except for storage. Eleven years ago, I remember that there was a small gulch with water that some campsites bordered, but it’s a dry gulch now. There are two mens and womens comfort stations, and potable water is available, but no showers.There is a campground Host on-site, and the Rangers have a station near the marina. From the distance it appears as an oasis, with palms and desert blooms. The views from the campsites are of the distant mountains, Lake Mead and broken gulches and ravines.
Sunrise is spectacular, as are the sunsets, and the nights are peacefully quiet after a day in the city. The howl of coyotes is not uncommon.
After a week, with the maintenance chores complete, I drove south to the casino town of Laughlin. I went just after sunset, so as to travel in the relative cool of the evening. Approaching Searchlight, NV (Harry Reid’s hometown) it was cool; the town is up high, as the name suggests. Then up into the mountains, before a plunge down to the Colorado River. Laughlin is a pretty sight in the distance, as you descend to the bridge to Bullhead City, AZ. After that 100 miles, I stayed on the Arizona side for the night.
Next installment is (Part 2)
In 1976, when I first drove my coach into the Southland, I was captivated by the live oak trees and the beautiful magnolias that appeared along the road as I drove into the Carolinas. The approach to Charleston, SC on this trip, was south from Florence, SC, and as we motored along, we began to drive through overhanging branches of huge live oaks (called oak allees).
It seems impossible that the outstretched limbs can support the tremendous weight of solid oak, but there they are…reaching out for the sunshine….and old!
I remember consulting an AAA Tourbook of the area, and described therein, was a listing for a point of interest called The Angel Oak. It was out-of-the-way, on Johns Island, south of the city of Charleston. We camped at a small campground called Oak Plantation, and the name said it all. We were one of less than five other RVs staying among the big trees. Roaming free at this site was a small herd of cattle!
Route US 17 (The Ocean Highway) was little developed in this area at the time. The next morning, after departing the campground, I inquired at a small convenience store just down the road about The Angel Oak. Sure enough, the proprietor knew of it, and directed me down the adjacent road, and after a few miles of travel east, we came upon a small park, and before us was this TREMENDOUS behomouth of a tree, the likes of which were simply hard to imagine. It was one tree, not several trunks together, and it spread its branches a good 60 to 70 yards.
We took a lot of pictures that day, so long ago. It was damp and rainy and cold. This was late January, but we were astounded by this huge living thing. A rustic sign indicated that it was old enough to have been growing at the time Jesus lived. I doubted that it could be that old, but who knew?
Last year, as I was traveling down US 17, I passed the Oak Plantation Camping Resort. It has become a very popular place to stop, with a gatehouse/office just off the highway….and no more cows. I wondered about our little diversion almost 35 years before, and on a whim, I took the next left turn at at traffic light. It was Main Road. The convenience store had become a large gas station with a market. I was pretty sure it had been this turn I took in 1976.
A few miles down the road (a well-paved two-lane, now) I came upon the Angel Oak Shopping Center. This must be the place, I thought…duh. A sign just past this intersection pointed to the big tree. It is now surrounded by a chain-link fence, and there is a small attended store on the premises. Nothing else has changed. The Angel Oak (named for a family that once owned the property), spread out before me, and I was again humbled by this natural specimen. The picture above really does not do it justice…if there had been another visitor there, he could have stood near the trunk, and he would have been dwarfed by the height and girth of the bole. If he had lain on the ground,and if he was tall, he might be long enough to stretch across its width.
Now that it is protected, I suspect it will be still more immense in 30 more years. I hope you will stop to marvel at this sight.