Friday, July 24, 2015

Falling Into Just Riding instead of Writing...Whispering Giants Tour.

I've been meaning to post all about my mini vacation around Independence Day but so far, all I have managed to do is upload my pictures. Before much more time gets away from me, here are some photos from our 1400 mile adventure.

Whispering Giant in Dunkirk NY. Right on Lake Erie.

Enjoying the views of the lake on July 4th.

Lighthouse in Dunkirk.

More views along the lake.

Whispering Giant in Sharon PA on the Ohio state line.

Very disappointing to discover the Whispering Giant
in Williamsport PA was taken down
2 weeks before my arrival.
Nothing but a pedestal and metal bars. 

We had to get off the highway as there was a major traffic jam.
But we found some great byways and exceptional homes to admire.

 Since Williamsport was such a bust, 
we took a swing through Springfield MA
for this Whispering Giant. (seen in the background)

If anyone would like more details, just write. I'll make a list of questions and post another entry.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Star Island and the Zero Wheeled Adventure

Browsing the newspaper I see an article about an island in the Isles of Shoals. The Isles of Shoals are just off the New Hampshire coast and consists of nine islands. This island in particular, Star Island, is planning a centennial celebration of their incorporation complete with birthday cake and a tour of the island. Also planned for the day is a dedication ceremony unveiling their new power source said to be the largest off-grid solar array in New England. Well that sounded like a fun time to me so I held the news article up for Andy to see. With a nod of the head I go online and buy two tickets for the Thomas Laighton Steamship. While the party, tour, and dedication ceremonies are free to the public, getting there is not, yet I don't blink once as I purchase my tickets for the ride. After a short consideration, I opt out of the overnight stay at the hotel.

The Thomas Laighton behind me.

The day arrives with bright sunshine, calm seas and a boatload of people waiting to board the Thomas Laighton. Not all are visiting Star Island. Most are taking the narrated Isle of Shoals tour, which takes about 2 1/2 hours to complete. Our guide is very knowledgeable about the history of Portsmouth NH and Kittery Maine as we steam toward the mouth of the Piscataqua River. We pause a moment as we wait for the bridge to rise and we pass beneath. There is history here too. The bridge has been recently refurbished and opened, but the original Eagle on the NH side was saved and hoisted into it's place of honor where he has been proudly displayed for many years. We pass the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard and our guide even knows which subs are docked and points them out. We pass the now abandoned Naval Prison, which to me is starting to look like a blight on the landscape. During his narration, our guide mentions to those staying overnight on the island, that they will have to wait an extra day to return. Bad weather is forecast for the next day and the Thomas Laighton will not be running. Nor will any other steamship be out on the seas tomorrow. I'm now glad I didn't fork out the cash for an overnight stay.

Going under the bridge.

See the sub near the dock on the left, just showing above the water.

The abandoned Naval Prison.

At the mouth of the river there are a few remnants from past wars. On the Maine side is Fort McClary and on the Portsmouth side is Fort Constitution. Both of these Andy and I have visited by land. And right at the mouth of the river are the caissons that once held the netting strung across the opening during WWII that was meant to keep German subs out of the river. (And not very successfully I might add.) We watch for minke whales that have been busy here this past week but while there is no sign of them today a seal does pop up and escort us for several minutes.

Fort McClary

Fort Constitution


We arrive at noon to the sounds of music and the smell of hot dogs and burgers on the grill. We take time for lunch enjoying the views from the island. Across we can see White Island. During winter storms the surf completely crashes over this light. Which is only one reason why it is no longer manned. Most lighthouses these days are automated, so no worries about ships running aground. Cake is next, served with fanfare and the local TV network recording it all. After our cake we walk to the solar array for the dedication ceremony. More speeches and photos. Back to the hotel there is just time for a short slide presentation on they why's and how's of the boards decision to incorporate solar power onto the island. Then we are off for the walking tour.

Click here to listen to a selection.

White Island and Lighthouse

During the walking tour we learn much about the islands early history, how the people survived, and how people live there today. Everything here must accommodate being earth friendly and renewable. Fresh water comes from many places; osmosis, one well, and rain water or carried in. Since fresh water must be conserved toilets are still flushed with sea water. They have their own treatment facility, grow vegetables raise chickens and recycle everything that can possibly be recycled. What they can't do for themselves is carried in or out by steamboat.

With the foot tour over we have just enough time to visit the marine lab. It's small and personal with lots of hands on. With a serious warning to be on time we make haste for the pier. Here the music plays and we enjoy some last minute tunes before returning to the mainland. Goodbye Star Island. We had a great time!

Don't forget to click on the link under the musicians to hear a selection of their repertoire.