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A Week in North Conway NH

Sept 2014

Forty-seven years ago we were married in the First Church of Christ in North Conway, NH, the town where I grew up. We decided to celebrate the occasion by hopping in our RV and heading to the north country for a week. first church

Leaving home on Wednesday, the 10th of September, we did a bit of a detour on the way north, swinging over to York Beach, ME, to visit some long-time friends from our Air Force days. A long walk on the beach and the swapping of old war stories highlighted our two day visit.

We said our farewells Friday morning and headed up to North Conway. We arrived at the Saco River Camping Area well before noon and had no problem getting a site, although we weren’t thrilled with our assigned site. The folks in the office were very accommodating in letting us pick another site – a little more private and quiet.

limmer3 Without bothering to set up on our site, we headed up to the Peter Limmer Bootmaker shop in Intervale. I grew up about half a mile from here. Back in 1966, as a college graduation present, my parents gave me a pair of custom-built Limmer hiking boots. I still have the boots and they have worn amazingly well over the years. Until last year, when something affected one of the boots, causing the leather around the ankle to stiffen. I wanted to see what could be done about that. We had a great chat with Peter Junior, son of Peter Senior who had made my boots. Peter told me my big mistake was polishing the boots. He recommended that I use acetone to strip off the polish and then apply a number of coats of boot grease, working each application into the leather. He said that would eventually soften the leather. Back in 1966 my boots cost about $75; today the same boots are $700!

Just around the corner from Limmer’s is the Intervale Cemetery, where my folks are interred. We stopped to pay our respect.

A little detour over to the West Side Road took us to the Lobster Trap Restaurant, a place that was open years ago when I still lived here. We each enjoyed an excellent lobster roll. We happened to hear our waiter, Caleb, talking to some other diners about being a meteorologist! So I asked him about that, telling him that I had been one as well. He had obtained his degree and had spent the summer working as an intern at the Observatory atop Mount Washington.

Heading back down through North Conway to the campground, we stopped at the railroad station in town to investigate schedules and fares for a train ride up through Crawford Notch. By chance the coming weekend was the annual railfans’ weekend on the Conway Scenic Railroad, so there were lots of extra rail activities scheduled over the two days. Based on the weather forecast, we decided to wait and ride the Notch Train on Monday. NH2014-01

 

Back at the campground, we got settled on our site, and then were treated to some entertainment when a couple with a big rig moved from one site to one right beside us. He must have spent half an hour trying to get their RV situated to the satisfaction of the Missus. Backwards, forwards, a couple of inches to the left; no, to the right. They finally got it where she wanted it. They hooked up their utilities and then extended their awning. Oops, a little close to a large tree, with some small twigs about where the awning was. In a few minutes, the campground owner and a helper appeared, apparently having been summoned by our neighbors. We couldn’t resist opening our windows a bit so we could eavesdrop. Yeap, they wanted the tree branches trimmed. The owner suggested that they simply move the rig over a foot or two away from the tree. Nope, that wouldn’t work – there was a timber delineating the edge of the campsite and if they moved over then the timber would be a tripping hazard! Much to our amazement, the owner did cut the offending twigs from the tree.

One of the reasons we chose Saco River Campground was its location right on the “strip” south of town. It is situated back a ways from the road on the east bank of the Saco River, but there are plenty of shops and restaurants within walking distance. Saturday morning we walked about a mile up the road to the Blueberry Muffin Restaurant. Not such a great choice: my eggs were cold, the bacon was over-cooked and tough, and although you might expect a place with such a name might have good blueberry muffins, that wasn’t the case.

The day was cloudy with afternoon showers forecast, so we hung around the campground, doing some walking and playing bocce – there was a smooth bocce court right across from our site.

6993 Sunday dawned bright and sunny, so after breakfast we headed up to town to see what was going on at the railroad. We ended up spending pretty much the entire day there, taking lots of pictures and ending the day with a ride on a Rail Diesel Car (RDC) down to Conway and back. I remember riding in RDC’s from Intervale to Boston to visit my grandparents when I was a kid. While taking pictures, I met Dwight Smith, the founder of the Conway Scenic RR 40 years ago and had an interesting chat. That's Dwight in the picture at left.
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Monday also dawned brilliantly sunny – a perfect day for the ride up through Crawford Notch to Fabyans and return. The dome car was sold out, so we settled for coach seats. Actually a good deal, because it was right next to the open car from which pictures could be taken, and only coach passengers could carry their own lunch aboard. The trained departed North Conway at 1100 AM and returned at 4:30 PM. We highly recommend the Notch Train.

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Passing the site of the Intervale station, with Mount Washington ahead of us.

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I waited and waited, but this lady would not pull her head in so I could get a clear shot.

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The train pauses at the Crawford station at the top of the Notch.

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The Mount Washington Hotel with its namesake mountain to the right.

Into each life a little rain must fall – Tuesday was our day for it. We hung out in the camper, and when the rain ended at midday, we were able to take a little walk to the LL Bean outlet store.

Upon our return to the RV, we found our water had suddenly began to make an incredible racket. Upon investigation, I found that the pump, a 4-year old Sur-Flo Revolution 4008, had decided it was time to self-destruct. Several screws that hold the upper valve assembly had come completely out and others were loose. There was a large gap between the upper assembly and the pump housing. Underneath the pump was a large pile of filings that had been spit out as the pump tried to eat itself. I found it incredible that it was still pumping water and was not leaking a drop!

Fortunately I carry a spare water pump with us, so in about an hour I had the new pump installed and all was well. I did learn that I need to add a shut-off valve in the line from the fresh water tank; I had to drain the tank before I could remove the pump. If I had a valve installed I could just shut it off and disconnect the pump without having to drain the tank first.

The next day we had a planned trip to a local Camping World store, where we added a new pump to our list of purchases. Now I need to install it in place of the former spare, for the new one is under a two-year warranty whereas the spare has long outlived its guarantee period. So as part of that process I’ll see if I can find the proper valve and fittings to add the shut-off valve.

As our week drew to a close, we spent another day up in North Conway. Parked the RV by the railroad station and proceeded to leave some money here and there with some purchases. Before heading back to the campground for our final night, we drove up to Cranmore Mountain, where I learned to ski some 64 years ago.

Unfortunately the longtime signature feature of Cranmore, the Skimobile, is no longer in existence. It consisted of a wooden track on a trestle up the mountain with a cable below the track that pulled individual little cars up the track. It was becoming increasingly expensive to maintain the wooden trestle and in 1990 the entire system was removed. Treasured mementos of the Skimobile are the little cars, which you can spot here and there throughout the Valley. Back in 1990 the cars sold for $400 each. I would absolutely love to have one myself. Standing there at the former Base Station I could envision the process involved in getting on board: grasp skis in your right hand, step on with your right foot and away you go. To disembark, one stepped off with right foot; trying it left-foot first would usually send one flying.  NH2014-10

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Two Skimobile cars on display at the bottom of the former site of the track.

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The Base Station area as it looks today. Major reconstruction is scheduled for next year.

  Near the bottom of the South Slope at Cranmore is the Gibson Rock, a memorial to Harvey Gibson, the founder of the Skimobile. Back in 1950, this was where I learned to ski. My Dad had me climb “way up” to the rock. There we would head back down with me between my Dad’s skis as he taught me the basic snowplow. Up and down, up and down. It was a grand day when he took me up to Second Station on the Skimobile for the first time. He used to pick me at school just about every afternoon and we'd dash up to Cranmore for an hour of skiing. Looking back I treasure all those afternoons spent skiing with my father. Thanks, Dad, for teaching me something that I have enjoyed all my life.

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NH2014-08 Another landmark at the Skimobile was the famous Eating House. In the winter it was set up as a cafeteria for skiers, while in the summer it was transformed into a first-class restaurant. I spent my four summers of college working there, where tips were excellent. As with anything, time brings its changes and the Eating House is no more; it’s now Zip’s Grill. More disturbing is that next year the Cranmore Resort plans a major re-construction of the base buildings,, and it looks like most of the original buildings will be razed. Progress?

Saturday was home day. We were on the road about 9:30 AM and arrived back at the hacienda about 2 PM. Took a couple of hours to unload the RV and get it parked. All in all, we had a great week in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, with hundreds of wonderful memories of "how it used to be".