43 North Eastern USA
NORTH EASTERN USA April to July 2011
Mansions and Maple Syrup
Pink and white blossoms welcomed us back to the U.S. Our motor home, Dipli, had been stored through two northern winters; parked outdoors so that the solar panels could keep the batteries charged. (While on an 18-month home visit to South Africa, we had done off-road trips to neighbouring Mozambique, Botswana, Lesotho and the Kalahari Game Park.)
Jan asked: “How do you eat an elephant?” - Answer: “One bite at a time”.
This had to be the approach to the task of removing & replacing the engine. After 247 000 km of mostly very hard work, hauling Dipli’s 6 tonnes over often rather severe terrain, it was losing power, overheating on long up gradients and was using some oil. With it being a GMC engine and we being in the USA, it made sense to do the heart transplant sooner rather than later, as all parts were easily obtainable and reasonably priced.
So Jan installed the following new parts: Engine long block assembly, Injection pump, Injectors & lines, Glow plugs, Water pump, Vacuum pump, Engine mountings, Radiator & hoses, Clutch friction plate, thrust bearing & slave cylinder, all Filters & new oil in everything. After 4 weeks it was all done and Dipli was running very well! The engine operation took place in an attractive neighbourhood in Virginia (near Washington DC) - next to and in the home garage of a good friend. We appreciated the mod cons as well as the gourmet Mexican dishes and homemade pizza made by our host. Leone protected the white carpets and researched the worthwhile stops on the route northwards.
Dipli also received a new set of tyres. Then we started out on the next quarter million kilometres.
At the Baltimore, Maryland aquarium we were particularly fascinated by the large collection of colourful “jellies”.
As usual, nüvi, the GPS navigator, took us to Walmarts for overnight parking. We were once again enjoying the curiosity Dipli provoked. “What is this?” “You have a cool rig!”; “It’s a beast!” (Later, after 19 months in the U.S., we discovered a Rand McNally atlas indicating the locations of all the Walmarts in the USA; about 3500). Walmart encourages overnight parking.
Once in RI we had not seen the County-specific ‘No Parking’ sign, and police moved us at 1 in the morning.
In Delaware we saw what the wealth, made from explosives and chemicals, could buy. “Wintherthur” had been the estate of the du Ponts. From the entrance a curved path leads through a forested garden where shrubs and groundcovers have been carefully planted to flower sequentially. Crimson and pink rhododendrons were blooming between meadows and waterways. The du Ponts loved to entertain and show off their garden and priceless collections of furniture and art.
Driving into Philadelphia, Pennsylvania was easy. We even found parking downtown. (When the meter had expired some kind person extended the time with $3 and posted the ticket on Dipli)...
Next to the historic Liberty Bell we tried the famous Philly Cheese Steak roll.
Getting out of Philadelphia in rush hour traffic was not easy. We tried to leave the city and drove in circles, because nüvi got lost due to new road construction. It took 4 hours for 46km
Grounds for Sculpture, PA. was unlike anything L had experienced. It is a magnificent 35 acre manicured landscape woven with 270 modern sculptures. They are placed, in ponds, under waterfalls, on hills, within alcoves of trees. While walking and admiring the panorama, with a little jolt, you suddenly have a 3-D encounter with art.
Thomas Edison (1847-1931) worked and invented in West Orange, New Jersey. We saw the red brick laboratories with his desks and the comprehensive reference library with the bed where he often slept. His inventions included document duplicator, light bulb, phonograph, storage batteries, Portland cement……. More than 1000 patents.
We always found first-rate Public Libraries where we could use a desktop or the free wi-fi and our own pc to receive email. A bonus was pictures of the grandkids and a sonar image of one on the way. The libraries often had a book exchange. For relaxation in Dipli we also had our i-pod and liked to listen to National Public Radio (no commercials).
We stayed at State parks situated next to rivers, lakes or beaches. At a State Park in NJ we camped with Swiss friends travelling in a Toyota Land Cruiser camper. We had seen them in Oman, Switzerland, India and last in Nepal, 11 years before.
How would we “do” New York City? We wondered. Friends invited us to park at their home on the Rockefeller estate. . (John D Rockefeller 1839-1937 was the founder of Standard Oil and at a time richest in the world. He owned vast lands along the Hudson River.)
We took the train into NYC every day. By a lot of walking and using the City Sights open-top buses and boats, we saw all the famous boroughs, buildings and bridges.
At Ground Zero the construction noise was deafening. The new Freedom Tower was more than half way to the 104 floors. High cranes towered over where 4 other high rises were being built. Where the foundations of the WTC had stood, 2 square water features are planned. After the dynamic bustle of “The Big Apple” we could come back to the green refuge of the Rockefeller farm, to enjoy a margarita or a glass of wine with friends in the late twilight...
Groton, Connecticut is home to the U.S. Naval Submarine Base where we could clamber around the cramped interior of the Nautilus submarine- the world’s first nuclear-powered vessel.
Connecting roads between towns in the New England states run through green forests and fields. The meadows emit a fragrance of freshly mowed grass and wild roses. We were constantly amazed at how people live in the woods - of course, with no burglar bars or fences but mail delivery. Yes! The postman even collects stamped envelopes you wish to send.
Newport, Rhode Island was the summertime resort where the fabulously rich erected a collection of sumptuous mansions on the Atlantic. They imported marble and complete rooms; also commissioned gold leafed ornamentation, gilded woods and even panels made of platinum. One Van der Bilt mansion cost $11 million to build in 1900. Another had 70 rooms and 333 staff. The Laundress, in her memoirs, recalls that the house guests often changed clothing 7 times a day!
The idle rich had to have leisure activities, like lawn tennis. At the International Tennis Hall of Fame, nostalgic videos show historic matches. There in 1881, the first US National Lawn tennis Championship took place. It later became the U.S Open.
Boston, Massachusetts was, even on the weekend, still difficult to navigate. One-ways and overpasses…. We once tried to enter a tunnel and the guy at the toll booth yelled “no propane!” (Dipli has them mounted on the back). There was nowhere else for us to go, so he had to let us through. We made it to the impressive John F Kennedy Museum and Library – a modern marble building by JM Pei.
There are photos of JFK with 8 siblings and depictions of his life (and death) as president.
The courtyard alone, of Isabella Gardner’s Venetian-style palazzo, is worth a journey. On several surrounding levels she placed each piece of furniture or object of art which she had collected in her lifetime. Her will stated that nothing was to be moved. The blank spaces on some walls and tables are as a result of a heist in 1996 when paintings worth $200 million were stolen.
In New Hampshire we visited a home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. It was constructed in 1950 at the same time as his Guggenheim museum was being built in NY.
It was National Bike Week in the White Mountains and we were intrigued by a gathering of 400 000 motor bikers (most without helmets, because NH does not require it).
There is a road in Maine which follows the long rugged coastline. We had mussels, clam chowder and lobster at harbour restaurants. Someone led us to a spot on a peninsula where we could watch the lobster boats checking the baskets attached to colourful buoys. We stayed on. He brought us warm muffins one morning and fresh haddock on another day.
There were Gannets swimming in the bay. They were easier to see than the colourful but small and fast-flying Puffins we were trying to spot. When the weather became drizzly, and the solar panels were receiving insufficient sunlight, Jan got the generator going; placing it underneath the vehicle to keep it dry.
Acadia National Park has valleys gouged by glaciers, forming ‘fingers” into the sea. There are scenic views and hikes. It was only mid June and already very crowded.
Vermont was our 49th and last U.S state. (As Dipli does not swim, Hawaii does not count!)
It was 4th of July. The colourful independence parade in Montpelier was followed by spectacular fire works. People in the audience invited us to come and park in their garden and the next morning we had a scrumptious breakfast of waffles with maple syrup, walnuts and fresh berries; followed by coffee from Vermont Green Mountain Coffee Roastery.
After a tour of the Rock of Ages granite quarry, we set off for the Cabot cheese factory.
The traffic was slow through Barre where there were lanes of traffic merging. Suddenly: a car tries to cut in front of Dipli. ‘Crunch!” and it is impaled on the step jutting out from the left front wheel. Jan jumps out. Chaos in the middle of the intersection. Police arrive. “I am so sorry. I have never before come this way,” she says. Her Volvo’s bumper/valence hangs shredded. A witness for us volunteers her name & tel no. All parties have the same version of events but there is still a considerable delay due to a great deal of paper work.
Then two km from Cabot a Fire truck indicates a dirt road detour through the forested hills. A milk truck has overturned on the bridge ahead. Then when we eventually reach Cabot Creamery, we find that the factory is closed because the power is out. We spend the night right there and did the tour and sampled the delectable cheeses the following morning.
We went to see Morse Farm Maple Sugar Works, VT owned by a 7th generation sugar maker. The maple sap tapping takes place in the very early spring. 40 litres of sap evaporates to one litre of maple syrup.
On the Vermont side of the long Lake Champlain we relaxed at a park. On the NY side we visited Fort Ticonderoga built in 1755 when the French and the British were both laying claim to this wilderness.
The Adirondacks in northern New York State is a wooded mountainous region with many lakes and rivers. A ranger at the Nature Centre admired our Land Rover Forward Control and led us in his Series 2A LR station wagon to his house where we could escape from the vicious biting deer flies.
A beautiful sunset from the American side over the St Lawrence river was an apt farewell to the USA. The next day we crossed the river to CANADA.