Thursday, August 18, 2011

A quick trip to the seacoast, and seeing the last "Frost Place"

Well, we finally did it -- the "Robert Frost House Trifecta". 

Yes, Jeannine and I just visited the third and last of the historic Robert Frost homesteads in New England, the first two being the Stone House in South Shaftsbury, Vermont and the Frost Place in Franconia, New Hampshire. The third and last was actually the first, chronologically, in Frost's life, and is in Derry, New Hampshire.

We had decided on the spur of the moment to take a quick trip to the New Hampshire seacoast this past weekend, and had a devil of a time finding lodging. We were hoping to get a room in some hotel with an ocean view, but there were none to be had (none that we could find, anyway), and even some of the usual places in Portsmouth which don't have ocean views were completely booked up.

(We later discovered that part of the reason for that was the fact that Pease Air Force Base in Portsmouth was hosting an air show.. and throughout the time we were there, we would often hear the thunderous shrieks of fighter jets and other aircraft overhead. Unfortunately for the fans who attended, the overcast skies cut down on the visibility of the planes... though at one point during a break in the clouds I thought I saw a cool WWII-vintage plane which I think was a P-51 Mustang.)

Finally, Jeannine tracked down a room at a Holiday Inn, and we threw our stuff in the truck and took off. It was later than we usually get on the road for these types of trips, so we didn't get to the seacoast until dark. Part of the reason for that is the fact that we made two stops on the way, one for supper at the High Tide Takeout in Hillsborough, NH (one of my favorite places to eat on the road, and always satisfying), and again a little later for dessert at a place called (I think) Johnson's Dairy Bar, situated not too far east of Concord, NH on Route 4. I'd wanted to stop at this place for years, as I would often drive past it on my way to or from the seacoast, but never had. 

And if you like your ice cream cones big -- I mean HUGE -- this is definitely the place to go. I ordered a kiddie-sized vanilla soft serve for Jeannine and a small twist soft serve for me. The "kiddie" sized cone was what would be a "large' at any dairy bar I'd ever been to, and the "small" was even larger. Crazy! And the hard ice cream cones they were serving were no different.

It was tough, but we both managed to finish off our cones, and continued on to the coast, where we had a nice walk on the sands of Jenness Beach in New Hampshire, enjoying the full moon's light on the waves and the beach.

The following day, while discussing where to go for breakfast and doing some web searching for suggestions, I stumbled upon a restaurant that Jeannine and I used to go to when we lived in Dover, on those occasions when we felt we had enough money to treat ourselves to a breakfast that we didn't make ourselves. It was called "The Wooden Spoon", and back then it was situated right in the middle of downtown Dover, about a fifteen minute walk from our house. Jeannine used to love the muffins they made there, and I have to agree -- they were very good (though not, I must hasten to add, as good as the ones Jeannine bakes). Apparently, over the twenty-seven (yikes!) years since we lived in Dover, the "Spoon" had moved (to Somersworth, NH, the next town north of Dover) and aquired new owners. 

We tracked it down to its new location in the Tri-City Plaza in Somersworth, and although the ambiance was different from the old location (and a little lacking, if you must know, though the people working there were perfectly nice) and sadly, that day they had no muffins! But I did see this thing on the menu that I wanted to try along with my eggs and taters breakfast -- a grilled cinnamon roll.

It was yummy!

We followed this breakfast adventure down memory lane with a trip out to New Castle, NH on our bicycles, which I'd brought with us in the back of the truck. We parked in Portsmouth, and had a great ride out to New Castle. Here's a photo of my right ear and Jeannine following me -- one of my one-handed over-the-shoulder shots, which sometimes work -- as we pedaled over one of the several bridges to New Castle.

(I do want to mention one thing about that bicycle ride -- Jeannine was a little nervous about bicycling on that somewhat-narrow road, with all the cars that pass by on it, but I have to say that every car that went by gave us a wide berth. The drivers seemed to be, without exception, very respectful of bicyclists, which is, sadly, not always the case. But it certainly made this ride a lot less harrowing than it could have been.)

We stopped at a beautiful small park right next to the ocean and enjoyed looking at the water and the rocks and sea grass…

… and smelling the salt air while sitting on the bench under this tree.

After soaking up the ocean ambiance for a while, we decided to continue on another quarter of a mile or so to Fort Stark, the ruined fort I wrote about on this blog several entries ago. I took some more shots from a slightly different perspective, and stitched them together into this small panorama.

The following day was not so pleasant, weather-wise -- it was raining hard from the time we awoke and didn't really let up for the rest of the day, which made our drive to Derry, NH, to see the Robert Frost farm not that much fun. But once there, and fortified with raincoat and umbrella, we enjoyed walking around the property on a short trail through the field and woods. Here's Jeannine posing for me on a little bridge over a stream on the trail…

… and a view from the far end of the field looking back toward the house.

The young man we'd talked to in the gift shop at the farm before going out on our walk -- Alex, I think his name was -- told us that before the house was bought and restored as a Robert Frost museum, it -- and the property around it -- had been owned by the "Frosty Acres Automobile Graveyard". ("Frosty Acres"… get it?) Here's a photo Alex showed us from those days -- you can make out the Frost house in the background.

Unlike the other two Frost houses, where you could wander around as you liked inside, here a guided tour was required to see the inside of the house. We weren't really into being part of a big group, but as it turned out, Alex offered to give us a "lightning tour" of the house, which worked out great.

The first thing he showed us was probably my favorite part of the tour -- the "privy" in what I guess would be called a "mudroom" today. It's interesting in that it is a "two-seater" and the seats are side-by-side with nothing in between them. 

I mentioned to Alex that it reminded me of one of those old "Saturday Night Live" faux commercials -- this one for a product called "The Love Toilet", which was a two-person toilet in the shape of the classic love seat. He remembered it right away, even reciting the ad slogan they'd made up.

Moving on from the mudroom, we went into the kitchen, where we were told that it is thought that Frost wrote a considerable amount of his poetry at the table in this photo.

The rest of the house was somewhat unremarkable, but still interesting to see and imagine what it was like when Frost lived there. I should also point out that, like when we visited the Frost place in Franconia on another rainy day, I was impressed that so many people would show up on a bad weather day to see the place -- I think there were probably about a dozen or so other visitors to the Derry house during the short time we were there.
But now that we've seen all three Frost places, what next? I guess we need to find another series of poet's or writer's house to visit. I should ask Jeannine if she has any ideas. -- PL


mikeandraph87 said...

"and miles to go before I sleep... and miles to go before I sleep". Such a meaningful line that resonates with many people in many periods of our lives.

I didn't know that there were three Frost locations to tour. Thats cool.

Mark H said...

That looks like a wonderful weekend despite the occasional rain showers. Those are fantastic pictures. I really like the reflecting moon and, the panoramic shot of Fort Stark.

“But now that we've seen all three Frost places, what next? I guess we need to find another series of poet's or writer's house to visit. I should ask Jeannine if she has any ideas. – PL”

There is always Oliver Wendell Holmes! Not only was he one of the “Fire Side Poets” but, he was a physician and a professor. He was born in Cambridge, educated in Andover then, he lived in Boston. I believe he had a summer home in Pittsfield but, do not quote me on that. I always wondered if he was a distant relative of mine. I know another author from New England with the last name Holmes that I am related to. Mary Jane Holmes, she was pretty popular in the 1850’s. She was from my home town of Brookfield MA.
I digress though. Figured I would make a suggestion.