Welcome to New Hampshire! Parts of which, we discovered today, have a lot in common with the beer-belching, forever down-on-his-luck, yes-we-all-have-at-least-one-of-them-in-our-family, Cousin Eddie from National Lampoon’s Vacation.
There Were Signs
What drew us to this conclusion, you ask?
Well, within minutes of crossing the border from Vermont, the ratio of pickup trucks skyrocketed – supplanting the many practical Subarus and Volvos we had grown accustomed to sharing the road with over the past week. Also notable were the thundering posses of mostly helmetless black-leather-clad bikers muscling their way down the byways in the place of Vermont’s dainty, whisper-silent groups of helmeted, bright-spandex-wearing bicyclists.
Once we pushed north of Keene (a lovely town, by the way) on the officially designated Scenic Byway of Highway 10, the signs became starker. The beautiful rolling hills were littered with gravel pits and cluttered lumber yards, some boasting more rusted equipment than a junkyard. The homes, such as they were, along this stretch were just as dismal with dooryards strewn with dross the inhabitants apparently deemed unfit to keep (or that simply would not fit) inside their dwellings.
The most notable moment came when we drove through the hamlet of Lempster, which the painted wooden signs announced, is the home of the New Hampshire Motocross Track where they hold demolition derbies! Curious, we looked online and found this recent gem of an event from June that allowed us to see what all the fuss was about.
On our way to Lebanon/Hanover, and just as we had given up hope of finding anything redeeming about the state, our perseverance was rewarded the moment Highway 10 reached I-89. The cluttered and shuttered gravel pits and lumberyards gave way to charming, tidy homes with meticulously curated gardens – some of them with sprawling lawns edged with ancient stone walls and virtual miles of charming picket white fences.
By the time we slowed our drive in town to pass through the campus of Dartmouth college, we understood there must be an unspoken treaty between these two starkly different New Hampshire territories. A self-regulating agreement about what and who chooses to be where.
The rest of our journey consisted mostly of picturesque, white-steepled towns, trimmed with straight lines of American flags presumably hung along the roadside by the local Rotary Club. We drove past Sunday afternoon picnics at the pond in the town park and couples settling in on their decks attentively bedecked with ferns and flowers to attend the coming sunset.
By the time we arrived at North Conway, our new way station for the week nestled in the White Mountains, we decided New Hampshire deserved more exploration as a potential candidate for our Haven.