Archive | June, 2010

Half-Passed Saugerties

“That was way back in Saugerties,” Shannon said yesterday, in reference to some mundane errand.  She could have said “That was a month ago” or, “That was in May,” because both are true.  But she didn’t.  She could also have uttered the seemingly nonsensical sentence “That was Saugerties ago,” and I’d have understood exactly what she meant.

And so it occurred to me, that points on the map are now more useful to us in judging time than days or months on the calendar.  Monday doesn’t really have a special significance any longer, other than the fact that many museums are closed that day.  Boothbay, Maine, meanwhile, is three days away.  And Narragansett marks for us the fickleness of Spring in an experiential way that “May” never could.

It’s hard to tell how this fledgling calendar will develop over time, or whether it will at all.  But one thing is clear even today: Florida already feels kind of Christmassy.

Portsmouth Blues

The very last thing we expected to find while looking for parking in downtown Portsmouth, NH, was a submarine.  But there it sat.  Smack dab in the middle of the grass just to the left of our wrong turn.  It wasn’t on our agenda for the day, but what the hell?  Happening upon unexpected stuff is something we always hope for.  So that is how we ended up on the USS Albacore, a 1950s experimental submarine.  Mostly what we discovered onboard is that neither one of us is cut out for submarine duty.  This thing makes our RV look like the Taj Mahal, only with worse plumbing.  Over the past month we’ve learned to make the most of our holding tanks by conserving water, but when out to sea, sailors on the Albacore were limited to “one shower per week, whether needed or not.”  Whether needed or not?  There were fifty guys crammed into a really tiny space with poor ventilation.  I suppose once everyone’s olfactory nerves are destroyed from the stench, nobody really needs a shower any longer.

After that short detour we eventually found our way to downtown Portsmouth.  This is our kind of city; small enough to be manageable on foot but large enough to have the vibrant pulse a city should.  With it’s smattering of attractive colonial architecture, we could easily envision settling down here, at least for the summer months.  Portsmouth also reportedly has one of the highest concentrations of restaurants per-capita in the country.  I’m doubtful of the distinction, but they do have a lot, which is certainly a plus.  We, of course, chose Portsmouth Brewery for dinner where we had a couple of craft beers that were delish and pulled pork sandwiches that were just ah-right.

The “anchor” of the evening was live blues and jazz music on Pleasant Street performed by T.J. Wheeler & The Smokers.  For eight years now, Pro-Portsmouth, has arranged a free, open air, concert series called “Summer in the Street.”  They stage several concerts over the course of the summer with music ranging from “Texas Swing” to Jazz.

Pull up a chair and enjoy the show (or at least a very short sampling) . . .

Prior Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance

After the debacle in Boston, Shannon the Wise planned our next brewery stop so that it coincided not only with a tour, but also a buy one case and get the next case for half-off promotion; known in some quarters as four-for-three.  Hooray!

The actual tour of Red Hook’s Portsmouth, NH, brewery was pretty standard fare; really nothing more than a perfunctory review of the beer making process and a quick look at the stainless steel brewing vats.  It’s not exactly the theme park experience you get at the Heineken brewery in Amsterdam, but we didn’t go there for a Six Flags ride.  We went to taste great beer.  And on that front, Red Hook delivered.  On tap was a golden ale, two pale ales (an IPA and an ESB) and a seasonal summer pilsner.  All were terrific.  I expected the ales to be good, but the pilsner surprised me with a little more malt than you usually get from a “summer brew.”  Very tasty.

It was also nice to see Red Hook harkening back to the days when tasting rooms were run to distribute promotional samples rather than as profit centers.  No tightly controlled pours here.  Tour admission costs a single dollar.  And had our guide simply filled our four ounce tasting glasses with each beer, we’d have sampled a full pint.  A pretty good deal.  But he didn’t just fill our glasses, he filled pitchers and let us have at them.

But it got even better for us.  A well-placed question encouraged our pliable tour guide to pour a pitcher of the company’s current “brewer’s selection” beer (available only at the on-site pub); an oatmeal stout.  It wasn’t planned, but it should have been.  After the bitter hoppiness of the two pale ales, the stout hits you in the face with a sweet, chocolate, coffee flavor that goes down like liquid desert.  What a way to finish the tasting.

That was the most fun I’ve had for a dollar since The Doll House in 1989.

Happening Hampton Beach

With less than an inch of coastline per resident, you’d expect New Hampshirites to make the most of what they have (you might also expect to see people stacked on the beach like they were in a Japanese capsule hotel, but you’d be wrong, at least on Wednesdays).  So it is of little surprise that Hampton Beach goes overboard with events and activities.

During the day we bypassed the southern area, which is crammed full of the typical sea-side fish shacks, souvenir shops, and other kitsch in favor of the north-beach where the only real attraction is the sand and the surf.  We did venture “downtown” to check out the 10th Annual Master Sand Sculpting Competition.  This is what someone who’s spent far too much time on the beach can do with 10 tons of sand . . .

A new career path, perhaps?

We came back later that night and expected the place to be mostly cleared out.  We were surprised to find it rockin’ and a rollin’ with even more people than during the day.  Live outdoor music and fireworks probably explain the crowd, but this was a Wednesday night.  Don’t you all have work in the morning?  Nevertheless, Hampton Beach was hopping.  And this wasn’t even a particularly special night.  They stage more than 80 such “concerts under the stars” and light fireworks roughly once per week during summer months.  Fortunately for us, at least a few of the state’s residents stayed home and we were able to borrow some of their precious coastline for just a little while.

Bringing Home the Bacon Earns a Day at the Beach

Now that Brian is no longer employed, one of us has to put gas in the RV—which isn’t cheap, as we found out during our first fill-up. I’ve had a bunch of great writing projects to work on lately, but it was nice to take a break and spend a couple of hours at the beach in Hampton. The water was a gorgeous blue-green, and with birds dive-bombing for food (a pretty extraordinary feat) it was like an up-close version of the Nature Channel.

It was my ideal kind of beach day, too: cloudy, warm, a nice breeze, an occasional burst of sunshine, and a good book in hand—The Elegance of the Hedgehog, a novel set in a Paris apartment building and one of the purchases from the 11 bookstores I’ve visited so far on the RV adventures. Now it’s back to work. We need more than gas money.

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