Friday, August 30, 2019

Friday Funnies

We've seen many of these signs (or similar ones) on travels along New England roadways.
But, this was the only one we came across on our recent road trip in parts of NH and MA.
Grenville had a couple of up-close encounters with these friendly "critters."
It's the 3-day Labor Day weekend here in the U.S. and considered as the "last summer holiday weekend" with the actual holiday on Monday. As some school children have returned to classes or will be returning next week, please be cautious on the roadways. 

We're going to a community theater production and a backyard get-together on Saturday and avoiding road trips on holiday weekends. How about you? 

Enjoy Your weekend, Everyone. 
Safe travels if on the road.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Driving In the Clouds

Yes, that's exactly what we did as part of our week-long anniversary celebration and 
Grenville drove to the summit of Mt. Washington. At 6,288 feet, it's the highest peak in the Northeastern U.S. and the most prominent mountain east of the Mississippi River and it's here in NH. 

Mt. Washington is in the Presidential Range of the White Mountains and the White Mountain National Forest. Over 60 acres surrounding and including the summit are occupied by Mount Washington State Park. 

The best view is always at the top and that's where we headed on the Mt. Washington Auto Road. Vehicles average 30 minutes to travel the nearly 8 mile ascent and from 30 to 45 minutes to descend depending on traffic, weather conditions. The downward trip is in the lowest gear. It's recommended that motorists stop to cool car brakes, as necessary. 

Update to answer questions in a couple of comments: The Auto Road is regularly patrolled to check for any breakdowns. Grenville descended in the lowest gear on his Jeep and also stopped a couple of times to ensure that the car brakes didn't overheat and all was OK.

The Auto Road is a steep, narrow mountain road without guardrails. The average grade is 12%. A sign at the base of the road reads: If you have a fear of heights, you may not appreciate this driving experience. When it starts out, the road follows the tree line.

But within a few miles, the clouds roll in. In many spots it's like driving through thick fog and this was on a good weather day.

Driving up can be anxiety-producing and I was a passenger. Did I mention there are no guardrails? Also, the road is not paved the entire way, but is partial gravel for the last couple of miles. Grenville is a cautious and safe driver, so no worries there.

Forgot to mention, there's more than a few curves along the route, but what spectacular views, each one better than the one before. Advantages to driving your car include being able to stop on numerous turn-outs for the views with no time limit on the summit. 

A bit of history: The Auto Road bills itself as "America's oldest man-made attraction." The road was started in the 1850s when a group of businessmen figured that a toll road to take people to the summit could be profitable. Construction was no small undertaking as this was before dynamite and road-building equipment; supplies were brought in by horse, oxen or man-power. Holes were hand-drilled in the rocks, then packed with gun powder to clear a route. Workers labored 10-12 hours a day living in shanties or tents. The cost of road building was figured at $8,000/mile. In 1856, halfway to the top, the business group ran out of money. Work stopped when they couldn't interest investors to fund continuing the project.

In 1859, a new group of investors formed the Mount Washington Summit Road Company (which still owns the road) and resumed work. The completed road opened on Aug. 8, 1861. Special wagons carried tourists up the mountain, each pulled by 6 horses with up to 12 passengers. The trip took four hours and cost $2.50 ($60 in today’s money). Horses rested overnight in a huge barn chained to the ground to keep it from blowing away. Winds were often high enough to make travel a concern. The passengers and driver would collect rocks to put on the floor of the stage adding ballast against possible overturns.

The Auto Road’s usage has grown since those early years. In 1935, over 3,000 private cars went up. In 1961, the Auto Road’s 100th anniversary year, there were 12,800. We learned that an estimated 130,000 to 140,000 people travel the Auto Road annually, either self-driving or by guided van tours. Officials are specific about vehicles that can travel the road. The regulations are detailed on the Auto Road’s website

Because of vehicle traffic on the narrow Auto Road, riding bicycles is not allowed (no shoulders and no guardrails). The only time bikes can use the road is during an August fund raiser, the same weekend of our drive. (Luckily, the race was a day before our drive; our weather was better for us too.) The road closes for bad weather (high winds, wet conditions) or unsafe road conditions. In winter, it closes to all private vehicles, except the Snow Coach tour that runs December to March. No winter hiking of any type is allowed. 
Once we reached the end of the auto road at the parking area, we were immediately immersed in the clouds and the surrounding 750,000-acre White Mountain National Forest. We read that on a clear day, views extend up to 130 miles to Massachusetts, Vermont, Maine, New York, Quebec, sometimes even the Atlantic Ocean.

At the summit, dressing warmly is always a must. (We took a trip on the Cog Railway 2 years ago, so we knew this.) When we drove up this year, the temperature at the base was in the 80s, and it was in the mid-60s at the summit, we definitely needed our jackets. The Mt. Washington summit reaches nearly 6,300 feet into the clouds, so we experienced one of the weather extremes which it's well known for — wind. 

While part of our anniversary road trip, reaching the summit was so that Grenville could meet several other Nashua, NH, ham radio members to conduct mountain-top activations, called "summits on the air." Ham operators set up equipment and try to contact other operators worldwide. Grenville made contacts in San Francisco, CA and Missouri. Those very large towers seen in the background below are communications towers on the summit not part of his set-up (but he wishes). 

There's other ways to get to the summit besides driving. You can hike the entire way up or just explore some of the summit trails. One of Grenville's ham radio group hiked up with his son and dog, then hitched a ride down because he said the dog was exhausted.

There's other ways to reach the top — by motorcycle or by a guided tour in an auto road van. The cost of these alternatives are listed here. (Auto Road shuttles are still called stages. Before cars (and vans) drove up the summit, visitors to the Carriage Road, the Auto Road’s former name, traveled in horse drawn stages and a summit trip took hours.)

In 1869, the Cog Railway was completed and travelers soon preferred this shorter trip in enclosed cars vs. all-day travel in open mountain wagons. Today, the Cog Railway is the most popular Mt. Washington attraction. It's a 3-hour narrated trip to the summit and back. The train ascends the western slope of Mt. Washington; the Auto Road climbs to the summit from the East. 

For years the Cog Railway carried many more passengers than the Auto Road. The first motorized ascent was in 1899 by F. O. Stanley, of Stanley Steamer fame, and his wife. More steam-powered ascents followed and in 1902, the first two gas-powered cars reached the summit. 
Travelers ride in several colorful biodiesel locomotives that run several times a day or the popular steam engine, which only runs twice daily. No matter which one is selected, it's not an inexpensive ride as shown here. (Our 2017 ride was $10 less.) 

No matter how you get to the summit, once there, it's time to explore. An observation deck provides panoramic views. 

In more than 150 years that the Auto Road has been traveled, there’s only been three fatalities. In 1880, a stage overturned on a curve and a passenger was killed (it's believe that the driver was drunk). In 1984, a vehicle experienced brake failure about a mile up the road, it crashed and a woman died. In 2009, a motorcyclist went over the edge.
Now, we can show that Grenville's 2004 Jeep is among the countless autos that have safety been up and back. The bumper sticker is included in the Auto Road fee. 

While Grenville was busy with ham radio activations, I explored the summit. Even up so high, there's the usual gift shops associated with tourist attractions. One small gift shop at the Summit Stage Office is in a building that's been chained down to the ground. This sign on the building side explains it's where the highest measured world record wind speed of 231 mph was recorded on April 12, 1934. 
There's also the Tip-Top House, a historic former hotel. It was built in 1853 for $7,000 by Samuel F. Spaulding to compete with the Summit House, another hotel that opened in 1852. 

The Tip-Top House is considered the oldest mountain-top hostelry in the world, even though it no longer functions as one. The rectangular structure is 1-1/2 stories high with walls of rough-cut granite blasted from the mountain. Years ago, a telescope was placed on its flat roof to create an observatory on clear days. 

From 1877-1884, the building was a printing office for Among the Clouds, the mountain's newspaper and housed the paper's entire operation, including typesetting desks, editing tables and a hand-turned press. When the newspaper relocated off the mountain, the Tip-Top House was abandoned and fell into disrepair. It was completely restored in 1987, and the interior was recreated to show how it looked as a lodging facility. Now open from early May to early October, it was well worth a visit.

We enjoyed our road trip to the Mt. Washington summit. It's quite a unique experience. 

Cheers — we celebrate all year🍷

This was a (very) long narrative to describe our Mt. Washington drive in one post. I will catch up on your recent posts this week. Also, many thanks from both Grenville and myself on your Happy Anniversary wishes — all were much appreciated ! 

Friday, August 16, 2019

Friday Funnies

Who hasn't heard the expression, front and center as in the most prominent position? The expression often refers to the best and usually most expensive seats in a theater.

It's also the name on a street sign in Fernandina Beach, FL as we found out on our Southern U.S. road trip this spring.

Have you ever seen a similar sign based on a popular phrase — if so, where was it?

Enjoy Your weekend, Everyone.

We're taking a short blog break to go on a couple of short(er) New England road trips to celebrate our 20th (yikes!) wedding anniversary. Seems like it was just yesterday to us.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

The Youngest Grand . . .

is Lilliana. Recent posts featured photos of our two older grandchildren, Bobby and Ellie, who live closer in RI. The youngest granddaughter lives in PA, with parents (Coleen and Paulo). We saw them in CT last month for a family wedding.
All three grandkids hammed it up with Grandpa Grenville. Later, they went to a local beach where grandpa took these photos of Lilliana.

Lilliana, who will be 3 years old in December, is not camera-shy and quite outgoing.
We're looking forward to seeing her again this November when we'll be in Lancaster, PA, to celebrate Thanksgiving with other family members.

For us, family time is not only the best time, but always time well spent.

Monday, August 12, 2019

It's Not Really a Monster

Instead, the Green Monster is the popular name for the 37.2 feet high left field wall at Fenway Park baseball field in Boston, MA, which we visited recently for the first time. 

This 37.2 feet high left field wall was part of the ball field's 1912 construction and back then it was built of wood. In 1934, it was re-covered in tin and concrete. Then in 1976, it was covered once again, this time in a hard plastic. 

Despite the fact that we've lived in New England for the past few years, we'd never been to Fenway Park in Boston, MA, the oldest ball field in Major League Baseball and home to the Boston Red Sox. 

The stadium was built in 1912 at a cost of $650,000. Its original owner, John Taylor, said the name came from its location in Boston's Fenway neighborhood. But, his family owned Fenway Realty Company and that's widely considered the reason for the name. The team became the Boston Red Sox in 1908, adapting it from the Boston Red Stockings. The name, reportedly chosen by Taylor, referred to the red hose in the team uniforms. 

Our lapse in seeing Fenway Park changed in July as that's when the Nashua Senior Center sponsored a trip to tour the ball field. It was a very warm and humid day and this outing didn't include a game. Maybe we'll do that someday on a (hopefully) cooler day.

The now-called Green Monster was constructed due to the shape of the lot when Fenway Park was built. Since the distance to the left field fence was a short 315 feet, the wall was built to prevent a ball being hit out of the park. In 1936, a 23-foot net was put in above the wall to protect storefronts on adjoining Lansdowne Street from home run balls. 

It was dubbed The Wall and was plastered with advertisements as shown in this vintage 1914 photo by John F. Riley. 
The current moniker was applied after the wall was painted green in 1947. It's the highest among Major League Baseball field walls and the second highest among all Major and Minor league ball fields. (The highest wall by 6 inches is the left field wall at Peoples Bank Park in York, PA.) Fenway Park is the last of high-walled major league ballparks constructed for necessity vs. novelty. 

Not clearly visible in the above photo is a manual scorecard that was higher up in the wall. It was replaced in 1934 by a ground-level manual scoreboard that now forms the lower half of the Green Monster. It's still manually updated from behind the wall throughout games. The wall has 127 slots. A team of three scorekeepers move two-pound, 13 x 16-inch plates to represent the score. Yellow numbers represent in-inning scores; white numbers represent final inning tallies. American League scores are updated from behind the wall; National League scores are updated from the front between innings. A board also shows current American League East rankings. 

In 2003, when the 1936 net was removed, the Red Sox team's new owners recognized the allegiance that fans had to the Green Monster and added 269 metal seats on top of it.
As the photo above shows, there's a ladder visible. In earlier years, the grounds crew would climb it to retrieve home run balls from the netting above the wall. When the net was removed to add seating, the ladder was no longer. It remains as a historic icon and is the only such one in the Major Leagues.
Green Monster seat pricing is variable and determined by row, date, opposing team and even weather. It's hard to see clearly, but here's seat pricing from the Red Sox online site as you can see (maybe) they are monstrously priced..

These are definitely not the cheap seats and are certainly not the most comfortable as we learned first-hand. We were thankful to only give them a non-paying try-out.

Fenway Park and Wrigley Field in Chicago, IL, are the last two remaining jewel box ballparks still in use by Major League Baseball. Both fields have numerous obstructed view seats, due to pillars supporting the upper deck.
These seats are sold as such. They serve as reminders of some of the architectural limitations of older ballparks. From 1875 through 1903, over two dozen wooden baseball parks were constructed in the U.S. mostly of wood as owners were conscious of cost. These stadiums were forerunners of what became jewel box stadiums. After owners realized the dangers of all wood ballparks, and the sport's popularity grew, they built concrete and steel parks. These classic stadiums were smaller with a single main level and a smaller upper level supported by "I" beams.

Fenway Park celebrated its centennial in April 2012 and has been added to the National Register of Historic Places. It's the fourth smallest MLB ballpark by seating capacity, second smallest by total capacity, and one of eight fields that cannot hold at least 40,000 spectators. (Online sources gave seating as between 37,305 and 37,755.)

In 1999, plans for a new Fenway Park were proposed that would have demolished the existing stadium, except the Green Monster. The plan was controversial. Save Fenway Park groups formed to try and block the move. The City of Boston and the Red Sox never failed to come to an agreement on a new stadium. In 2005, the Red Sox ownership announced it would remain at Fenway indefinitely. The stadium has since been renovated and is projected to remain usable until as late as 2061.

We learned a lot about Fenway Park, but it wasn't the only tour stop. After lunch, the group went to another landmark, the Samuel Adams Boston Brewery. (While it's not at the ball park, there's a prominent sign there.)
Following a brief tour, there was some beer sampling. As mentioned earlier, it was a hot and humid tour day. This stop was really a thirst-quencher. (Root beer was available for any non-beer fans.)

Friday, August 9, 2019

Friday Funnies

During our road trips, it's always interesting to see the colors, sizes, and varieties of bikes that folks take along on a car or RV.
This was the first bike and car photo where the bike color and car color matched. (It may be a bit harder to see in this shot, but the colors were a near perfect match.)

Thanks to everyone for your comments on a recent post about the home medicine cabinet and what's in ours and yours. This topic resulted in many interesting comments.

Enjoy Your weekend, Everyone.
(Forecast is cooler & dry here in NH.)

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Ellie is Eight !

The years go quickly by certainly true when birthdays come around. 

Our oldest granddaughter Elizabeth (Ellie) celebrated her 8th birthday in July. The party was held this past weekend and attended by family, neighbors and school friends.

Here's some of Ellie's earlier celebrations — the top center photo was her first 🎂.

Two weekends ago both grands, Ellie and her brother Bobby and their mom, Shannon visited us in NH for an overnight stay. There's an indoor pool in our apartment building that was a big hit. Both grandkids went there 3X during their visit.
Ellie's party also featured a water event which her young party guests thoroughly enjoyed, the slip 'n slide. The older party goers, including ourselves, watched the fun.
Of course, no birthday party would be complete without a cake. Ellie's was an ice cream cake, perfect for a warm afternoon with no leftovers.
After the cake, it's time for presents. Ellie had no shortage of gifts and also no shortage of friends to help as what kid doesn't like seeing gifts, even if not their own.
Young birthday guests took swings to break open the unicorn piñata, which was filled with candy treats. It took quite a few swings to break open; Ellie took the first and last ones.
Once the candy fell out, there was a scramble to gather it all up. 
We wish Ellie a very Happy Birthday year