NET Hop 3: Salisbury MA to Bridgewater NH

NET Hop 3102 miles via US-1, NH 101, I-93.HN 104 and NH 3A. Cumulative tow miles: 231. Truck miles: 368. Cumulative truck miles: 1487.

This was an easy hop that took just under 2 hours. The most difficult part was US-1, which we took simply to avoid the toll (and the traffic) on I-95 entering NH. But there was a lot of construction on US-1 which made for some tight lanes in a couple of places. But we didn’t hit anything.

The other difficult section was on I-93 north of the I-89 intersection. The road was fine, but we ran into an intense thunderstorm. We had to cut our speed to 50 mph and watch very carefully for traffic slowing in front of us. It was about 20 minutes of white-knuckle driving.

Our home for 10 days in Salisbury MA was the Beach Rose RV Park. We were given the one-and-only pull-through (out of about 50 sites), which was great – it gave us a picnic area without a neighbor and certainly eased the job of getting in and getting out again. The park was adequate for our purposes. It had 2 dog parks, which Rusty enjoyed. The pool was nice but, as usual, we didn’t use it. There was a basic laundry which we also didn’t use. Mostly we used the park as a base of operations to visit places on the North Shore of MA – mostly cemeteries but also beaches (Salisbury Beach and Hampton Beach) – and to visit with family. Jett’s siblings came by on our final Saturday and we broke out the tequila which we have carried with us for years and have never touched. A bunch of seniors sitting around, doing tequila shots. A sight to behold.

Then we went out to dinner at the Black Cow in Newburyport. An excellent dinner in a nice restaurant right on the water. Very nice.

Pool

Pool

Laundry

Laundry

Sybil and Rusty

Sybil and Rusty

Large dog park

Large dog park

Newburyport is a very scenic small town. Very colonial, of course, but it has managed to retain its colonial character better than most. The downtown area is thriving and is filled with interesting small businesses. There is a great toy store and some wonderful, aromatic bakeries. If you are in the area, definitely stop by.

Newburyport

Newburyport

Park

Park

Our site

Our site

Waterfront park

Waterfront park

Newburyport wharf

Newburyport wharf

Salisbury Beach State Reservation

The beach

The beach

I had an hour to kill yesterday while Jett was napping, so I decided to run down to the Salisbury Beach State Reservation – just a half-mile away – to take a peek. The place was packed over the weekend with traffic backed up a half mile trying to get into the parking lot, so I was wondering what the attraction was. I assumed it was a beach and not much else.

The campground

The campground

Well, it is certainly a beach – a very nice, sandy beach – but it is also a huge campground. 438 sites, mostly for RVs but some tent-only sites, too. They are all water/electric (no sewer), but the park has a huge 4-lane dump station for emptying your tanks as you leave. The summer rates for an RV site are under $35 a day, making it very affordable (most private RV parks in Massachusetts charge over $50 per day) and it is very close to the beach. An easy walk. The problem, for us, is that there is a 40-foot limit on the RV length (we are 42) and there is a 14-day limit on the number of days you use the campground during the summer season. But for people who want a very nice campground for a short stay near the beach in MA, this is a great option.

The other problem for us, as seniors, is that the $10 annual senior pass for day use is limited to MA residents. Ah, finally a downside to being FL residents.

Since the reservation is very near “downtown” Salisbury Beach – a small honkytonk beach town – I dropped by there for a few minutes, too. I was surprised to see a bunch of remote TV station vans set up and broadcasting. As it was after 5pm it was obvious that they were doing live segments from Salisbury Beach. I wondered what the story was. Well, it turns out that the body of a fisherman who had gone missing a few days before washed up on the beach that afternoon. Must have been an unpleasant surprise for the families and the small children who were trying to get a break from the 94-degree heat.

TV trucks

TV trucks

Downtown Salisbury Beach

Downtown Salisbury Beach

NET Hop 2: Foxboro MA to Salisbury MA

NET Hop 2

NET Hop 2

91 miles via US-1, I-495 (around Boston), US-1 (again) and US-1A. Cumulative tow miles: 129. Truck miles: 245. Cumulative truck miles: 1119.

This was an easy, short hop with all but about 10 miles being on I-495. The weather was good and the traffic was moderate. A piece of cake.

Jett followed in the Yaris, going via I-95 instead of I-495, thereby cutting a few miles off of her trip. But the travel time was similar.

Our home for the past 11 days was the Normandy Farms Family Campground in Foxboro (or Foxborough, if you prefer) MA, just a few miles south of Gillette Stadium, home field of the NFL CHAMPION New England Patriots. The Patriots started their conditioning workouts while we were there and I guess we could have gone there and watched some millionaires doing jumping jacks, but we passed.

At the present time the Normandy Farms website claims that the Travel Channel has included them in a list of the 13 best campgrounds in the world. We can’t dispute that as it is in our personal list of the top 2 campgrounds we have stayed at in our 4 years of travel (the other being Gulf Waters). Adjectives that come to mind when describing this place are “superb”, “clean”, “professionally-run” and “exceptional.” Oh, yeah… “expensive.” It ain’t cheap, folks. But you get your money’s worth.

First, the facilities. Our site was large enough for our rig and our two vehicles, with enough space left over to fit in our outdoor carpet, our grill and about 6 visitor vehicles. And the sites are staggered so that I could keep the shades up on both side-facing rear windows and see nothing but trees. Also, a huge recreation center featuring an indoor pool, an adults-only loft, an exercise room and an arcade. Three more outdoor pools. At least two playgrounds. A basketball court, a beach volleyball court, some first-rate bocce courts, the best outdoor horseshoe pits that I have ever seen, a softball field, a baseball field (where the staff set up soccer nets), shuffleboard courts, pickleball courts (still under construction), a huge dog park (over an acre, with a dog washing station), a fishing pond, a great campground store and, most surprisingly, a first-rate disc golf course and a BMX bike track.

Second, the staff. I don’t know who trains these people but they are doing a great job. Despite most of the office staff being young, they were courteous, pleasant, efficient and very professional. No attitude or gum-chewing here.

The only negative thing about our stay at Normandy Farms was the weather. Simply horrible. Most days were cold and wet. We spent at least 4 of the 11 days hunkered down in the RV, with the heat on and the rain beating on the roof. But we did have a few light-rain days (I am not sure that any were completely dry) so I was able to get out to three cemeteries. And Jett’s sisters came to visit and we had some rousing card games. So it wasn’t a washout by any means. But it sure could have been better.

There is also a small but very nice slots-only Plainridge Park Casino about 5 miles away where I was able, against all odds (literally) to win money. Jett lost, though, so it was pretty much a wash.

Our site

Our site

Dog park

Dog park

Outdoor pool at dusk

Outdoor pool at dusk

Indoor pool

Indoor pool


Adult loft

Adult loft

BMX bike track

BMX bike track

Big Papi sighting

Big Papi

Big Papi

On Wednesday, when the skies started to clear, I traveled to Wayland MA with the hope of participating in a pick-up game with other senior softball players – a weekly event of the Eastern Massachusetts Senior Softball League (EMASS). Well, not enough players showed up for a game, so I just got to take some swings and loosen my arm.  But there was some strange activity at the park – a film crew of 20 or more people, all gearing up to do something – I had no idea what. Then, suddenly, who should walk onto the field but David Ortiz – “Big Papi” – the most storied Red Sox baseball play of the past decade. Apparently he – and the crew – were there to film a commercial with the topic being “things Big Papi wants to do in retirement.” One of those things, apparently, is playing senior softball.

I found out later that Big Papi had surprised the ongoing league game (in the background in the photo) by walking onto the field and asking if he could take a few swings.  So the game stopped and Fred – an octogenarian pitcher for one of the teams – fed him some meatballs that he absolutely crushed.  I am told that one landed more than 400 feet away, near the backstop of the other field.

If Big Papi is going to play senior softball (it will be a few years from now as you have to be 55 to join), then I want him on my team.

Walking onto the field

Walking onto the field

The beat(ing) goes on…

More rain. More gloom. More chill.  With blustery wind today. Miserable, miserable weather. The forecasters say it will be nicer this weekend. But they may just be saying that to prevent mass suicide.

50 degrees at 1pm on June 6th. Sheesh.

Booked through Labor Day

I made our final summer campground reservation yesterday, so we now have a complete, confirmed itinerary through Labor Day:

  • Now – Jun 9: Foxboro (or Foxborough, take your pick) MA
  • Jun 9 – Jun 19: Salisbury MA (Cape Ann)
  • Jun 19 – Jun 22: Bridgewater NH (Escapees rally at Newfound Lake)
  • Jun 22 – Jun 30: Wells ME (near the beach)
  • Jun 30 – Jul 9: Northwood NH (and Lucas Pond)
  • Jul 9 – Jul 18: Littleton MA
  • Jul 18 – Aug 1: Oakham MA
  • Aug 1 – Aug 7: Glenville NY (near Albany)
  • Aug 7 – Aug 9: Clayton NY (1000 Islands area)
  • Aug 9 – Aug 12: Grand Island NY (Niagara Falls)
  • Aug 12 – Aug 14: Streetsboro OH
  • Aug 14 – Aug 18: New Hudson MI (near Detroit)
  • Aug 18 – Aug 20: Michigan City IN (near the Indiana dunes)
  • Aug 20 – Aug 29: Madison WI (50th high school reunion)
  • Aug 29 – Aug 30: Rochester MN
  • Aug 30 – Aug 31: Spirit Lake IA
  • Aug 31 – Sep 1: Mitchell SD (Corn Palace)
  • Sep 1 – Sep 4: Interior SD (Badlands)

Whew! That is a boatload of hops. Lots of setup/teardown. But we get 7 new states for our map: OH, MI, IN, WI, MN, IA and SD which will boost our total to 39. And we get to see (among other things), the Thousand Islands area of NY, Niagara Falls, the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, the Corn Palace and the Badlands.  We will also have fun in my childhood home town, Madison, and at the rally at Newfound Lake in NH, for sure.

Should be a nice RV summer.

NET Hop 1: Plymouth MA to Foxboro MA

NET Hop 1

NET Hop 1

38 miles via (mostly) US 44, I-495 (around Boston) and US 1. Cumulative tow miles: 38. Cumulative truck miles: 874.

Outside of the 3 GTW hops that were made to get the RV to/from the repair shop in San Jose (28, 31 and 19 miles, respectively), this was our shortest hop ever. It only took about an hour over roads we have traveled before, so there were no sights to comment on. The only two noteworthy things about the trip were (1) the nasty Memorial Day traffic returning from Cape Cod on I-495 (we had about 8 miles of stop-and-go traffic) and (2) the jerk who pulled out in front of me as I was traveling at 67 mph on I-495 that had to brake hard to avoid. Idiot.

The NET (New England Tour, to remind the readers with short-term memory problems) is a bit different from our other journeys in that it is really a long-term stay but spread over multiple places. Because we are generally staying for a week or more at each stop and then traveling a relatively short distance to the next stop, the cumulative truck miles are going to be high. We started counting miles for the NET the moment the STN ended, so this first hop includes all the miles that I drove the truck during the 24 days that we were in residence in Plymouth.

Campfire

Campfire

Our campsite (#66)

Our campsite (#66)

Our home campground in Plymouth was the Pinewood Lodge Campground. Our memories of this campground will be forever tainted by the horrible weather that we had there – measurable rain on probably 18 of the 24 days. And cold. Very cold. Some days were more than 20 degrees below normal. We used a lot of propane keeping warm. Huddling in the RV while a hard cold rain drenched us was not how we envisioned spending May in Massachusetts.

Our first resolution for 2018: don’t come north until Memorial Day. We have asked ourselves, many times, why we left sunny and warm Florida to come north to the cold rain. We have looked at the weather map longingly many times over the past month, wishing we were basking in the 90-plus heat of southwest Florida.

Despite the rain, our impressions of Pinewood Lodge were mostly favorable. We felt at home there and, given an opportunity, will return in the future.

Things we liked about the campground:

Beach

Beach

  • The site (#66). It was large, level and wooded, with a nice campfire ring (that we actually used!). Very quiet. Nice neighbors.
  • The lake and the beach. Not that we could use them, given the weather, but I can easily imagine that they would be great in the summer.
  • The lodge/activity hall. There were games for the kids (which probably kept some parents sane in the wet weather) and a full bar for the adults (which also may have helped).
  • The location. Being just 10 minutes from downtown Plymouth and 15 minutes from my brother’s Duxbury home was great for our purposes.  And I really liked Plymouth.

As always, there were things we didn’t like, too:

  • It is very expensive. I think the 3 Memorial Weekend days may have been the most expensive ever – over $100 per night.  That is due to a high base rate, compounded by a pet fee of $10 per night.  And when we had visitors we had to pay a “day use fee” of $10 per visitor.  I love my brother and his family, but that tested the depth of my love.
  • The sites are covered with pine schmutz that got into everything. We put down our outdoor carpet, but that quickly got covered, too.  We had to sweep out the RV every day. And remove the pine tar from my shoes.
  • Other than the beach there are few recreational facilities.  No tennis courts, no pickle ball courts, no cornhole court.  There are some horseshoe pits and boat rentals.  And the kiddie playground is adequate.
  • No dog park.
  • No recylcling
  • Almost no laundry facilities. There were a small number (4?) of beat-up washers in a lean-to connected to a bathhouse.
  • The bathhouses (which we didn’t use) were basic (e.g., screen doors with vinyl curtains on the showers).

But, overall, not bad.  I would rate it as a 7 on a 10 scale.

Finding some of Jett’s early immigrant ancestors

Myles Standish grave

Myles Standish grave

Priscilla Alden gravesite

Priscilla Alden gravesite

John Alden gravesite

John Alden gravesite

We came to Plymouth for 24 days with the intention of visiting some graveyards and cemeteries where some of Jett’s early immigrant ancestors. The incessant rain got in the way and we didn’t visit as many sites as I hoped we would, but we did find some really significant sites.

First and foremost, we visited both the second (and final) home of John and Priscilla Alden, two of her Mayflower ancestors. They are buried in the Myles Standish Burial Ground where the most celebrated resident is, unsurprisingly, Myles Standish. His burial site is not only marked by a large rock with his name engraved on it, but is surrounded by cannon, as befits the military leader of the Mayflower contingent. Standish is not one of Jett’s ancestors, but he does figure prominently in her history as, if Longfellow is to be believed, he had designs on the young Priscilla. That all three are interred together seems somehow weirdly appropriate.

I also visited the site of the Aldens’ home in Duxbury. It lies on the property of Duxbury High School and abuts the soccer field. It is also surrounded by a disc golf course (which I did not play). I doubt if John and Priscilla ever imagined that their homestead would someday be surrounded by athletic teens and leisure activities. I doubt that they even understood the concept of “leisure time.”

The most striking thing about the foundation is its size: 30 feet by 10 feet – 300 square feet. Smaller than my RV. I am well aware that it is possible to live in a small space, but I didn’t realize just how tiny these colonial homes were. The living space was even smaller than the foundation suggests as nearly a quarter was reserved for a root cellar.

Myles Standish homestead

Myles Standish homestead

Myles Standish Monument

Myles Standish Monument

Since it was nearby, I also took a quick peek at the Myles Standish Monument which sits atop a hill overlooking Plymouth Harbor in Duxbury. Standish was clearly a towering figure in the Plymouth Colony and was instrumental in training the Pilgrims in the use of firearms. Interactions with the Indians were friendly in the early days, but turned violent some 50 years later. The fact that the colony survived is largely due to his efforts.

He had a home in Duxbury, too, not far from the Alden house. While the Aldens chose to build near a lake, Standish built on a bluff overlooking the harbor. He could see Plymouth Village, but couldn’t get there quickly – it was a long way by land. I suspect that he had a boat and sailed there if he needed to “go to town.” He got his fresh water from a spring near the edge of the bluff.

My other success, on my final day in Plymouth, was finding the headstones of the 4 Jett ancestors who are buried in the Hillcrest Cemetery in Plympton MA. I knew that these headstones existed as photos of all four are published in findagrave.com, but I wanted to find them and get my own photos. The ancestors were:

  • William and Joanna Coomer (6th great-grandparents)
  • Luke and Martha Perkins (7th great-grandparents)

These were 18th-century graves, so the headstones, for the most part, were in pretty good shape. A bit hard to read (especially Martha’s, which was tilting forward), but it was nice to actually find some headstones, given my recent failures.

Joanna Coomer

Joanna Coomer

Luke Perkins

Luke Perkins

Martha Perkins

Martha Perkins

William Coomer

William Coomer

My greatest disappointment was not getting to Eastham to look for the 17 ancestors that are reportedly buried there. But Eastham is on Cape Cod and going to Cape Cod on a holiday weekend is akin to a suicide mission. We heard on the radio, as we were heading out of Plymouth, that the traffic backup of cars trying to leave the Cape was 11 miles long. Thanks, but no thanks.

“The Affair” by Lee Child

Delacorte Press, New York, 2012

You probably know by now that I love the Jack Reacher series of mystery/adventure books by Lee Child. I like them so much that I have a different scale for them when reviewing them. “The Affair” is about a 4 out of 10 on the Reacher scale but a 7 out of 10 on the generic book scale.

The reasons I like this book are the usual Jack Reacher ones: it is well-written, it has a lot of twists and turns, it has a beautiful woman that Reacher beds, it has Reacher easily winning a 6-on-1 fist fight and it has Jack Reacher giving attitude (and getting away with it) to everyone he meets. In this book, set in 1997, he is still in the army and is assigned to sniff around the periphery of a murder investigation in a small town in Mississippi that the army fears may implicate a soldier from the nearby Fort Kelham army base.

The reasons that I don’t like this book are that (1) the plot is thinner than usual, (2) the resolution, though final because the perp ends up dead, is unsatisfying because the logic that ties him to the victim(s) is tenuous and (3) the violence is more gratuitous than usual. At one point Reacher kills a militiaman just to “send a message” to the rest of the militia force. Strong message, sure, but necessary? Hardly.

Related to the gratuitous violence is the ease with which Reacher gets away with his bad behavior. He commits multiple felonies (including the aforesaid murder) with the full knowledge – and in some cases in the company of – the local sheriff, yet is never charged in any of them.

I like Reacher, but I need him to be more hero and less thug.

7 out of 10

Pilgrim Hall

Lower hall

Lower hall

Portrait of Elizabeth Wensley

Portrait of Elizabeth Wensley

We were blessed with a break in the rain Wednesday (the only day this week that we haven’t been drenched) and used the “good” weather to venture into downtown Plymouth to visit Pilgrim Hall, a small museum celebrating the arrival of the Mayflower and the early history of the Pilgrims in Plymouth. I wasn’t expecting much. Our primary goal was to find the portrait of Elizabeth Paddy Wensley (1641-1711), one of Jett’s 8th great-grandmothers. We found it, easily, but found much more, too. This turned out to be a very nice little museum.

One of the unexpected pleasures was a very informative 12-minute film about the Mayflower. It was presented in a small room that included artifacts that survived the journey – another surprise. I guess I had assumed that nothing would be left after 400 years. One of the artifacts was a rocker brought over by a very pregnant Susannah White – one of Jett’s Mayflower ancestors and a 9th great-grandmother. To see a rocker that likely once held her 8th great-grandfather, Resolved White (who was 6 years old in 1620) and definitely held her great-uncle, Peregrine White, the first English child born in the Plymouth Colony, really put a personal touch on the visit.

The room also had a poster which rather graphically depicted the toll of the brutal first winter during which half of the immigrants died. It was an opportunity to reflect on how tenuous our existence is. If any one of her ancestors had not won that 50/50 lottery, she would not be here today.

White rocker

White rocker

Mayflower deaths

Mayflower deaths

The museum also had a temporary exhibit of wedding dresses through the years, from Pilgrim times to the present. That interested Jett more than it interested me. But there were some very nice paintings of the Mayflower journey and Pilgrim life, the Bible owned by John Alden (another ancestor) and an early copy of Longfellow’s epic poem, The Courtship of Miles Standish, which is about John Alden and Priscilla Mullins. Another opportunity to reflect: if that “courtship” hadn’t taken an unexpected turn that resulted in Alden and Mullins marrying, Jett would not be here today.

The final unexpected pleasure was the gift shop. They had a coffee mug depicting the Alden/Mullins marriage, some really nice T-shirts and postcards and a variety of other things that we just had to have. I think we dropped about $150 in there.

All-in-all, a very nice time in a very nice museum. Recommended.

Courtship copy

Courtship copy

Alden Bible

Alden Bible