Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Taking a Sunday Drive

Did you ever go on a weekend drive, when growing up or have you taken any recently? 

Here's some background on the term Sunday driver which originated from a practice that has fallen by the wayside in recent years. But, in the 1920s and 30s taking a drive, mainly in the country, was a form of entertainment. These rides were for pleasure with no destination or rush to get there. Many such drivers drove so slow as to annoy other drivers who were in a hurry to reach their destinations. When WWII gas and rubber rationing hit, these drives were mostly abandoned. By the 1950s, there was an upswing, which quickly faded as people found other weekend interests. A 1970s fuel crisis and increased gasoline costs further caused a decline in these drives. 
The vintage car in the above photo reminded me of Sunday drives with my parents and, in my case, younger brother Our drives were in my parents mid-1950s Mercury auto. Most times, my parents didn't have any special destination. Despite a previous decline, this year, drives to nowhere special have become more popular with many folks and not just on a Sunday. In some religions, such drives can be considered inappropriate if done on Sunday or Sabbath.

That might explain why both Grenville and myself still enjoy these drives. The difference is that now we're the motorists and not just the passengers; one of us still had that status last weekend. A lot of fall color is showing up throughout New England. This weekend, we took a look-see locally in NH.

All the photos in this post were taken while on the drive, fortunately that part was left to Grenville. We went only about 20 miles through a few towns near Nashua, NH and a short drive to Pepperell, MA, where's we hoped to see skydivers. These photos were taken with an iPhone since the best camera is the one you have with you, so this was mine.

Power and utility lines are unavoidable on most roadway drives even when not traveling major routes as we were doing. For the purposes of this post, I didn't take time to remove any.

Luckily, we passed some open fields, and it was possible to snap a colorful grouping through the car side window without any interfering lines. In future travels, we expect to see foliage scenes where there are none; fall colors are slowly starting in nearby Mine Falls Park, a favorite walk.

The skies looked threatening and there were a few sprinkles as we drove along. It never rained during this outing, even though rain is sorely needed here. Unfortunately, the dense cloud cover cancelled the skydiving. We plan to return another time, as spectators not participants.

Steady rain is expected later this week, followed by temps seasonably cooler than the high 70s of last week and weekend. 
Weather permitting this week, we expect to be taking another road trip. Fall colors can be fleeting once they start. Colder areas are up close to peak foliage color.

How are the fall colors in your area? We hope that you will be able to get outside and enjoy the beautiful autumn palette as much as we do where we can safely social distance, unmasked.
We ❤️ Autumn 🍁🍂 and here's another favorite, great niece Autumn Rose, who will celebrate her 1st 🎂 birthday in NJ next month. we last saw her at 3 months of age and now she's starting to take her first steps. Yikes! We would like to see her and other family members before she starts school, hopefully much sooner.

Friday, September 25, 2020

Friday Funnies

Workers replacing the roof of the United Methodist Church on Main Street in Nashua brought back memories a popular 1960s tune.
Up on the Roof was recorded in 1962 by the Drifters, a soul/R&B group. Released late that year, the song became a major hit in early 1963, reaching number 5 on the U.S. pop singles chart and 4 on the U.S. R&B singles chart. In the U.K., it was also a Top Ten hit for solo artist Kenny Lynch. It's one of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll. Two years later in 1964, the Drifters recorded Under the Boardwalk.

The song was written by husband and wife songwriters, Gerry Goffin and Carole King. King had suggested that Goffin write lyrics for the tune which had come to her while she was driving. She suggested My Secret Place as the title. Goffin kept King's suggested focus of a rooftop haven, combining it with his enthusiasm for the 1961 movie musical West Side Story which contained scenes on rooftops of NYC Upper West Side tenements. 

Here's a fuzzy YouTube video of the Drifters performing with lead singer Johnny Moore.

And, now you know, more of the story. (Sorry, if it causes an earworm.)

Enjoy Your Weekend, Everyone.
We're going to find a "castle" in the NH woods

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

We Gorged Last Week

No, we didn't eat a lot. We went day tripping (again).

The state of NH has many natural attractions and last week's day trip took us to another one, the Flume Gorge in Franconia State Park. Despite being a natural wonder, there's an admission fee of $14 to $16 depending on age, free for those age 5 and under and NH seniors (like us). Sometimes being older is a good thing. Our only cost was a $1 online transaction fee.

Our goal was a visit to the Flume Gorge, a spectacular 800-foot natural chasm. The walls of Conway granite rise to a height of 70 to 90 feet, 12 to 20 feet apart. It's accessed by walking the Flume Gorge Trail, open this year from May 22 through October 20. The Flume as an attraction is closed in winter months, so it’s not possible to hike through the entire gorge then. Due to changes and damage caused by frost heaving, the paths are rebuilt by a team of experts each year

Currently, the trail is a one-way, 2-mile loop starting at check-in booths at the Flume Building as the Short Trail/Rim Path is closed. The self-guided walk is estimated to take 1.5 hours, ours took longer as we stopped often. The walk includes uphill walking and a number of many stairs. The trail is mainly packed gravel which includes moderate uphill and downhill walking.

In the wake of COVID-19, expected restrictions are in place. Reservations are online only for a specific date and time slot. The Visitor's Center doesn't offer the former 20-minute movie on Franconia Notch State Park. The cafeteria is closed with packaged food items available for purchase. The gift shop (of course) is open. A 6-foot distance is recommended between those not with your party. A bus that would take visitors to Boulder Cabin, a short walk from the Flume is not running. Other trails are off limits. Children and adults can no longer crawl through and explore trail caves. Visitors are advised to keep traffic moving through the Gorge by not congregating at photo spots.

The story goes that the Flume was discovered in 1808 by 93-year-old Jess Guernsey said to have been out on a warm June day exploring the area around the family’s new homestead. She followed the sound of running water hoping to find a fishing hole. Instead, she saw a chasm 800 feet long and up to 90 feet tall. According to accounts, she had trouble convincing her family of the sight, eventually persuading them to go and see it. We would have gone.

Discovery date aside, the Flume Gorge started some 200 million years ago (Jurassic Period) as molten rock cooked far below the earth's surface. Erosion gradually exposed the rock and as the pressure eased, horizontal cracks formed.

Water forced its way into the cracks and began laying the groundwork for what's visible now. Glaciers capped the formation in the last Ice Age. When the ice sheet receded, it carried away soil and weathered rocks, leaving behind glacial debris.
While the gorge was covered by glaciers in the Ice Age, the ice sheet didn't greatly change its surface. The Ice Age was responsible for other popular natural features like Table Rock and The Pool. Water erosion and frost-heaving continue to deepen the gorge and is ongoing.
The granite that makes up the 70 to 90-foot gorge walls is called Conway granite. In 1877, the granite was named after the nearby town of Conway, NH, by Edward Hitchcock, professor of geology and theology and third president of Amherst College. Hitchcock had spent several years as a minister in Conway before beginning his geological career. 

The picturesque Flume Covered Bridge ↑ is one of the oldest in NH, built in 1886 and restored several times. Such bridges were often called “kissing bridges” because of the darkness and privacy they provided. This bridge was built across the scenic Pemigewasset (“swift or rapid current” in the Abenaki Indian language) River. 

Table Rock ↑ is a formidable section of Conway granite, 500 feet long and 75 feet wide, created during the last Ice Age. Over time, the rushing waters of the Flume Brook exposed this large outcropping of rock. The rocks are slippery and visitors are cautioned to stay on the trail. Normally, there is more water on the rocks, less now because of drought conditions.

At the top of the Flume is a closer view of ↑ Avalanche Falls. This 45-foot waterfall creates a roaring sound as the Flume Brook enters the gorge. The falls were formed during a heavy rainstorm in June 1883 that washed away a huge egg-shaped boulder that hung suspended between the walls, estimated to be 10 feet high and 12 feet long. The rainstorm started a landslide that swept the boulder from its place and it has never been found. 

The Pool ↑ is a deep basin in the Pemigewasset River. It was formed at the end of the Ice Age, 14,000 years ago, by a silt-laden stream flowing from the glacier. The Pool is 40 feet deep and 150 feet in diameter, and is surrounded by 130 foot high cliffs. A cascade rushes into it over fragments of granite that have fallen from the cliffs above.

The Sentinel Pine stood for centuries on a high cliff above the pool and was one of the largest in NH. It was about 175 feet high with a circumference of 16 feet. The hurricane of September 1938 uprooted the giant pine. Its trunk bridges the river above the Pool and forms the base of the Sentinel Pine ↑ covered bridge which offers a great view of the Pool.

The Wolf Den and Bear Cave are narrow, one-way paths that involve crawling on hands and knees and squeezing through rocks. Currently, they are off limits for obvious reasons of non-social distancing. They would have been on our off-limits list even if open.

Walking along the gravel path from the Flume, we saw so many glacial boulders ↑. Befitting their name, these are very rocks, weighing over 300 tons. Over 25,000 years ago, during the glacial period, a great ice sheet more than a mile thick moved over this area. The mass of ice was powerful moving large and small boulders. As the ice sheet retreated, the boulders (glacial erratics) remained.

Many very large tree roots were just as interesting as they hugged some smaller boulders.

1874 Abbot-Downing Concord Coach

The visitors center has several popular exhibits including a 1874 Concord Coach made by the Abbot-Downing Company, a now defunct coach and carriage builder formerly based in Concord, NH. The exhibit shows what it would have been like to travel around Franconia Notch by wagon.

The coach, labeled Plymouth-Franconia Mountains, was obtained from a Vermont source in 1933 by the Society for the Preservation of New Hampshire Forests and placed on display at the Flume in Franconia Notch SP where it has remained under state custody.

This friendly ranger moose is a Flume favorite and always very obliging for photo shoots.

Coincidentally, NH newcomer and fellow blogger Marcia and husband, Dan, also visited Flume Gorge the same day, but in a different time slot. As when we both recently visited America's Stonehenge, our paths did not cross (again). Perhaps they will on a future outing. You can read Marcia's blog post about their visit here.

Monday, September 21, 2020

A Parade and Answer

Despite chilly temperatures this past Saturday evening, there was a parade in Nashua, NH, but not just an ordinary parade. What made this one more unusual is that it was on water, not land, and its participants were all in kayaks. This photo was taken just after the parade started about 6:30 pm. A local kayak company put a notice on its website for all interested kayakers to join in.

These were not ordinary kayaks, but brightly lit and highly decorated ones. Although it is difficult to see them lit up in the above photo. 
The flotilla paddled on the Nashua River which flows adjacent to the millyard apartment complex where we reside.

Just after starting out, the kayakers circled the first of two fountains. Nearly all of the 60+ crafts were brightly lighted. Many included decorative add-ons, everything from palm trees, toy sharks, balloons, pirate flags, holiday decorations with some music accompaniment.

Once paddlers travelled downriver, lighting improved somewhat.
 This was the second kayak event this season. An earlier one in late July was on a much warmer eve when participants wore shorts and t-shirts. This time, most kayakers donned much warmer gear. Saturday's daytime high barely reached the mid-60s; nighttime temps dropped to the high 30s. 

The colorful flotilla of over 60 decorated and lighted kayaks circled the second fountain, went under the Main St bridge, then paddled back to the starting launch. This second and most likely final river event this year was viewed from the Main St bridge and our vantage point along the Nashua River bank with other apartment residents. 

Admittedly, the photos in this post taken with my cell phone are not the clearest shots. That said, here's a drone video that really showcases this unique event.

This post was done in the "new" Blogger format and unlike for previous posts where I could revert to Legacy Blogger, it was no longer an option (sigh). Photo insertion seems to be somewhat more difficult as selecting the size and alignment is now a 2-step process. But, there's a greater choice of fonts styles, in that you can add more fonts from a drop down selection. There's been a log of bloggers who have commented both for and against this new format, hopefully it will become more user-friendly as we adjust to it.

Here's the context of the mystery quote included at the end of a post last Thursday.

Kudos to Ron, Emma and Edna who commented correctly that it was from the 1947 film, Miracle on 34th Street. It was spoken by the character of Alfred, a young Macy's janitor, portrayed by 17-year old Alvin Greenman, a native New Yorker.

This American holiday comedy-drama film garnered three Academy Awards: Edmund Gwenn (Kris Kringle) for Best Actor in a Supporting Role, Valentine Davies for best Writing, Original Story, and George Seaton for Best Writing, Screenplay. It was also nominated for Best Picture, but lost to Gentleman's Agreement. In 2005, the Library of Congress selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry as being culturally, historically or aesthetically significant.

Friday, September 18, 2020

Friday Funnies

Waterbirds definitely know how to nearly social distance — check out these pelicans and cormorants.

This photo was taken when we lived on the VA Eastern Shore.

Enjoy Your Weekend Everyone
Lighted kayaks on the Nashua River this weekend

These Friday Funnies posts are lighthearted, but are no way intended to downplay the seriousness of the COVID-19 pandemic. We hope that everyone is social distancing, masking up as appropriate and washing hands often.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

(Some) Things Are in Stock

Thanks to Everyone for comments on last week's post about product shortages for what’s in short supply and what’s not available. Since that post was prepared at the beginning of this week, there have been a few changes on local store shelves — supermarkets, dollar store, retail pharmacy stores.

It was very interesting to read comments from bloggers here in the U.S. and several other countries and learn about what they can and cannot find in their stores. Here’s a brief run down of some comments (I tried to condense and combine many comments):

John (Canada) said he could not find caffeine-free Diet Coke® and Jen (Canada) said there was an aluminum shortage because she also could not diet soft drinks and there where limited choices for other soft drinks. 

Marcia (NH) Agreed with others that TP and other paper goods paper were still in short supply some others said. Meanwhile some folks found that supply OK. I agree with those who said that alternate brands were available. I've seen the same in several stores here.

Sandra (FL) said she switched her favorite brand of TP to a more expensive brand when it all that was available, but that she loved the switch. She cautioned against Walmart generic brand TP calling it horrible.
TP choices in at least 3 stores here last week

Edna (MA) said she found plenty of shortages and had to shop online for some paper products (when she could find them). She's had problems finding her favorite macaroni and in some places the prices are much higher.

Jeanie (MI) and others commented that cleaning supplies mentioned in my earlier post,   like toilet bowl cleaners, were hard to find. I will add that this week there was a 2-pack of Lysol brand toilet bowl cleaner and as it was the last one on the shelf, I retrieved it, so am set for now.
Some TB cleaner products in Nashua, NH stores last week

Diane (Australia) reported shortages in fruits and vegetables because with borders closed there are no workers to pick them. She added that farmers were plowing strawberries back into the ground. Diane also predicted a wool shortage due to a lack of sheep shearers also due to border closures.

David (Canada) said he could not find a cauliflower. Hopefully that situation has been resolved, but if you are still searching, David, there's been a selection available here in NH supermarkets and we bought one yesterday.

Jen (Canada) said that yeast had a limit of one per customer where she shopped. Several weeks ago, it was non-existent on local supermarket shelves in Nashua, NH. This week, both yeast and bread flour were on a couple of supermarket shelves with no posted limits.
Yeast and flour supplies on a supermarket shelf this week in Nashua, NH

Duta (Israel) said the quality of some products, like yoghurt and bread, had slipped with those products either being watery or dry. She added that a complaint to the store manager did not bring any satisfaction.

Tarryterre (US) found ample supplies of TP and cleaning supplies with the exception of certain brands. She noted that meats were more costly. She added something that no one else noted that clothing prices were being clashes in stores she frequented. She said that that masks seemed to be available everywhere now. I have noticed this as well, have you? And, most that I've seen are "made in China" which seems rather ironic to me.

Vee (NE) said she hadn't been shopping recently, but saw shortage a few weeks ago in paper products and cleaning supplies. On a recent trip for bandaids, she said some shelf space was being held by single product there.
Semi-empty store shelves last week

While some reported ample supplies, prices seemed higher. I think that myself and many others will agree with that statement.

Robin (CA) said she could not find any hand sanitizers. I would invite her to shop here in Nashua, NH, as several stores had shelves full of different products.
Various hand sanitizer products in CVS and a local supermarket

Jon (TN) said the Walmart he shops at had been low on TP and paper goods for a while. Adding that now peroxide and rubbing alcohol were out of stock along with vitamin C, which he was recently able to find. Also that the local was low on many items and produce was higher priced.

David (TN) said that disinfectant products were either in short supply or hard to come by in his area. He noted the availability of off-brands. That's true for many products, especially some bleach ones. Look at this comparison between the price of the name brand vs. off brand. These were stacked side by side in a Job Lot store last week.
Is there a cleaning difference to justify this price difference?

Barbara (NC) said she did not shop early hours but heard they were better for items in scarce supply. As other commented, she hasn't been able to find some preferred brands of  kitchen and bathroom cleaners, but TP purchases were not a problem. Barbara admitted to sometimes not following floor directional → ←arrows when trying to find something, but said she was masked and moved away from un-masked folks. I confess to having done the same when the needed item is at the end of the wrong aisle arrow.

Other products that several bloggers reported either being in short supply or not found included: rubbing alcohol, canned biscuits, canned foods, frozen foods, specific brand products. Also, other products that have been reported in short supply or hard to get are bicycles and personal computers. In our family, a second laptop was needed as both grandchildren are doing on-line learning. Their mom had to search around, but luckily found one before the start of classes this week.

While shortages continue for many consumables, local store shelves were loaded with these items. 

In the words of Albert the (Macy's) janitor: A lot of bad "isms" floating around this world, but one of the worst is commercialism. Make a buck. Make a buck . . .

Can anyone name the movie this  line is in? (There's a hint above; here's another one, it's a classic holiday film.) Answer next week.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Rock of Ages ?

This post is not the jukebox musical comedy film, Rock of Ages (2012) or the earlier Broadway play. Sorry if that disappoints anyone.

Wait, this post is about actual and very large rocks right here in New England in what's considered to be North America’s most enigmatic megalithic structures. A megalith is defined as a large pre-historic stone used to construct a structure or monument, either alone or with other stones. 

Fall is the perfect time of year for unexplained mysteries. So, we took a day trip to the former Mystery Hill, renamed America's Stonehenge in the 1960s. There's so many stories, online and in print about this place, which we've never visited, but we did last week.

After a lot of reading, the site's former name seems more appropriate since this archaeological site is clouded by the mystery of its origins with many questions leading archeologists, scientists, historians and sightseers to speculate about its origins. Some claim that it’s over 4000 years old, making it the oldest man-made construction in the U.S.

The Watch House named to explain its location outside the main site

It's a place of low, rambling walls, oversize rock formations, cave-like formations, tunnels and stone walls scattered in a wooded 30 acres on a granite hilltop in Salem, NH (not the town noted with the 1692 Salem witch trials, that Salem is in MA).
Walled pathway to main site
True, it's named after Stonehenge, that well-known mysterious formation on England's Salisbury Plain, but the sites are quite different looking. Stonehenge is located on a plain, not a hill, and is arranged as a series of concentric circles, horseshoes and squares. By comparison, Mystery Hill is jumbled. The stones that comprise the UK Stonehenge weigh up to 45 tons. The Mystery Hill stones are smaller with the largest about 11 tons and the construction less intricate. There’s no cultural or historical connection, except that both are made of stone. That said, they share some common ground:
  • Built by unknown people knowledgeable in astronomy and stonework.
  • Share astronomical alignments that can determine specific solar and lunar events.
  • Attract adherents of New Age beliefs who gather for winter and summer solstice observances. Experts have determined the NH site is an accurate, astronomically aligned calendar.
Anthropologists and archaeologists believe that America's Stonehenge was the former homestead of shoemaker Jonathan Pattee, who settled there in the mid-1800s and built a house. Several intact caves are thought to have been used by for storage purposes.  A printed mention of the site appeared in the 1907 History of Salem, NH, by Edgar Gilbert, under the title of Pattee's Cave.
Structural remains of Pattee homestead

Claims that the NH site has a pre-Columbian European origin are regarded as pseudo-archaeological, the result of an early-20th century hoax. Some archaeologists believe that former owner William B. Goodwin may have created much of what is visible now. No pre-Columbian European artifacts have been found on the site.
Some wall reconstruction in 1970-1980s

Goodwin, a wealthy insurance executive and antiquarian (someone who likes things of the past) purchased the area in 1937 (there was information provided on a former owner).
Various caves and entries

The site was altered on many occasions by Goodwin who wanted to prove that Irish monks (the Culdees) lived there long before Christopher Columbus arrived in America. The site has been altered by stone quarrying. Many stones contain drill marks from on-site quarrying. Also, Goodwin and others moved stones to where they considered were original locations and Goodwin is considered responsible for shaping the rocks as seen today.

Goodwin named the site, Mystery Hill which remained its "official" name until 1982 when it was renamed after an early 1960s news article, dubbed it America’s Stonehenge. By that time, it was owned by Robert Stone (appropriately named). The new name was seen as a way to reinforce promoting it as an archaeological site as opposed to a roadside novelty. People visit for both reasons.

Signage at America's Stonehenge entryStone bought the 105-acre property in 1965 after leasing the site since 1958, when admission was being charged to see the monoliths. It's believed the purchase saved the site from development. Stone died in 2009; the site is owned by his son, Dennis, a former commercial airline pilot, and president of America’s Stonehenge. 

The visitor's center contains artifacts found on-site including stone tools, pottery, 18th and 19th century housewares leading some scientists to conclude that the stones were assembled for a variety of reasons by local farmers in the 18th and 19th centuries. Manacles were also found, and may have been removed from slaves who used the site as a stop on the Underground Railroad in the 1830s and 1840s. Charcoal from a fire pit was radiocarbon-dated to be 4,000 years old. Scientists say the research proves only that there was a fire and none of the dates are linked to human activity

There's the mystery of a Sacrificial Table (named by Goodwin). It resembles an altar and is a highlight of the site. This gigantic flat stone table is supported by four stone legs with a groove along the surface edge leading to a spout. The gutter could have been used to collect rainwater or to drain the blood of a sacrificial animal. Another design oddity is a tube, about 8-feet long below the stone that leads to an underground chamber. Anyone in the chamber could have spoken through the tube and be heard above ground. 
Sacrificial Table

Aside from the speculations of an altar, others contend it resembles a lye-leaching stone found on old farms. These stones were used to extract lye from wood ashes, the first step in soap making. Also, the Sacrificial Stone doesn't conform to any known Colonial religious beliefs and New England Native Americans didn't build with stone.

This curious place was worth visiting, even with muddled origins, open to archeological speculation — was it by a built by Native Americans, the creation of ancient Middle Europeans, the lost monastery of migrant Irish monks, a settlement, village, type of cathedral or the work of 18th and 19th century farmers — many questions, few answers.
More stone walls on Astronomical Trail

No one is 100% certain and speculation continues. What is certain is that people will continue trying to solve the mysteries of America's Stonehenge. With no definitive answers, you can visit and decide after paying an entry fee (used for maintenance and research), then wander the site, and let your imagination run wild. When finished, walk the astronomical trail. Wear comfortable hiking shoes as the terrain is uneven and rocky and would not be suited to anyone with mobility restrictions.

Coincidentally, fellow blogger Marcia and husband, Dan, visited America's Stonehenge the same day we did. Our paths didn't cross that day, maybe on a future outing. You can see the blog post on their visit here