Category Archives: Swampy Acres on the Road

Pemigewasset Valley Fish & Game Club

Pemigewasset Valley Fish & Game Club

Pemigewasset Valley Fish & Game Club

Recently we had been looking for a new shooting range, as we were getting itchy to try out some new firearms and keep our marksmanship in top form. We used to shoot at Manchester Firing Line, but lately it has gotten far too crowded with too many “yahoos” firing off hand cannons, and the staff isn’t exactly friendly. Therefore the search was on for a new location! A Google search revealed to us Pemigewasset Valley Fish & Game Club in far away Holderness, NH. Sure it was a hike up the state from Southern NH, but we hoped it would be worth it. The membership price was pretty reasonable, and they allowed us to join by mail. After receiving our ID badges and rule book via USPS, we were off for some target practice. Since we went in the middle of winter (and after a fresh snowfall, so I’m sure many were out snowmobiling) the place was pretty deserted. The indoor range looked nice from the outside, but our pre-arranged “guide” didn’t show, so we couldn’t get in.
The Indoor Range at Pemi Valley Fish and Game Club

The Indoor Range at Pemi Valley Fish and Game Club

Pemi 50 Yard Range 2016_02_19The 50 yard range was completely covered and was pretty decent. It is important to point out that you need to bring your own targets and stands as the range was nothing more than roof and a space. I saw a pile of half shot up stands in the corner, that seemed to be community property. However, it is easy enough to make your own out of some scrap 2X4 lumber. There were also a couple of brooms and barrels that encouraged you to sweep up your shells. The 200 yard range was uncovered and basically a field with a couple of benches at the end.
The 200 Yard Range

The 200 Yard Range

Homemade Target Stand

A Close-Up of our Homemade Target Stand. Two 2X4, some scrap and a handful of screws made a handy stand for under 10 bucks.

All in all, a good time was had by all, and we unloaded a few hundred rounds. This place is completely bare bones and no frills at all, but the price was right! Also, this type of club, far away from the knuckleheads in Massachusetts tends to keep the professionalism high (no idiots with AK-47s shooting all over the place). If you routinely head up to the lakes region, you might want to give Pemigewasset Valley Fish & Game Club a try. The Indoor Range at Pemi Valley Fish and Game Club

Madison Boulder

Madison Boulder Natural Area

Madison Boulder Natural Area

This weekend we were off exploring New Hampshire and happened upon the Madison Boulder Natural Area. This is home to the largest known erratic in all of New England! This is geology-speak for a rock that got carried to another area by some force of nature (in this case a glacier). As you can imagine… it is a giant rock! It is 83 feet long, 23 feet tall (another 10 feet buried) and 37 feet wide. Very exciting! If you happen to be in NH and drive by the park, you might want to stop in. You can walk around the rock and take pictures.. that’s about it.
Madison Boulder=big rock

Madison Boulder = big rock

Chincoteague and Tangier Island

The Viking of Chincoteague... he is standing watch over the island flea market site.

The Viking of Chincoteague... he is standing watch over the island flea market site.

This summer we were off to Chincoteague Island in Virginia. For some reason it is pronounced “shee ka teeg”, and no one can tell me why. Basically, Chincoteague is your typical laid back island town. Not too touristy, and quiet enough for a relaxing vacation. There isn’t a heck of a lot to do on the island, so if you are looking for excitement… you should seek it elsewhere.
A hippie selling seashells and other earthy crunchy souvenirs in Chincoteague.

A hippie selling seashells and other earthy crunchy souvenirs in Chincoteague.

The main event seems to be the annual “Pony Penning”. The local Fire Department rounds up wild ponies from nearby Assateague Island and auctions them off to raise cash.
Ponies penned on Assateague Island and awaiting their swim and Parade on Chincoteague

Ponies penned on Assateague Island and awaiting their swim and Parade on Chincoteague

Amish folks assembled for Pony Penning...... why the expensive camera? What kind of Amish are these?

Amish folks assembled for Pony Penning...... why the expensive camera? What kind of Amish are these?

Apparently Chincoteague is overrun with Canada Geese. Here we see a dubiously effective "Wolf Scare Crow" in action.

Apparently Chincoteague is overrun with Canada Geese. Here we see a dubiously effective "Wolf Scare Crow" in action.

We also headed over to relatively nearby Tangier Island. It was a short car ride, and an hour ferry to this quaint little backwater. Tangier Island has been inhabited for hundreds of years and its economy is currently nearly 100% based on crab fishing. Being so isolated, Tangier Island residence have their own unique dialect of English (sounds like a Cornish accent) and have some symptoms of inbreeding (including their own unique genetic disorder called “Tangier Island Disease”). It is definitely a fun place to visit if you like unique places. Don’t bring the kids.. they will be bored to tears as the island boasts only a couple restaurants and a small museum. During this visit, I learned the island is slowly washing away, and much of it will be uninhabitable in the next 50-100 years due to rising sea levels. Swing by and see this dying culture before its too late.
Tangier Island scenery. There are only a few cars on the island... most folks get around on golf carts.

Tangier Island scenery. There are only a few cars on the island... most folks get around on golf carts.

Tangier Island "Crab Shacks" on pilings.

Tangier Island "Crab Shacks" on pilings.

The Tangier Island Museum and Interpretive Cultural Center (sounds like a liberal named this, huh?)

The Tangier Island Museum and Interpretive Cultural Center (sounds like a liberal named this, huh?)

The inside of the Tangier Island Musuem. There is tons to see, read and learn about in this museum. Free for veterans, and only two bucks for everyone else. A must see on the Island!

The inside of the Tangier Island Musuem. There is tons to see, read and learn about in this museum. Free for veterans, and only two bucks for everyone else. A must see on the Island!

National Buffalo Wing Festival 2014

National Buffalo Wing Festival 2014

National Buffalo Wing Festival 2014

This year I attended the National Buffalo Wing Festival at the Coca-Cola Field in lovely downtown Buffalo NY. If you like buffalo wings, you should definitely stop by! However, I will forewarn you….. there is very little else to pique your interest besides Buffalo Wings. Basically, the festival consists of dozens of kiosks pitching endless combinations of buffalo wings. Tickets can be purchased in central locations and these are traded in (in varying quantities) at all the various vendors. Prices seemed pretty reasonable (with of course an expected major mark-up on the beer).
Basically, a bunch of kiosks in the middle of a baseball field.

Basically, a bunch of kiosks in the middle of a baseball field.

There seemed to be a number of eating contests, and I just happened to catch the number three ranked competitive eater in the world.. Joey Chestnut. After watching a couple eating contests, and stuffing my face full of wings… I moved on.
Joey Chestnut stuffing his face... No it was not wings he was eating. I think it was a sub??

Joey Chestnut stuffing his face... No it was not wings he was eating. I think it was a sub??

To the victor go the spoils. Joey stomped the competition and won first place.

To the victor go the spoils. Joey stomped the competition and won first place.

The American Independence Museum

American Independence Museum in Exeter, NH

American Independence Museum in Exeter, NH

If you are looking for something to do in southern New Hampshire, you might want to check out the American Independence Museum in Exeter. Basically, this is an old mansion that has been turned into a small museum. It centers around the American Revolutionary Period, but there is other historical-type stuff mixed in to fill out some of the more empty rooms. This is really a bare bones, old-school museum. You are not going to find interactive displays or any kind of technological amenities. On the plus side it is not touristy at all (only one small gift shop). The displays are mostly furniture, oil paintings, and a few small objects. The highlights of the museum seem to be the fact they have one of the “original” purple hearts, and an early copy of the Declaration of Independence that surfaced in NH many years later. Expect to do a lot of reading, and don’t bring small children… they will be bored out of their gourds. However, if you are interested in this time period and the American Revolution… this is a “must see”. Expect to spend about two hours if you read everything… otherwise, you can cruise through in about 30 minutes comfortably. The pictures below will give you some idea of what you will see.
A typical display with some paintings and furniture. Ropes galore! These remind you not to sit or stand in certain areas.....

A typical display with some paintings and furniture. Ropes galore! These remind you not to sit or stand in certain areas.....

A display of a typical bedroom of the colonial era.

A display of a typical bedroom of the colonial era.

Early colonial "medical kit" on display.

Early colonial "medical kit" on display.

A surgeon's kit from the colonial era.

A surgeon's kit from the colonial era.

Actual surgical needles that were used on the Bonne-Homme Richard

Actual surgical needles that were used on the Bonne-Homme Richard

Uniform of the continental army... the headless mannequin is a bit creepy.

Uniform of the continental army... the headless mannequin is a bit creepy.

I am not quite sure what this has to do with the American Revolution, but here is a selection of random medals from the 20th century.

I am not quite sure what this has to do with the American Revolution, but here is a selection of random medals from the 20th century.

A close-up of an "original" purple heart decoration. During the revolution, the purple heart was a fabric swatch... and not an actual medal like it is today.

A close-up of an "original" purple heart decoration. During the revolution, the purple heart was a fabric swatch... and not an actual medal like it is today.

Strange painting depicting (of all things) an attack of gout.

Strange painting depicting (of all things) an attack of gout.

A typical hearth during the colonial era. The museum has alot of period chairs on display (see above).. they put a piece of rope on them to remind you not to sit on the antiques! I saw at least one person that pushed it aside to take a load off... I think this person might actually have been a staff member or volunteer!

A typical hearth during the colonial era. Notice the roped chair. I saw at least one person that pushed it aside to take a load off... I think this person might actually have been a staff member or volunteer!

Another room displaying typical colonial furnishings

Another room displaying typical colonial furnishings

St. Lucia Winter Get-Away

A local "Callabash" (the national tree of St. Lucia) enscribed with a welcoming message!

A local "Callabash" (the national tree of St. Lucia) enscribed with a welcoming message!

This past month I was off to the tropical isle of St. Lucia for a much needed winter break! It would appear there are lots of more or less “self-contained” resorts on the island that offer pools, private beaches, and even all inclusive food and drinks. So, I opted to stay at one of these called “Smuggler’s Cove.” I really had no idea what to expect, so I just shopped on price.
The tiny St. Lucia Airport.

The tiny St. Lucia Airport.

Upon arriving at St. Lucia, I first noticed how tiny the airport is. I hope you enjoy stairs because this is one old school airport that makes you board and disembark via a giant staircase.
Waiting for the bus to the resort.

Waiting for the bus to the resort.

Immediately out the airport door, I was shuffled to the area to wait for the bus to take me to Smugglers Cove. Holy Crap! People told me to take Dramamine with me for the ride back from the airport, but I ignored them. Big Mistake! It takes like an hour and a half to cover the distance from the airport to the resort area in the north of the island. The cab drivers all drive quickly up and down the most winding mountain roads you can imagine. The entire island is only 27 miles long.. but you probably need to drive 100 miles to get from one end to the other when you budget for the twisty-turny roads. It definitely got me a little green around the gills. At least one person I rode with declared they would never come back simply because of this airport trip!
Smuggler's Cove Main Gate... Loosely guarded 24 hours a day.

Smuggler's Cove Main Gate... Loosely guarded 24 hours a day.

Eventually, I did arrive at Smuggler’s Cove. Despite the fact this isn’t the “best” resort on the island, overall the place is pretty good. I think they upgraded my room as the entry-level rooms (the one I purchased) were all full.
My bungalow room at Smuggler's Cove

My bungalow room at Smuggler's Cove

 
Inside my upgraded room at Smugglers Cove

Inside my upgraded room at Smugglers Cove

A couple notes about this resort:
  • They have a bunch of feral cats running around everywhere. I suspect they are there to keep the rat population down. Now, I never saw a rat the entire time I was there... but there were suspicious looking "rat holes" peppering the entire grounds.
Suspicious looking "rat" hole at Smuggler's Cove. There are lots of these around.....

Suspicious looking "rat" hole at Smuggler's Cove. There are lots of these around.....

  • There are four restaurants on the resort. Three you need to make reservations for dinner, and one is a buffet. BE WARNED: They do expect you to have a collared shirt and long pants (men) for dinner. If you don't have the required dress, you need to eat at the buffet. Actually, the buffet is just as good or better than the restaurants... so I ate there most of the time.
  • The Piton Lounge is a passable open air bar/stage where on occasion you can see a show or listen to some local music. Overall, the quality is a bit more than your local Karaoke bar.. but okay to pass the time if you are not out and about. After 11pm they close this lounge and shuffle the drunks into an inside bar to keep the noise down. Even this bar will close at 2am.. they don't care where you go... but you can't stay there.
Night life at the Piton Lounge. Don't expect too much and you won't be disappointed.

Night life at the Piton Lounge. Don't expect too much and you won't be disappointed.

I have no idea what this is... but it was creepy and I took a picture of it.

I have no idea what this is... but it was creepy and I took a picture of it.

  • They have three pools at Smugglers Cove. One with a "swim up" bar. Obviously, this one is strictly for adults. The other two are for kids/families. Don't expect any late night swims. They close all the pools at 6pm. On the plus side... they seemed very clean and well maintained.
Family Pool at Smugglers Cove

Family Pool at Smugglers Cove

 
  • Smuggler's Cove does have free drinks. The beer is limited to the local brew (Called "Piton" after the famous St. Lucia twin mountains. The liquor is mostly no named brand stuff. They serve it in tiny glasses.... but you can get as much as you want. As you can imagine, the rum is the local distillery (Bounty Rum).
The ubiquitous Piton Beer

The ubiquitous Piton Beer

The very first day of my vacation I was off to Pigeon Island. This is within walking distance of Smuggler’s Cove and actually isn’t an Island anymore. They built a causeway back in the 70s, and put Sandals on it.. so you can easily walk there. On the island itself, there isn’t really a ton to see. There is a bunch of old ruins from the British/French dating back to the early 1800’s. There are a few signs explaining what each building was (barracks, kitchen, etc.) and some of them are in advanced states of decay and are being shored up in half-assed fashion with timbers.
Ruins of British and French fortifications on Pigeon Island

Ruins of British and French fortifications on Pigeon Island

 
The remains of a British soldier's barracks on Pigeon Island

The remains of a British soldier's barracks on Pigeon Island

 
Some of the ruins are continuing to deteriorate. Some of the buildings are propped up with timbers... be careful!

Some of the ruins are continuing to deteriorate. Some of the buildings are propped up with timbers... be careful!

St. Lucia changed hands between the French and British about 14 times over the years. You can see that each conqueror built on top of or otherwise modified the structures of the vanquished. The French used stone in construction, the British used brick.. so it is somewhat easy to see who was building what. If you are feeling really energetic you can hike up the tall hill to see Fort Rodney. On a clear day, you can easily see Martinique from this vantage point. There are a couple of cannons lying around, some stone walls and that’s about it.
Fort Rodney as seen from the beach

Fort Rodney as seen from the beach

Random Cannon

Random Cannon

Random cannon number 2. This one sports a concrete carriage... completely non-historic and also broken.

Random cannon number 2. This one sports a concrete carriage... completely non-historic and also broken.

Interesting looking cacti are all around Pigeon Island.

Interesting looking cacti are all around Pigeon Island.

Basically, this concluded my tour of Pigeon Island. All in all pretty interesting and well worth a half day romp. The next day.. I signed up for the “Land and Sea Tour.” This tour is recommended if you want to see a ton of sites on the island in one day. Your head is going to literally spin with all the stuff you do! But to be honest most of the sites can be seen or done quickly. First thing in the morning.. a small group from my hotel boarded our “bus” which is basically a bunch of seats mounted in the bed of a pick-up truck. The roll cage is covered with pipe insulation you buy at Home Depot.... gotta love the "do it yourself" island mentality. If you are over 5 foot 5… expect a cramped ride. We spent the next hour or so.. just going around to multiple area resorts and picking up one or two more passengers.
The "bus" for the Land and Sea Tour... seems pretty safe.

The "bus" for the Land and Sea Tour... seems pretty safe.

First stop was a drive by the Governor's Mansion. We didn't even get out of the truck.. just stopped for pictures. Surprisingly, the Governor was not interested in see us... although I did inquire if he would.
Govenors Mansion, St. Lucia

Govenors Mansion, St. Lucia

The driver then proceeded to take us to sample some local fruit. We stopped in a little dumpy town and were directed towards a card table where for two US dollars we could sample all different kinds of local fruit (and also a plethora of Chinese-made souvenirs). The guys running the fruit stand were probably cousins of our tour guide... but I guess I can't blame them for trying to make a buck off the tourists. The fruit was tasty and I did not have any unpleasant gastroenterological effects!
Sampling the delicious local fruit of St. Lucia

Sampling the delicious local fruit of St. Lucia

 
The grapefruit were literally picked right off the tree next to the fruit tasting.

The grapefruit were literally picked right off the tree next to the fruit tasting.

We again boarded the bus and headed into another small town for a free mango punch and a quick tour of the local church. Nothing remarkable here except for a big mural, a very cool homemade cactus garden, and a few feral chickens.
Mural outside a small church.

Mural outside a small church.

 
Awesome homemade cactus garden... are those Clorox bottles?

Awesome homemade cactus garden... are those Clorox bottles?

 
Some semi-feral chickens wandering the streets of St. Lucia.

Some semi-feral chickens wandering the streets of St. Lucia.

Eventually, we hopped on the bus again (I was getting good of climbing in and out of that thing by now) and continued on our journey. Soon, I got my first glimpse of the famous "Pitons." These are the two big mountains the beer is named after and can be found on every T-shirt, wood carving, and trinket at the souvenir stands. You can hike to the top if you want. Since I was on a relaxing vacation.... I opted just to take a picture.
The famous "Pitons"

The famous "Pitons"

We next stopped at Toraille Falls.. which is one of the two touristy waterfalls St. Lucia sports.
Toraille Falls, St. Lucia

Toraille Falls, St. Lucia

There is a little changing booth were you can don your bathing suit and wade into the falls. How often do you get to stand under a waterfall? Next up was “Diamond Falls Botantical Gardens.” Here we took a little hike to look at all the plants and flowers… and also see Diamond Waterfall. Apparently they filmed this waterfall in “Romancing the Stone.” The mineral deposits made it look a little creepy… and apparently there was no wading allowed here.
Heliconia flowers as seen in the Botanical Gardens. Apparently most of this "flower" is actually just colored leaves... still pretty though.

Heliconia flowers as seen in the Botanical Gardens. Apparently most of this "flower" is actually just colored leaves... still pretty though.

And some more Heliconias... and more and more. There are alot of Heliconias on the tour.

And some more Heliconias... and more and more. There are alot of Heliconias on the tour.

Diamond Waterfall... the waterfall seen in "Romancing the Stone"

Diamond Waterfall... the waterfall seen in "Romancing the Stone"

We continued our fast paced trip with a visit to the famous Soufriere volcano and hot springs. In my opinion, this place has been completely over-hyped. I have seen some websites describing it as a “drive-through volcano.” To me it look just like steam coming out of a hole in the ground…. I didn’t see any lava or magma. At any rate, when we pulled in the tour guide gave us the choice of either taking a walking tour of the “volcano” or taking a mud bath. I opted for the mud bath. But it isn’t what you think! Our tour guide took a five gallon bucket and scooped some mud out of the hot springs. At this point, you were expected to stand in the little trickle of a river, slather yourself in this grey goo (complete with sharp gravel) and then let it dry. Next, you sat in a mineral bath complete with floating band-aids, toenails, and all the sunburned skin soaked off of the previous 5,000 bathers. Everything stunk like sulfur and my bathing suit turned brown. Also, I had to keep my eye on my wallet the whole time as there were no lockers. All in all, there is no point to going to St. Lucia and NOT doing this…so yeah… it was an experience. On the other hand, don’t expect a relaxing spa treatment either.
Some of my companions "drying their mud" at Soufriere. I sure hope to God they don't ever find out I posted them here on my blog!

Some of my companions "drying their mud" at Soufriere. I sure hope to God they don't ever find out I posted them here on my blog!

After the mud bath, we stopped for lunch and literally a 10 minute tour of the Fond Doux Resort and Plantation. We briefly toured the drying cocoa beans and witnessed the "cocoa dance". I really couldn't understand the purpose of the cocoa dance.. but it has something to do with preparing the fermented beans. Nothing I enjoy more than seeing a sweating guy putting his feet all over something I will eventually be eating.... delicious!
Drying cocoa beans at Fond Doux Resort and Plantation.

Drying cocoa beans at Fond Doux Resort and Plantation.

The "Cocoa Dance!" What is it? I don't know.

The "Cocoa Dance!" What is it? I don't know.

We finally arrived at the last leg of our tour. A catamaran took us to a small, secluded cove for 45 minutes of snorkeling and then music and free rum punch, all the way back to where we started. It was surprising how much faster the boat ride was as opposed to taking the bus on the circuitous roads!
A quick stop for snorkeling

A quick stop for snorkeling

Catamaran Ride... free rum punch, but not much shade. Bring your sunscreen!

Catamaran Ride... free rum punch, but not much shade. Bring your sunscreen!

I completed the day completely exhausted. However, I was happy that I was able to cram so much into a single day, and the price was very reasonable. The next day was a big more relaxing. I just took a trip to Castries (the capitol city) to do some shopping and poke around. If you are after tourist trinkets… you are going to get the best prices here at the "craft market".
The craft market in Castries, St. Lucia

The craft market in Castries, St. Lucia

There is a wide selection of T-shirts, skirts, wood carvings, magnets.. and all the rest of the crap you would expect. There are little stands selling this stuff everywhere, but I suspect alot of the folks buy it here and then mark it up. Also, be warned about buying the homemade local rum. If it doesn’t have a label indicating % alcohol content, customs will confiscate it if they catch you! I also ate lunch at a local stand. It was very old school and complete with unmatching dishes and glassware.
A local St. Lucian lunch with bone-filled chicken, beans, rice, deep-fried breadfruit and a few other indistinguishable items.

A local St. Lucian lunch with bone-filled chicken, beans, rice, deep-fried breadfruit and a few other indistinguishable items.

Also, you should know that throughout the island if you order a chicken dish... they just chop up the chicken bones and all and serve it to you. I guess St. Lucia don't mind picking chicken bones and gristle out of every bite. However, my lunch was cheap, tasty and I didn't get diarrhea.. so I was happy with it. In addition to crafts.. you can visit about 500 different fruit stands. Why St. Lucian's need so many fruit stands is beyond me. If you can, try a local green coconut. They will chop a hole in it with a machete and give you a straw to drink the fresh coconut water for about a buck. If you are really industrious you can try to scoop out the "jelly" too. I gave up before I got that far.
A typical St. Lucian fruit stand.

A typical St. Lucian fruit stand.

While shopping, I was carefully reminded where I should not spit and piss by some friendly St. Lucia signs. In fact, check out my full gallery of weird St. Lucian signs! The following day, I was off to try an underwater adventure to check out some of St. Lucia’s beautiful coral reefs.  During my investigation of my options, I learned that there are actually two different types of underwater adventure you can try. The first is “Snuba,” which is basically just a snorkeling with an air hose that leads back to the surface. The second is “Sea Trek.” Sea Trek is essentially a big helmet you wear (which reminds me of the old school diving helmets made of brass) with air pumped down to you. I opted for Snuba because the enclosed helmet involved with Sea Trek scared me (what if that thing filled with water???). I took a quick bus ride back to Pigeon Island (yes, this is where they Snuba), got a safety briefing, donned my fins and mask and headed into the water.
Snuba Rafts

Snuba Rafts

Sea Trek Helmets lining the beach

Sea Trek Helmets lining the beach

So, the way it works is that there is an air tank floating in a raft with 20 foot hoses leading down to you with a regular scuba-type regulator. Four people share a raft. This is a little inconvenient, because all four of you have to swim together and it is somewhat difficult not to get tangled. Also, someone in our group more or less panicked and couldn’t do it… so she kept going to the surface and hanging onto the raft. I did get about 40 minutes underwater to check out some coral reefs. They weren’t quite as vibrant and colorful as I expected, but it was fun to try something new. I also bought a disposable underwater camera (at the jacked up price of $20 USD), to take some pictures… only a few came out… but it is worth a try. Thursday was ziplining day! Once again, I boarded a bus in the early morning and we made the rounds to the other hotels before reaching the ziplining area high in the rainforest. There are a few different options regarding the ziplines through the rainforest. You can hike up the top of the mountain and zipline all the way down. You can take a cable car (they call it an “aerial tram”) up to the top, zipline part of the way down, and then take a cable car down, and there are a couple other variations on these themes as there are multiple zipline courses. I opted for the cable car route. So, when I arrived, I was given a locker (for a few dollars), a stupid surgical cap (they say it is to keep your hair out of the pulleys and to keep the helmets clean), and a helmet. Next, they suit you up with the harness and pulleys. I definitely put on some bug spray and sunscreen before I started all this. When everyone was suited up we were herded onto the aerial tram for a 30 minute ride to the top!
Boarding the aerial Tram

Boarding the aerial Tram

Aerial Tram ride to the top of the rainforest mountain.

Aerial Tram ride to the top of the rainforest mountain.

Along the way, our guide told us how they built this cable car system and showed us some tropical rainforest plants. I really enjoyed the “tree ferns”, which are basically 50 foot versions of the backyard ferns you can find in New Hampshire.
50 foot Tree Ferns in the rainforest of St. Lucia

50 foot Tree Ferns in the rainforest of St. Lucia

After the tram ride, we got on the first zipline.  Everything seemed pretty standard… until I realized I actually landed on a treetop about 150 feet in the air. I was on a little platform made with typical St. Lucia robust construction (i.e. recycled packing crate lumber and rusty nails) swaying in the breeze! This ziplining adventure is not for those afraid of heights!
Ziplining through the treetops. If you are afraid of heights... better pass on this activity!

Ziplining through the treetops. If you are afraid of heights... better pass on this activity!

Eventually I finished all nine ziplines with getting stuck, injured or dying. I was exhausted, but excited for my second to last day in St. Lucia! For my last adventure, I chose a tour of Roseau Valley Distillery, makers of the local "Bounty Rum" and other liquors. In the morning a van picked us up (a real van.. not a truck!) and whisked us away from the hotel. However, before we hit the distillery, there was a bonus. We stopped at a small “museum” called “Lushan Country Life.” Basically, this is something that someone built in their backyard to rake in some tourist loot. It was a hodge-podge collection of ancient St. Lucia re-creations (huts, tools, ovens, and food) from the pre-colonial era, different botanical exhibits (including plants, flowers, and how to shell a coconut), tropical fruit tasting exhibit, bird feeders to attract colorful jungle birds, a single boa constrictor in a cage, and small wedding chapel (if you can believe it!).
Lushan Country Life Headquarters... and presumably the family residence as this museum seems to be centered around a private home.

Lushan Country Life Headquarters... and presumably the family residence as this museum seems to be centered around a private home.

A re-creation of a traditional St. Lucia hut as seen at Lushan Country Life

A re-creation of a traditional St. Lucia hut as seen at Lushan Country Life

A pineapple in the early stages of development as seen on the grounds of Lushan Country Life

A pineapple in the early stages of development as seen on the grounds of Lushan Country Life

A giant philodendron (yes the houseplant familiar to North Americans) snaking up a tree.

A giant philodendron (yes the houseplant familiar to North Americans) snaking up a tree.

At Lushan Country Life, Coconuts litter the ground and can be seen spouting new trees.

At Lushan Country Life, Coconuts litter the ground and can be seen spouting new trees.

The one sad little boa on display. Don"t expect a zoo here.

The one sad little boa on display. Don"t expect a zoo here.

Would you like to have a wedding at Lushan Country Life? Well if a no frills eco-wedding is what you are looking for... this place delivers! Here we have the wedding chapel.. very fancy and romantic.

Would you like to have a wedding at Lushan Country Life? Well if a no frills eco-wedding is what you are looking for... this place delivers! Here we have the wedding chapel.. very fancy and romantic.

Despite the amateurish nature of many of the exhibits… it was actually pretty interesting.Our guide was relatively knowledgeable and energetic… and he wouldn’t let me leave without telling me to post my adventures on Trip Advisor (of course I would never give away free material to another website). All in all, Lushan Country Life is worth a look. After Lushan Country Life (and I got guilted into handing over a ten dollar tip because everyone else in our group cheap-ed out and stiffed the guides) we were back on the road to the distillery. For some strange reason they had mannequins all over the place along the guided tour.....
The mannequin that greeted us at the start of our tour. Is this PC?

The mannequin that greeted us at the start of our tour. Is this PC?

First stop, was a lovely tour of the loading dock.
The Bounty Rum Loading Dock... I checked for rats.. didn't find any.

The Bounty Rum Loading Dock... I checked for rats.. didn't find any.

Next we saw the giant (900 ton) molasses tank.
The giant molasses tank. The barrels are actually from Jack Daniels distillery. Apparently they only use them once and then ship them to St. Lucia to age the rum.

The giant molasses tank. The barrels are actually from Jack Daniels distillery. Apparently they only use them once and then ship them to St. Lucia to age the rum.

St. Lucia no longer grows sugar (bananas have displaced the sugar cane) and all this must be imported from South America. We were then shuffled into a room with a TV hanging from ropes (too look nautical?) where we were forced to watch a ten minute commercial for “The spirit of St. Lucia… Bounty Rum” (the jingle is still in my head!).
Time to watch some Rum TV!

Time to watch some Rum TV!

After that, we toured a bunch of open air tanks where the molasses is distilled (I wonder how many dead flies and other debris wind up in there?) and then saw all the magnificent piping and copper pots full of the maturing rum.
Molasses fermentation vats... I'm sure FDA approved.

Molasses fermentation vats... I'm sure FDA approved.

Rum distillery innards galore!

Rum distillery innards galore!

Last but not least… we stopped by the rum tasting area and of course the gift shop where we were encouraged to buy as much rum as possible.
Free Rum Tasting.. tiny cups though.. hard to get a buzz.

Free Rum Tasting.. tiny cups though.. hard to get a buzz.

The Spirit of St. Lucia.... By some Rum!

The Spirit of St. Lucia.... By some Rum!

When I inquired as to why “Bounty Rum” is not readily available in the U.S., I got a big speech about how Bacardi was using the FDA to ban Bounty Rum due to some ridiculous reason. Who knew that “Big Rum” was lobbying to squeeze out the little guy? And thus concluded my tour of the distillery. But the day was not over. That evening I took a cab over to Gros Islet for a "street festival." Oh boy.. now we are talking touristy. This particular street party.. was basically the whole neighborhood setting up a table in front of their house to sell anything to anybody... while ear splitting Caribbean music blared at 200 decibels in the background.
Street Festival at Gros Islet, bring your earplugs and cash.

Street Festival at Gros Islet, bring your earplugs and cash.

I did find a cool Rastafarian guy selling wood carvings, and he talked me into buying one. This is definitely my favorite purchase while in the island.
Rastafarian artist signing the wood carving I bought.

Rastafarian artist signing the wood carving I bought.

The next morning, I went for a final swim in the warm tropical waters and mad the horrific cab ride back to the airport.. which was jam packed beyond belief (thank god there wasn't a fire... we all would have died), I also had the opportunity to stop for a "Rituals" coffee.. which looks and tastes surprisingly like Starbucks (must be a coincidence???)
Please we need more seats in this overcrowded airport.. Can't St. Lucia afford another waiting area?

Please we need more seats in this overcrowded airport.. Can't St. Lucia afford another waiting area?

 
Rituals Coffee.. Starbucks are you aware of this? Copyright infringement lawsuit coming soon....

Rituals Coffee.. Starbucks are you aware of this? Copyright infringement lawsuit coming soon.... and look phone booths! When was the last time you used one of them?

In summary, I had a great time in St. Lucia. I wasn't expecting a hell of alot of refinement on this small island, so I wasn't disappointed. If you are looking for a tropical island that is pretty easy going, relatively easy to navigate, takes US dollars, is more or less family oriented, and has a good deal of activities.. this is the place to go. If you are looking for more gambling (only one small casino on St. Lucia), or partying, or fewer children Aruba might be your speed instead. However, you might want to give St. Lucia a try! I will leave you with a gallery of random photos I couldn't figure out how to work into this post.....

Snow Tubing at Cranmore Mountain Resort

6 lanes of snow tubing fun!

6 lanes of snow tubing fun!

This past weekend I went up to North Conway, New Hampshire for a snowtubing adventure. Despite the fact that winter still seems to be clinging on…. soon the snow will be melted. So this adventure was probably my last chance to get some tubing in.  I ended up going to Cranmore Mountain Resort. This was my first ever visit to this resort. A 2 hour and 15 minute pass cost 28 bucks after you sign the giant waiver form in tiny print. I imagine the “extra” 15 minutes is supposed to give you time to pick out your snowtube (included) and take the conveyor up to the top of the hill. Basically, you absolutely need to take the conveyor up… it is really hard to walk along the side (although in theory it is possible as there are two narrow carpeted lanes). The conveyor is extra fun as it keeps starting and stopping, and all the kids end up smashing into you with their tubes or falling over into you. Although easier than a ski lift, it still isn’t for the faint of heart if it is a busy day on the snow tube hill.
Taking the human conveyor belt up the hill... it beats walking.

Taking the human conveyor belt up the hill... it beats walking.

When I did get to the top, I was greeted with some fairly long lines. There were about 6 “lanes” open, but even so… there was about a 10-15 minute wait for each ride. This basically meant….. I got about 7 rides in a two hour period.  Perhaps you can squeeze in a few more rides if you go at an off-peak time.
Long lines at the top of the hill

Long lines at the top of the hill

The staff running the “lanes” was pretty good. Upon request, they will “put a spin” on your tube as you are going down… will let you race someone in the next lane.. do belly flops.. or pretty much anything within reason.
The Cranmore staff seem to let you do all styles of tubing. From multiple tubes linked together, to little kids riding on mom's lap, etc.

The Cranmore staff seem to let you do all styles of tubing. From multiple tubes linked together, to little kids riding on mom's lap, etc.

This was somewhat surprising for me, as with our typical nanny state mentality in the U.S. these days….  I was expecting to be issued a helmet and expected fasten a seatbelt on my tube… and only be allowed to go in a straight line. I was glad to see, I was still able to have fun. Sooner or later, someone will crash into a tree, and (despite the waiver you need to sign), the liberals will try to outlaw snow tubing. However, until then.. snowtubing at Cranmore is a pretty good way to spend the afternoon is skiing isn’t your thing.

Snowshoe and Chocolate Festival

 
Snowshoeing during the White Mountain Chocolate Festival

Snowshoeing during the White Mountain Chocolate Festival

This past weekend I was off to the Mt. Washington Valley Ski Touring and Snowshoe Foundation Annual Chocolate Festival (say that three times fast). This is the first year I have attended. What is the Chocalate Festival you ask? Well, you put on snowshoes and tromp through the trails (dodging angry cross country skiers and dog poop) to arrive at the various inns and hotels in the North Conway, NH area.
Trudging through the snow

Trudging through the snow

These "chocolate stops" along the way offer chocolate fare of varying quality. Some places.. you might receive a marshmallow with chocolate sauce in a dixie cup, while others offered free beer in addition to a sizable chocolate dessert. I can't really figure out why an establishment would participate in this (do they make any money??). The mess of a million sweaty snowshoe-ers tromping on their carpets to collect free goodies.. must be stressful. I guess this is adult Halloween?
Hordes at the "1785 Inn" collecting their free chocolate and purchased drinks. (They hide the chocolate covered bacon behind the bar!)

Hordes at the "1785 Inn" collecting their free chocolate and purchased drinks. (They hide the chocolate covered bacon behind the bar!)

White Mountains during the Chocolate Festival

View of the White Mountains

There is no way you could hit all 16 stops along the way, that is like an 8 mile hike through the snow in 5 hours, not including stopping anywhere. All in all, the chocolate festival was an "okay" adventure. Obviously, the experience is best if you enjoy snowshoeing. You also need to enjoy taking your snowshoes on and off a million times.. and alternating between freezing cold snowshoe trails and roasting hot, crowded hotels multiple times per day. At least there was decent scenery along the way.

February 31st?

Old Gravestone displaying "February 31st" date of death

Old Gravestone displaying "February 31st" date of death

While visiting Connecticut a strange old gravestone was pointed out to me.. indicating the date of this person's death was "February 31, 1831". This was very odd! Were leap years longer back in those days? Did February used to have 31 days back in 1831? After a bit of research, I discovered that February 31 was used when the actual date was unknown. Since February 31st is obviously not a real date..... it would be obvious to the viewer this was a placeholder date (sort of the "date" equivalent of "John Doe"). At any rate, the mystery is solved!

New Hampshire’s Redstone Missile

Warren New Hampshire's Redstone Missile

Warren New Hampshire's Redstone Missile

Recently I was up in the White Mountains on vacation and found myself wandering through the town of Warren, New Hampshire (pop. ~904). Well, as you can imagine, there is absolutely nothing to do in Warren with the exception of seeing NH's only (and possibly the world's only) Redstone Missile on display. It would appear that a private citizen/veteran named Henry Asselin happened upon some surplus Redstone missiles and convinced the military to let him have one. He had it shipped to the town at his own expense. The purpose of this display was to foster interest in the space program among the locals/visitors and remind everyone that Alan Shepard (the first American in space) came from Derry, NH. It is interesting to note the the Redstone missile is a direct descendant of the V-2 missile developed by the Nazi's in World War II.
The Redstone's Grand-daddy... the Nazi V-2 Rocket.

The Redstone's Grand-daddy... the Nazi V-2 Rocket.

After the war, the U.S. scooped up all the Nazi missile experts (before the Russians could get them)  and brought them over to start working on missiles for World War III. Under the direction of former Nazi, Dr. Wernher von Braun... the U.S. developed the Redstone missile. This missile was equally effective in launching nuclear missiles, satellites and astronauts. At any rate, Warren NH has it's own little bit of Nazi and Cold War heritage for everyone to enjoy. If you are in the area.. I recommend you stop by. You can also go to the Warren Historical Society Museum to see some interesting artifacts such as antique homemade bricks, horse snowshoes and other town memorabilia.
Horse Snowshoes and Homemade bricks on display at the Warren Historical Society Museum

Horse Snowshoes and Homemade bricks on display at the Warren Historical Society Museum