Planning a vacation with flexibility
My wife, Cheryl, and I spent the last two weeks vacationing in the New England states of Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. It was my first visit there, and I had plotted a circular route that had us enjoying scenery or attractions in and around a new community almost every day. One thing I'd left out of our itinerary, however, we decided to do anyway. It turned out to be a highlight of the trip.
Monday, Oct. 7, found us traveling north of Jeffersonville, Vt., because I had read about four covered bridges along one highway. We spotted and photographed two but realized at one point that we must have traveled too far north to see the others. I saw a scruffy, bearded man outside an unkempt home just off the highway and pulled in to ask directions. I explained our interest as another grizzled guy came around the corner and that “Deliverance” tune danced in my head. Perhaps they were brothers. Regardless, the two explained that we needed to take a side road just to the south to find the other two bridges. We did so and enjoyed the picturesque overpasses.
You see, Vermont is void of all but the most modest of highway signage. No billboards or even signs pointing to vacation attractions mar the scenic rural countryside.
That night, Cheryl and I checked into Thayers Inn in downtown Littleton, N.H. It was one of the unique stops Cheryl Ryan of Janesville's Travel Scope helped us book, and we learned much about the rich history of the inn, including presidents and other top politicians and celebrities who stayed or spoke there.
My wife thought she might need a stepstool to get into the high bed, but we loved the historic inn. I laughed when I exited our bathroom and noticed her overnight bag rolling toward me on the slanted second floor.
We even convinced another couple, from Indiana, to book a room when we met them in the lobby. They, too, enjoyed their stay, and we spent the next day sightseeing together.
During our evening in Littleton, Cheryl and I took a rainy walk down to a former mill on the river intersecting the community. A new brew pub had just opened in the refurbished building. We enjoyed a beer and conversation with a bunch of younger people who worked in Franconia Notch State Park—our destination the next day. One young man convinced us that if the weather is nice and we'd never been up the highest peak in New England, the Mount Washington Cog Railway was worth the hefty price.
We decided to check it out Wednesday. Though we arrived before a steam engine pushed the day's first passenger car up the mountain at 8 a.m., they couldn't get us on an hourly trip until 11. Cheryl and I booked that trip, passed the time going for breakfast and a brief walk around the majestic Mount Washington Hotel, and then returned for our impromptu rail ride.
Mount Washington is notorious for having the worst recorded weather in continental U.S. history, and we learned that the summit usually is shrouded in fog or cloud covered all but about 90 days a year. The storm that blew through the Midwest two weeks ago headed east and hit the mountain with 90 mph winds, halting train trips that Monday, pushing a car in a parking lot and stripping most trees of leaves. Yet our trip to the top was beautiful. A tour guide told us peak visibility is 130 miles and that visitors could see 126 miles the day we reached the summit.
Cheryl and I took in a lot of sights and activities the past two weeks, but we agreed that the ride up Mount Washington rose to the top. It proved once again that a trip well planned, but flexible enough to enjoy alternate ideas, is the best way to vacation.