It was still raining in the morning, though now it was also accompanied by some fog or low-lying clouds that obscured the tops of the low mountains in a rather agreeable way.
I continued west from West Ossippee, which is not to be confused with Center Ossippee or just plain Ossippee, all of which resided within a 12-mile stretch of road between Ossippee Lake and the Ossippee Mountains.
What’s up with the duplicate names in this area?
A scan of the map showed that almost every name in New Hampshire, and in the surrounding area, was repeated several times over, always in close proximity. Effingham, Center Effingham, South Effingham, and Effingham Falls all within about 10 miles on highway 153. Canaan, West Canaan, Canaan Center, and Canaan Street. Deerfield, South Deerfield, and Deerfield Parade all next door to Canadia, East Canadia, and Canadia Four Corners. Center Sandwich is sandwiched by North Sandwich and Sandwich.
I stopped and asked someone in North Sandwich the reason behind the 3 duplicate town names. “I don’t know,” she replied, “I’m not really from here.”
“Oh,” I replied, “you’re not from New Hampshire?”
“Oh, I’ve lived in New Hampshire all my life,” she replied. “But I live a few miles from here, in South Tamworth.”
As I drove through New Hampshire, I passed a sign for “Covered Bridge #45”.
I turned around at the first driveway I came to, which happened to belong to the Noah of New Hampshire, and followed the sign to the bridge.
The state map I had been given by the British lady listed a bunch of covered bridges, but I had not realized the state had them catalogued and numbered. On my short drive across the state, I saw signs listing numbers as high as 67. I didn’t bother chasing them all down, though.
Unlike the Alabama covered bridge, the covered bridges in this part of the country are still open to traffic. #45, labeled as the Durgin Bridge, had originally been built almost 180 years ago—and not by the county or state, but just some guy who lived in the area and apparently needed a bridge. It was supported by two large wooden arches, which surprised me a little bit, because I didn’t think it was that easy to arch wood.
That’s about all there was to see there, so I drove back out to the highway. I did note the remains of old rock walls along the road, and around many of the picturesque houses I passed. New Hampshire’s nickname is The Granite State, which seems only slightly better for marketing purposes than “Boring”. Perhaps they just had so much granite to deal with, they decided it should be put to some use.
Still, something about the scene didn’t seem quite right. Somewhere in my brain, something just wasn’t adding up.
As I continued my drive through the state, I finally put my finger on it: the people of New Hampshire have, or at least have had, way too much time on their hands. Way, way too much time.
Who keeps a perfectly-maintained house in the middle of nowhere? Who builds a fence around a field full of trees by piling thousands of rocks on top of each other, by hand? Who builds their own personal road-worthy bridge, out of wood planks, and then bothers to put a roof on the thing?
It is like the people of the state are very industrious, but don’t have any industry to apply this trait to. I am not sure what anyone does in the state, other than live in very small towns with the same names, and keep everything looking nice for the neighbors or tourists. There seemed to be nothing to farm, nothing to graze, and no big cities to go to an office job in. There might be some forestry, but I don’t recall seeing many sawmills.
It’s nice to look at, but it all just seemed a bit odd.
As I passed over into Vermont, I swung by the town of Chelsea.
I sometimes forget how long it has been that I have planned to make a trip like this. Chelsea is a reminder, because some relatives have long owned a bed & breakfast there, and I always figured that I would stop there on my way through Vermont. Well, I finally made it to Vermont, and the bed & breakfast is closed. Not closed for the season. Closed, and up for sale.
A bit late on that one, I am.
The relatives, Karen & Jay, weren’t even in town or anywhere close to being in town. They had gone south for the winter, and, I had been told, were in Florida at the time.
I went to Chelsea anyway, and stopped in at the Chelsea Diner.
A marker board listed the specials of the day, which included haddock nuggets and a chicken ranch wrap. The waitress inside repeated the specials, but offered no menu. I really got the impression that they only cook 4 things each day, and you can choose from what they have already prepared.
The food was pretty good, though. I got the chicken ranch wrap.
I asked the waitress if she knew Karen and Jay, the people who ran the Shire Inn. She did not, but that led to her asking the cook and the other 4 customers in the diner, leading to a conversation about what I was doing.
“So,” I asked the spread-out crowd, “is there anything in particular that I should see or do around here?”
“Which direction are you heading?” asked the waitress.
“Sort of southwest, toward Rutland.”
“Which route are you taking?”
I looked at my map. “Well, probably 110 to 14 to 107 to 100 to 4.” I double-checked. Yup, I guess that is right.
The waitress nodded. “Yeah, I guess that would be the way to go. That’s really a pretty drive. There’s nothing in particular to see, but it’s a real scenic drive, especially right here on 110. The road follows the river down through the valley.”
An older man, bravely eating the haddock nuggets, piped up. “There’s that marble mine over by Rutland.”
“Yeah, I saw something about that on the map, a “Marble Exhibit” just a few miles off the route. Is that interesting?”
“I think so. That’s where they get all the marble, like for marble floors and such. It’s the biggest source of marble in the world.”
I didn’t catch the location or the exact attraction, but he then started talking about some place in the state related to Morgan Horses.
“Have you heard about the horses called Morgans?” he asked.
“Oh—yeah, you mean like ‘Justin Morgan Had a Horse’, right?” I didn’t really know anything about the breed. You might think I would know more about horse breeds, having grown up with horses, but we never had anything other than Quarter Horses and never worried much about pedigree. Our horses might have had official three-part names like Stars Parr Money, but we just called them simple things like “Bob”.
This man went into a long monologue about the Morgan Horse, telling how Mr. Morgan hitched a cart to his horse and had it pull him all the way to Maine, where he unhitched it, entered it into a race, and won. He then entered it into a cart race, and also won that. Nobody thought that the same horse could win both a speed race and a pulling contest, he said, especially not this squat, round horse.
All right, I thought. I don’t know where that came from, but it’s a nice history lesson. Since this guy seems to be a good source of information…
“Hey, can you tell me why so many towns around here share a name? Like Ossipee, West Ossippee, Center Ossippee…”
“They’re all the same town,” the man interjected.
“Yeah…” No. I didn’t quite understand. “But they’re not quite connected. There’s like, six miles between towns.”
“But they’re still considered the same town.”
“Oh. You mean they all share the same government, and such?”
That made sense. Glad to have that mystery solved.
No one in the diner seemed familiar with the Shire Inn, until I mentioned that it was up for sale. “Oh, I think it’s that one just down the road here, to the south,” the woman suggested.
That was the direction I was headed anyway, so I kept my eyes open as I drove through town. There wasn’t much town to drive through, and I only saw one house for sale. There wasn’t anything else I could see indicating that it was the Shire Inn, but I figured that was probably it anyway.
I just snapped a photo and continued down the scenic route 110.
Vermont was another beautiful state to look at. I encountered just as many covered bridges as I did in New Hampshire, but here they were not numbered or even pointed out or acknowledged in any way. To me, Vermont seemed to be a lot more authentic. Their attitude was, yeah, they’re called bridges. We use them to get across water.
I passed through several small towns, including, apparently, Gaysville. But, I didn’t notice any signs announcing the name of that town, like you would see at the city limits of almost every other town in America.
As I passed through one village, I saw a sign for a “Yoga, Pilates and Adventure Center”. Funny thing to have in a small town, I thought. Then I noticed the bottom part of the sign, in bold letters: “Did you see the Rooster?”
What? No, actually I did not see any roosters. Is this chicken important?
I turned around, and could then see the other side of the sign, which asked “See the Rooster?” It had an arrow pointing up. I looked up, just in case. Nope, just rain clouds. They must mean further up the road.
Near the far end of town—there were only a few blocks of town to worry about—I saw that the general store had a large rooster sign hanging up above. Is this it? What does it all mean?
I went inside and asked the clerk, but she didn’t know anything about it.
The rooster sign had an arrow pointing away from the store, toward the area across the street. Is it referring to something over there? A chicken farm? A place called The Rooster that serves “Good Food”? Across the street was nothing but the fire department and a paved driveway. I drove down the driveway, and came to a fenced-off tool factory. Nothing else.
Well, I guess I saw the rooster. Now my life is complete.
The world’s largest marble exhibit is just a few miles north of Rutland, in Proctor, Vermont.
This sounded like something that could be either really interesting or really not interesting at all. I wanted to see which one it qualified as.
As I drove through town looking for the exhibit, I passed by a church built completely out of marble. That’s neat, I thought. You don’t see a marble church every day.
Oh well. I may have bigger fish to fry, I mused, since a sign nearby advertised the presence of Wilson Castle a few miles away. Cool. You don’t see many castles in the U.S. By the time Europeans got here, someone had invented firearms and cannons and made castles relatively obsolete. I’d love to see a real castle. I had seen a listing for a “Castle in the Clouds” in New Hampshire, but had learned that it was closed for the season.
I finally found Wilson Castle, which, it turns out, was closed for the winter. I could still see the exterior of it, though, and found that it was not a real castle. It was a mansion with a 3-story round room, but I wouldn’t call it a castle. Too many windows.
Attraction after attraction, and even many hotels and restaurants, I found to be closed. Everything in the rural Northeast seems to shut down for 6 months each year, with the annual closing dates generally ranging from Columbus Day to early November. What do people do here during the winter? Leave?
I got the impression that this is exactly what a large amount of the population does. Head south. Get out of the dang state. I decided I should take the hint, and headed for the New York border.