I went to Boston the weekend before last. As you may recall, I was originally supposed to be doing the 3-Day Walk that weekend and had made my travel plans accordingly. While I switched the walk to Philadelphia in October, my friend, Suzanne, was still doing the Boston walk, and I figured I should support her in it. The two of us talked Mary Joan, who had never been to Boston, into flying in as well.
I have, of course, spent a lot of time in Boston, so I set up a fairly complicated plan to entertain myself around New England while Suzanne was walking through suburbia and Mary Joan was seeing famous old stuff. After a brief visit and a cup of tea with a storytelling friend from Southern California (who now lives in Alabama and was in town to visit her son in Maryland), I got a Thursday evening flight out of DCA. Remarkably, I managed to get to the airport and get through security fast enough to get stand-by on the shuttle flight an hour earlier than the one I was booked on. It did mean gate checking my bag but the baggage claim US Air uses for the shuttle flights is not too inconvenient. It also meant a middle seat, but it's a short flight.
Suzanne had rented a car and was waiting for Mary Joan, whose flight had been late coming in from LAX, to check into her hotel. Once that was done, she swung by the terminal and picked me up. We managed to find my hotel (the Holiday Inn Express near the Boston Garden, which is intensely adequate but well located) and they dropped me off before going to park the car. I checked in, left my bag, and walked over to the Union Oyster House (allegedly the oldest restaurant in the country) to meet them for dinner. Both of them ate lobster (a first for Mary Joan), while I got scrod (and, no, that isn't the past tense, thank you very much). It was reasonably good and the atmosphere was very enjoyable. As was the company, of course.
Friday morning saw me checking out of the hotel and returning to the airport to pick up a rental car. I drove up to New Hampshire, with vague plans to revisit some places I had not been to in 40+ years. There was a huge rain storm as I was heading north, but it let up just about as I got to Concord. My first order of business was doing the vollksmarch there to add to my state capital obsession. The 10K route was generally pleasant. The Capitol is much less impressive (with a much smaller dome) than I'd remembered. You'd also think that with a legislature roughly the size of India's, they'd have bigger grounds surrounding the facility. The route also included the state office complex (appropriately, on the site of what had once been the state insane asylum) and the Franklin Pierce's grave (and his home).
I'd had a vague notion of driving out to North Sutton and revisiting the shores of Kezar Lake (where I spent a summer at Camp Birchbrook) and/or going over to New London (where we went to the Hospital Day parade and my brother bought the old atlas that started me down the path of travel daydreaming as a child). But I had stopped in at a tourist information center and was reminded of the existence of Canterbury Shaker Village. I have a long standing interest in 19th century Utopian communities, so that seemed worth a stop. I got there just in time to do the docent tour, which is the only way of visiting the interiors of some of the buildings (e.g. the meeting house and the chapel). The thing I found most interesting was that children raised by the Shakers who decided to leave were given clothing and some money to get themselves started in the world. I suppose I probably had heard that before, but it didn't register until I was looking at a placard that referred to one of the orphans at the village deciding to sign the Covenant and become a Shaker. I also learned that the sole living Shaker village (at Sabbathday Lake in Maine) is now up to 5 people, having gotten two converts. By the way, the drive back to I-93 suggested the real origin of the word "Shaker" was their road conditions, not their style of worship.
I spent the night in Hookset (near Manchester), which is convenient and unexciting. In the morning, I drove east to Exeter, where there was another volksmarch to do. That one was mostly around the grounds of Phillips Exeter Academy. The walk was enjoyable but it was definitely a bit hotter out than I'd have preferred.
When I finished, I drove down to Lowell, Massachusetts for the Lowell Folk Festival. I managed to meet up with both ron_newman and captain_peleg without too much difficulty. I also got to hear Michael Winograd (Klezmer), Lunasa (Irish) and Oliver "Tuku" Mtukudzi (from Zimbabwe), all of whom were enjoyable. Mary Joan arrived by train during the latter, but a massive downpour also arrived. We (she, Ron and I) had plans to go to Star Wars night at the Lowell Spinners (minor league baseball) but the game was cancelled. We had dinner at an Asian restaurant before I drove the three back to Boston. The rain was heavy and the lane markings were hard to see, making for a stressful drive. I dropped Ron off near his place, returned the car, pointed Mary Joan to the shuttle to the Blue Line (near her hotel) and headed over to the Cambridge Marriott for the night. That hotel treats me well, but the desk clerk on duty that night had an extremely severe and incomprehensible accent.
The walk was taking Suzanne to a more central location on Sunday morning, so Mary Joan and I met up near Cambridge City Hall to cheer her on. This had been advertised as an official "cheering station" so we expected some sort of signs or balloons or what have you, but there was nothing. We did, however, manage to see (and photograph) her zooming by and applaud for her and so on. After the dust settled, we walked over to the The Friendly Toast for brunch and then hopped the T up to Harvard Square to visit the glass flowers at the Harvard Museum of Natural History. We also had time for a quick look at the rest of the museum. Then we picked up our bags at our respective hotels and went over the Hilton at Logan, planning to leave them and then head over to the closing ceremony for the walk. While we were on our way, Suzanne called. She had finished the walk and didn't want to wait around for the closing ceremony, so was heading over the Hilton. As it happened, our rooms were available, so we just hung out for a while. Eventually we went out to dinner. Sadly, the No Name has deteriorated quite a bit in the years since I had last been there and my scrod was overcooked and bland. Mary Joan and Suzanne also thought their meals were just average.
I had been in New England three entire days without ice cream and needed to remedy that, so bullied my friends into an excursion to Cambridge and the always wonderful Toscanini's. Which is just as wonderful as ever.
All in all, it was a good weekend, except for the Saturday night weather. Now I just have to continue slogging along on preparations for Philadelphia.