Sunday, August 2, 2009

While not entirely dedicating a day of rest we nonetheless took it easy on this Sunday, limiting our drive to southern New Hampshire. The day began with our return to Chelsea Royal Diner for breakfast, our only return visit this trip. A heaping breakfast confirmed that this is a must-visit place. Perhaps most memorable was our choice to pay a premium for genuine Vermont maple syrup. Now look, I have no idea what makes one type of syrup "genuine" over another. For all I know this syrup came from some place called Vermont, China. But I can say that this was the best syrup I've ever tasted. It came in a silver pitcher and tasted like melted sugar. Poured upon a waffle covered with walnuts, this stuff was the highlight of my morning. Jenny ordered Eggs Benedict, a choice that induced much nose crinkling at the table, while our daughter requested a healthier choice: cereal and a grapefruit half.

We then drove the short distance to Keene, NH, quickly visiting Lindy's Diner but being too stuffed to contemplate a meal. Instead we toured the lovely downtown, splitting up to allow the ladies a chance to do some shopping and me to check out a statue commemorating the city's sacrifices to the Civil War before chatting
with a family visiting from Missouri. The dad, wearing a shirt that advertised "Free Gas. See around back for details," told me that he'd lived in Keene for three years and that he could replace his southern drawl with a New England accent in no time, a claim I would have liked to test. The family moved on to take pictures elsewhere and my own family regrouped, Vienna carrying her triumphant package of new red Converse shoes and Jenny smiling about her bargain-priced skirt.

The road next took us to the tiny hamlet of Washington where we slowed down to tour one of New England's lovely town greens. I'd heard that this is the prettiest such green in the region, and I must admit that its simple, elegant landscape stayed with me long after our brief visit. A few miles away, in Goshen, we checked out a tiny waterfall even under a sprinkle of rain. But the highlight of that portion of the day was our trip to Claremont's Daddypops Tumble Inn Diner. While we arrived too late for lunch, we were greeted by Deb, the owner who was helping to clean up after a 6-2 shift. She let us in and showed us around, drawing our attention to a model of the diner that had been built by a regular. Deb then recommended that we stop by the other Daddypops, which is owned by her dad in Pennsylvania. She then proceeded to write down directions on two sides of an order slip to make sure we did. Now we've got a new diner on our itinerary!

From Claremont we headed back south toward Manchester. Our goal was an early arrival to ensure some rest and relaxation, a chance to write, and even get in some pool time at a nice hotel. We played some of Vienna's mix CDs (which, somehow, drew a better response from Jenny than my own distinct brand of road trip music) and chatted about the week's adventures. For dinner we visited the downtown Red Arrow diner (open 24 hours!). This was the first official "diner" that inspired the vision of this trip, a place Jenny and I visited while researching our book on motels, and we made a great call in returning. The three of us snagged stools along the counter and ordered up a feast of lemony grilled haddock and a tuna salad sandwich served with gooey mac and cheese, saving room for slices of Boston cream and cherry pie to share. I think this was our nicest meal so far, filled with laughter and friendly conversation among a small group of folks serving and sharing a meal along the counter. Returning to our hotel, stuffed and satisfied, the Wood Family enjoyed a leisurely Sunday night without even thinking of turning on the TV.

All text copyright Andrew Wood.
Photos copyright Andrew and Jenny Wood.