So, Tuesday, September 11, Steve and I arose, and left the house in the possession of the housesitter, wending our way to Connecticut in the rain. We broke our drive in Lewistown, at Fran’s, so that I might celebrate my birthday in style, with a breakfast of blueberry crepes. It was still raining after breakfast, as we continued our drive, arriving at Carousel Convention Headquarters in Windsor Locks, Connecticut about 2:30. Our base camp was in a Marriott, and I must say it was among the…silliest hotel rooms I’ve stayed in, along a lifetime of staying in hotel rooms of various ilks.
Who in ghod’s name thought it was a Good Idea to design a hotel room with ONE DRAWER, a closet with no door on it, and a couple of random open shelves? Our reservation was for five days. Does Marriott Corp actually think that I’m going to throw my stuff in piles in the corners? Or not unpack? For five days?
Stupid situation. I was, and remain, unimpressed. This may actually put me off of Marriott properties.
Complaints aside, I went downstairs to do my appointed shift at registration, met a lot of nice people, including Irene Harrison (who I know from the Science Fiction Side) and also the mother of one of my writer colleagues. Small world.
Dinner was had; I scored a batwing horse at the Roundabout Faire (aka the Dealers Room), and we listened to a very interesting lecture by Jeff Briggs, the creator of the Boston Greenway Carousel. Eventually, we sought our bed, rising at an absurdly early hour in order to board the charter buses for a 7:30 departure for? The Carousels!
Now, a couple things about the convention. First — This was the largest convention the National Carousel Association had ever hosted — by about 100 conventioneers, 50 of us newbies. Second — This meant that there were four tour buses in train. Third — it was raining on Wednesday as we boarded our coaches, and pretty much it rained all day, except (this is important) when we arrived at a carousel. Then, the rain stopped; and I wanna tell you — it’s rare you get a bus driver who’s that good.
The rain, however, did play havoc with the traffic, and we ran late all day.
Wednesday was the pre-con Bonus Day, and we were scheduled to — and did! — visit four carousels. Our first was the Native Species Carousel in The Greenway Boston. Here’s a picture from that carousel. I note, as it was said to me, that this rabbit does not go up and down, though his carrot does.
After everyone — that’s 240 people, now — had ample time to take photographs, and everyone had a ride on the carousel, we reboarded our buses and went out to Hull, where the remains of Paragon Park, including Philadelphia Toboggan Company Carousel #85, sits at the edge of the sea.
The Paragon Park carousel was the. . .saddest of the day’s four carousels. It was plain that the association was trying their damndest to keep the carousel and to restore it, but. . .there’s work to be done. I note, for those interested, that there is an adoption program for the Horses of Paragon Park. Here’s your link. And! Here’s a photo of a horse being restored at the on-site workshop:
And, here’s a picture of a jumper on PTC #85:
I will also mention that the sea was magnificent at Hull, waves crashing against the seawall, and spray flying over the parapet to soak inadvertent visitors. Nice day.
From Hull, the buses swept us, in good time, to the Heritage Museum, which combines gardens, a transportation museum, and a Herschell/Looff combined carousel in all but mint condition.
My back had started to hurt, so I opted to walk from the bus to the carousel, about a quarter mile, I guess, through a really pleasant and peaceful garden, with interesting plantings and thought-provoking installations. We may have to go back, more into the season, to do the garden justice.
The carousel had been collected in pieces by a Mr. Lilly (I did not achieve clarity on whether this was Mr. Eli Lilly of pharmaceutical fame, or another Lilly altogether), which is why it’s a Herschell/Looff. Most of the animals were horses, but, having been bought in pieces as it was, there were extra animals. Three goats made it onto the carousel itself. Some of the extras were mounted along the carousel’s promenade, and still others were sold to another carousel enthusiast. Here’s a picture of one of the extra animals:
Steve joined me for the walk back to the bus, and we proceeded to Battleship Cove, there to view Philadelphia Toboggan Company Carousel #54. By this time, we were two hours and change behind schedule, and my back was really starting to say nasty stuff.
So nasty was my stuff, in fact, that I did not get off the bus to see PTC 54. Steve did view this carousel, and will perhaps lend one of his photos to at a later time. I understand it is a very nice carousel.
From Battleship Cove, it was on to West Springfield, and a group dinner at The Nippon Grill and Seafood Buffet, joining up with still more of our group who had not opted for the Bonus Day Tour.
We returned to the hotel around 10:30 pm, having boarded the buses at 7:30 am. It was, yes, a long day.
. . .which segued into a long night as my back went ballistic. I finally faced reality — that being that there was No Way I could do the next day’s tour of five carousels and a formal dinner/presentation, if I didn’t take the meds, and No Way I could do ditto, if I did take the meds.
So, I took the meds.
I will pause here to recall that, of all the challenges I had identified with regard to participating in a carousel convention, I didn’t even consider the wear and tear visited upon a human body by sitting fourteen hours on a tour bus.
Steve and I evaluated the situation and our various options and decided that it would be best for all concerned to withdraw from the convention, which we did. And then we drove home.
The long way.
Steve drove, I did not take meds, though I may have been guilty of using the heated passenger seat. We would drive for. . .a time, an hour? two hours? and stop at a likely looking place to go for a walk. We did a thorough tour of Keene, New Hampshire, which is awfully interesting at first hand; which led to a thorough tour of Toadstool Books. We eventually raised Portland, where Steve had some Serious Shopping to do, so we took a suite off of Payne Road, hunted and gathered an excellent dinner from the Sebago Brewing Company, and so to bed.
The next day, we rose late, breakfasted at IHOP, and hit the mall. Steve was shopping computers, so I hung out at Best Buy with him. I talked myself out of a Razer tactile keyboard (wow, does that keyboard feel good), because it’s flat and I’d kill my wrists using it, even though the clicky keys are to die for. I was not so persuasive regarding a pair of Nikon binoculars, replacing the Bunnell mini-binoculars that I won in a sales contest mumble years ago — 4×30, which I clung to because they were light enough for me to hold. The Nikon binoculars are 8×42 and weigh just a smidge more than the minis, and now I can watch the yard very closely indeed.
At the Maine Mall, we found Brookstone going out of business, and Steve scored all sorts of goodies, including a yummy fleecy throw. We also stopped for pretzel bits at a — gasp! — pretzel stand, where the young lady behind the counter gave me a Susan B. Anthony dollar as a quarter. When I showed her the error, she was astonished; had never seen an Anthony dollar. I bought it from her with a folding dollar so she didn’t make the same mistake again.
We did quite a bit of walking, what with going up and down the Mall, so we did a little shopping at Shaw’s to stock our in-suite fridge, then went back and took a nap. That evening, we walked around the neighborhood and took pictures. of interesting things.
Here, have an interesting thing:
Next day after breakfast we proceeded through the Dense Fog to the Maine Fine Craft Show being held at Camp Ketcha on Black Point, where among all the other beautiful art things, we met a guy who makes door pulls out of rocks. I think we’ve found the compromise between Steve wanting door pulls on the new pantry, and me wanting no such thing. I can live with rock door pulls.
After the craft fair, we went exploring, and found ourselves at Crescent Beach, which is a state park. We came to the ranger’s kiosk before we found a place to turn around and thereby discovered An Amazing Thing.
Maine residents sixty-five years or older may enter any Maine state park for free.
Well. . .we knew. Now. And so we visited Crescent Beach. The fog was still Epic, but we walked up and down a bit, thereby discovering another thing: You can get a passport at any Maine State Park at the beginning of the season, and there are passport stamping stations, at each park, so you can stamp your passport. Which is kinda cool.
Leaving Crescent Beach, Steve headed us out still further on the point, and thus we came to Two Lights Park — a Maine State Park. We tested our newfound knowledge and were let into the park with a cheerful, “Have fun!” And so we did. Two Lights deserves a day-long visit on a day with significantly less fog. Still, we walked up and down a bit, and took pictures. Here, have a picture:
We also found Yet Another Amazing Factoid, which is that the National Lighthouse Association has LIGHTHOUSE Passports, which you can get stamped at — wait for it — lighthouses all over America.
Leaving Two Lights, we drove until we were in Portland, and of course we had to visit the Portland Breakwater lighthouse, aka Bug Light. It was still foggy, which made picture-taking tricky, but here’s a moment of Bug Light in the sun:
We spent ‘way too much time at Bug Light, and were late getting lunch. Happily, we found ourselves in Old Port, and there! right on the corner where we’d stopped for traffic was — the Empire Kitchen. We parked the car and had a really interesting Chinese dinner, including the house-made broad noodles, steamed pork buns, green beans with garlic….mmmhmm. Probably a good thing they’re in Portland and, mostly, I’m not.
Sunday, we shifted to Old Orchard Beach, and a room at the Skylark that Steve had arranged for, pre-convention. We were told that there was a whale in the Gulf, between shore and the Audobon society’s island, which several of our fellow Skylarkians were fortunate enough to both see and photograph. Our luck was not on that angle, sadly. I’ve never seen a whale, myself. Must go on whale cruise…
So, a pleasant afternoon and evening at the ocean, walking up and down the beach and downtown, followed by a pleasant supper. Next morning, we rose early, failed to sight the whale in the yet-again Epic Fog, and drove to the new IHOP in Saco (for locals — where the China Clipper had been for approximately 10,000 years). And there something…strange happened.
We paid our bill with cash, and our change was to be $9.55. Which the waitress brought to us in the form of nine one dollar bills, twelve pennies, two nickles, and two dimes. The advertant will immediately see that this is short by thirteen cents. It was also the weirdest change I’ve ever gotten. This was 7:45 am on Monday. Was the drawer in that bad a shape? Did our waitress not know how to make change, even though the cash register told her how much change to give? Could she not do the math that would have allowed her to know that a five dollar bill and four ones is nine dollars? Or that two quarters and a nickle is fifty-five cents? I continue to be baffled. I said to Steve at the time that I wasn’t going to “fight over thirteen cents,” but after our waitress came back to ask if we “needed change” and threw an obvious glance at the table to see if there was a tip waiting, added, “but I will blog about it.” And now I have.
We reluctantly checked out of the Skylark, and headed to Oquossoc, which was an excuse to trade sea level for height of land, and overlook the Rangeley Lakes. Here’s a picture:
We headed down via Route 4, stopping in Farmington for lunch at Soup for You!, and again in Waterville at the grocery store, and so arrived home around 6 pm last night, to the initial confusion, and subsequent delight of four cats.
Today has been an unpacking, bill paying, and blogging day. I haven’t walked enough. Must remedy that.
Tomorrow, we get back to business.
. . .and now? You’re all caught up.