Sunday, July 29, 2018

Connecticut - East Haddam

East Haddam

Hudson River
On June 25, 2018, we drove to East Haddam, CT. It was a beautiful drive across mountains and rivers. We have been in Connecticut before but not in the southern portion of it.
Wolf's Den Campground was home for a week. It is a large campground with a mix of cabins, tent sites and RV sites. Better than half of it is permanent sites, all kept up well.

There are lots of activities for kids, a large pool, playground, putt-putt golf and more. The overnight sites are grass with a small rectangle of cement to park your RV on. We were in Site 43 which was level and wider than normal, it had a picnic table and a fire ring. There was only electric and water hookups with a grey tank disposal. This was new to us so another learning experience. See tip for more info. Laundry and bathrooms were clean. WiFi was good and Verizon signal was okay. We paid $40.00 a night with our Passport America discount and their weekly rate.
This was also a first for us, the backpack on this lady had a huge parrot in it. The bird was talking and singing up a storm. Nancy tried catching up with her but Mielikki was doing her business and there was no rushing her. Just for fun, Google Parrot Backpacks, you will be amazed at how many choices there are - who knew?

The theme of this stop seemed to be castles. We visited two of them.
First up was Gillette Castle. It was built by William Hooker Gillette, actor, director, playwright and inventor. He is most famous for his portrayal of "Sherlock Holmes". He is the one who gave Sherlock his hat, pipe and spy glass. There are guides through out the house, but you can wander at your own pace.

The castle is located on the southern most end of the chain of hills called Seven Sisters. Gillette, named his estate The Seventh Sister. He designed the castle and most of its contents personally. The house is built of local fieldstone supported by a steel framework. It took 25 men five years to complete the main structure, from 1914-1919. It took many more years to complete all the details which were done by local craftsmen. Even the walls, awnings and train station are made of fieldstone.

The house is filled with beautiful woodwork. It is all hand-hewn southern white oak.
There are Built-In Couches, the one outside of the study has heaters built in underneath it to keep you toasty warm. Can you imagine curling up with a good book and a cup of tea?

The Great Room has a beautiful stone table and fireplace along with another built in couch. It was hard to take pictures with the spot lights and light coming in the windows.

There are Forty-Seven Doors in the home and no two are exactly the same.

Even the Light Switches are unique and hand carved.

The Stairways are a mix of stone and wood, there is a hidden staircase and doorway that Gillette used if he wanted to come and go and not be seen by anyone, or if he wanted to make a grand entrance into the great hall.

Today there is of course an automatic sprinkler system in case of fire, but back when this was built there was no such thing. Gillette designed his own Fire Protection System.

L: cone that the cord was wrapped around
R: steel water tank
On the top floor of the castle is a steel water tank that was attached to a series of hoses downstairs. The tank filled with rain water. In the event of a fire, the hoses could be activated with a pull-chord on the second floor that was wrapped around a wooden cone hanging from the ceiling. Luckily, it was never needed. 

Even the Windows have hand carved latches and the views are pretty spectacular. Once again Les and Mielikki were waiting on Nancy. Can you see them in the bottom right picture? We of course couldn't take the dog in so they wandered the grounds while Nancy toured the house.

Gillette's Bedroom was much smaller than expected but filled with everything he needed. Built in closets and cupboards. In the corner over his bed is a special light switch that he designed, it allowed him to turn off the lights without getting out of bed.

Gillette was quite the inventor, in fact he made most of his money from his inventions for the stage and theater. He not only used his talents inside the house, but outside as well. He built a three mile long, narrow gauge railroad track and the Steam Engine to run on it.

Second was Castle Craig, in Meriden, CT. It is not really a castle or even the ruins of one, but that is what it is called. It is a stone observation tower that was given to the city by Walter Hubbard, a successful Meriden business man.
The tower was built with native trap rock by local stone masons in 1900. It stands on the East Peak in Hubbard Park at an elevation of 976-feet. It is 32-feet high and 58-feet around. Stairs inside the tower take you to the top. On a clear day you can catch a glimpse of New Haven, CT to the south and the foot hills of the Berkshires in Massachusetts to the north.
On this day we could see the Sleeping Giant Mountain Range (bottom left picture). Or, at least Les could as Nancy got to the top of the stairs and turned around and went right back down!

One day we ventured up to Springfield, MA. It is home to one of the two Massachusetts, Peter "Wolf" Toth Indians, the other one will be in an upcoming blog from the Boston area. "Omiskanoagwiak" was carved in 1984. He was the 40th statue on the "Trail of The Whispering Giants". He stands 15-feet tall and is carved from a pine tree.

We went to the Springfield Cemetery to search out a headstone shaped like a house. The Titus Family Monument seems a fitting memorial to a successful, Victorian real estate man. The 6-foot high, two story family home is made from solid marble. It is also a monument to his three wives: Louise, Mary and Pamela. Even the small markers are shaped like houses.

This was also our first exposure to Brownstone Headstones. This hardy stone was readily available from the East Longmeadow quarry. In fact they have outlasted some of the marble stones.
While driving to a nearby car show, we happened upon the Longmeadow Cemetery which had even more of these headstones. Most of them have faces carved into them. Many with wings.
A few have Winged Skulls, many think this was from the Puritans. The "death head" was initially a non-religious symbol used to denote a buried corpse, as Puritans didn't believe in using religious symbols on graves. It can also mean a dead persons journey is not over. After shedding their physical form, they are flying away to another realm. Over time the skull was replaced with faces, some with crowns. The sayings are certainly a reminder of the times, the women were remembered as "daughter of", "wife of", "consort of", or "relict of". "Relict" is a woman left behind by the death of her husband. We've come along way baby!

The Scythe symbolizes death's tool to cut down the flower of life. The sand in the Hour Glass has slipped to the bottom, Time is Supreme.

Classic Car shows are always fun. We planned our trip to Springfield, MA so we could attend this one hosted by Little Sisters of the Poor in Enfield, CT, which is just at the border. There were about 50 cars. This one was extra fun as there was a guy with a Ford Bronco, mid 70's and he is the original owner. Our son-in-law Steve is rebuilding his Grandfathers Bronco, a major undertaking. We shared pictures of Steve's progress and this guy was extremely impressed.

We visited Hartford, CT on a Sunday which makes getting around town and taking pictures a whole lot easier. The Capitol Building is absolutely gorgeous. This Victorian Gothic beauty opened in 1878.

The Lego Twain stands outside the gift shop. 
 Mark Twain and Harriet Beecher Stowe were neighbors in Hartford.
Mark Twain and his family lived here from 1874 to 1891. Many of his best-known works were written here including The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Prince and the Pauper. In 1891 after poor financial investments left them financially unstable. Twain, his wife Olivia and one daughter Clara traveled to Europe so he could lecture and earn money to pay off their debts. Susy and Jean, their other two daughters stayed behind in Hartford, and Susy died of spinal meningitis in August of 1896 before they could be reunited. They could not bring themselves to reside in the house after this tragedy and spent most of their remaining years abroad.

Harriet Beecher Stowe lived in this house for the last 23 years of her life. Pogunuc People (1878) was one of the works she published while living here. Uncle Tom's Cabin was published much earlier (the house she lived in then will be in an upcoming blog). She also embarked on two world wide lecture tours while living here. She passed away in her bedroom with several of her children, her sister and other family members at her side. After her death the property was sold out of the family. In 1924 her grandniece, Katharine Seymour Day bought the property and also acquired the neighboring Mark Twain House and saved it from development in 1929. She turned both into museums.

Roadside Oddiites of course took us in every direction.
Cheshire, CT
Norwich, CT 

We found two Muffler Men. One in Cheshire, CT, holding a flag. The other is in Norwich, CT, and dressed like a cowboy.

The Traffic Control Tower in Meriden, CT is a survivor of the early days of highway chaos. It was built in 1925 and controlled traffic at a busy downtown intersection for nearly 42 years.
All four sides have a strange configuration of red, amber and green lights. These were controlled by the operator who climbed into the tower from a ladder. When the boring lights of today were installed, the city moved the tower to its current location to preserve this little piece of history.

Wild Bills Nostalgia Center in Middletown, CT was on our way to Hartford, CT, It is appropriately named because this place is wild!

The buildings are all painted with a variety of murals and the grounds are filled with an assortment of sculptures.

There is a Haunted House, which seems to actually be an old record store. It was closed when we were there.
Inside the main store is just as crazy, you can hardly get through the aisles. Check out the link above to see all the unique things they have.

The Two Wrasslin' Cats is our kind of place. Their sign welcoming EVERYONE was our first clue. Once inside we were greeted like old friends. We stopped here twice, the first time was just for coffee to go, and the next morning we stopped for breakfast. The decor is an eclectic assortment of cat "stuff". Our table had the sleeping kitty and the "Carmen Miranda" cat lamp.

Painted Rocks are a big thing in this area. We found the Snake Rock and an Eagle Rock in Marlborough, CT. There were a number of others in the area that we didn't get to. The cool Arrow Lake Sign was in East Hampton, CT.

The Frog Bridge is in Willmantic, CT and crosses the Willmantic River. Frogs and thread spools don't seem to go together but in this case they do. The frogs are in honor of the "Battle of the Frogs" which took place in 1754. On a hot summer night, people were roused from their sleep by " a shrieking, clattering thunderous roar" unlike anything they had ever heard. No one was sure what was happening, could it be an Indian attack? Most panicked, some ran through the streets ready for battle, others prayed. Some went in search of the noise, but could not find anything. The next morning they found the source of the noise, a pond that was now just a puddle was surrounded by scores of dead bullfrogs. It was thought that the frogs fought to the death in some weird battle. The spools represent the textile industry that thrived here for years.

Lego's, Cows and Whales. The Giant Lego's sit at the entrance to an industrial park in Enfield, CT, where Lego has an office. The Super Cow has landed on the roof of the Guida's Dairy in New Britain, CT and Conny (short for Connecticut) rests outside The Children's Museum in Hartford, CT. 

On our last night in town we went grocery shopping in Haddam, CT and there was a Car Show in the parking lot, this one was a bit smaller than the first one but still fun to wander. We also discovered the Shady Habit Brewing Company tucked back behind the grocery store. Yummy beer and good conversation with some locals.

Up next is the Boston, MA area and a visit to the JFK Library and Museum.

Till we meet again...

Happy Trails to You!

Tips and things we learn along the way. 
~ Grey water disposal
As stated above this campground only had hookups for emptying our grey water tanks, not one for both grey and black water.
This was the first time we have encountered this. We have had sites with no black or grey water hookups but not one with just grey.

Once we started setting up we discovered we didn't have the right type of hose, luckily the office sold them so Les went and bought one. He came back and then discovered he needed a special connection to attach it to the RV. So back to the office he went to purchase that.

It would have been helpful if they had asked if he had one when he bought the hose! Or better yet, ask if we had what we needed when we checked in. But anyways, once we had all the correct parts it was an easy hook up to the RV, simply screwing the cap in place and then dropping the open end of the hose into the disposal pipe.

So no one else has the problems we did --
You need a grey flushing hose, the color of the hose is actually grey. You do not want to use any hose that you use for fresh water. The difference in the color of the hose keeps you from getting the two mixed up.
You also need a Termination Cap with Hose Connect. This is sometimes called a Grey Water Drain Adapter. 

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