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Published: July 23rd 2016
If I listed the location of this entry anywhere, it should be Maine, I-95. That's where I spent more time than anywhere else today. That means I don't have much to tell. The big news is that I've made it to Canada, where I'll be until a week from Monday. That's ten full days! It also means that my trip will usually have less driving while I'm here (except a couple of days, like tomorrow). But I'm hoping it's less stressful, and it's already cooled down considerably - within minutes of crossing the border, my car thermometer dropped to the low 60s F, and it hasn't gotten any warmer since then!
My morning began earlier than I wanted. As I wrote yesterday, I was staying in a converted barn/house that had 2 chicken coops. The windows also lacked blackout curtains, so I was up pretty early in the Vermont summer morning. The temperature was superb - maybe 57 F when I awoke. I rolled out of the bed, fed the cats, and then went outside to let out the chickens and feed them. They were all still there, so no fox attacks were successful. After that, I went back upstairs
to get my stuff together and load the car. I was out of town around 7:30 and headed south to Brattleboro - the closest town on my way to my next presidential stop.
Since I had left so early, I had to figure out something to do with my time. The Franklin Pierce Homestead was only an hour away but didn't open until 10 AM. So, I stopped in at McDonald's - a real Vermont cultural institution, I know. But it had free wifi and it's the only place I can get sweet tea outside the South. I piddled away some time there before taking an impromptu driving tour of Brattleboro - some nice scenery and a quaint downtown area. It wouldn't be a bad place to live, I think. When I figured I wouldn't be super early to the Homestead, I headed in that direction. Mostly two-lane roads and almost a straight shot from Brattleboro.
The Franklin Pierce Homestead is in Hillsboro (or Hillsborough - there's some disagreement there), New Hampshire. And it's basically the only thing there. A real estate office across the street, and a general store on the corner. That's Hillsboro. Once the place
opened up, I made my way to the shop/entrance and paid all of $5 - it's a state site, so not in the national park business - before Adam, a young but enthusiastic fellow, led me on my tour. He asked if I was a history teacher, apparently because the other tour guide hates history teachers because they ask too many questions. Okay. No photographs allowed inside the house, so you know how I feel about that. It was pretty basic, and I'm starting to chuckle internally during these tours as they explain what certain items do or why a room is set up the way it is - I've been on enough of these tours in the past week, I could probably do the same job for 75% of what I see now. Also, this tour broke my previous pattern, as I was the only person on it. And they give the tour on demand, not on a schedule.
Anyway, the Pierce Homestead dates from 1804, and young Franklin probably moved in with his family when he was about a month old. His dad was a big shot in the Revolution and then in New Hampshire state politics.
So they had money. Most of the furniture was from the original house, except for the couches, I was told. Even some parts of the original wallpaper (not really paper, more like drawn on) were left unaltered to show how exactly the restoration followed the original. One room, the parlor, actually did have the original wallpaper because it was silk imported from France. They keep the windows in the room shuttered until the tour enters the room. Really nice. One notable thing about the 2nd floor is that almost half of it is a ballroom, with a huge amount of open space. I said, "wow," when I entered, and the guide said that that was the appropriate response, though most people don't say it. After the tour itself was over, I went back to the gift shop (you have to enter and exit the facility that way), and I'm not sure if there was a bit of a verbal altercation or not, but the lady in charge was certainly not happy with one of her underlings. I felt a bit awkward but enjoyed the live theater anyway. All in all, it took about 45 minutes.
The only real thing
to recommend this place is the cheap admission. It's completely out of the way, and it's a lot like the other houses of the era. Aside from the silk wallpaper, the dinner china, and Pierce's own favorite wooden chair, I don't think I would recommend making the trek here. Unless you REALLY like Franklin Pierce. While on the tour, the guide mentioned the Pierce Manse in Concord, NH, and I thought I'd check it out since I was passing through Concord. It was beautiful on the outside, but again they don't allow photos inside. They also don't have a credit card machine, so that was a big downer. I had some cash, but I also knew about upcoming tolls. So I decided to skip it, since I'd already spent time earlier this morning with Pierce. The reason I was told they didn't have a machine was because they "don't get many visitors." But if you ever want to go, I'm told that the tour takes 45 minutes and it is also given on demand, not on a schedule.
Finished with Pierce, I headed towards Canada. There were more tolls in Maine than I anticipated, and I think I'm poorer
by $8.50 because of them. But it did save me about 90 minutes overall, and when the drive WITH the tolls took 6 hours, time does become money. The only notable things along the way were an unexpected slow down (by a lot) getting into Maine - I worked in Maine for a summer in 2004, and I don't remember that happening. Also, once you get north of Bangor, there's a lot of wilderness - few towns, lots of trees, and phone service is hard to come by.
The border crossing was painless, though the lady did ask me if I was sure I didn't have any alcohol in the back of my car. I didn't get a passport stamp - bummer, though I don't know if they give them to Americans anyway. I should've asked. Now I'm in Saint John, New Brunswick, for the evening. I'm leaving tomorrow to see the Hopewell Rocks, about 2 hours further east, on the way to Halifax, Nova Scotia, where I'll be staying until Monday. The metric system is pretty big up here, so that's going to take getting used to again. But so far, the drivers have been scarce and all
the people have been polite. I'm looking forward to this wonderful change of pace!
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