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Tuesday, June 14, 2005

My US Trip (2005)

Day 8 - New Hampshire-Bretton Woods-Portland Head

Previously featured:
Flight to Newark, Day 1 - Newark-Princeton
Day 2 - Princeton-Philadelphia
Day 3 - Gettysburg-Lancaster-Ephrata-Alexandria
Day 4 - Alexandria-DC
Day 5 - Westpoint-Hyde Park
Day 6 - Hancock Shaker Village-Hanover
Day 7 - Burlington, Vermont

Bethlehem, New Hampshire in the White Mountains advertised itself as the "highest elevated town east of the Rockies". Bah!

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Near Vermont-New Hampshire border

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Suntanning near the border

My sister kept suggesting that my brother in law and I wade into the middle of streams and take 'Action Man' shots. We rightly told her to go and die, and pointed out that with our shoes, socks and pants, we were hardly suited for such activities. She of all people, in her sundress and female footwear (ie Open toed and no socks) was suited for such.

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On a rock in some stream

Driving through the White Mountains, we arrived at Bretton Woods and the Mount Washington Hotel, venue of the famous 1944 conference. Unfortunately, it being Memorial Day Weekend, it was booked for some conference, and there were 1200 people up there. It must've been a family event, since there were kids and bouncy castles.

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Mount Washington Hotel, Bretton Woods

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Bouncy castle

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Flume Cascade

The next stop on the road was Crawford North State Park and Mount Willey, where we stopped for a few snacks, including a kiddy-sized serving of Hershey's ice cream that was the size of Andersen's big scoop (and all for US$1.25 too). The water in Willey Pond was ice cold and crystal clear, and a Golden Retriever jumped into it and was swimming around, but my brother in law wasn't fast enough to get that shot.

After some more driving we ended up at the North Conway factory outlet for the 4th shopping trip in 8 days (and 7 full days). However, we did stop for a late lunch at Tim's Chowder House, where we had excellent clam chowder and lobster bisque ($2 to add a cup of soup/chowder with an order of food and $3 for a bowl - we should've opted for the latter); normal lobster bisque is made with a lot of cream, some wine and very little lobster. This one was made with, uhh, a lot of cream and a lot of lobster and so it has a full-bodied taste. However, we were initially served by this girl who was probably 11 and could not have been more than 13. I thought there were laws against child labour?!

While at Tim's Chowder House, I had a can of 'Barg's Famous Old Tume Root Bee, since 1898. It's good!', although it was rich and creamy, it had a slightly medicinal taste and couldn't beat A&W.

Crossing over into Maine, we sa a 'Country Bumpkins Childcare Centre'.

We went into a Walmart Superstore in North Windham to look for Apple Cider but amazingly despite their size they didn't stock any! Argh. Though we did find interesting Walmart shit: 'Twister grips multi-purpose gripper pad' to open tight bottles or jars. Also seen in Walmart: Nabisco Chicken in a Biskit! No awful, ersatz "In a Biskit - Chicken" for the discerning American pallete, no! Other funky things: a metal detector ($98) and beside that, a gizmo that honed in on animal noises and amplified them - the box illustrated this with a picture of a lion (for hunting?). Beside the Walmart Superstore there was a Shaw's Supermarket - I wondered how they survived (and no, they didn't sell Apple Cider, so that's not how they survived).

Walmart should just come to Singapore, but then NTUC would probably find some sneaky way to trip it up, so.

There were many posters of missing children at the entrance to the Walmart with funky age progressions (computer ageing of their kiddy photos to simulate what they'd look like in the present day). There was even one of someone missing since 1974, and now aged 47 or thereabouts. Is age progression really that accurate for 3 decades' worth of ageing?! I wonder why there're so many missing children in the US - I really doubt they get shipped to Bangkok to fuel the sex trade.

Further along our journey, we saw a sign reeking of idiocy outside Gulf of Maine Gunsmithing:

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"For those of you who keep sending Demarats (sic) to Augusta stupidity should be painfull" - We can tell this misspelling of Democrats was not deliberate from the later misspelling of 'painful'. Talk about stupidity!

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"Demarats. Sexual offenders. Bill Diamond" - What the three have in common, I have no idea! But then the Bill Diamond here is probably Senator Bill Diamond.

We reached the Portland Head lighthouse in the evening. Unfortunately, it was covered with scaffolding as it was being renovated. Just my luck, as with Hadrian's Gate in Athens. I did see an altogether more interesting attraction though - a girl with the most amazing number of straps on her bermudas.

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The Strapper

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Portland Head Lighthouse

On the way out, we saw a boy who put his large teddy bear on a swing and was pushing it to and fro.

For dinner, we stopped at Valley Chinese Cuisine at Portland, Maine. There was a lot of seating space inside, as well as a newspaper writeup, but we seemed to be only the second occupied table. As we ate, a lot of people came in, but they all ordered takeaway - what's with the association in the US of Chinese Food with takeaways? The joint also had ang moh staff, which seemed to be rare for a chinese food joint. This was good, since they're friendly and the Chinese staff always seem to be grumpy; one girl there reminded me of my cousin, with the same sullen look.

I had egg drop soup which came with kok kok (the fried pieces of wanton skin that you put on top of yu sheng), and they gave almost as much kok kok as soup. Furthermore, it was the best kok kok I'd ever tasted - very fresh, very crispy and very cruncy, and not as greasy as normal kok kok. I also tried chop suey, which was better than my sister had warned me, being basically a vegetable stir fry with a thick, gooey, gelatinous and translucent sauce (ie A lot of cornstarch). We also had Crab Rangoon (Wanton skin wrapping cream cheese and crab meat; what was Burmese about it, I didn't know). And the fortune cookie I got not only had 2 slips of paper, the papers had "daily numbers" and "lotto six #'s" on their rear. I suppose even fortune cookies have to move with the times.

Unfortunately, they didn't offer whole lobster, and neither did any of the Chinese restaurants we passed by, except for "Sally Ling's" in a Korean neighbourhood in Fort Lee, New Jersey, the option for which I spotted while asking for directions inside on a previous day.

The fried rice both Valley Chinese Cuisine and at Dong Fang (Westpoint) was not very good, having almost no ingredients (just a bit of pork and some sauce lending the grains a brownish colour), tasting reheated and worse - without the wok hei (wok fire). This was surprising given that their food was otherwise excellent. Perhaps they fry their fried rice in a big batch at the start of the day. Or maybe Americans aren't fans of good fried rice, preferring simpler forms of rice like plain rice or egg fried rice.

We drove on some more, and visited LL Bean, near Freeport, Maine. I didn't really see the attraction to some of visiting a place with a hell of a lot of outdoor stuff. A perfect place to go if you want to go outfield, but otherwise?

There was some interesting stuff in the aisles, though. Outdoor food, for example, cheaper (I'm told a 24 hour ration pack costs something like S$50) and sounding better than SAF rations (but then again, Pineapple Rice with Chicken sounded nice before I tried it): $2.75 for a freeze dried ice cream sandwich, and $7.25 for Teriyaki chicken with rice. There were also luxury items - a portable ice cream maker and a blow-up mattress, for example.

The hunting section was also curious, with goods like a 'Gun scrubber. Solvent/degreaser. Fast, easy, non-flammable and cleans gun actions without disassembly', a 'Bore scrubber. 2-in-1 bore cleaner. For copper and nitro fouling', a 'Boresnake rifle cleaner', 'World's fastest gun bore cleaner' which promised to clean gun bores in 10 seconds and best of all: 'The OTIS Elite - the most advanced gun cleaning system on Earth'. Sure beats a 5 piece oil and flannelette. So much for using technology to empower soldiers.

None of the chairs and sofas for sale in LL Bean had 'do not sit' signs, so you could try before you buy. There was also a substantial dog section - mostly stuff for the home, but none for cats, because cats are evil and nobody likes cats.

Sister's food diary: "Day 8 : Brunch by a pond in New Hampshire. Chili dog, hot dog, ice cream (one adult one kiddie). Early afternoon snack at North Conway, Tim's Chowder House complete with child labourer. Best-ever lobster bisque and clam chowder. Dinner at Valley, Portland ME. Egg-drop soup with kock-kock, seafood lo mein, pork chop suey."

Highway signs warning of deer had silhouettes of deer on them, but those warning of moose had the word 'moose' on them. Why?! (Unfortunately, I didn't get to see real deer or moose either)

New Hampshire had a lot of road signs warning of guys on snowmobiles.

Using lawn mowers is so much more efficient than dressing banglas up as terrorists armed with their Weapons of Mass Destruction (except for slopes and uneven ground). Hell, if you use a manual lawnmower you don't waste any fuel either. So why do we continue with our inefficient methods of grass cutting? Perhaps it's a conscious element of foreign policy.

Singaporeans universities cannot be Ivy League-standard because if ivy happened to grow on their walls, the administrators would have it removed forthwith and apply herbicide, thinking that it looked unsightly and disrupted the clean and pristine surface of the walls.
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