Friday, July 19, 2013

Travel - Touring Connecticut and Sneaking into Vermont

     After finishing up my Saturday work shift, my wife Deb and I headed to Guilford, Connecticut for a week of day trips and sightseeing with longtime friends Anne and Ted who had a loose itinerary set up for daily adventures.
A view of the architecture at Yale University
     It's a four-hour plus ride on Route 78 through the Lehigh Valley onto Route 95 and over the George Washington Bridge in New York. Heading to Connecticut it was white knuckle driving and quick lane changes to stay on course. I sneak a quick peak at the horizon of the Manhattan skyscrapers while keeping one eye on the snaking traffic.
     Crossing the state line into Connecticut, Deb dials up Anne and we meet at Wilson's Holy Smoke Barbecue, a joint my wife picked out after watching her favorite food shows. We keep a list of restaurants and diners to visit on upcoming trips and this was a nice start munching on a pork barbecue sandwich with collards, baked beans and cornbread.  Deb had the perfect words after dining stating, "The food was yummy!" After dinner it was a short thirty minute ride to their home which is near the Long Island Sound.
Pepe's Pizza
     On Sunday afternoon we stopped at Chamard Winery and shared a bottle of Chardonnay. Later we made our way to New Haven for a walk on the grounds of Yale University and snapped some shots of their historic buildings. I've grown to appreciate the value of taking the time to look at architecture and famous places during our travels.
      Dining in spots also takes on a new meaning looking for family run businesses with a unique style so we dropped in at The Original Pepe's Pizza in the town's Italian district. The pizzeria was opened in 1928 and still serves up delicious pies from their coal fired brick oven. We waited in line outside the popular pizzeria along with other hungry guests before a booth opened up. It was worth the wait.
   The following day we went sailing on the Long Island Sound with Ted's neighbor. This was new to me as I've only been on the sea in power boats and cruise ships. I was put to work by Captain Fred and he had me hoist the main sail and jib and tie them off.
Captain Fred and 1st mate Ted prepare to sail
He also gave me a turn manning the tiller and it took a while to keep the boat on the correct heading and the sails filled with air. We sailed out on the sound 3.5 miles and circled Faulker Island lighthouse and back to the docks. The two men know the water and are able and knowledgable sailors. They sat relaxed giving me instructions as I took control of the boat. The winds were light so this landlubber wasn't concerned about tipping the boat and dunking us into the water but it does take some time to get a feel for controlling the boat.
    We were up early the next morning and drove to Hartford with our main stop at the home of Samuel Clemens, better known as Mark Twain. I enjoy reading his novels and got a kick out of touring the family home and seeing his upstairs area where he wrote at his desk, smoked cigars, took a nip of the spirits and shot pool with friends. We stopped at the book store inside the welcome center
The Mark Twain house
which is on the grounds and is larger than the home. Deb and I bought a book and I am saving mine for reading on cold winters nights later this year. The center has some of his catchy phrases cast in the cement walls.  There is a short movie of his life and some of his memorabilia displayed in the building.        
Deb's in the fast lane on the alpine slide in Vermont 
     From there we headed north. I took the wheel and drove through Massachusetts for a hour until we crossed the border into Vermont.  The state was the destination as we really didn't have a plan in
mind. The previous day while talking I stated, that while Deb and I have been to every state in the east from Maine to Florida, we never set foot in Vermont. To date,  I have been to thirty four states in the union. But whenever I would look at a map of the United States, I'd stare at Vermont, nagged that I hadn't made it there.
     I would have been content to stop the car, stick my toe on
the ground and drive back, but we decided to head to Bromley Ski Resort that had zip lining, an alpine slide and other summertime activities. The clouds were forming and a
View of Long Island Sound 
thunderstorm was nearby. The owner told us to head up the mountain on the chairlift and kindly offered for us to pay when we got back so we could at least get one run on the zip line. But when we got to the top workers told us we'd have to do the alpine slide with the fast approaching storm.
Gillette Castle
     Deb and I had ridden on the alpine slide at Camelback Ski Resort until they dismantled the run years ago. The rider sits in a sled with nylon runners and speeds downhill on a concrete or fiberglass bobsled track. It's lots of fun and I've crashed a number of times racing Deb in the lane next to me. I'm a little older these day but still zipped down the lane at a swift pace but did pull back on the brake at times to keep from getting out of control. We could only make one run as heavy rain wiped out the rest of the afternoon. On the return trip we stopped at a country store and bought the obligatory bottle of maple syrup, cookies and other snacks. Another state checked off of my list.
     The rest of the week we rode around Connecticut and toured a number of locations including Gillette Castle, the home of Broadway stage actor and writer William
Drawbridge opening in Mystic, Connecticut
Gillette. His castle sits on a hillside with a breathtaking view of the Connecticut River. Gillette was famous for his portrayal of Sherlock Holmes with the play opening in 1899. We took the time to read a number of Gillette's personal letters that are set under glass for visitors to see and we also looked over the unique interior decorations of the home.
      A side trip to Mystic, Conn. had us walking around the nostalgic town. Large sailboats passed by the open drawbridge on the Mystic River at the main street in town.  For lunch we chose Mystic Pizza, the restaurant where the Hollywood movie "Mystic Pizza" starring Julia Roberts was filmed.
      It was a fun-filled week and we boarded the Sea Mist for a boat tour of the Thimble Islands. The captain navigated the waterway where multimillion dollar homes are neatly built onto the small islands dotting the cove.
     We put in close to six hundred miles that week driving over some of the lesser traveled forest covered mountain roads and also along speedy interstates.  I prefer the two lane roads where I can turn my head on occasion to view the scenery without my co-pilot Deb offering her driving instructions to me about watching the road. I can't wait for the next time we hit the trail for another countrywide adventure.

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