Saturday, November 24, 2012

Greetings From the White Mountains of New Hampshire!

In our continued travels while Claire is over visiting from the United Kingdom, we've been spending the past few days as guests of the Sunset Hill House in Sugar Hill, New Hampshire and taking full advantage of as much as the region has to offer as possible - all within very easy driving distance!

Just a few photos to show you what I'm talking about!

We took a ride on the Mount Washington Cog Railway which, even though it only goes halfway up its normal route this time of year, was a great way to get some terrific views of the area.

We stopped by Echo Lake located in Franconia Notch at the base of Cannon Mountain.

We took a walk through the beautiful New Hampshire woods to see The Basin which has been formed by thousands of years of rushing water eroding the rock into a smooth, circular cave-like formation.

We drove through the New Hampshire countryside and took in some lovely views.

We took a drive to the small town of Bath where we found both America's Oldest General Store and New Hampshire's longest covered bridge.

 And we drove over to Jackson Falls to take in the view there, too!

All in all, it's been beautiful and we're not done yet!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Visiting Pennsylvania - A Quick Weekend Recap

Yikes!  The time has been flying by since Claire arrived almost three weeks ago; it's hard to believe that her visit to the States is almost half over already but I guess that's because we've been pretty busy going and doing and going some more since her plane landed on October 17th. This past weekend found us down in southeastern Pennsylvania in search of food, friends, and a couple of things we really didn't expect!

Friday morning found on us the road heading east at approximately 6:30 a.m. in the hopes to avoid any traffic back-ups on our way to Pottsville, Pennsylvania and the home of the oldest brewery in America - the David G. Yuengling and Son Brewery.  The plan was to meet up with Claire's friend Jenn who was driving over from Pittsburgh and go on the 1:30 tour before heading up to our hotel in Hazleton and figuring out what we wanted to do for the rest of the weekend.

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Due to road construction and traffic tie-ups, we barely parked the car (in what I hoped wasn't an illegal spot!) in time to run into the brewery gift shop where the tours step off from.  Due to the same problems, Jenn was a few minutes behind us and there was barely time to say 'hi' before we started out on our tour of the caves beneath the brewery

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From the caves we then climbed to the upper levels of the brewery to the room where the hops and other ingredients to make the beer were cooked and with the change in altitude also came a major change in temperature - going from 47 degrees in the caves to a heck of a lot more than that upstairs. Because of that and because she hadn't eaten since the night before, Jenn barely had time to tell Claire that she was feeling dizzy before she passed out in front of us as I was suggesting that she sit down before she fell down.  Had I been quicker, I might have been able to at least break her fall a little bit but as it happened so fast, Jenn was down on the floor before we could even blink and blood was pouring out onto the concrete.

One of the other folks on the tour called 911 while I rendered what aid I could and made sure that Jenn didn't try to get up again while trying to stanch the flow of blood with a small red hoodie from one of the two children that were on the tour.  Fortunately, Jenn said that the floor was much cooler and she was fine staying there until the local ambulance service arrived, got her onto a backboard, and transported her to the local hospital which was only a few blocks away.

Claire and I filled out the accident report as best we could and then hustled over to the Emergency Department Waiting Room while Jenn was stitched up over her eye, given some IV fluids to rehydrate her, and a CT scan was taken to make sure everything in her head was where it should be.  Thankfully it was and within two hours (a veritable miracle when it comes to EDs!), she was released and ready to roll ... though there was no way that we were going to have her drive her own car the 25 miles to Hazleton in the rain, the dark, and the traffic.

Enter in two more wonderful folks that Claire had met via blogging - Beth and her husband Cliff of who live in Phoenixville.  We had planned to meet up with them for dinner after our tour of the brewery but when Claire messaged Beth to let her know that there was a change in plans and that we'd have to cancel dinner, Beth immediately asked what they could do to help and drove the 2+ hours to Pottsville to drive Jenn's car to the hotel for us. What is that Blanche DuBois said in "A Streetcar Named Desire"?  Oh yes, "... I have always depended on the kindness of strangers."  Wow was that ever the case this past weekend!

Once we got to Hazleton, we all trooped over to a retro-diner/dive for a late dinner.  Jimmy's Quick Lunch is a family-owned business that has been serving up hot dogs since 1937 and even though it might not look like much and most definitely fit the category of "dive", the food was pretty darned tasty and very reasonably priced!

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After a good night's sleep for all three of us, Claire, Jenn, and I set out to do some exploring but not before we stopped at the Hollywood Diner and had a hearty breakfast as there was going to be NO passing out of any sort going on! Jenn and Claire had sausage gravy on a biscuit while I chose a childhood favorite, chipped beef on toast - though the waitress asked if I wanted it on a biscuit and I simply had to say "heck yeah!"

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Following our stick-to-your-ribs breakfast, we drove about 25 miles southwest of Hazleton to the former town of Centralia where in 1962, workers set trash on fire in an abandoned mine and an exposed vein of anthracite coal also caught fire. Since then the ground beneath the former town with a population of 3,000 has been burning and everyone was relocated elsewhere - well, except for a small amount who refuse to leave. The 2006 horror film "Silent Hill" was inspired by Centralia and the video game has made it even more popular. Had I not gone to visit while we were so close, I'm sure that Amanda would not have approved!

I'll be writing more about our visit to the town on The Distracted Wanderer once I have a chance to fall back and regroup a bit but in the meantime, here are two shots and no, that's not Claire all pixilated checking out the smoke coming from the ground ... or is it?!?

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From Centralia, we did a little more driving through the countryside eventually coming across a covered bridge that I simply had to take some shots of and then eventually winding up in Wyoming, Pennsylvania at another RetroRoadMap favorite - the Victory Pig.  They serve what's called "Old Forge" style pizza which ended up not really being much to our liking (there's just something about having onions overpowering the taste of everything even hours later) so we decided that a stop back at the Hollywood Diner near our hotel was in order for some pie!

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After saying goodbye to Jenn around noon on Sunday, Claire and I then wandered over to Lisa's house for a lovely afternoon visit with her and her delightful daughter, Megan. We had originally kicked around the idea of taking a drive around to some of the covered bridges in the area but as Megan had the sniffles and the weather wasn't exactly all that great, instead we sat in Lisa's living room eating brownies and beer bread with a delicious herb and spinach dip and just chatted for close to five hours.  It was really a great way to end our visit to eastern Pennsylvania and I was happy to have had the chance to get together again with Lisa as well as give Claire the chance to meet her in person.

It was the perfect end to a not-quite perfect weekend but one that I'm sure Claire and I will remember for a long time to come!