Tag Archive | wanderlust

Circus Trip 2018: Gadby’s Tavern, Alexandria, VA

Day 59, Wednesday, September 12, 2018
Gadby’s Tavern, Alexandria, Virginia

After I left the Boston area, I had plans to visit a friend of mine who lives in Alexandria, Virginia.  I was going to spend a few days there, and use that as my jumping off point for visiting Washington, D.C.  I had left Quincy, Massachusetts, and embarked on a long drive through multiple states to get to Alexandria.  I split it over two days, as it is a total of about eight hours driving, through a lot of traffic.  Heading from Massachusetts to Alexandria meant I had to skip some great locations, but you can’t possibly see everything on a trip, I suppose.  It was tough to drive through so many great places and just pass them by!  Connecticut, New York City, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Delaware, and more!  I so very much want to go back and see all these places!

All that said, I rolled into Alexandria about 4 in the afternoon, and headed to Jason’s house.  He had planned a surprise for my visit! He knows how much I love history, so he made reservations at Gadsby’s Tavern!

Gadsby’s Tavern was originally built in 1785 by Marylander John Wise, and opened the building next door as the Federal City Tavern in 1792.  There was another tavern on the site before the current building though, which reportedly was in business from around 1770.  An Englishman named Gadsby leased the tavern in 1796; the current name is a nod to him. 

Back in the late 1700s, several notable guests frequented the tavern, including Founding Fathers and Presidents!  George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, and the Marquis de Lafayette were all known visitors to the taverns here.  A banquet was even held in Washington’s honor here in 1801; how cool to be in the same place where these men talked politics. 

Gadsby operated the tavern until 1815, and then passed through various hands and it was various businesses, until it fell into disrepair and abandonment.  In 1917, in this sad state, some of the ballroom woodwork was sold to the Metropolitan Museum in New York City, where it apparently remains today.  However, this was the catalyst for the historic preservation.  Gadsby’s Tavern was restored to the period of the late 1700s, and reopened as a restaurant in 1976.

There is a fine dining atmosphere, with delicious food and ambiance.  I had the herb encrusted grill salmon, finished with a balsamic glaze, and served with jasmine rice and sauteed spinach, and a glass of white wine.  To add to its charm, period actors make their way around the room, reciting the words of our Founding Fathers and engaging restaurant patrons in discussions on the governance of our young, budding country!

It was so much fun getting to see Jason and watch the actors engage with people!  An amazing experience for a history nerd like me!  

After dinner we wandered around Alexandria and got ice cream nearby, just chatting and catching up.  I certainly want to go back and see more of this fascinating and historic city!

 

Circus Trip 2018: Fort Knox

Day 54, Friday, September 7, 2018
Fort Knox State Historic Site, Prospect, Maine

First off, I just want to say that this is the “other” Fort Knox, and it is actually the original Fort Knox.  The one that most people think of when they hear Fort Knox is the one in Kentucky, which is adjacent to the United States Bullion Depository, which holds about half of the United States’ gold reserves. So now that we’ve cleared that up, let’s move on!

This Fort Knox was built between 1844 and 1869. After the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812, there was some considerable anti-British sentiment lingering.  The Aroostook War in 1838-1839 revived that sentiment when military troops and civilians in Maine clashed with the British troops and subjects in New Brunswick; it was essentially a border dispute fueled by valuable lumber.  Never heard of the Aroostook War, you say?  Well, you may know it as the Pork and Beans War – because of course the mainstay of a lumberjack diet was said to be pork and beans (stay with me here, it gets better!)…  So apparently there were disputes over timber when some Canadians cut some trees on land that the Americans considered their land.

Then a hapless black bear wandered along and just wanted the lumberjacks to leave, or was looking for a meal; the bear was not interviewed about his side of the story….  So the bear comes along and attacks three Canadian lumberjacks and badly injures two; the Canadians then shoot and kill the bear.  The American lumberjacks nearby hear the gunfire and think the Canadians are shooting at them, so they shoot back. Thankfully no one was injured (by the gunfire at least).

Obviously, tensions are pretty high at this point and both sides start mustering militiamen in the area…  Diplomats got involved and saved the day, negotiating a treaty that would set the border in Maine, mostly along the St. John River, but also throwing in some border clarifications in New Hampshire, Michigan and Minnesota too.  And you thought these insane omnibus bills that Congress passes were a new thing, but nooo… This treaty also created a joint naval system between the Americans and the British to suppress the African slave trade off the coast of Africa.  Because, of course that seems related!

Tensions remained though, and a few years later the Americans started building Fort Knox along the Penobscot River.  Fort Knox was the first fort to be built entirely of granite and is nearly unchanged from the time that it was built.  It was never totally completed, and although it never saw battle, it was manned by regiments during the Civil War and the Spanish American War.  When the U.S. Government declared it excess property in 1923 and sold it, the State of Maine picked it up for a song, paying only $2,121!

These days it is operated as a State Historic Site and nearly the entire fort is open to the public!   I enjoyed wandering around and checking out all the rooms.  There is even a hot shot oven, designed to heat up cannon shots to fire at ironclads.

In 2018 when I visited, an $8 ticket got you access to Fort Knox and the Penobscot Narrows Bridge Observatory.  What a deal!  And one final side note – I ate lunch that day in the picnic area at the park, and this adorable little guy was really, really hoping to grab a snack!  Don’t worry, I didn’t feed him, but I did get some photos of his antics!

Circus Trip 2018: Acadia NP, Day 2

Day 53, Thursday, September 6, 2018
Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor, Maine

I had another full day in Acadia National Park, and it happened to be my birthday!

I started out by checking out the Bass Harbor Head Light.  You might not know this lighthouse by name, but I’m pretty sure you’ll recognize it.  The Bass Harbor Head Light was built in 1858 and sits 56 feet above the mean high water mark.  In 1876, they added a fog bell and the tower.  The light was originally fitted with a 5th Order Fresnel lens, but a 4th Order Fresnel lens was installed in 1901 to give it more light. It had a range of 13 nautical miles (15 miles).

You can descend a wooden staircase to access the rocks below the lighthouse.  This is the best view of the light, so make sure you make the extra effort!  The rocks have plenty of tide pools to explore as well.  I love seeing all the little sea creatures in their natural habitat.  I spoke with a local man who was doing the stairs for exercise, and he gave me a great recommendation for where to get a delicious lobster roll – I tucked that tidbit away for lunchtime…

I went for a short hike on the Ship Harbor Trail to a small secluded cove, and saw only a few other hikers along the way. The view was nothing amazing, but it was nice to get a hike in the woods.  I did see a cute woodpecker and took approximately 927 terrible pictures of him!  The photo I included was my best bad bird pic of the day…  Then I headed over to the Seawall to explore the area.  It is a beautiful rocky beach, with picnic tables and plenty of space to stay away from the crowds.

By this point, I was hungry, so I headed over to Charlotte’s Legendary Lobster Pound to try out their lobster roll!  I ordered a lobster roll ($19.95) and a blueberry soda float ($5.95).  They were both delicious!  I hung around and talked to the owner for a bit because it was raining – he was very friendly and even tried to convince me to move to Maine.  Believe me, I’m tempted!

Behind Charlotte’s are some goats that the kids will love, and an old family cemetery.  One of the tombstones said that the teenager died at the Connecticut State Hospital in 1872, and it made me wonder why the family chose to place that on his stone.  The owners of the restaurant have an appreciation for the history of the area, and maintain the small plot.  I found some deer munching on fallen apples too!

 

My last stop for the afternoon was at a lakeside swimming area.  It was too chilly to consider jumping in, but there were some hardier souls than me!

Acadia National Park really impressed me.  I loved the gorgeous shoreline and the natural diversity within the park.  I can’t wait to visit again!

 

Circus Trip 2018: Mount Desert Island

Day 53, Wednesday & Thursday, September 5 & 6, 2018
Mount Desert Island, Maine

Much of Acadia National Park is located on Mount Desert Island, which also has several towns and communities that are not within the boundaries of the National Park.  In my travels to and from the park each day, I stumbled upon places that were fascinating and worth taking the time to tell you about.  Here are just a few!

While driving through the village of Somesville, I had to stop at the Somesville Selectman’s Building.  This little building was built in the 1780’s by John Somes, son of Abraham Somes, who had settled the village in 1761.  Over the years it has served as a cobbler’s shop, post office, town office and museum.  The bridge in front was built in 1981, and the two together make for a truly picturesque landscape!

The Mount Desert Island Historical Society, which includes the Somesville Selectman’s Building, was closed that day, but perhaps one day I will get to see inside this beautiful building!

I also decided to stop by the Wendell Gilley Museum one afternoon because it was raining.

Gilley was widely known for his career in decorative bird carving.  The small museum had many examples of his carved birds and other bird artwork.  It was interesting because you got to see the progression of his work over time.  I was impressed by the art!

Unfortunately, there wasn’t really anything in the gift shop that was affordable, so I left empty handed.

This area had so much to see and do, and I would have loved to have more time there to explore.  I definitely want to get back to Maine soon!

 

Circus Trip 2018: Birthday Lobster

Day 52, Wednesday, September 5, 2018
Beal’s Lobster Pier, SW Harbor, Maine

When you are alone, holidays can be hard…  So I wasn’t sure what to expect from my road trip birthday.  Did I want to mark it in any way, or just let it slide by unnoticed?

Being in Maine at my birthday was fortuitous.  I had always wanted to try whole lobster, and what better place to experience it for the first time than Maine, where I could have fresh whole Maine lobster right at the source!

I asked around that morning and learned that Beal’s Lobster Pier was recommended as the place to be for Maine lobster.  It was near Acadia National Park, so when I finished my days’ touristing, I headed over to check it out.  I arrived fairly early; if I remember correctly it was just before 5, and it wasn’t too busy yet.  I let the man at the counter know I had never had whole Maine lobster, and he set to work picking out a good one for me.  And the sides, you can’t forget the sides…  Coleslaw, corn on the cob, and cornbread…

After I paid, I wandered out to find a table with my glass of Vinho Verde, and had the most incredible view of the harbor from my seat.  It was a warm evening, and I felt so at peace on the water, seeing the occasional boat come in.

My lobster came with instructions on how to crack and eat it, and I was so grateful!  I made sure to take a photo so I could have it in case one day I needed them.

My meal was amazing!  So fresh, and so simple, and easily one of the best meals I have ever had.  It was delicious, and I felt like it was a birthday dinner done right!

Note: For those of you in the know, this was the day before my actual birthday.  It still counts!

Circus Trip 2018: Acadia NP, Day 1

Day 52, Wednesday, September 5, 2018
Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor, Maine

I was so excited to have two days in the park!

I drove in that morning and stopped first at the Visitor’s Center to get the lay of the land.  I watched the movie about the park, got some postcards and of course got my passport stamped!

I decided to spend the day checking out the Park Loop Road, which runs for 27 miles through the park.  I drove to the top of Cadillac Mountain, the highest peak on the east coast of North America.  It is also known as the place that is first in the United States to see the sunrise, although that is only true from October 7 to March 6 of each year.  That makes me feel better about the fact that I did not drag my butt up there in time for the sunrise, but I was there in early September!

Cadillac Mountain was still amazing, even during mid-morning when I was there.  The views are incredible and you can see in so many directions!  The barrier islands are beautiful!  The day that I was there they were doing a raptor count, although the gentle breeze was going in the wrong direction so most of the birds weren’t flying.  It was still interesting to hear them talk about their migration patterns and other raptor statistics!  It was neat to see the Cadillac Mountain granite, formed approximately 420 million years ago.  These are some very old stones!

The Park Loop Road is definitely a must do drive in the park; it takes you through the woodlands, by ponds, wildlife and the coast!  I enjoyed driving the scenic drive and not rushing it.  I stopped at a pond alongside the route and found a cute frog among the lily pads!

 

I found Sand Beach, which is, you guessed it!, a Sand Beach!  Being from Washington, where most beaches are rocky, I can appreciate the novelty of a sand beach.  I spent some time exploring it and wandering by the water.  There were several interesting jellyfish washed up, and some beautiful views!

I also stopped by Thunder Hole, but it wasn’t thundering.  It is a hole in the coastline, where the surf rushes in and apparently provides quite a show as it sprays high in the air!  You have to see it at high tide though, and it wasn’t high tide when I was there.  I was entertained by the two young men at the gift shop making the predictable inappropriate comments about Thunder Hole, but you could tell the cashier was not amused!

There is a trail that goes along the coastline for a while, and I enjoyed checking out the views of the water along the trail.  Even with the crowds, there is something peaceful about being close to the water.

My last official stop was at the Jordan Pond and to see the Jordan Pond House and The Bubbles.  The Bubbles are hills that someone, sometime in history, obviously thought looked like bubbles.  I wasn’t convinced, but it is probably as good a name as any.  When I get back to Acadia I want to hike to the tops of The Bubbles, which have some gorgeous views. That’s the trouble with these beautiful parks; there just isn’t enough time to do everything!  The Jordan Pond House is a restaurant that is famed for its popovers, another spot I will have to check out on a future trip!

 

That evening I had my early birthday dinner – that deserves its own post!

 

Acadia National Park History

Acadia National Park might be called the park that doesn’t know its name.  It was originally designated as Sieur de Monts National Monument on July 8, 1916, then became Lafayette National Park on February 26, 1919 during President Woodrow Wilson’s term of office, and finally became Acadia National Park with a formal name change on January 19, 1929.  In 2019, Acadia had 3,437,286 visitors in its 49,075 acres.

This stunning park takes up about half of Mount Desert Island on the mid-Maine coast, south of the town of Bar Harbor Maine, as well as part of the peninsula and portions of several outlying islands.  Native Americans have lived in the area for at least 12,000 years, including tribes making up the Wabanaki Confederacy, also known as the “People of the Dawnland”; the Maliseet, Mi’kmaq, Passamaquoddy, Abenaki and Penobscot.  The tribes continue to play a significant role in the stewardship of the area today.

In 1613, French missionaries set up the first white colony on Mount Desert Island, but it was destroyed by an armed vessel from the Virginia Colony in what was probably the first act of aggression leading up to the French and Indian wars.  In the 1600s, a fur trading post was also set up, and French, English and Dutch traders all fought for control.  The French ultimately ceded Mount Desert Island to the English in 1713.

The result is a park with a diverse habitat including coastal regions as well as the tallest mountains on the Atlantic Coast (Cadillac Mountain is the highest peak there).  The diversity that exists there means that there is a wide variety of activities to do, including auto-touring, hiking, poking around in the tidepools, bicycling, and in the winter, snowshoeing and cross country skiing.

Cadillac Mountain rises 1,530 feet, and is considered the first place that the sunrise hits on the east coast of the United States.  There are a variety of animals that reside within the park, including black bear, moose, deer, porcupine, beaver, fishers, mink, turtles, otters, bats and many species of birds.

I had the opportunity to visit Acadia for two amazing days in September 2018, including my birthday.  I’ll tell you about my visit next!

 

Circus Trip 2018: Shelburne Museum

Day 48 & 49, Saturday & Sunday, September 1 & 2, 2018
Shelburne Museum, Shelburne, Vermont

September brought a new state under my belt – Vermont!  I had crossed the border the evening before, and booked a few nights at the Lake Bomoseen KOA for the Labor Day Weekend.  It was a great place to stay, with large wooded campsites, a lake to fish in, a little movie theater, game room and store.

 

The next morning it was time to visit a museum that I was super-excited about – The Shelburne Museum in Shelburne, Vermont.  The museum was founded in 1947 by Electra Havemeyer Webb, a wealthy collector of American folk art.  In addition to collecting art pieces, she also undertook to collect 18th and 19th century buildings to house the collection, including houses, barns, a schoolhouse, a lighthouse, a jail, a general store, a covered bridge, and even a 220 foot long steamboat!

I wandered from building to building checking everything out, and thoroughly enjoyed everything I saw.  The steamboat Ticonderoga was incredible; moved here after plying the waters of Lake Champlain.  I would have loved to be a passenger on that ship! The lighthouse was cool, the unusual two lane covered bridge was fun to see, and the round barn was fascinating.

The collection currently contains over 150,000 paintings, folk art, textiles, quilts, furniture and other types of art not commonly seen in museums.  There are entire rooms of duck decoys, farm implements, dioramas, automatons, and other interesting folk art!

The museum is huge, with over 39 buildings total to explore.  The $25 admission is admittedly a bit steep, but they do give you a two day entry for that price, and if you have the time, there would absolutely be enough to keep you busy for two days!

The next day, I had a quiet day at the campground.  I blogged, read, took a walk and even watched a movie.  I also met Bill and Jean, a kind retired couple who were raising their three grandchildren.  They invited me over for dinner and conversation.

Enjoy the photos!

COVID Diaries: Day 185

It’s now officially been more than half a year of this COVID lockdown…  Half a year…

I took a few days off and did a mini-getaway.  I left last Friday, and was intending to be away all this week. These were the first days off I have had since early March.  Of course, 2020 had other plans, and a giant cloud of smoke blew in from the wildfires and settled everywhere leaving an aftermath of gunky, yellow air.  First I moved my plans away from the fires, but I still wanted to go.  I really needed a break!

So I had the seats taken back out of the car and put the bed back in and hit the road for some Washington Coast time.  I camped, and walked the beaches, and looked for shells and sand dollars.  I ate peanut butter and honey sandwiches, and fish and chips, and fish tacos, and an incredible gyro!

I checked out Willapa Bay, Long Beach, and Cape Disappointment.  I spent some time reading while bundled up on the beach; it gets cold at night along the coast in September!  Plus, all that wildfire smoke blocked out the heat from the sun…  There are two lighthouses there, but the smoke/fog meant I could only see one.

All in all, it was a nice break.  I needed some time to process things, and reset.  I ended up coming home early though, since my Oregon Coast campground was quite close to a fire that hadn’t been contained.  Best to just reschedule that for another time…  Hopefully I’ll be traveling again soon.

 

Circus Trip 2018: Fort Niagara

Day 44, Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Fort Niagara State Historic Park, Youngstown, New York

Fort Niagara has a history of white colonial settlement that spans over 300 years.

The first fort on this site was established by the French in 1679; they named it Fort Conti, and it wasn’t occupied for long.  The French returned again to establish Fort Denonville between 1687 and 1688.  It wasn’t until 1726 that the first permanent structure was built; a stone building known as the French Castle that still stands on site today!  Additional structures were built between 1756 and 1758.  In 1759 the British gained control of the fort during the French and Indian War, and it was British until the Revolutionary War was won, and the Americans were the proud new owners of Fort Niagara.

Of course, the British weren’t known for giving up so easily and they briefly reconquered Fort Niagara between 1813 and 1815, during the perhaps not-so-aptly named War of 1812.  The Americans got it back at the end of the War of 1812, and Fort Niagara never saw combat again.

 

The Fort did continue operating as a peaceful border post, and American troops were stationed here during the Civil War.  It was common during the early years of the Civil War to parole enemy troops, with the condition that they not return to fighting for a year.  The parolees at Fort Niagara were put to work building stuff.  Troops were trained here during both World Wars as well, and the last troops were finally withdrawn in 1963.  Since then, the Coast Guard is the only military branch that is on site.

 

Of course, Native Americans from the Seneca tribe were in the area long before the Europeans came along.  The Seneca was using the area around Fort Niagara as a seasonal hunting and fishing camp through the 1600s.

While I was there, I got to explore the buildings, and I also got to see both a cannon firing and a musket firing demonstration!  Apparently they used to lob tennis balls into the water when they did the cannon firing demonstrations, but the Canadian government asked them to stop, so now the demonstration does not include a projectile.  That’s better for the environment!

 

This was such a cool place to visit!