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Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Our last day in Harv...?

We've been spoiled by these clear fall mornings. They look so warm and inviting despite the fact that its decidedly crisp once you step outside. Heather and Jeff came to pick us up for a day of walking and outlet shopping and general tourism.

We made for Cathedral Ledge and revelled in the grand view over a brilliant collage of fall foliage. Tom rock climbed and we all got wobbly knees getting too close to the edge.

Its where they filmed some of "The Last of The Mohicans". There is a sequel coming out apparently. Its called "They Found Two More". (Overheard at an overlook).

We had lunch in a plain sort of Lobster Place called "The Lobster Trap" but the food was excellent and not expensive. Lobster rolls all round, even if we did feel a bit sorry for the gloomy creatures in the lobster tank with bands on their claws.

A post-prandial stroll around the shallow waters of Edge Lake and then back to the Conway's own monuments to Consumerism: the outlet villages. To be honest, I think outlet villages are increasingly a way for chain stores to dump their least popular items at prices which are barely lower than the actual stores. We didn't find any real bargains, though Tom is now definitely OK for socks. And so to Harv, where we turned the front seats round and got some drinks out and chatted away the last of the afternoon before dusk, and Heather and Jeff departed for their B and B. One more night in Harv - and perhaps our last, though I hope not. Its been great to sneak in one more getaway with our old friend and very hard to think of Harvey in someone else's hands this time next year. If that really was our last outing though, that was the way to do it, in another wonderful American landscape.

Lake Conway, NH

The fan heater worked a treat overnight and we didn't need to turn on the main heating. I think the aluminised honeycomb blinds really make a difference too, stopping the heat from escaping through those big windows. When we pulled them open we were amazed to discover a large blue lake sparkling through the trees, no more than thirty feet away. We hadn't been aware of it in the dark last night. It was such a pretty morning with the sunlight illuminating the changing leaves; flaming reds, yellows and oranges and every colour in between. The lake looked blue and cold and P and I felt we could quite happily spend the whole day in Harv, mooching about and enjoying the view. But it was too nice a day to waste so we unplugged Harv and made for the office for advice.

The lady there scoffed at any thoughts we might have had about going on the famous scenic drive. "I wouldn't go near it this weekend" she said, as everyone else would be on it too. She recommended a trail to a series of waterfalls - "Diana's Bath" - and drew out the directions on the map. Thus armed, we set off in exactly the wrong direction. In our defense I will only say that the map was somewhat misleading, given that it completely ignored the first junction at which we had to make a decision to turn.

But anyway. It was a long pretty drive past little cobalt lakes ringed with flaming trees, before we could turn around in the parking lot of a closed ski-lift. Traffic heading for the Frieburg fair slowed us to a crawl through North Conway and it was lunchtime before we finally got to our destination.

Diana's Bath was well worth the effort. Its a winding, leafy hike through the woods to a series of shallow waterfalls with plenty of rocks to climb and rivulets to jump; just steep enough to feel slightly dangerous.

We met Heather and Jeff for supper in a nice restaurant with a somewhat distracted waiter who was trying not to appear overwhelmed by what is the busiest weekend of the year in Conway. The roads were clear by the time we left and soon Harv was hooked up and braced for 28 degrees F overnight with the little heater doing its thing again. But there was an unexpected extra. This weekend is the last that the campground is open and it has beome a tradition for the regular campers to go into Halloween mode (three weeks early). There were orange pumpkin-lights stretched between awnings and trees, ghost lanterns, fake cobwebs and lots of trick or treating with kids dressed up. Tom grabbed a bag and joined in - holding the torch under his chin for ghostly effect. Everyone was friendly and ready for a chat. Fires were crackling and the clear sky was sparkling with stars.

Up, up and away....

Outside the Route 104 Diner
Along with the rest of the Boston Metropolitan area we headed north on Columbus Day weekend to admire the fall colours. Mostly they were red, green, amber and back to red again, initially at least. Stop-starting up 93 is a traditional Friday evening pastime in these here parts and at the beginning of a three day weekend it becomes a game for the whole family. We swiped Tom up from school at 2.30 on the button and flung him into Harv but we were not early enough to beat the rush. So, we settled back and relaxed into it, It was fine actually. We kept moving for the most part and after about three hours we pulled off the freeway and into the Route 104 Diner, which by happy chance was located on Route 104.

Its a small old fashioned aluminium and glass diner with a big extension tacked on. Inside, its all fifties memorabilia and capable waitresses. Steak tips for me, fried oysters for her and a cheeseburger for him - complete with one of those paper hats that used to be all de rigeur for diner kitchen staff. The service was terrific, the food was great and the atmosphere was jolly. If you are on Route 104 in Meredith NH, seek it out.

Back in the parking lot a guy climbed out of his pickup and came straight over to us. "That is an AWESOME rig, just AWESOME" he kept saying, walking around it, smiling and shaking his head. I'd forgotten Harv's pulling power...

It was dark by the time we got to the Cove Camping Ground in Conway NH, about 160 miles from Cambridge. The last few miles along narrow, winding, unlit roads with drizzle smearing the windscreen were testing. It was a relief to find our space, adjust the airbags to level off and get cosy for the night. The overnight temperature was forecast to be around freezing this weekend so I brought up a quiet little electric fan heater to cycle on and off and save the propane. Tom got tucked up and P and I assumed the position in the back with books and G and Ts, smiling at the fun of being away again.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

How do you like them apples...?

They were all like this. Honestly, they really were that perfect, although in different colours. Carlson Orchards near Harvard Mass is the biggest operation of its kind in the state and the orchards are planted on a south facing hill that never gets frost. The apples are slightly unreal in their perfection.

It was a bright crisp day and we'd driven out in Harv in the bright sunshine. As soon as we got off the freeway the road began to wind through trees just beginning to change into their fall colours. The orchard was busy but not seething when we arrived and we bought a bag to fill. Some of us sampled quite a few as well. It was really nice to see so many different varieties after the usual fare that tend to do the rounds in the supermarkets; all of which are designed first and formost for their travelling qualities rather than their taste. I liked the Ginger Gold which had a distinctly gingery flavour - delicious.

The event (for Nieman Fellows and families) was arranged by a former Nieman now running an excellent international news site He invited us back to his splendid house for drinks and apple crisp and I was hugely gratified to find so much interest in Harv, parked modestly on the lawn.

Everyone wanted a guided tour and I was only too happy to oblige. Many of the Nieman Fellows are journalists from overseas and I could see their sudden realisation of the potential for embarking on road trips here. I unashamedly promoted the idea of life in a GMC and there was more than one person who was distinctly taken with the idea...

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Oooh shiny!

OK. Time to do some upgrades and some replacements and some general messing about, which of course is the other great joy of these machines. On the top left you see a thirty two year old, non-adjustable airbag valve linkage. Perhaps I should have warned non-aficionados look away now. Too late. Below it is a shiny adjustable replacement which should make it easier to set the ride height. The old ones came off with barely a muffled harrumph. The new ones went on enthusiastically ready for their key role in Harve's future.

And here...BEHOLD the $3 Schrader valve that was supposed to keep the air in the air pump tank, but secretly let it all out very slowly so I wouldn't find out about it and tell it to stop. Well I did find out and took it straight off. Finding a new one was not easy given that I couldn't think how to describe it other than as "that air valve thingy" but Ace hardware online came up trumps and the new one went straight in with an air of no-nonsense authority. The air doesn't sneak past IT let me tell you.

Back on the road (for the weekend)

I'm a little late with this post but after a couple of weeks sitting about in a house with a roof and no wheels we got restless and decided to hit the road again. We struck out north for Cape Anne on a bright Friday afternoon, mixing in with a river of commuters flowing toward the weekend. Cape Anne is only about forty five minutes from Boston and it was great to be back behind Harvey's wheel powering along the highway. We'd missed this easy rhythm of the road and even a short journey was enough to bring back memories of our summer in Harv.

There is really only one campsite on this promontory: the Cape Anne Camp Site. Its hilly and wooded and the sites are secluded. Its nicely old fashioned with a terrific lady on the front desk offering no-nonsense advice ("leave a cloth on the table to mark your spot - I'll get you one") and a brilliant recommendation for supper. "Lobsta Land" was clearly named to drive away those with foodist pretensions and looks fairly unappealing from the outside too but inside it feels fresh and light with a view over the sea marshes and the menu is a modern take on all the usual New England favourites. It was a treat.

We woke up in the woods the next morning with shafts of sunlight through the trees. It amazing how quickly you leave the real world behind when you are in your GMC in the woods with a beach down the road. Wingaersheek beach is really beautiful with the finest white sand, big round boulders to play on and a long stretch of shallows for running very fast in if you are seven. Or even if you aren't.

We had intended to spend an hour, which turned into the morning, and then with a brief intervention of cheese and pickle sandwiches, the whole day. I looked like a stop light by the end of it and was somewhat crispy around the edges.

Jim and Nancy in Manchester-by-the-sea had invited us round for supper and given us GMC space in their driveway so we tore ourselves away from the sea and the sand and the hermit crabs to drive to Manchester. There was fine dining, there was ping pong and much hilarity and a smashing bunch of people who we will make sure we see again. We had a peaceful night in the driveway...

The next day we struck out for Russell Orchard which we had imagined as some kind of bucolic, victorian throwback with be-smocked haywains offering us wooden trugs full of blushing apples. Well there were apples. It was a huge commercial venture and, it has to be said, rather a fine one with everything apple-related that you could imagine.We decided against the wagon-ride and stocked up on various apple-related goods as well as some rather good fresh donuts made in one of those brilliant conveyor deep-fryers (which I have always coveted). Then to another beach - Crane Beach - on Jim's recommendation. It was very different, with rolling dunes and big, wild breakers. Tom was in it up to his waist straight away until a lady warned us about dangerous riptides caused by the hurricane many miles offshore overnight.

It was a good way to end our weekend and we left Harv a little sandier than he was. We came home with salt in our hair and alarmingly red cheeks but feeling relaxed and happy and wishing that this could have been the start of another epic road trip...