Fall is for Wandering

September 28, 2010 – Fall is for wandering, and when it comes to road trips, I’ve found that the best way to wander is to have a destination goal (all the most valid ideas make no sense on the surface…you didn’t know?). In fact, this idea might also apply to life in general, but I’m not through testing it out yet. Once I’m done, I’ll let you know. From the grave.

It makes sense in a practical way, though. You choose a destination, and then you stick the word “eventually” after it, as in “I’m going to the fair. Eventually.” You’re guaranteed to see something cool that way and helps you avoid the huge downsides that can often accompany pure wandering, such as boredom, lack of anticipation, missed opportunities, and frustration at being bored, having nothing to anticipate, and missing opportunities. Plus, getting there might be half the fun, but it’s still just half of it.

Last weekend, we spent Saturday wandering the roads of Maine and New Hampshire. Our goal? The tiny town of Wilton, ME. Eventually. The town is about three and a half hours north of where we live on the New Hampshire/Massachusetts border. We chose that map speck because we wanted to head north to see how the foliage was faring. Also, because it’s the final resting place of an almost eight-foot-tall 19th century giantess who toured with P.T. Barnum and then retired to speak with the dead. In other words, O.T.I.S. fodder.

The foliage in that area of Maine was still greener than an extremely green thing to be filled in later, but there were pumpkin stands all over the place, signs announcing upcoming harvest festivals, and front lawns decorated to the point of clutter for Halloween. We were definitely Falling.

The name of the giantess was Sylvia Hardy, and she’s buried in Lakeview Cemetery. I average about a cemetery a month in my life, but visiting the first one of the Fall season is special...except for when it’s not. Most of the cemetery was pretty new, with no sculpture work and zero trees. It didn’t even have a main gate. However, the older part of the cemetery, where Sylvia Hardy is buried, had a little bit more of the New England cemetery ambiance that makes me look forward to death. Plus it’s the burying place of a giantess. Did I mention that?

I swear I'm a very manly height.
There are a lot more details to cover with Sylvia Hardy, including our subsequent visit to the nearby museum that houses a life-sized replica of her along with an exhibit of her personal items, but like I said, O.T.I.S. fodder one day.

That accomplished, it was officially a successful trip, regardless of what else happened. We broke west, with the intent of crossing the border back into New Hampshire at the White Mountains region, and then heading south at some point. However, before we made it across the border, we discovered that there is a town in Maine called Mexico (apparently there is a Peru, ME, too, but we didn’t drive through that one) and then discovered our second giant of the day, a Paul Bunyan statue in the town of Rumford. At least, I assume it to be the famous lumberjack. He seemed too happy to be a famous axe murderer.

They had good Chinese food here.
Once we crossed over into New Hampshire, we found some serious pockets of Fall in those there White Mountains. The foliage might not have been peaking, but it was certainly more than peeking. Even if you were color blind, you could tell the area was a particular shade of beautiful that weekend by all the backpackers crossing the road at random places and all the camera-faced people pulled off to the side of the road photographing this or that piece of nature. It was like the mountains were having a block party, and we joined in with hot dog buns (somebody else had already brought the relish). I'm really going to regret that line when I read this tomorrow for spelling errors. 

Downtown was a counterpart
Babe the Blue Ox statue.
One notable location we passed by during the course of this meandering was Frankenstein Cliff, a rock face named for an artist whose parents adopted the name based on a castle from their homeland that may or may not have influenced Mary Shelley in her famous work. I wrote about it in the Grimpendium. That’s not a plug, just an excuse for why I’m not going deeper into a topic that cries out desperately for delving. It’s also a plug.

Whenever we find ourselves in the White Mountains region of the state, we often stop in the town of North Conway. North Conway is a lot of things, a tourist hub, a heavy commercial center, a ski town, a foliage stop-over, and frequently way too crowded for a place of that latitude. And, of course, we like it for all those reasons...and because it has a Christmas Loft.

I know, normally I wholeheartedly agree that out-of-season Christmas cheer is perverse, but this store literally creates its own context. You walk into it, and suddenly you’re out on winter’s night, with snow and a covered bridge, cozy storefronts, and a life-sized Santa Claus flying above your head in his reindeer-pulled sleigh. It’s actually an indoor Christmas Village, with each house a different store interconnected in a delightfully confusing warren of Christmas merchandise. I’m refraining from posting any pics of all that Christmas spirit (see above about perversity), but it does have a small Halloween room to balance out its universe.

Next on our docket was to drop by Harry and David, a gourmet food and candy store. We go there every season to see what new Fall martini mixes they’ve unveiled. In the past, they’ve had had stuff like pumpkin martini and caramel apple. This year, they have a Halloween concoction called Witch’s Brew, flavored with chocolate, orange, and cognac. You just add the vodka. And you know what that means: The Halloween blog is now destined for a drunken Fall cocktail post.

At that point it started getting dark, so we found the nearest highway and made for home, where we arrived 12 and a half hours after leaving. Even though I know the major stops, I’m not exactly sure what route we took. My road trips are always 50% wrong turns and 50% blind allegiance to the GPS unit (which, somehow are not two mutually exclusive things). But, like I said, Fall is for wandering...and giants...and cemeteries...and Mexico...and Frankenstein...and Christmas...and cocktails.