Monday, June 13, 2016

Chapter 10 - Florida, NY to Mystic, Connecticut

June 12th, Day 16: Two things really amazed us during our 3-1/2 hour drive over to Mystic, Connecticut this morning.  First, despite the fact that it was fairly early on a Sunday morning, the traffic was unexpectedly heavy especially on the interstate just north of the New York City area. Secondly, most of our drive was on I-95 and sections of this major interstate highway were in terrible shape. The only things that we could think of causing these problems were to many people driving these roads, terrible winters destroying the highways, and high taxes in these states being spent on things other than on highway repairs. Driving while pulling a trailer is never fun but busy, crummy roads sure does not help.  Anyway, we arrived at our campground by 11 am giving us lots of time to spend the afternoon exploring parts of coastal Connecticut. Our campground, the Mystic KOA is very highly rated and as you can see in the photograph we were even provided with a propane grill and colorful chairs and a table.  We did not put our awning down because the gusty wind in the area this afternoon might very well have taken it down for us.  This happened to us once before and the repair cost was expensive.

Our original plan was to visit the Mystic Seaport tomorrow morning but since today the weather was sunny and warm and the day was still early we decided to move our visit up. We did not really know anything about Mystic Seaport before we arrived but both Kathy and I assumed it was just an old part of the town of Mystic that was on the water where there were a lot of docks and boats.  As it turned out, Mystic Seaport was really a recreated 19th century seafaring village that was gated and like Disneyworld it cost a lot of money to visit - $24 each for seniors like ourselves.  We were here so we "shot the buck" and as it turned out the total cost was less than a one nights rental at our typical campground, but a lot more fun.

Not everything was "recreated" however, as the ship in this photo to the left, the Charles W. Morgan" was built in 1841 and I took the opportunity to climb aboard her. They obviously had made a great effort to restore this old ship as it was in top shape and looked ready to head out to sea.  There was another ship nearby that is shown in the background of the photo of Kathy and Cabo above, that actually did leave the dock shortly after we arrived loaded with paying passengers (who were not holding small Pomeranians.)

Our decision to visit Mystic Seaport on our day of arrival proved to be a good one for they were holding the final day of their 37th Annual Sea Music Festival and throughout the grounds there were various different music groups playing old sounding songs which I guess was sea music, whatever that is.  We took the opportunity on several occasions to sit and listen to the music from the different groups. They were actually all quite good and quite professional.

None of the roads within this recreated village were paved which helped to give the impression that this little seaport village was still in the 19th century. All of the little shops were staffed with people dressed in period costumes and the goods within the shops also appeared to be from an older time. No candy bars in colorful wrapping paper. There was also a horse and buggy ride that slowly wound its way around the streets.  There was no additional charge to ride the wagon although small and harmless dogs were not allowed.

The white building on the right in this photograph to the right is this town's grocery store.  Since neither Kathy nor I had eaten before we rushed off to Mystic Seaport, I suggested to Kathy that she go in the grocery to see if they might have something we could nibble on.  Nope, only pretend food inside this "recreated" grocery. The inside sure did look like something out of the past. As a history buff the only real downside I have on this old village is that it is not really old, although I must admit that they really have done an excellent job making it look old.

Kathy and I are always on the lookout for lighthouses and there are plenty of them along the coastline of Connecticut.  I had read that there was a lighthouse in Mystic but that it was not old as it was built in the 1960s.  We had decided that it was not worth visiting, but quite unexpectedly there it was - another recreation on the shoreline of Mystic Village. A tiny miniature lighthouse. Even considering my bad knee, a could have made it to the top of this little baby.

We took lots of photographs this afternoon but this one to the right was a reminder that Mystic Village is indeed all about tourism.  It is hardly imaginable that this cutout board was around in the 1800s, but then, perhaps it was.

We returned to our campground just before 4 o'clock after a great afternoon as tourists.  We were again however, ready to relax for the day.  We understand that this evening the temperatures are dropping into the low 50s which means no loud overhead air conditioner which also means a great night's sleep.  Tomorrow we plan to check our some other nearby coastal cities and even perhaps a graveyard if I can find one.

June 13th, Day 17: As you can see by the photograph to the left the first thing that we did this morning was to visit the gravesite of another of my many great grandfathers. Frankly they are all over New England and while not all of their gravesites can be located there are still dozens that can be. Anyway, today's gravesite is that of my 6th great grandfather, Richard Starkweather (1686-1760) who lived in Preston City, Connecticut located about 10 miles north of our campsite. Richard's grandfather arrived in America in 1640, 46 years before Richard's birth. I am related to the Starkweather's through my mother. Once again Kathy's sharp eyes spotted the gravestone which was not an easy task as the writing on the stone was only partially legible. According to a stone marker at the cemetery entrance, this graveyard was established back in 1690. Only in New England can we find these ancient surviving cemeteries.

Our other plan for today was to visit two lighthouses, the first one in New London and the second one in Stonington.  The lighthouse in New London referred to as the New London Harbor Light, is both the oldest and the tallest lighthouse in Connecticut and it is the fifth oldest lighthouse in the United States. It was constructed back in 1801. Unfortunately and quite to our surprise when we drove by the lighthouse, it appeared that it was private property so we were very uncomfortable driving into their very small parking area. Two cars were parked by the lightkeeper's house and it did not look like there was room for any more cars. In fact the area all around the lighthouse was occupied largely by expensive homes and private, no trespassing beaches. We suspect that that this lighthouse in New London may be visited through prearranged tours but not by random, unscheduled dropper-byers like ourselves. Anyway,

We left the New London Harbor Light somewhat disappointed although optimistic that we would soon see and be able to visit another lighthouse in nearby Stonington, the Stonington Harbor Light built in 1823.  This particular lighthouse is somewhat smaller at only 35 feet tall and today it is occupied by a museum and gift shop, which as a qualified tourist Kathy was able to visit (the gift shop) free of charge.  Like the lighthouse in New London, this lighthouse is now surrounded by beautiful old homes.

By far the highlight of our day was not the graveyard or the visit to the two lighthouses, it was the drive through the old town of Stonington.  Unlike Mystic Seaport which was entirely a recreation, Stonington was a genuine old town complete with beautiful homes, a quaint shopping area, and very narrow streets. This old part of Stonington sits on a narrow peninsula that sticks itself out into the Atlantic Ocean or perhaps more accurately referred to as the Long Island Sound. The original settlement in the area began back in 1649. Today there are many homes that were built in the 1800s and a few that were built even earlier.  If we had millions we would love to spend a summer in this fine old Connecticut seaport town.  

This photo shows another one of the many lovely homes that we drove by today. We also noticed that there was a for sale sign out in front.  Any guesses as to how much they are asking for this beauty.  Close to $2 million would be our guess.  We were afraid to call. PS, I later looked it up on line and the asking price is $1,950,000. The house was built in 1820 and besides having a view of the water, it contains five fireplaces, and four bedrooms and 4 bathrooms.

Many of the homes look out at the water and the sailing ships at their moors.

We liked this photograph because it shows the narrow streets.  The truck in the photo is headed our way and hopefully we will be able to pass it without climbing up on the sidewalk or knocking over a fire hydrant. For the record, we were able to pass it without any problem but it was only due to my skill as a driver.  I took driver's education classes back in the late 1950s and it has made a lifelong difference in my driving.

This final photograph Kathy took of me standing by the fishing boats many of which had recently returned from their overnight quest for fish on the open seas.  We knew that they had recently returned because the place stunk of dead fish and as quickly as Kathy snapped the picture, we hurried to get away from the stench before it permeated our clothes, our car, and everything else. Only Cabo did not seem to care.

We returned "home" by mid-afternoon ready to relax and prepare ourselves for tomorrows adventure.  We are headed for the Cape Cod and Plymouth area. Once there I will try hard to forget that five of my great grandparents arrived at the Plymouth Colony on the Mayflower in 1620.  I am almost sure that their original gravestones have not survived. We shall see.

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