The giant glowing ball in the sky is rising later and setting earlier. The swimming pool is closed. Cardigans are being sported over lightweight blouses. Sandals are giving way to closed-toe shoes. These are the unmistakable signs that summer is drawing to a close. What is a temporarily retired teacher to do with her fall when there are no lesson to plan, students to teach, papers to grade, or sporting events to attend? While there are an array of possible answers to that question (some better than others!), this temporarily retired teacher chose to go on a New England road trip with her permanently retired parents.
Since Thad is still busy toiling away at the business of learning Chinese (which currently consists of five hours of instructor-led time in the classroom, study time at FSI between courses and then several hours of homework each night) I figured I may as well use the time to see a bit of the Northeast rather than just the high rise apartment buildings that are Crystal City.
After meeting the parental units in Manchester, NH, (I much prefer my ninety minute puddle-hopper flight to their eight hour air-trek from Idaho) we embarked on a whirlwind tour of three states and three Canadian provinces. There were sights to be seen, attractions to behold, quirkiness to encounter and many, many places to get off the planned track for the day.
One of our first stops included a visit to Lenny, the life-sized chocolate moose found in Scarborough, Maine. Lenny was the first of innumerable moose we encountered on our trip. There were chocolate moose, of course, metal moose, stuffed moose, moose heads, moose prints, moose mugs, moose shirts, moose pencils, moose calendars, moose bags and nearly any other moose memorabilia one could ever possibly desire. From Maine on into Canada, anywhere that had a handful of trees and a marshy area filled its stores with moose-mobilia. They dotted their roadsides with bright yellow warning signs, designated crossing areas for the giant mammals and erected miles upon miles (or kilometers upon kilometers, depending on which side of the border the madness was on) of moose fences. Now, like most travelers, I figured that with so much build-up and hype, there had to be a real moose sighting in my future. I could not have been more wrong! After seeing both realistic and cartoon pictures of moose plastered on everything from afghans to yo-yos (nope, no “z” items!), I have come to the conclusion that moose are just a figment of the cold, northeastern imagination.
While the moose-lessness of the trip was a disappointment, all was not lost. Not lost all the time anyway. There may have been a few navigational mishaps at times. If a map says to take Route 2, and as the front-seat guide, I see a road that is labeled Route 2, I am going to suggest that we take it. As Dad followed said route into Halifax, I thought we were on the right track. The signs said “Route 2 Inbound” so I thought all was good. And it was, for a bit. Then, as we continued to follow the signs, it seemed as though we were making too many turns to the left. How many left turns before we are going back the way we came? Thinking little of it, I continued to excitedly point out the next sign, keeping us firmly on good ol’ Route 2. Soon my wonderful signs were reading “Route 2 Outbound.” Perfect! That means we have headed through the city are about to emerge on the far side, just as we had planned. The ridiculousness of the whole situation become entirely clear though, when as we drove down a rather narrow street, we recognized not only the Taco Bell/KFC combination store that we had earlier considered stopped at to get lunch, but also the cart-dwelling folks hanging around outside! Route 2 had taken us on a lovely loop tour of downtown Halifax, Nova Scotia.
After finally escaping the grasp of Route 2, our trip up the coast did garner us some great sightseeing. Peggy’s Cove is a great little stop where the waves crash up over gigantic rocks. I was a bit concerned by the signs stating that tourists had died by getting too close to the massive waves, but then as I looked around at my fellow visitors, I realized for many of the tour bus groups, sudden heart failure or hip fractures were a more likely cause of concern for their octogenarian clientele.
Prince Edward Island was a beautiful place to spend a few days. It has been years since I imagined its landscape through the pages of Anne of Green Gables, but it every bit the storybook setting I had imagined. Not only was the island filled with verdant fields and idyllic villages, but the white-washed churches each seemed to be made for nothing but beautiful countryside weddings.
Once back in the US, Boston and the surrounding area was our destination. A visit to Salem was necessary, as The Crucible was read in my classroom on more than one occasion. I had to laugh at the disparity of what is happening in that town. The shops and museums all rely heavily on witch-themed tourism, so they give their visitors what they are looking for. We saw more than one person dressed in full witch-garb, a variety of shops offering palm readings, tarot card readings and aura pictures and every type of mystical medallion possible. On the other hand, a short walk across the main plaza, sits the National Park Service building, which is doing its utmost to show Salem as more than just the horrors of 1692. Their entire building is dedicated to the maritime and military history of the town. It is obvious that the town has a richer past than what it is known for, but try as the Park Service might, it is still the witches that lure in the tourists.
Rounding out our visit to the Northeast, Mom decided that she wanted to take a short jaunt out to Plymouth Rock. Edward family legend has it that several of our ancestors were on the Mayflower in 1620 when it docked on the shores of what would eventually become Massachusetts. While the Pilgrims’ journey across the Atlantic Ocean lasted sixty-six days and was arduous to say the least, it isn’t much hyperbole to say that our trek to the rock was only slightly less painful. I have to say that the Pilgrims may have faced unknown dangers at sea, but we faced a similarly difficult challenge- red lights! After setting the handy-dandy GPS for the famous chunk of stone, we embarked on this one last side trip. Our downfall was the GPS setting- never go with “shortest distance.” Our route ended up taking us through small town after small town, each one with terribly timed street lights, meaning we hit nearly every red light from Salem to Plymouth! Seriously. While we did not have massive waves to contend with nor did we face the possibility of being thrown overboard and drowned, we did spend many a passing minute wondering if the small towns of Massachusetts had ever considered hiring a city planning engineer. What we thought would be a quick trip to see Plymouth Rock morphed into a journey of epic proportions that finally required the procurement of several Hostess cupcakes if we were going to complete it successfully.
With our trip time drawing to an end, it was time to make our way back to Manchester, our alpha and omega. Bags were repacked and dirty clothes shoved to the bottom in the hopes that TSA wouldn’t decide to rifle through our carry-ons. How do I sum up a fall vacation that checked twelve days off of the calendar, spanned six states/provinces and ranged from picturesque landscapes of the Canadian countryside to downtown, modern Boston? Easily. No moose!