Travelling Hopefully

7 October

After a busy morning (dropping parrot off to bird sitter and taking an animal blessing service) I headed off to Heathrow. By 3pm I was trying to drop off my check in bag. Unfortunately I was over the allowance, so rather than pay an extra £40.00 I took out some books and the tripod. As ever I wondered what the point was, as the weight would still be with me and in the 'plane, but in the cabin rather than in the hold.

The flight was uneventful. By 8pm Boston time I was heading out of the airport. I took a bus into the city, and then proceeded to try to find my way to the youth hostel. I bumped into several others who were staying there, and I tagged along. By 9pm I'd checked in. The room has only four beds, and the shower/toilet cubicles are right next door. I did little more than lock away my camera equipment and go to bed.

Today's knock on head: On the bunk above my lower bunk bed.

8 October

I slept well, and was up at 7am to grab a shower and to go down to breakfast. Breakfast is free, and the offerings were cereal, toasted bread or bagels, coffee, orange juice, and fruit salad.

By 9am I was out and heading for the Freedom Trail. Boston Common, which is the start of the trail, was only a few blocks away. The morning was sunny but not particularly warm. I wandered around the large park, and ended up at the tourist information office just as the first guided tour was setting off. I quickly bought my ticket and joined them. The guide was very informative. We walked through part of Boston Common, then past various landmarks. I found myself trying to remember how much of early USA revolutionary history we'd covered when I was in High School in California. There seem to bit lots of bits which I don't recall, such as the Boston Massacre. I also felt torn, since I was born in the USA but have now settled in England. Should I be celebrating the glorious battle for independence, or should I be reminding my colonial friends how much they owed the Crown for helping them to settle on these lands in the first place?

The tour lasted 90 minutes and finished at Faneuil Hall. I wandered through the Hall, which has various shops, and Quincy Market, which is full of food outlets. I had lunch at a replica of the bar from the tv series 'Cheers.' Fortified by food and a beer, I resumed walking along the Freedom Trail. Paul Revere's house was interesting, and the white washed simplicity of Old North Church seemed more like a chapel than an Anglican church.

The Freedom Trail (which is helpfully marked out with red bricks set into the sidewalks) took me into Charleston. I clambered aboard the USS Constitution (nicknamed 'Old Ironsides') and admired the canons. Then I continued uphill to Bunker Hill. There are 294 steps which spiral up to the top of the monument, and rather helpfully the steps are marked out with numbers to let you know how much further you have to suffer. Rather disappointingly, the windows at the top are covered by rather scratched plastic. The views across Boston are still good, but hard to photograph through such barriers.

I stopped off at the Warren Tavern for a pumpkin beer with a sugar and cinnamon rim. The Tavern dates from 1780 and is full of history. I cannot same the same of the beer.

I added Boston to the number of cities whose subways I have sampled. I met a couple from Texas who were on their way to visit the bar which had inspired the TV series 'Cheers' (versus the replica at which I'd had lunch). We went together, and had a light dinner and drinks whilst exchanging information regarding jobs and families.

I left full of confidence that I'd just have to skirt around the edge of Boston Common to find my way back to the hostel. 90 minutes later, having ended up going the wrong way a number of times, I finally made it back to the hostel and to my room. I do hate getting lost in cities.

Tomorrow will see me trying to remember how to drive on the right side of the road...

Today's knock on head: On the bunk above my lower bunk bed (again!).

9 October

I caught the Silver Line back to Logan Airport. A shuttle took me to the car rental lot, where I had to ask some basic questions about operating an automatic car. Then, my mouth a bit dry and my hands a bit sweaty, I headed out into a country on which you drive on the right hand side of the road. Yes, I know, I did originally learn to drive in the USA, but I've had many more years of driving on the left in the UK.

I headed north, and other than being surprised by having to pay some road tolls I arrived at Portsmouth, New Hampshire without incident. I visited the Strawbery Banke Museum, which is a preserved neighbourhood of forty two houses. The houses date from 1650 to 1950. Most of the houses have been restored (although one has been put on display in its unrestored state), and many had either a guide or a person 'in character' to tell you about a particular house. I spent several hours wandering around, wishing the weather weren't so overcast.

Afterwards I worked my way back to the highway and over to Kittery, Maine. My accommodation for the night is in a small 'cottage' complete with a small kitchen and even smaller porch. I asked the owner about local grocery stores, and was given driving instructions. When I asked instead about walking distances I was met with a blank stare. I decided to risk life and limb by walking rather than driving, and found a local convenience store about half a mile away. The sun emerged as I walked back, a number of necessities in hand (including a bottle of local ale). The colours of the trees are quite promising.

I sat outside on the small porch for an hour or so and reviewed my plans for tomorrow. The beer was compensation for having to head indoors when the sun set.

Today's knock on head: Numerous times on the tv which hangs out into the room on the way to the small kitchen.

10 October

So this is why they call it 'New England'? I woke up to weather which was drearily familiar. Rain, to start with that sort of drizzly sort like the clouds can't really be bothered.

I headed off with great confidence down the highway. I was headed for the Lake District (New Hampshire style) and I remembered that I had driven past a very clearly signed turn off when heading to Portsmouth the day before. Well, when I reached Massachusetts I realised I must have passed the exit. So I came off the highway and back on again. Twenty minutes later--and a second trip through a toll booth--the turn off emerged. Clearly signed north bound but not south bound. Very strange.

I stopped for a brief, damp walk through Wolfeboro. Like many of the towns I've driving through, road sides and homes are plastered with signs for the presidential candidates. Even businesses have one or another in their windows. I know that there are plenty of political advertisements in the UK from time to time, but I can't recall seeing that many signs in home or shop windows.

The clouds decided that they might as well make a day of it. I drove around Lake Winnipesaukee, admiring the autumn colours in between checking that I was still on the right side of the road. And I came across a roundabout! Although I was later told that, in New Hampshire, they are called 'rotaries.' Each entrance is marked with a 'yield' sign and I was able to remember to look to my left for oncoming traffic. Roundabouts in America just feels, well, wrong.

I decided to visit the Lucknow Estate, more recently given the romantic name of ‘Castle in the Clouds.’ The clouds decided to take a lunch break and I was able to do some photography by the Falls of Song. But only for around thirty minutes, mind you, before the clouds had to get back to work.

I enjoyed visiting the castle (well, a rather grand house, at any rate) despite the weather. Through the rain and clouds I could see that, on a nice day, the views would be extraordinary. In the meantime I made my way through numerous coach parties (it was 'spot the regional accent' time) to look at the downstairs reception rooms and the bedrooms upstairs. This is the first grand house I've ever wanted for myself.

The story behind it is rather sad. Tom Plant, who designed and had the castle built, made a fortune from shoe manufacturing. He sold the business and retired as a millionaire at 51. But he had a string of failed investments, and when he died his (much younger second wife) was left with nothing. Tom Plant had no children with either wife.

I headed back south towards my night's accommodation. The site's directions told me to turn left at 'The Weir Beach sign.' I strained my eyes, wondering and hoping to spot the sign. Well, I needn't have worried. It was a huge, neon lit monstrosity which directed down to the lake side. Sadly, it seems most businesses of what is supposed to be a 'wacky resort' have shut up for the season. So I've settled into my cabin (another one!) for the night. With some nice Samuel Adams Octoberfest lager to keep me company.

Today's knock on head: Opened car door on to side of head. Nice little bruise there now.

11 October

Got up in time to see dawn. Which means, yes, clear skies!

I had a great drive away from the Lakes and through small villages to the north. I seemed to be the only car on the road for quite some time, which is helpful because I seem the only person in New England to whom speed limits apply. I've been passed by so many cars this holiday that I wonder why any county bothers to put up speed limit signs.

I stopped outside a small town called Wonalancet to photograph a church. Then it was up to the Kancamagus Highway (no, I'm not making these names up). I stopped at the information centre to pick up, um, information. Which included the fact that I'd missed the 'peak' of the autumn colours, although the ranger seemed to link these to the Columbus Day weekend which, as he noted, falls at a slightly different time each year.

At the first car park at a scenic spot I came across an interesting honesty box. You are meant to put $3.00 in an envelope which you complete with your car details. You write the date on a bit of paper which detaches from the envelope. The bit of paper hangs from your rear view mirror, and envelope and payment go into a collection box. I can't work out how this is all policed, particularly as you can continue to use the same bit of paper in all the other car parks at all the other scenic sites. I was momentarily tempted to be dishonest, but I did pay my $3.00 and displayed my bit of paper with pride.

At the Albany Covered Bridge I found myself in the company of tripods. A group of people on a photography tour were scattered around the bridge on the right hand side (facing up stream). I felt I'd had the better position on the left hand side, even if I'd had to wait for another tripod to vacate the boulder first. Some clouds had come in, but my favourite photography weather is when clouds add interesting light to a landscape, so I was happy.

At Lower Falls I had the challenge of trying not to get people into my photographs. Particularly when the tour buses arrived. The place must be covered with people in the summer.

I drove on to some look out points. At one another local told me, very helpfully, that a storm had gone through two weeks ago and stripped most of the leaves from the trees. 'Those mountains should be covered with all sorts of colours,' she said, pointing at the mixture of green and grey. 'Oh, well, there's always next year.' I recently put new spiked feet onto my tripod, but I'm pretty certain the instructions insisted that these were not to be used on annoying locals.

At one last look out the sun was trying to do interesting things with clouds and the trees which had missed the great storm. The wind was rather cutting. But, hey, I'm from England. Of course I've packed warm clothes.

Yet again I found a way to hit my head on something. This seems to be part of this holiday adventure, so I'm going to start tracking the ways in which I'm trying to give myself headaches this holiday. I'll go back to previous entries to add in the earlier attempts.

My accommodation for the next three nights is a small cabin at a place called, rather disconcertingly, ‘Country Bumpkins.’ But it's warm, it has wifi, and a fridge for my beer.

Today's knock on head: On Albany Covered Bridge, on a beam as I straightened up from taking a photo.

12 October

At 4.24am I discovered that whoever stayed in this cabin last helpfully set the supplied alarm clock to go off at 4.24am. I swam out of a dream about time loops and dentists (don't ask) and after I managed to turn the alarm off I realised that I had a bad neck and head ache. Whether this was from the various bumps which I've documented, or the two bottles of Samuel Adams beer, or from simply being tired, I don't know. The result was that I got up at 8am, had a banana and two ibuprofen, and went back to bed until 10am. I must admit that the rain lashing against the windows didn't encourage me to fight against pain at any rate.

At 10am I had some coffee and a bit more breakfast, then amused myself by using my macro lens to photograph some toadstools growing by a tree stump by the cabin door.

As a result I didn't plan to go far today. But fortunately I didn't need to. I drove the short distance up the road to the Flume Gorge. The rain against my cabin windows had settled on the nearby mountain peaks as snow. I set up camera and tripod in the car park and waited through a couple of hail showers for the sun to come and light up the scene.

I had been in two minds about paying $12.00 to look at a gorge and waterfalls. But I'm very glad I did. The first part of the walk was along a stream which spread over broad rocks. I did set up tripod and camera to get some photos despite the hail. (I have a plastic cover for my gear.) The trail then went onto boardwalks which lead through the gorge. A mixture of sunshine and hail showers added to the adventure. I'm certain my tripod created a trip hazard for other walkers, but they were very good about it. Of course, the problem with setting up on a boardwalk is that you can't take a photo on a long setting whilst people's feet are jouncing said boards!

I experienced another difficulty at Avalanche Falls. A number of couples wanted me to take their photos in front of the falls. Of course I obliged, turning camera dials on expensive SLRs away from 'automatic' to make sure they got a well composed photograph. I don't think I've ever used the 'automatic' setting on a SLR. Comes from growing up in the days of film and having to set everything manually, I suppose.

The sun came and went some more. I took photos of the lovely birch trees and of the cascade at Liberty Gorge. It was at this moment that a blood blister, which the tripod had given me on my right thumb, opened up. I wrapped a bit of tissue paper around the thumb and carried on. A couple speaking something other than English joined me at the look out, so in my best German I asked if they had a band aid. They told me in English that they were from Belgium. So I asked, using both the English and the American words, whether they had a plaster or a band aid. One was produced. In fact, the chap wrapped it around my thumb himself.

Just as I got back to the visitor centre the snow really rushed in. I took a few photos of the disappearing mountains before hurrying inside. The snow had slowed by the time I left the building, and I headed back to the cabin. No beer tonight--I hope to get up early tomorrow for another exciting day.

Today's knock on the head: None, but I can offer a blood blister in exchange.

13 October

Oh, what bliss to wake up without a headache! However, the frost overnight had left car windows covered. The car didn't come with a scraper, so I used my European Health Insurance Card to scrape off the frost. I figured I wouldn't be using the card in the USA at any rate.

Today I headed back down the Kancamagus Highway. Now, you will think that photographers are never happy. Bright blue skies, not a cloud to be seen. Terrible for my type of photography! I like a mixture of sunshine and shadow. I pulled off at viewpoints but didn't bother to set up the camera because the light was so bland.

I stopped at the Sabbaday Falls (paying my $3.00 fee into the honesty box). Sunlight makes waterfall photography very challenging. I did my best, although I had to take my turn. There were quite a few tripods around, probably because it was a sunny Saturday. I found a couple of very small mushrooms to test my macro lens against. People never understand why I am nearly lying on my stomach at these times. I sometimes have to explain that, no, I haven't fallen and hurt myself. What I like about macro photography is that, even before I get the camera out, I find myself noticing little things like mushrooms the size of my fingertip.

I drove on and went on a road called Bear Notch Road. The autumn colours were a bit stronger here. At one lookout point I met a man who was shooting 'stock video' for his production company. We talked as we worked (he wasn't recording sound) and we discovered that we'd both lived in Yucaipa, California for part of our lives! Amazing. What was also amazing was how many people drove their cars in and, leaving the engine running, jumped out for a few seconds to snap a photo and then go driving off again.

At the end of Bear Notch Road I turned westwards. As I drove through Crawford Notch I saw the autumn colours striding like a fiery banner across the mountains. No way to get a good photo of it, so I merely admired from my car seat. At one stop an American Robin posed long enough for me to put the telephoto lens onto my Canon 7D. (Most of my photography is done on my Canon 5Diii.) I know these birds are very common in the USA, but I was very pleased to see him.

As I headed further north and then west vistas opened up of the snow topped mountains. I joined lots of people, a good number with tripods, to take photos. The crowd was particularly thick at Bretton Woods. Clouds chased shadows across the white sides of Mount Washington.

I then headed for home. I have enjoyed staying in the cabin, with the space and the ability to cook for myself (I hate eating out alone). But I had to wear two layers to bed last night as the place only has a warm air heater. I wasn't cold, but I now realise why this place shuts down in a couple of weeks.

I didn't bump my head today but, like yesterday, I managed to set my right thumb bleeding. Today it was catching the top of the thumb on a backpack strap. At one point, whilst I was photographing the mushrooms, both the top and the bottom of the thumb were bleeding. So maybe I need to just document my daily injury, wherever it occurs.

Today's injury: Skinning top of thumb with backpack strap.

14 October

Please, bring back the blue skies and flat light, I promise never to complain again...

Rain. Oh, well, at least it's warmed up a little. I checked out of my cosy cabin and headed off for Vermont. The first bit of road is called Sawyer Highway, and patches of fog made for interesting driving. I'm quite comfortable on the right hand side of the road now, although I still talk out loud to myself when I have to make turns or go through junctions.

Soon after crossing the state line (goodbye New Hampshire!) I came across the Quechee Gorge. I visited the gift shop and ventured out on the road bridge to take a quick photo with my compact camera. Then on to my planned stop at Woodstock. The author of one my guidebooks states that this is his favourite town in Vermont. Since it was raining I decided to park up and walk through the town. The buildings are indeed quite impressive, even in grey rain and with cars parked everywhere. The covered bridge is rather youthful, built in 1969, and people seemed to deliberately drive through, turn around, then go back through again. Amazing what a tourist will do for excitement on a rainy day. I took photos with my main camera to record the visit. I did like the family of scarecrows outside the public library.

I had hoped to take photos of some of the lovely farm buildings in the area, but grey skies and rain don't, to me, make for a nice photograph. So I headed off for my stop for the night, namely Killington. Yesterday, when driving down the Kancamagus Highway, a ski resort in the area was using snow making equipment to put snow on one of the ski runs. I should think this area will be doing the same shortly.

I screeched the car to a halt just outside Killington, Through the trees I'd glimpsed a rather interesting, gothic style building. I hurried out camera and tripod, neglecting to grab my coat, and hurried closer along the road. Sun came out for a moment, just as I had the telephoto lens on the camera, and I grabbed a few handheld shots. There was blue sky ahead so I set everything up, and waited in hope for another burst of sunshine. There was a hill on the other side of the road so it was hard to see whether any cloud break was coming my way. And, of course, rain started again. I put a cover over the camera and lens and shielded my camera bag with my body. (Clothes will dry, after all!) Finally, about half an hour later there was a brief blip of sunshine. It's not a perfect photo, but I got it.

As I drove past I saw a sign that I had photographed an Episcopal church. I looked it up later, and it's an important historical building, the Church of our Savior built in 1817. If I'd known about it earlier I might have enquired about staying at their guest house. For those who may be unaware, the Episcopal Church is the same denomination as my own, part of the worldwide Anglican church. I plan to email the photo to the minister in charge of the church.

So, on in to Killington. I'm staying in a perfectly nice motel, but I do miss the nice cabins I've been using thus far. It's motels the rest of the holiday.

Today's bump on the head: Bending down to retrieve something from the car. But at least my thumb has stopped bleeding.

15 October

The forecast had been for rain all day. So when I woke up and saw weak sunshine I was suddenly more hopeful. Before 9am I was on Vermont 100, widely extolled as a lovely, scenic road through the heart of this state. A guide book to photographing Vermont warned that the problem is finding parking when you've seen a great shot, and he is right.

The first bit of parking challenge was when I saw how the trees and morning mist were reflected in the lakes near the road side. My instinct is safety first. There will always be another shot, but not another Chrys! I took photos with wide angle and telephoto lenses. The bright dawn sun has made the colours almost garish. Another photographer joined me when I was finishing up. When I walked past his car I saw that his wife was asleep in the passenger seat, and the car engine was still running.

I am specifically looking for photos of buildings during this part of my trip. Vermont is known for its old farm buildings. I had hoped to photograph some well known ones yesterday, but rain called that off. I had read that the restored homestead of President Calvin Coolidge was worth a visit. I turned up the road, and stopped to photograph a farm before visiting the homestead. The museum was shut for the season, but the site was still open for a wander. I also came across a nice bit of woods by a stream.

After one more photographic stop by a small lake, the forecast clouds came in. I drove to the village of Weston and spent time in the shops. As I type I am sampling a bottle of Vermont red wine. It's actually quite drinkable, though a bit on the light side. I suppose that's not surprising, considering the weather around here.

When the rain started to fall in earnest I decided to call it a day. I drove further down the 100 and then across to Manchester—

Okay, now I need to say something about how New England is confusing my mental geography. I'm certain that I'm not the only person who carries an internal map in my head of my home country. I know roughly where the major parts of England are. I know where to find Cornwall, and Portsmouth, Manchester and Londonderry (which is in Ireland and now called 'Derry'), Rutland (country of ) and Dorchester. And so on. So when I see signs for with these sorts of names, in directions which my internal geography cannot accept, it's just feels all wrong. Wrong!

Rant over.

Even in the rain the 7A road from Manchester (just a small town, not a major industrial city) to Arlington was lovely. A lot of old, grand buildings to start with, and then countryside. Every so often I would see that there are indeed mountains behind those rain clouds.

I found my motel and booked in. Except for my day in Boston I've spent the holiday cooking for myself. Well, okay, not really cooking, just heating up cans of stuff. Last night's motel had a microwave, and I had the first microwave meal in my life (I've never owned a microwave). Let's just say that I forced the results down and I try not to think about it too much. The motel tonight has no food heating facilities, so I went to a highly recommended restaurant which was all of a two minute walk away. It's called ‘Jonathon’s Table’ and I had a delicious medium rare prime rib. The meal and the ambience were great, and it was nice to have real food. But I still hate eating out on my own.

I turned on the TV in the hotel room and discovering, as ever, that the only news is about the upcoming elections (excuse me, America, but there is a whole world out there!) I switched channels. And had the bliss of three 'M*A*S*H' episodes in a row. I haven't seen that programme for years.

No new injuries to report today, but I'm still putting plasters/band aids on various bits of my right hand. My tripod is wonderfully sturdy and can be quite vicious. The legs are tightened with clamps, and I seem to regularly catch bits of skin in the levers. If/when I replace it (and these sorts of tripods are not cheap) I'll look for one which uses cylinders around the legs instead.

16 October

Weather forecast more promising--mixture of clouds and sunshine, my favourite type of weather. The motel breakfast was nothing more than English muffins (note to American readers, no where in the UK do we have anything which resembles what you call 'English muffins'), coffee, and orange juice. So not long afterwards I was on the road.

One of the photography guidebooks which I used to research my trip recommended visiting Jamaica State Park. (No, I'm not going to rant about place names again, even though a small village not far away is called Peru.) I must drop the writer an email in thanks. A broad path, a former railway line, parallels the river. Small fungi of various types kept calling out for the macro treatment. Although here too I have missed peak colour, there was plenty to take in and to photograph. And the smell of woods, dampness and pine needles--lovely! I also thought I heard something large move through the trees from time to time, but no critter emerged.

I kept looking at my watch and wondering when I'd be able to leave for some lunch. But then I'd see another river view, or more mushrooms. I was finishing up with one set of fungi when a pack of golden retrievers came bounding up to make my acquaintance. Including a delightful puppy who tried to get himself entangled in my tripod. I spent so long with the fungi that I was only packing up when their owner returned. We walked back to the parking area together, talking about dogs and men. She owns a farm on the other side of the river and breeds golden retrievers. Those cavorting around us were slimmer and redder than ones I've met in the UK., which I found interesting.

I finally bought some lunch at a village deli around 3pm. The sun had come out in full, although it was still a bit chilly. I managed to find a red barn and a few clouds obliged to give me that mixture of sun and shadow which I like so much.

It seemed to shame to turn for my accommodation when the sun was still out, but a full day's worth of photography is wonderful and creatively tiring.

Today's bump on the head: I managed to duck just in time when the car door headed towards my forehead. Ha!

17 October

Woke to fog and frost! When I was again helping myself to the motel's version of breakfast I overheard a couple talking about the bump last night. It seems the shudder which I had mistaken for my neighbours getting excited as actually an earthquake. Somehow I never associated New England with earthquakes.

Once again the European medical card came into use to scrape car windows. Then I headed south to Massachusetts. Heading south has meant a number of changes. First off, it's much warmer! Secondly, more cars and more built up areas. I had a few hairy moments in the city of Pittsfield when the road I wanted was shut for road works. The diversion signs petered out, but somehow I still ended up on the correct road. And, finally, the fall colours are much stronger down here. I saw maples so glorious that I wondered how that colour could exist.

First photographic stop was at Pontoosuc Lake to shoot some reflections. Then on to a drive through Mount Washington State Park, where I found a lovely old barn structure to photograph. I was happy engrossed in tripod and filter work when another car pulled up behind me. The guy rolled down the window, took a quick photo of the barn, and then drove on!

Rather disappointing was all the 'no trespassing' signs everywhere. I wasn't inclined to disobey them, particularly as I'd passed several stores which announced 'Guns bought, any condition.' I've lived in Great Britain for so long now that I get a bit nervous in a country which permits so much gun ownership.

I stopped at the upper car park for Bish Bash Falls. I started down the steep path to the falls. Part way down, when the path had become nothing more than a steep scramble over rocks and leaves, I turned around and went back to the car park. A bit further down the road was a second car park and access to the falls, this time on a longer route but a pretty, level path. I carry too much camera equipment for a scramble. A bonus bit was that I had crossed into New York State. One holiday, five states! (One more to come.)

The Falls were in shadow when I arrived. Sadly the left hand side was hardly a trickle of water. I took a number of shots, moving carefully over the rocks around the falls. A number of people, and a rather excited puppy, were enjoying the view and the sunshine.

I drove back north through part of New York State, admiring the fall colours. Down one back road I came across another lake, with evening reflections. I spent some time there, taking photographs and feeding midges, before finally heading up the Mass Pike. I was handed a ticket upon entry, and I hoped that the cost of using the road wouldn't be too steep. When I came off, however, there was no charge, so I'm not complaining.

It took some work to find my night's hotel. It was further away from Holyoke than I'd anticipated. I didn't get in until 7pm, the latest all holiday.

Today's injury: None!

18 October

Another day of heading south. The motel at which I was staying did not offer breakfast, nor was there a coffee maker in the room, so I hit the road in a uncaffeinated condition. Only an hour later, at a highway rest area, did I have a cup of just bearable coffee from a vending machine.

I'm missing the rural back roads of New Hampshire and Vermont. Today was mile after mile of highway. I found the whole lane thing confusing from time to time. Sometimes you're warned if a lane is going to disappear or take you off your preferred direction. At other times I had to make a quick shift to the right to stay on the freeway.

I had a bit of difficulty when I came to the 95. When I planned my route I confidently expected the options to be east or west--I wanted east. But when the junction came up I was offered north or south. I went south, came off at the next exit, and consulted the map book. I wanted north. Then I had a bit of a time trying to find my way back to the freeway, through construction works and detours. But whatever saint looks after wayward English-Americans proved good and I found my way onto the correct road.

My destination was Mystic Seaport, as recommended by some friends. I arrived around noon, treated myself to a sandwich and a proper cup of coffee at their cafe, and then went into the museum. The day was bright and sunny, and I was there in tourist mode, so I only took two lenses with polarising filters in with me.

I spent nearly five hours wandering along the many ships and buildings on exhibit. Most of the ships and buildings had a volunteer inside eager to share information with you. There were other interactive areas, like rope making, and gaggles of schoolchildren were entertained at these.

Around closing time I headed off in my car. I've paid more than I usually do for a hotel room to stay in the centre of Mystic. So when I'd checked in at the Whaler’s Inn, I grabbed camera and walked through town. There are a number of interesting shops, and a grand bit of engineering called the Mystic River Bascule Bridge. I had a small dinner at a local restaurant, took some long exposure photographs of the river (rested my camera on some railings), and then headed back to my rather nice room.

Today's bump on the head: Coming back up the stairs from visiting the lower deck of a ship. Well, it had to happen, didn't it?

19 October

I suppose you really do get what you pay for. Breakfast at the Whaler's Inn featured three types of coffee, numerous bakery products, and fresh fruit! I talked to a couple from Pennsylvania who were visiting the arena and visiting their grandchild.

Yesterday evening I'd seen something I thought would make an excellent present for a friend. Unfortunately, the shop didn't open until 10am. And the weather had changed to dreary rain. I wandered along the streets and river for an hour until the shop was open and I could purchase said gift.

Then I headed out for Newport, Rhode Island (just to distinguish this Newport from the one in Wales which I know rather well). As ever, I seemed to be one of the few people on the roads to whom speed limits apply. Do all Americans speed? All the time? I arrived in Newport just before noon. I enjoyed the trip over the Claiborne Pell Bridge, it was almost worth the $4.00 toll to use it.

My goal for the day was to visit the Newport Mansions. These grand houses (which, on the whole, were summer homes) were built in the 'Gilded Age' 1865-1914 when Americans who had massed great wealth spent it on these properties and lavish parties. A preservation society owns a number of the houses. Five are open at this time of year, so at the first house I bought a ticket which permitted access to five houses.

The Elms was my first stop. As was to happen at three of the other houses I was given an audio guide. I have mixed feelings about these guides. Although you can listen whilst you look, I often find that I don't want as much information as is being poured into my ears. The Elms was built on the proceeds of a coal mining fortune.

I walked down the road to the next house, namely Chateau-Sur-Mer. This house can only be visited on a guided tour. This house was a year round residence and, rather uniquely at the time, had central heating downstairs. It was built on the proceeds of the American-China trade. The guide spent a lot of time talking about China (the type you can eat off) and said 'essentially' a lot.

I then hurried further down the road to Rosecliff. I liked this house. It overlooks the sea and is a smaller but still ornate affair. Very light and airy, and it felt well loved rather than just a place to show off to others.

Further down the road was Marble House. Wow. 500,000 cubic feet of marble, in all sorts of different shades, line the walls on the grand rooms. And each room was in a different style. I quite liked the Gothic room with stained glass windows and dark panels. Alva Vanderbilt, one of the original voters, was a big name in the movement to give the vote.

Then, stretching my legs, I hurried on to the Breakers. This 'cottage' was built on the proceeds of the Vanderbilt railway fortune. It has 70 rooms and wonderful sea frontage. By this time my brain was beginning to swim with all the opulence which I'd been seeing. And there was a predictable list of must haves, it seems. Each house seemed to have a ball room, a breakfast room, a dining room, a library, a room for the men, a room for the women...

My poor feet were beginning to ache, so I was pleased to be able to catch a bus back to the Elms. The driver only took half the fare from me since I wasn't going that far. I managed to work my way through Newport to my motel for the night.

No injuries today, but for the first time during this holiday I went to the wrong side of the car for the driver's seat.

20 October

Another grey day. I headed out of Newport and drove west to Cape Cod. Had the weather been better I would have stopped at beach or two for some photography. Since there was no sign of the weather improving I drove all the way to the end of Cape Cod to visit Provincetown. I have to admit that I found the drive a bit disappointing. I suppose I was expecting more sea views and less trees!

I arrived in Provincetown around lunchtime. The long street is filled with art galleries and tourist shops. One of my guidebooks writes of the 'alternative feel' of the place. Provincetown is known to be gay and lesbian friendly. I enjoyed seeing couples of both opposite and same sex holding hands as they walked down the streets together. One gay couple were showing off their baby and talking to some friends about the options for home schooling in the future. It felt good to be a place so accepting and open.

I stopped at a restaurant called ‘The Lobster Pot.’  (Vegetarians might wish to skip the rest of this paragraph.) I fulfilled a promise I'd made to myself when I booked this holiday and had fresh lobster. The waitress insisted that I wear a bib (I am not providing photographic evidence) and I tucked into the critter. It's been a very long time since I've had lobster, but I remembered how to crack open the claws and get out all the meat. I prefer the claws to the tail, actually.

The sun was making a daring attempt to emerge from the grey as I walked out on to one of the boardwalks. But the clouds won. I'm glad I just carried my compact camera for the day.

On the way back I called in at Truro Vineyards. Wine tastings are offered every half hour, so I bought a ticket and took a seat. I joined two women who were on a short break from their home state of Texas. Since I was driving I took a few sips of each sample and poured the rest into the discard container on the table. I quite liked three of the wines, but there was no point in buying a bottle. I'm not going to try to take it home, and I only have two more nights before I leave. I was a bit disappointed to learn that not all of the wines are produced from their own grapes. The company brings in grapes from other producers.

Then it was off to Hyannis, where I'm staying tonight and tomorrow night. The hotel is on Main Street. After booking in I walked down Main Street. Hyannis is famous for the connection with the Kennedys, and there are various information points on Main Street to explain the connection in detail. I did find the street crossing lights disconcerting. A disembodied voice tells you when to cross, and also counts down the seconds you have let to get to the other side. I wondered if the voice would make some sort of comment if you didn't get across in time and a car mowed you down...

No injuries today, but again went to the wrong side of the car for the driver's seat.

21 October

For my last day I decided to get some beach shots. Not that far from me was a highly recommended beach, Sandy Neck. When I arrived the clouds were beginning to clear. After taking some dune shots, I was clearing my camera away when I noticed a lot of rather dried looking mushrooms in the area. Yes, I do have a fondness for fungi, but it's also the time of year for mushrooms. If I were photographing in spring I'd be focussing on flowers. I took some shots in classic lying flat on my stomach mode, although my main worry was how to protect camera equipment from sand.

Sandy Neck has a number of paths. I took the one called the 'Marsh Trail.' I wanted to get some bird shots, so I had my Canon 7D out with telephoto lens. Of course, birds always know when you're trying to photograph them, and they get very shy. The trail was also challenging, often just sand. There were signs asking you not to climb the dunes. I felt that there were very mixed messages about this beach. On the one hand, you are asked to stay off the dunes. But vehicles can apply for access to the beach, and hunting is allowed of various animals.

I headed back to Hyannis around 2pm. As I passed by Barnstable I was side tracked by a sign for train rides. Cape Cod Central Railway was offering an excursion. I stopped to take some photos of the locomotive, but as the departure wasn't until 3.30pm and I needed some lunch I drove on.

I parked at the hotel and ventured back into Hyannis. I went down to the harbour and had a very late lunch, a plate of fried seafood. Of course, no vinegar to be seen! I don't think I've had fried clams before--very nice.

I continued down to the beach, where I admired the JFK Memorial. I took a seat on the grass, and a young seagull came up to me, curious. So I took some photos of him. I continued to take some photos of the beach and the nearby houses. Then it was back to the hotel to pack for my flight to North Carolina tomorrow. End of photographic trip!

Today's injury: Took some skin off my right thumb with the tripod. Well, the old wounds were all but healed...

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