Sue and I ended up going on a long back road explore on Sunday 07/07/13 after some planned for stops where we knew where we were going.
We headed out around 10:30am to a shop in downtown Portsmouth that Sue had been wanting to check out. It was a beautiful day, though showers were predicted for later in the afternoon. We were both amazed that Portsmouth wasn't any where nearly as crowded as we had thought it would be for the tail end of the 4th of July weekend; there were parking spots literally all over the place.
After finishing up at the store, we hopped back into the car and headed off to visit the Wentworth-Coolidge Mansion State Historic Site. Since Sue loves old historic homes and hadn't seen this one, I had suggested that, since we were down in the area, we should go. They also have an art museum on the property, and I knew she'd enjoy that.
Despite being on the river, it was hot and humid as we walked around the grounds so Sue could get some pictures before our tour started. In fact, it was so bad the tour guide said that they were only giving reduced rate tours today because only the first floor was open; the upper floors were so hot they didn't want folks going through that. The house itself has only been occupied by three families since being built in late 1700s. It sits prominently on a knoll of land jutting out into the river facing toward Little Harbor. Unfortunately being State owned, there isn't the funding available to furnish the home as extensively as some of the other historic homes in the Portsmouth area.
From there, we drove out Rt. 33 and headed across Swamscott Road to Newfields, NH to check out what turned out to be a really disappointing antiques shop; just junk. But the drive was nice. So nice, in fact, that we got off onto some of the back roads instead of heading straight home and didn't have a clue as to where we were. We just followed the roads through some beautiful back country, and enjoyed the day.
In our travels, we crossed over I95, and traffic heading south was backed up for as far north at we could see - and we could see pretty far. It was awful! I just can't imagine how that just has to take some of the enjoyment out of a nice holiday weekend. I95 in our area gets fed from 3 major sources: From the north is all of the destination towns of southern Maine from Kittery, The Yorks, Wells, the Sebago Lake area, Ogunquit, up through Portland and beyond. From the northwest, Rt. 16 and the Spaulding Turnpike feeds in folks returning from both The Lakes Region with Lake Winnipesaukee, Squam Lakes, etc. as well as The New Hampshire White Mountain regions of the Conways and the Ossipee Lake Region. And then finally, is Rt. 101 funnelling folks returning from all of the southern areas of New Hampshire east of Rt. 93 as well as the entire destination resort area of Hampton Beach to the east of I95.
Trust me, if you're going to visit any of these areas, talk to someone local about all of this or you'll be really cranked. From the north there are major bottlenecks in Portland, ME, at the York tolls, getting across the Piscataqua high level bridge into New Hampshire, and then miles of backups to the Hampton Tolls. Rt. 16 feeds right into Portsmouth just beyond the Piscataqua bridge, and Rt. 101 comes in right at the Hampton tolls. And south of there, Rt. 495 can back up going west any number of places and getting through Saugus into Boston is awful. And then if you're trying to get south of Boston: fer-git-abow-dit! Good luck....
Fortunately, we missed all of that traffic mess and had a really nice time on our drive. It was still fairly hot when we got home, and so we just parked it out on the deck for awhile to read. But by 4:00pm we were ready for a glass of wine and some backgammon - which we played until we got hungry enough to go in about 7:30pm and heat up some leftovers. And just as we were thinking of taking our plates out onto the deck, it started to rain fairly hard. And that was fine as we just ate inside. We were both tired, and so we just watched a few episodes of HGTV's House Hunters International and headed off to bed.