2 Old Hippies


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Saint John, New Brunswick

We are here after tourist season has ended, and the guided walking tours of the city and the amazing geological settings are no more, so the 2oldhippies take the self-guided tour books in hand and explore downtown Saint John and the harbor front. There is a lovely little city market, one of the oldest in continuous operation in Canada, just off Kings Square in downtown. City Market is one terminus of an indoor network of walkways (much like “underground Montreal”) that lead from the center of downtown to the harborfront hotels, the New Brunwick Museum and the Saint John Public Library, which are the anchors in a shopping/commerce/office complex overlooking the river. (Note the books lined up on the second floor “shelf” under the windows.)

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We ask if it really does get that cold here in winter and are told that yes, it does snow here. Somehow, the idea of “snow” and the ocean doesn’t compute for us landlocked northern tier people.

Throughout the city are informational billboards describing the history, architecture and geological features of the city, all of which are legion. Saint John was once the third biggest producer of sailing ships, was where almost all of the lumber from New Brunwick was put on ships for Old and New England. Three-quarters of the city burned in 1877 (the photos look like San Francisco after the earthquake), and for the rebuilding the city imposed strict codes and requirements to assure harmonious, efficient and safe development. (Oh, Canada!) The result is a harmonious efficient and safe little city by the Bay of Fundy. The major commercial buildings took advantage of the remarkable variety of stone available for facades, columns, porticos and other lovely details.

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Geologically — I send you to www.stonehammergeoparc.com, the website that drew me to this location to begin with. While Fundy is famous for the highest tides in the world, tides so high that the waterfalls in Saint John reverse and go upstream twice a day, it’s also now celebrated as a unique geological site on Earth. Solid evidence here (pun intended) displays the very origins of our continents and seas, and the forces of plate techtonics “from the origins of seaflow spreading, to the colliding of continents, and the subduction of plates.” And if that description doesn’t excite you, how about this? The Stonehammer Geopark encompasses sites dominated by rocks dating from the Pre-Cambrian right up to the Quaternary, and stone formations that link these sitea to places in South America and Africa. It’s a techtonic wonderland. We attend a reception at the New Brunwick Museum for the world Geoparc Conference kicking off this week, bringing over 400 geologists, anthropologists, rock heads and rock hounds from dozens of countries to this site, with their little stone hammers. I can’t stop taking photos of the geomarvels that abound. Formations from a mere 100 million years ago, shoved up against, or thrust above, or driven below formations from 700 millions ago.

Simply put, we find rocks side by side that have no business being together on the same beach.

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We find edges of sedimentary layers fragmenting as they are exposed to the elements — 90 degrees off kilter, pointing straight up instead of laying sideways.

20140914_160653I supposed you don’t have to love rocks to enjoy coastal New Brunswick and the Bay of Fundy, but apparently, 2oldhippies aren’t alone in our fascination.

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2oldhippies: The FAQ (#1)

With postings come questions. 2oldhippies will do our best to answer.

  1. (As to our infrequent postings) “Don’t you have 2Gb of data? Unless you are watching movies or streaming music, that should last a long time.”Answer: We are in Canada, which means we are roaming. Our 2 Gb home plan doesn’t work here, and neither do we. Chill!  (Although we do appreciate we are missed, and wanted….)
  2. “What kind of music do 2oldhippies listen to on the road?Answer: We are eclectic if not ecumenical in our tastes, and it really depends on the time of day and the activity at hand. Generally, we love singer-songwriters, poet/lyricists, and not surprisingly of the old rocker, hippy, folkie persuasion. Yesterday we listened to a lot of CSNY, Buffalo Springfield, Stevie Winwood, Bonnie Raitt, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Louden Wainwright III, Devil Makes Three, and Dixie Chicks. We had a fight about Van Morrison (I argue that there’s nothing coherent about dropping all the tea in china in the ocean while praising her for being as sweet as Tupelo Honey and what the hell do the knights bent on chivalry have to do with any of it? I think he needs a good editor.)

    We frequently drink deeply from the infinite well of wisdom provided by Leonard Cohen. We have fastened onto Chris Smither lately – he’s definitely an old hippie, we’ve seen him play a couple times back in Vermont, and his lyrics really ring true for us. Lord Huron is great for a drive through primeval forests (thanks, Rachel, for that tip), as are Zoe Keating and Luce Trio. If it’s sunny and hot and the windows are down, we might play Buena Vista Social Club, Willie Colon or Ricky Martin. At night, when we’ve buttoned up the camper and we’re reading in bed, we like the old jazzers: Stan Getz, Toots Thielman, and more recently, and Fred Hersch (whom we saw play at Jazz Alley in Seattle with my brother and sister in law last April).
    It we had brought classical, it would have been Mozart.

  3. Our musical set-up is a loaded smart phone and several MP3 players, and a rechargeable mini-Bose speaker.
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    The downside is that 2oldhippies have to set up a charging station as soon as we get our campground electrical hookup plugged in.
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The US 2 East Adventure, Part II: Palmyra, Maine to the eastern end of US 2, at the border with New Brunswick

Maine’s rivers are big, and we followed two along US 2 – the Androscoggin and the Penobscot. They look placid now, in September, though clearly running deep and moving a lot of water. The fog had settled in over night, and we drove through it nearly to Bangor. When we broke through it felt like a perfect late summer day — green fields, blue sky. Leaves haven’t started to turn yet. We are entering logging country, and US 2 being only two-laned here, the Westy shudders when the big logging trucks tear by us.

At Bangor US 2 takes a sharp left turn to the north, and follows the Penobscot.We stop for a late breakfast along the river, off a very nice stretch of new paving, a condition we have been calling “New 2,” as there are several paving projects along our route.

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We had to stop again on this height of land, a cemetery with a great view of Mt. Katahdin in Baxter State Park directly west of us.

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We are surprised to learn Rt 2 in Maine is home to an Amish country.

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After giving up a couple more classic views of the Penobscot,

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US 2 turns hard to the east, and Houton, Maine, a bustling border town, and then suddenly — to suddenly to even take a photo of the sign, the End of US2. And the border with Canada.

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New Brunwick from Houton to Frederickton (the provincial capital) is scrubby land and scraggly trees. They aren’t great and grand enough to harvest, and nothing else seems to be happening here. No farms, fields, pastures, meadows. It is empty of people, agriculture, towns. We learn later, at the fine New Brunswick Museum in Saint John, that as much as 2/3 of the province isn’t arable. It looks like what you’d imagine a place looks like a 150 years after it has been clear cut, when the soil isn’t good enough for the forest to re-establish itself. We also learn later this is a result of geological hell breaking loose here, consecutively fracturing, folding, washing away, covering with ice, and then scraping away the land.

But then at Frederickton we join rivers again. And follow the NB River Route along the Saint John River. With each new tributary, the river seems to grow exponentially, until eventually it is like driving along a lake.

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And with a river, better soil, and with better soil, people: farms, orchards, busy towns. And roads, and cars and again, trucks.

Finally, late in the afternoon, we crest one last hills and see the city of Saint John, and the river flowing into the Bay of Fundy.

Our campsite is well run campground on the edge of massive city park. Thank you, City of Saint John. We pop the top, set up the bed, and jump on our bikes to go into the city for dinner. Little do we know the reason there are no bike lanes and no other folks on bikes is that the city is built on several hills. It’s not a single slope to the Bay, as Burlington slopes to Lake Champlain, or flat like Boston. Saint John is more San Francisco-like, with hills leading to more hills. We exhaust ourselves wandering around downtown Saint John and steepest climb, of course, is back to the campground. It’s a lovely little city, though, with beautiful neighborhoods and stunning stone buildings all through the downtown. (More on this to come).


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The US 2 East Adventure Part 1: BTV to Palmyra, Maine

US 2 East, Burlington, Vermont to Palmyra Maine.

Before peak foliage, there is peak green.

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US 2 east took us from Burlington along the Winooski River through Montpelier, Plainfield and Marshfield, where we parted ways with the river, and continued east to Danville, St Johnsbury and across the Connecticut River. Stopping for the first view of the Presidential Range outside of Danville took almost as long as driving across the narrow neck of New Hampshire.

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“This car did not climb Mt Washington,” but I did take a selfie as we flew past. (I will spare you my photo of Santa’s Village.)

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Our first night was in Palmyra, Maine. My paternal great-grandfather, George Millett, was born here in the mid-19th century, and there are still some Milletts living here, and plenty more resting here in the bosom of Abraham. George’s daughter Maude, my grandmother, was born in Wisconsin as George followed the timber harvesting business across the continent. They ended up in Libby Montana where Maude and Frederick Keller brought forth my father, Millett Frederick Keller. Who grew up on US 2, which runs through Libby. Really, it does.

So, back to Palmyra. I visited the newer  Millett place, which sits right on US 2. I took this photo at 6AM as we left town, and no one was up yet. We’ll visit on the flip side of the trip. I visited Palmyra back in the early 1980s, and the building on the left was the General Store, Millett’s by name, and the proprietor, one George Millett, took me to visit the cemetery. I figured him to be a second or third cousin, and e didn’t know he was named after his great (perhaps two greats?) uncle. The store is now closed, and last week I saw his obit in an online local newspaper as I was planning this trip.

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There are more Milletts resting a couple miles off US 2. Herewith, for the genealogists in my family, are some photos.

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Thomas, on the left, is my great-grandfather George’s father, who moved to Palmyra from Leeds, MA. His father Thomas was the reason Maude (and me and my sisters and nieces and great-nieces for that matter) are eligible for the Daughters of the American Revolution. (I toyed in the 1990s with the idea of taking over the local chapter and making it truly revolutionary again. May revisit that idea…)

If my father knew that his great-uncle Francis brought a Japanese bride back from WWII, he sure didn’t tell us about it….

A lovely supper at our camping spot at the Palmyra Golf Resort and Campground. End of Day one.

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Making the Most of the Delay, Part II

The Westy is back in the driveway, and packed to go. We’ll leave tomorrow –  Tuesday 9/9 — the day before we should have arrived in West Glacier, had the trip West not been called off. But we are staying with our Plan B — heading east on US highway 2, and taking it to the end — the border of Maine and New Brunswick. We’ll continue on east to the Bay of Fundy for a stay in Saint John and on Grand Manan Island (with high hopes the waning Harvest Moon will be visible on the Bay at night). Back here September 21. We’re leaving Mt Desert Island and Acadia park for another time.

But no time was wasted while waiting . . .

 

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This weekend we dehydrated a 1/2 bushel of plum tomatoes, and put another bushel  in the freezer as tomato sauce (we freeze it flat in ziplocks so they store like file folders – learned this trick from another blogger) I also husked and quick froze a few pounds of tomatillos for winter salsa verde.

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Making the Most of the Delay

Waiting for the Westy repairs has allowed us to take more advantage of our garden’s bounty, which doesn’t always happen. My overweening Yankee frugality has caused me to schedule most of our “big trips” in late September — for example, the three times we rented canal boat rentals in France I made sure we went during the off-season – we enjoyed great rates, but our neighbors back home enjoyed our harvests. So this feels like a bonus week and we made the most of it. Craig picked our St Croix grapes and I canned 14 quarts of juice.

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And dehydrated ten pounds of plum tomatoes from the Jericho Settlers Farm, and blanched and froze a whole mess of greens for winter soups…and went to see Ray Vega’s group (Wednesday Jazz at Juniper) with our good friend LJ Palardy and others. Hmmm. Sounds like we are having a vacation …


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Change of Plans and Direction Reversal

Anyone with experience with old VWs knows that even when operating in top condition, the defroster and heater were notoriously bad. 20140826_144559So when the blower motor blew out last week, leaving us with no defroster, heater or ventilation, we had to seek immediate mechanical attention.

It being the week before Labor Day, our trusted mechanics were all jammed up, and the new blower motor had to be ordered from the West Coast anyway. With an estimated potential departure almost six days later, our entire itinerary  —- keyed to arriving in West Glacier, MT in time for a September 12 wedding, was also blown out. Wahhh.  The point was not to drive 10 hours a day in a marathon sprint across the US, so on Friday we called off the trip.

But, that’s only the western section of US 2, so we turn our eyes to the East, and now have plans to leave September 5 and drive to the eastern terminus of US 2, which is the US-Canada border crossing at Houlton, ME.  We’ll then continue on for a few days visiting the geological wonders of Saint John and the Bay of Fundy (22 foot tides, for a start), toddle on south and catch US 1, hole up at Acadia National Park/Mt Desert Island for a week of hiking and biking and lobstah rolls.

Not a bad Plan B…  And that gives us an extra week right now to do some more garden work, and a week at the end of September to wrap up more harvesting. Posts to follow.


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Screen Room test report

This nice little screen room addition to the Westy tested beautifully on a camping trip to the Catskills in early August 2014. It breaks down conveniently into a bag about the size of a down sleeping bag’s stuff bag, but that means all the poles are broken down and must be assembled; figuring out which is inserted there was a small challenge, but now we know what’s what and where it goes. As my dear Dad would have said, “Now THAT’s a good looking rig!”

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