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That’s More Like It!

September 28, 2012

Connecticut – Wednesday, Sept. 26

As a quick postscript to the driving woes of yesterday, I wanted to mention that there actually was one section of road that was unexpectedly pretty – and that was the freeway running parallel to 95 to the north. It’s the Merritt Parkway, and I found it because I refused to get back on 95 for the drive to Yale. It really was a parkway, all green and commercial-free. I began to notice the bridges I was driving under – all concrete, but all different, and many of them incorporating works of art. I wished I had taken this highway in the morning, instead of the one closer to the water. But, I will be making this drive again in a few weeks, so I’m happy to know about it now!

I had stopped for the night near Branford, and decided to head along the coast to the east, figuring that things couldn’t be as crowded and congested as they were yesterday. The first town I stopped at was Guilford, and my faith in Connecticut was restored. Many towns have historic districts, but Guilford is actually listed on the National Historic Register of Places. It was a nice-sized town, with broad streets, plenty of parking, and a big green park in the center of town. It was wonderful to get out and walk around the park and town, and then we walked all the way out to the harbor. There were people fishing, and pleasure boats and work boats in the harbor. We covered 3.8 miles and I loved the whole walk. While walking back into town, I noticed a pretty stone house set in the grounds of a park, and there was a little visitor center, so once I had Tula back in the van, I drove out there to see what that was. It turned out to be the oldest stone house in all of New England; built in 1639 right on that very spot. I paid the admission fee to be able to go in and wander around the 3-story house, and listen to an introductory talk. It was a museum of life back then, although one house wouldn’t have had all the items that were shown in this house. Back in the early 1600s, there were still elements of medieval living – a fireplace so wide and deep (as the only source of heat and light in frigid New England winters) that there was a bench IN the fireplace where people could sit to try to stay warm. This house has been preserved because it was also built with defense in mind, and was a source of shelter in battle. It had 3 stories, and there was a big loom up on the 3rd floor. It was falling apart a bit, but it kind of boggles my mind that a loom hasn’t really changed too much in 400 years. After looking around at everything there, I went to the barn, which had a nice display of the local lighthouse (on an island, not accessible to tourists) – commercial ships don’t run aground on the shoals there anymore, but despite a working lighthouse, every summer a pleasure craft or 2 still runs into trouble. After the barn, I went into the small museum area in the visitor center which had some nice displays on the origins of Halloween and Thanksgiving. I never knew that Halloween had charitable roots – way back before the Victorian era, people used to give food to the poor on behalf of dead souls; in return for prayers for them. Those charitable roots were kind of lost until until about 1950 when a group of kids decided to collect spare change for the poor, using empty milk cartons. And I remember those little Unicef milk cartons!! It was a wonderful memory – of course, I don’t really remember if I actually collected spare change; I know as a kid I was much more interested in trick-or-treating for candy! But I remember taking the little milk carton along once or twice. The little museum had a donation box for Unicef (United Nations Children’s Fund), and that had to be my donation of the day – learning about the charitable roots of Halloween, and the fun memories of the Unicef boxes (they were passing them out yesterday too so I have one – don’t know how long it’ll survive on the journey!) made it a logical choice for a donation, even if it isn’t Halloween yet. The time and the place were right 🙂

I continued my pretty drive along the coast on Highway 1 – also called the Post Road because it was originally Indian trails, and then used as a postal route between Boston and New York – it still took a long time for mail to get that far. I purposely did not get out to walk in some of those towns, knowing I’d be back over the weekend at some point when some family is around. Then I came upon a causeway with a pedestrian sidewalk, and I did have to park and get out to walk across that. There was a swan in the water right next to where we started walking, and it was hissing up a storm – not a happy swan. At first Tula was oblivious, and then she was very intrigued with the hisssssing swan, and she kept putting her front paws up on the top of the little stone wall as if to say “Stop hissing – I only want to be friends…” It’s a good thing she was on her leash – not quite sure what she would have done! While crossing the causeway, I saw a little lighthouse, and wondered if I could make my way out near it. So after we were off the causeway, I turned into a beautiful yacht club/golf club area and there was a sign saying dogs were welcome as long as you pick up after them. We walked all around that area and there were some gorgoeus private homes with cedar shingle siding (I think!) I saw the lighthouse from a distance again, but couldn’t figure out how to get there. But it was a pretty walk and we got in almost 3 more miles by the time we walked back across the causeway. I finished off the last mile and a quarter in the next town before it got dark, then I decided since it was still in the low 70s, that I would camp near Mystic at the Seaport Campground. I got things organized before it started to sprinkle, and it was very cozy inside the van listening to the rain on the roof during the night. It was a wonderful day. By morning it was no longer raining. I didn’t love the campground – perhaps I’ve been a little spoiled by camping in the pretty state parks. I sure hope Connecticut is one of the few states that doesn’t allow dogs in their state parks!

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