Plymouth by night

Plymouth Harbor

Plymouth Harbor

Lobster art

Lobster art

[On Saturday afternoon I visited Burial Hill again, looking for the elusive grave of Elizabeth Walker Warren, which I did not find. But I encountered some of Jett’s distant relatives who were also searching for her grave. We had a nice chat about her and about genealogy in general
Dinner at the Lobster Hut

Dinner at the Lobster Hut

Later my brother Dennis joined me and we spent a few minutes walking through the cemetery together (he had never been there, despite living just 15 minutes away for over 35 years). Then we went off in search of a place to dine.  We wandered the streets of downtown Plymouth as dusk arrived and I got to see how Plymouth came alive on a Saturday night.  There are many restaurants and even more pubs, some with live music. We ended up at the Lobster Hut, on the Town Wharf and had a very nice seafood dinner.  And we enjoyed some of the music from the adjacent very active pub.

The harbor is lined with lobster art – a public art project reminiscent of the painted horses in Ocala. The real treat, though, was watching nighttime settle over the harbor.  Though chilly, the sky was quite clear and the sunset was gorgeous.

Sunset over Plymouth Harbor

Sunset over Plymouth Harbor

Rain. Cold rain.

It is raining now. It has been raining steadily since midnight. The forecast is for an all-day rain. With a forecast high of 48.

It has rained nearly every day since we left Virginia. And it has been unseasonably cold, too. It is getting to us.

Jett yesterday: “Next year let’s come north later.”

That actually would fit well with our nascent plan to spend some time in Central America next winter.  We are committed to being in Florida for 6 months, starting in mid-November.  But it doesn’t have to be 6 consecutive months.  We could stay 4 months, go to Panama for a month, then return for 2 more months in Florida.  That would have us leaving Florida in late June.  It will be very warm in Florida then.  But it will also be warm all the way north.

Which sounds pretty good right now.

New England Tour (NET) Preview

New England Tour

New England Tour

The “New England Tour” is how we are describing our summer in New England. In previous years we stayed all summer in a fixed location – the Minuteman Campground in Littleton MA. This year we will stay at that campground for just 9 nights; we will travel to 7 other spots for the rest of our stay and will leave earlier than usual – the end of July. So, briefly, this is what the NET looks like:

  1. Pinewood Lodge Campground, Plymouth MA, for 24 nights. This is the longest stay on the NET. The primary reason for hanging out in southeast Massachusetts is to give me a base to do some genealogical research – primarily for Jett’s Mayflower ancestors, but also some of mine. My brother is also nearby and this will be an opportunity to catch up with him.
  2. Normandy Farms Campground, Foxboro MA for 11 nights. We have stayed here before and love it. We are looking forward to enjoying the beautiful pools (if the weather improves), the snack bar, the disc golf course and the other amenities.
  3. Beach Rose RV Park, Salisbury MA for 10 nights. This will be a good base for doing genealogical research on Jett’s Salem and Rowley ancestors and will get us close to Rockport for our annual visit. This seems to be the best of the Cape Ann campgrounds, so we thought we would give it a try.
  4. Newfound RV Park, Bridgewater NH for 3 nights.  This is a quick trip to central NH, near Newfound Lake, to attend the Escapees Northeast Chapter 3 rally.  We attended one of these rallies before, up in Maine, and enjoyed ourselves immensely, so we are looking forward to renewing some acquaintances.
  5. Sea-Vu West, Wells ME for 8 nights. We have long wanted to spend some time on the Maine coast and this will give us a few days near some great beaches as well as the beautiful beach towns of Ogunquit and Kennbunk. It is also near the gravesites of some of Jett’s Maine pioneer ancestors.
  6. Saddleback Campground, Northwood MA for 9 nights. This takes us back to where it all started in the summer of 2012. It is very close to our sister-in-law’s summer cottage (where we expect to spend a lovely July 4th holiday). It is also close to a place where we can, if we choose, get some RV repairs done.  We could stay with our sister-in-law for a couple of days if necessary (right, sis?).
  7. Minuteman Campground, Littleton MA for 9 nights. This is our old summer “home” so it will be nice to see the owners and, we hope, some old friends.  It is also relatively close to Boston so we will probably schedule some medical and dental appointments. Fun.
  8. Pine Acres Family Camping Resort, Oakham MA for 14 nights. This is near Worcester where both Jett’s brother and my son live, so there will be some family time. It will also be a time to prepare for our next trip, the Second Trip West (STW). There are also more graves to find in the area near Worcester.

The path looks torturous, but in truth it is a rather short journey – just 445 miles.  We arrive May 5 (we are at the Pinewood Lodge Campground now) and depart August 1. The hops are short but the stays are long, totaling 88 nights. So while we are traveling more than usual this summer, it won’t be a lot of driving.

And we get to see parts of New England that we haven’t seen before, even though we have lived in the area most of our lives.

TTN Wrapup

The Third Trip North (Ft Myers Beach FL to Plymouth MA) is now history. The salient statistics are:

  • 21 nights
  • 8 hops
  • 2,184 total miles
  • 1,672 tow miles
  • $1,117.63 campground fees ($53.22 per night)
  • $523.72 fuel and tolls ($23.81 per day)

Highlights:

  • Time with family in VA
  • China Lee Buffet in Ocala FL
  • Savannah South KOA
  • Angelo’s Steak and Pasta in Myrtle Beach SC
  • Scenic back roads in PA
  • Ancient Burying Ground in Hartford CT
  • Diesel fuel prices (under $2.50 per gallon except in PA)
  • No major dings

Lowlights:

  • Verizon Wireless (replacing my router with an even less functional one)
  • Oak Tree Village in Ocala FL (a really nasty campground)
  • Weather (cold, dreary and wet from NC to MA)
  • A couple of minor dings (most notably the puncture of the front basement door)
  • Lots of disagreements between Google maps and GPS routes
  • I-84 in CT and US 6 in MA

Plymouth MA

Mayflower memorial

Mayflower memorial

Yesterday I braved the 55-degree chill and drove to downtown Plymouth MA with the intent of searching for the graves of Jett’s Mayflower ancestors. Those who died in the horrible first winter are all buried on Coles Hill overlooking Plymouth harbor. But there are no headstones. It is not a traditional cemetery; it is just a small steep hill on which the Pilgrims were buried.  I was initially disappointed as I had hoped to find individual graves, but upon reflection I fully understand.  Those people were in flat-out survival mode.  It was winter and they were starving.  Just getting people buried – half their number died – was a major undertaking. I am sure marking their graves for posterity was pretty low on their priority list.

The hill is near the Plymouth Rock pavilion which houses Plymouth Rock – ostensibly the rock on which the Pilgrims first set foot on shore in Plymouth. I am skeptical, of course, that anyone bothered to mark the location where they first set foot. And in any case it is NOT the first place where they set foot in America as they landed first near the tip of Cape Cod, then worked their way along the shore of Massachusetts Bay until they found a suitable location for a settlement. The rock itself is unimposing, being about 5 feet long and 3 feet wide and tall. Like a billion other rocks along this shore. I took a photo, but it was late afternoon and the lighting was terrible.

Plymouth Rock pavilion

Plymouth Rock pavilion

Plymouth Rock

Plymouth Rock

Jett has at least one ancestor – Elizabeth Walker Warren, died 1673 – who is buried in a nearby cemetery in Plymouth – Burial Hill, the first “real” cemetery in Plymouth. It is a large cemetery and, being very old, many of the headstones are illegible. I had no realistic expectation of finding her headstone, but it was a beautiful cemetery with spectacular views over downtown Plymouth and out to sea. Walking through a cemetery like this and taking the time to reflect on the courage and fortitude of the early settlers is never a waste of time.

View from Coles Hill Burial Ground

View from Coles Hill Burial Ground

Burial Hill

Burial Hill

Burial Hill

Burial Hill

Ancient Burying Ground, Hartford CT

Founder's obelisk

Founder’s obelisk

I have been spending a LOT of time researching and documenting Jett’s ancestry. Much more time than I have been spending on my own ancestry because, frankly, her family is much more interesting than mine. But last wee, when we were in CT for two nights, I took the opportunity to check out some of the cemeteries in and near Hartford where some of my ancestors are reportedly buried. In particular, I was very interested in seeing the Ancient Burying Ground in Hartford CT where at least 6 of my distant great-grandparents are said to be buried:

  • Thomas Bliss Sr (9th great-grandfather) – died 1639
  • James Ensign (9th great-grandfather) – died 1680
  • Sarah Elson Ensign (9th great-grandmother) – died 1676
  • Sarah Bearding Spencer (9th great-grandfather) – died 1685
  • John Steele Sr (11th great-grandfather) – died 1685

Great-grandfathers Bliss, Ensign and Steele are included in the group of people who founded Hartford, so their names appear on the Founder’s Monument that was erected in the cemetery in 1837 and was replaced with a new one in 1986. The wives of these men were also founders, of course, but 17th-century women were definitely second-class citizens.

I was hopeful of finding at least one of the individual headstones for these people, but I was disappointed. It is possible that not all of the “founders” are buried here. For example, Thomas Bliss Sr reportedly died in 1639, just 3 years after the founding of Hartford and a year before the establishment of the cemetery.

I also checked out the Old Suffield Cemetery in Suffield CT where at least six of my ancestors are reportedly buried. This cemetery is not quite so ancient, founded in 1743. But I was no more successful here, finding none of my ancestor’s headstones. Worse, I later found a list of headstone incriptions, made in 1934, and none of my ancestors are listed there, either. I am wondering now if there might not be an error in the identification of the cemetery. Perhaps there is another old cemetery nearby. Further research is needed.

Update: I was definitely at the wrong cemetery. I searched the West Suffield (or “new”) cemetery while I should have been looking at the Old Suffield Cemetery. Both are located on Mountain Rd, which is why I ended up in the wrong place.

Thomas Bliss Sr

Thomas Bliss Sr

James Ensign

James Ensign

John Steele

John Steele

TTN Hop 8: Bristol CT to Plymouth MA

TTN Hop 8

TTN Hop 8

161 miles via CT 229, I-84, CT 2, I-395 (toward Worcester), US 6, I-295 (around Providence), I-95, I-495 (around Boston) and US 44. Cumulative tow miles: 1672. Cumulative truck miles: 2184.

This was a relatively short hop (3.5 hours, including a short rest stop) along some roads that we have traveled before, but also a few new ones (CT 2 and US 6). CT 2 was pleasant but US 6 (between I-395 and I-295) was a nightmare – arguably the worst road we have ever traveled. “Rough” doesn’t begin to describe it. The macadam surface was so cracked and pitted that a gravel road would have been more pleasant. Fortunately it was a fairly short segment – about 20 miles. But 20 miles of misery.

And it was all done in the rain. A constant, all-day rain that varied between drizzle and downpour. There were short periods when I could shut off the wipers, but not many.

We stayed 2 nights at the Bear Creek Campground at Lake Compounce in Bristol CT. Lake Compounce is an amusement park which I can’t describe because it was not yet open for the season while we were there. As the campground exists mostly to cater to amusement park customers, it was not surprising that it was mostly vacant. But it was a surprise when we looked out of our window after our first night there and found that we were alone – the only RV in the park.  That was, in our four years of traveling, a unique experience.

Office

Office

This is a relatively new park – not yet 3 years old. The facilities was modern, the sites were huge, the office store very large and well-stocked. In addition to the RV sites (all pull-throughs), the park has cabins, huts, tent sites and a few tipis.

Loneliness

Loneliness

Tipis

Tipis

Cabins

Cabins

TTN Hop 7: White Haven PA to Bristol CT

TTN Hop 7

TTN Hop 7

198 miles via I-80, I-380, PA 423, PA 191, PA 507, I-84 and CT 229. 198 miles. Cumulative tow miles: 1511. Cumulative truck miles: 1920.

Sconce-less fixture

Sconce-less fixture

Broken sconce

Broken sconce

This hop was 198 miles and 75% of those miles – 149 miles – were on I-84. Which meant a very bumpy ride. Although I-84 is constantly under construction (major work in Waterbury this year), it is always rough. This time the ride was so rough that one of the chairs – probably the dining room chair – jumped up and broke the glass globe on the wall sconce. I think if all of our travel was on I-84 the RV would shake itself apart.

Jett asked why we take I-84. Because it is better than I-95.

The sad fact is that most of the major roads in New England are in poor repair and not very RV-friendly.

The interesting miles on this hop were the 15 miles on PA 423, PA 191 and PA 507 through Tobyhanna and Newfoundland. These are interesting little towns that would be scenic any time of year. But in the spring, with flowering dogwood trees and various colorful bushes, they are beautiful. If I hadn’t been towing 8 tons of RV, I would have stopped and taken some photos.

The weather continued to be cool. The high was 65 and the day started with a little cold rain. We definitely aren’t in Florida anymore.

Our overnight stop was at the Lehigh Gorge Campground in White Haven PA. This park is conveniently located less than a mile from an I-80 exit. The park is basic, with many long-term residents in mostly very old trailers, but the owners have provided a row of pull-through sites for transient travelers. The site was gravel and not very level (the front landing gear was fully retracted to get level) but the utilities were very good. The big surprise was the cable: good reception and 75 channels. Jett loved that.

We didn’t care about the pool, the playground or the laundry, but the park has all of those. The pool is unique in that it is heated by a wood-burning furnace. The storage shed next to the furnace had a “bathing place permit” posted. I guess the local government licenses commercial swimming pools. But the posted permit was dated July 9, 1973 – almost 44 years ago! I guess you don’t need to renew the permit very often.

Wood furnace for the pool

Wood furnace for the pool

Ancient permit

Ancient permit

Lehigh Gorge sites

Lehigh Gorge sites

TTN Hop 6: Lorton VA to White Haven PA

TTN Hop 6

TTN Hop 6

238 miles via I-95, I-495 (around DC), I-270, US 15, I-83, I-81 and I-80 with a refueling stop in MD. Cumulative tow miles: 1313. Cumulative truck miles: 1721.

Going through PA is the lesser of two evils: the other choice would be to go through NJ, which we will avoid at any cost due to the traffic and the tolls. But we don’t like PA much, either. The roads are rough and there are hills.

We had a lot of rough roads and hills on this hop. Plus a 5-mile section of stop-and-go (mostly stop) traffic on I-83 due to construction. We made it, but it wasn’t much fun. There were a few nice vistas on I-83 – a section of road which I don’t believe we ever traveled before. But mostly we listened to a book on tape and let the miles roll by.

The refueling stop was challenging. We stopped at a Sheetz station which was much smaller than a truck stop. I had to thread my way around the back of the building to get back on the road. But I am glad I chose that stop, in MD, because the diesel prices jumped about 50 cents per gallon after we crossed into Pennsylvania.

The biggest surprise on this hop was the change in the foliage. In VA the trees were pretty much in full foliage (with lots of pollen). By the time we approached White Haven the trees were just budding. It was almost as if we had traveled through summer into fall. The temperature also dropped – from about 75 when we left Lorton to about 60 when we arrived in White Haven. Windy, too. Jett immediately closed all the windows, put on a sweatshirt and turned on the heat.

The Pohick Bay Regional Park Campground was, as always, wonderful. Our site was large, with a nice table and fire ring. We had campfires two nights, with the requisite s’mores. There were a lot of children at Pohick over the weekend – more than I have ever seen there before – but they were, for the most part, well-behaved. We did our laundry and ate out with family many times. Too many times. I gained about 5 pounds during the week.

“The Appeal” by John Grisham

Copyright 2008 by Belfry Holdings, Inc. Dell mass market edition, Dec 2008.

Spoiler alert: I am going to give away the ending, so if you want to read the book you had better look away.

If you want a book in which the bad guys win – big time – and the good guys all get screwed – big time – I have just the book for you: The Appeal by John Grisham.

The story centers around a product liability case.  A chemical company dumped carcinogenic chemicals illegally for 20 years.  When the chemicals got into the aquifer and people began dying of cancer, they closed the plant and moved operations to Mexico.  A mom-and-pop legal team sued them on behalf of a client who lost both her husband and her child to cancer.  After a year of litigation that cost the lawyers everything they owned, plus $400K in debt, they won a huge ($42 million) verdict.  But the chemical company – whose CEO was a billionaire – vowed to never pay a cent.  To ensure this, they decided to buy a seat on the Mississippi Supreme Court, a cynical ploy that thrust a backwoods Bible-thumping lawyer into the election, funded with millions from the chemical company, all carefully laundered to keep any hint of the company’s backing away from the press.

Sadly, the cynical ploy worked.  The pawn was elected and he dutifully overturned a series of product liability cases. The $42 million case finally appeared before the court.  They ruled, 5-4 with the new guy casting the deciding vote, to overturn the case.  Result: the rich CEO became even richer, the mom-and-pop lawyers declared bankruptcy and people continued to die because there was no money for a cleanup.

I think Grisham was trying to write a “realistic” story that highlighted the problem with elected judges.  I guess he succeeded. But the result was a very depressing story that I can’t recommend.  If it wasn’t so well written I would give it a 1.

2 out of 10.