Monday, 24 June 2013

New England, Samuel Clemens, Angkor Pitchu and Huckleberry Van Finburg

Craig Writes;
13/06/13. A quick flight to La Guardia airport, New York, and time to pick up another car for our drive to West Haven. The New Yorkers were not as easily swayed by our larrikin Aussie charm, so no free upgrade. We started with a Jeep Cherokee but it was like trying to squeeze into those jeans you wore when you twenty one. It just didn't fit. So, back to the front desk and some wheeling and dealing to try for the "cave on wheels" we had gotten used too.  For only $10 a day extra we found ourselves back behind the wheel of another monster Yukon. Unbelievably, as we pulled our luggage over to it, we thought it looked a bit bigger than the one we had picked up in Little Rock. Surely not, anything bigger would have to be called a troop carrier. But, sure enough, this massive beast not only had a boot big enough for five cases, four back packs and a large stuffed bear, but they also threw in an extra row of seats. If we wanted we could cancel our accommodation for the next week and live in the car.
We hit the road and made the short trip to West Haven. The traffic coming out of Connecticut was manic but probably expected at 4.30pm on a Friday. It was a short one nighter in another Best Western before hitting the road the next  morning for our seven night stay in a three story house in Dartmouth, Massachusetts. Flicking through the brochures at the Best Western we discovered Mark Twains house was only an hour or so out of our way in Hartford Connecticut. So we point the tank in that direction and off we went. So totally worth it. Mark Twain, or Samuel Langhorne Clemens, as his mum and dad would have called him when he was naughty, -"Samuel Langhorne Clemens, you put down that skunk and git on in here, ya hear me"-,built the home in 1874 and stayed there till some dodgy business investments saw him nearly bankrupt and he had to sell up in 1891.
Mark Twains house and home of many of his greatest works
It was a magnificent three story mansion built in the Victorian Gothic style and cost a whopping $45,000 to build and another $40,000 to furnish. A lot of money in those days. He'd done well with his books but it still took most of his wife's fortune and his to finish and when he sold it 17 years later he only got around $43,000. Clemens was a giant of an author but not much of a business man. For such a scholarly wordsmith, two words seemingly not in his vocabulary were,"over" and "capitalize".
Two of these are NOT made of leggo
Huckleberry Van Finburg
A quick stop at The Elizabeth Rose gardens to walk bare foot through the long wet grass and breathe in the perfumed air that only a 100 year old rose garden can give before we turned our attention towards Massachusetts. 
This too could be yours in only 100 years
Dartmouth is a rural area where the houses all seem big, sprawling and set on a descent piece of land.  It's in the state of Massachusetts which is in the region of New England. A region in the northeastern part of the US that comprises the six states of Maine, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont and Rhode Island . It was one of the first English settlements, way back in 1620 which accounts for the architecture, street, park and town names that hark back to the "old country".  Seven whole days to leisurely discover this beautiful piece of country side and explore this massive house we have to ourselves.
Our stunning homestead in Dartmouth with a huge basement pool room and lounge
17/06/13. A couple of days down the track and what have we done? Well let's see. While not yet complete, 100 metres into the forest at the back of the house, we are 75% of the way to finishing our cubby house. It's got four walls, one courtesy of a massive great boulder, and a roof that, while it wouldn't stand up to 40 days and 40 nights, would offer reasonable shelter to any lost soul who may wander by in need of a dry spot. We have named it Angkor Pitchu. Callum is a big picture kinda guy and once the basic structure was up was more interested in building the next thing, so he's officially of the project.  Charlie's thinking was a little more interested in the detail and was prepared to stick around a bit longer to fill in some of the holes and throw a few leaves on the floor in the way of a bit of interior decorating but I think he may be looking for a new endeavour as well. Personally, it seems to have awoken some old memories in me of the endless days I would spend with my brothers and the local kids making our bush cubbies. We'd dig holes in the ground and cover them with branches, old scraps of tin sheeting and then sand and leaves to hide them. We'd haul bits of timber and tin high up into the branches of Banksia trees and nail them in place. There we could pick the Banksia cones and have hours of fun pretending they were bombs and throwing them at each other. Some of these tree houses would last for months. The dirt caves not so long. We'd camouflage them that well that someone would forget were they were and inevitably go and run over the top of them. The sturdy ones would just buckle, you'd spring board off the tin sheet and the sand would cave in, the really pathetic ones would be like falling into a pit of quick sand, but with jagged rusty tin sheets thrown in. That's how Robbie Siroen lost his toe. It was a dismal effort of a cave by our next door neighbour, Mark Curtis, with two sheets of tin meeting in the middle and just a couple of dodgy twigs as uprights. The only thing he did well was hide it. Robbie comes bounding along, his foot lands smack in the middle of the two sheets which give way pinning his big toe between the two and as his body descends the three feet to the sandy bottom below one sheet slides across the other and, clean as a whistle, slices through most of his big toe.  Very messy.
Anyway, I'm going to go it alone and finish the thing. There is some thing very therapeutic about being out in the bush, scouring for the dead dry stuff, careful not to break or disturb the living. It almost feels like working hand in hand with the bush to make something useful. She's giving up the dead and disused and your putting it to good use. 
We have called this, "Angkor Pitchu", in honour of other great feats of native architecture

Built in the Post Neolithic style with a touch of Pre Modernist Rustic
Anywho, yesterday was Father's Day here in the US so it looks like I get two this year. A nice relaxing day where I didn't have to do a thing. Today, the 17th, we took a drive to New Bedford. A very pretty town about half an hours drive away in Bristol County. It's nickname is The Whaling City because in the 19th century it was one of the major whaling ports in the country and in fact was responsible for supplying most of the whale oil used in the US and back in England. This was all prior to gas or electricity and good clean burning whale oil was the major source of fuel for the lanterns, as well as a sort after machinery lubricant.
The museum is located at 18 Johnny Cake Hill, what a fantastic name. It's three stories are jammed pack with over 750,000 items. The smell of the three massive whale skeletons dangling from the roof hits you the moment you open the two glass doors at the entrance. It's an oily fishy smell that thankfully disappears quickly.

I stood looking up, in awe of the sheer size of them.
What massive beasts
There are over 3500 pieces of scrimshaw, carvings or engravings done on bone or teeth, and some are beautiful. The walking sticks in particular are quite stunning. The half size replica of the Lagoda whaling ship was built inside the museum in 1916 and stretches 89 feet in length. It's sails disappear into the upper reaches of the building.
Very impressive
The Lagoda herself was built in 1826 and remained one of the most successful ships in the whaling fleet till she was sold to the Japanese in 1886. You have to watch your head, but you can scramble all over her and get a bit of a feel for what life aboard would have been like. There are plenty of harpoons to look at and even a bow section showing the dark and crammed living quarters of the crew.
Such a barbaric way to kill such a magnificent beast
For up to three years at a time all they had to call their own was a wooden bunk and a small chest to hold their worldly possessions.
Walking the cobblestone streets of the port area you half expect to see a one legged man with a wooden leg hobble around the corner, pulling his tattered cap down over his brow as his parrot shouts, "thar she blows cappin, thar she blows".

This model was used in the final scenes of the 1956 version of Moby Dick

18/06/13 Another slow day in paradise. A cruise out to Tiverton today for lunch at the Four Corners Grille.  It's a small town in Newport County, Rhode Island with not a lot to say about it except that the Clam Chowder and the Crab Cake Burger are very very good. On the way there we passed through a town called Adamsburg that has Americas oldest General Store. It opened in 1788. Funny really, that morning in January 1788 when they were opening their doors hoping for a brisk days trade, the First Fleet was sailing into Botany Bay hoping not to get speared, drowned or worse.
Supplying all your grocery needs since 1788
19/06/13 The pace here is exhausting. This dragging yourself out of bed at the ungodly hour of 8.30am, pushing yourself to the limit whilst doing 30 minutes of gut wrenching yoga  followed up by a slop of organic granola and cherry yoghurt topped with blueberries, raspberries, blackberries and banana for breakfast, it's inhuman. Fortunately my misery ends tomorrow when we make our escape to New York. Haha.
Seriously, this place has been amazing, we've been blessed to find this spot. Another fabulous Christina coup.  Today we head off to Padanaram, a small village in South Dartmouth in Bristol County settled in 1652 and best known for being one of the major whaling ports in the area in the 19th century. Today, it's just a very quaint little town with it's old Colonial Revivalist and late Victorian era houses, art galleries, home wares shops and tasty little eateries.

Just a random little village on our way to Horseneck Beach
After a yummy little lunch we headed to Horseneck beach hoping for a pleasant little walk along a sandy beach, maybe stop and throw up a sandcastle or two. Hhmm, not likely. The Atlantic was having a party and blowing a gale.  Still, it was nice to have the smell of salt air in my nostrils and get a few lung fulls into me.

Nothing like a day at the beach and throwing up a sandcastle or two
Bilbo Baggins Beach House
One last home cooked meal before we hit the road
We were back home and packing up up 3.30, sadly we say goodbye tomorrow and hit the road for a five hour roadie to NY.

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