Connecticut & Rhode Island
"A ship in port is safe, but that's not what ships are built for."
– Grace Murray Hopper
Hello from Rhode Island.
Well, at least that's where we are at the moment, watching Olympic cycling. I love the Olympics so much. The athletes are so inspiring to watch and hearing some of their personal stories (like the one about John Orozco) make their competitions even more meaningful to watch. Only during the Olympics will I watch such things as cycling, beach volleyball, or fencing because, hey, IT'S FENCING - - but it's fun to cheer on the Americans!
Anyway, what a busy week we had. I finished my paper and am free for a few weeks before I begin another semester so Steve and I got to do some serious sightseeing. We began our week with a visit to the U.S.S. Nautilus at the Submarine Force Library and Museum in Groton, CT. What an awesome place to visit. The two rings at the front of the museum demonstrate the size difference between the Navy's first submarine and their largest, Ohio-class subs. The new subs are HUGE, but sadly they didn't have one we could tour. We did get to go inside the U.S.S. Nautilus which is moored right alongside the museum. This sub was the first nuclear powered vessel and boy was it impressive to tour. I cannot believe the close quarters of this boat and every inch of space is used in some efficient manner (like the storage under each bunk). Reminded me of our Big Red. Anyway, this sub was launched in 1954 and was the first to make a journey completely submerged under the North Pole in 1958. YIKES! Can you imagine? We chatted with a submariner while visiting this vessel and he said his record for being submerged was 113 days. I cannot imagine being under water that long - - no sunshine or fresh air and only the smell of your fellow man - - I couldn't do it. I am extremely claustrophobic so just touring the inside of the sub for the 20 minutes we were there was all I could take. Actually, I was rather squirrelly at about the 10 minute mark but I stuck it out for Steve's sake. In addition to the submarine, there was an awesome museum dedicated to the history of submarines. They also had examples of the ballistic missiles that are fired from the newer subs. The white one at the end of the set of pictures from the museum was able to travel 2,500 miles post-launch. There are some newer ones that can go as far as 4,000 miles. So, in essence, our enemies do not need to be close to be a threat. The world is most definitely getting smaller and smaller all the time!
Ok, after this visit we headed to Mystic, CT. What an adorable little town and I highly recommend a visit there if you are in the neighborhood. We didn't stay long as we planned to come back on Sunday for an antique boat parade and a visit to the Mystic Seaport museum. Steve managed to get a picture of Mystic Pizza, since that restaurant was made famous by Julia Roberts back in the early 80's. Lastly, I want to mention the hydrangea here in the northeast. They are the most beautiful shade of blue I have ever seen. I have, on numerous occasions, attempted to grow hydrangea like this and was completely unsuccessful. Therefore, I had to snap a pic of the absolutely gorgeous specimens that we saw in Mystic. While in the area, we visited an old cemetery. Steve and I like to do this to see some of the old gravestones. Back in earlier times, when people were buried, their gravemarkers would tell a bit of a story about the person interred below. We don't do that anymore and I think that's sad. Anyway, we captured some examples of the interesting ones we found in the cemetery. For example, one of the gravestones told the story of the man buried below who had died during the siege of Boston in 1776. How cool is that? One also talked about the how the man below was killed when his ship caught fire off the coast of Galveston, TX. Interesting! If you have never visited an old cemetery, we highly recommend checking one out. It seems a little morbid for an entertainment option, but trust me, you will be pleasantly surprised at what you find.
Next, we visited Essex, CT and the Connecticut River Museum. For those of you who don't know, the Connecticut River is 400 miles long and wends its way through Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and into Canada. This was a hugely important river to the colonial people and served as the delivery system for goods coming in and out of these colonies for many many years. Near Essex is a quarry that mines the brownstone that covers a good number of buildings in the area, as well as those beautiful townhouses in New York and other larger cities. The carving displayed was from a frieze which would have been at the top of one of those buildings. As we were leaving this museum, we met Nick who was crab fishing off the dock right outside the museum. He had caught a number of blue crabs that he intends to put in a spaghetti sauce that he makes. He told us that he puts the crab in WHOLE into the sauce as it is simmering and when the sauce is ready, he fishes the crab out and then takes off the meat and adds it to the sauce. Sounds kinda yummy, doesn't it?
Before I go on to our next adventure, let me just say that Steve and I absolutely LOVE the Connecticut/Rhode Island area. It is just so picturesque and quaint. The saltbox houses are all so old and historic that most of them have placards on them indicating when it was built and by whom. There are towns in this area that were established back in the late 1600's and early 1700's. But the roads - - - AAAAGGGGGHHHHH - - the Roman grid system was definitely lost on these people. Steve believes that the saying "You can't get there from here" originates from this area because you absolutely cannot get anywhere directly. Every road winds around and around so that you become somewhat disoriented as you drive around. Thank God for GPS or we would have been lost for sure. Thankfully, the drives are so entertaining and the scenery so beautiful that you don't mind spending 30 minutes to go 5 miles.
Ok, back to our adventures. The campground we stayed at was near Hammonasset State Park which boasts some absolutely gorgeous beaches. That's another thing about this area - - there are beaches everywhere. Anyway, Steve got some lovely shots of the sunset that we wanted to share with you. We met a German fellow while walking the beach who was collecting the rose hips from the wild roses that grow along the shore. He was intending to make tea with them, but I don't know about that. I told him to stay near a hospital just in case. He didn't think that was funny.
Did you know that Connecticut is the home to one of the largest collection of dinosaur prints in the U.S.? Well, it is so we had to go and see it. Apparently, back in 1966, a construction worker unearthed some 2000 prints while bulldozing the area for a building they were planning to construct. CAN YOU IMAGINE? Well the State of Connecticut officials bee-lined over to the site and immediately declared it Dinosaur State Park so that the prints could be preserved. They covered 1,500 of these prints with some scientific-type substance that will keep them preserved and then built a dome-shaped building around 500 of these prints so that everyone could enjoy them. How cool. Most of these prints are from herbivores but there was evidence of one meatasaurus, whose name I cannot remember.
Our last stop in Connecticut was a visit to Hartford. We took in an exhibit of old tavern signs at the Connecticut Historical Society and really enjoyed that. These signs are from 17th and 18th century taverns and inns in the area and they are remarkably well-preserved. The lion is a prominent figure in most of the signs, which we learned was a salute to their British roots. There were also signs that had the phrase "Entertainment for Gentlemen and Hors" which I thought was interesting. The word Hors is not what you are thinking - - it's Horse! They had a different way of spelling things back then. For example, one sign from William M. Gordon uses "f" for "s". We loved this exhibit. The museum was also housing a juried exhibit of antiques and newly constructed furniture. The purpose of the exhibit was to demonstrate that our modern woodworkers can still make furniture like the early craftsman. There were several displays which contained an antique from the late 17th or early 18th century next to a piece that was very similar and you were to guess which was which. We were very impressed. The rest of the museum was dedicated to the history of Connecticut - - whose name comes from the Indian word "Quinnetukut". We toured around Hartford a little and took a picture of the capitol building as well as the onion dome that rests atop the Samuel Colt Firearms factory. Our last stop was to visit the cemetery where Samuel Colt was buried and discovered that Katherine Hepburn was also interred there.
Alright. On to Rhode Island. Our first stop was Newport, which is a cute little town and is also where the richey riches hang out. We drove along Ocean Drive and snapped some pictures of the beautiful houses out there. Unfortunately, the really huge mansions, which are on Bellevue Avenue, cannot really be seen unless you strategically place your camera into a hole in the shrubbery, which I could not do because it was raining and I didn't want to get wet. So we know what they look like, and you will have to travel here to see them for yourself. Sorry.
We also visited the Judith Point lighthouse and watched some surfers. Who would of thought that you could surf in Rhode Island? Well, according to our new friend from Florida, surfing in RI is quite a happening thing to do, especially in the fall during hurricane season. Alrighty then. The next day, Steve and I went to a festival at Ninigret Park and walked around and viewed the local craftsmen and their work. Lots of jewelry made from sea glass, which was cool, but the really cool part was a lecture given by Dr. Giovanni Fazio, the senior physicist for the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. Since Ninigret Park houses the Frosty-Drew Observatory, the good Dr. Fazio blessed us with a discussion about the universe and where we are in our quest for knowledge about it. I must say that Steve and I were absolutely spellbound. We learned all about our galaxy, the cluster of galaxies that we belong to, the supercluster that this cluster is part of and the string or wall that these superclusters are making in the universe. Honestly, my mind was completely blown. What was really cool was it was obvious this man is a believer in God. As he was indicating that there is a force that they really just don't understand in the universe (dark matter and dark energy), it was clear to Steve and I that he was going out of his way to say that they could be completely wrong about the Big Bang theory and was underscoring the fact that the design of the universe was not random. There is definite order in its existence which, to him, meant something. AAAAAAHHHHH! Yes, a divine Creator.
Anyway, today we went back to Mystic for an antique boat parade and a visit to the Mystic Seaport Museum. What a nice day. The boats were really cool, especially the old wooden Chris-Crafts. It was fun to see some of the participants in period dress that matched the year of their boats. But the best part of the day was the tour through the museum. The best way to describe it is to say that it's like a Greenfield Village dedicated to old ships and the shipping industry and what that meant to New England. We had a great time and I highly recommend a visit to Mystic CT if you are in the area. You will not be disappointed in the food, the ambiance of the entire town, and the history it has to offer.
Tomorrow we leave for Pocono and our beloved Nascar.
See ya, wouldn't want to be ya!
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