Wednesday, July 22, 2009 Road Junkies 0 Comments

Deep River, Connecticut—A big part of our travel plans for this summer involved LB CON, the first ever national letterboxing convention, scheduled for July 18-19 in St. Louis. We planned to leave Alabama after Nanamama's 80th  birthday celebration and drive to the heartland.
Then June hit Atlanta with the temperature topping 90 degrees day after day. "Hmmm," we thought, "St. Louis is usually as hot or hotter than Atlanta. Is that really where we want to go in mid-July?"
At the same time our friends Cathy and Ric were telling us how much they were enjoying Connecticut's mild summer. Soon we were changing our plans from LB CON to LB Conn. What's not to like about a quiet little New England village with the summer temperature in the 70's?
Connecticut quaintness
Coincidentally we had just read about the new America the Beautiful series of letterboxes planted in Connecticut-- one box for each of the 50 states with stamps carved by artists from all over the country. We had a goal for LB Conn!

Another motivator was the problem we've had with a plethora of ticks in Georgia this summer. Somehow we convinced ourselves that ticks would not be an issue in Connecticut. Only later did we suspect (and confirm) that Lyme disease was named for Lyme, CT.

So off we went in search of the America the Beautiful letterboxes on the day after we arrived. Sure, the trails we were on were very grassy but we weren't worried. Then we found a tick on Ken while still on the trail, and Dianne had a little hitchhiker when we returned to the hotel.
Tick tock, tick tock
Time to regroup! We decided the America the Beautiful series would be so much fun to search for in late October or November and decided to start searching for letterboxes that didn't involve so much hiking in the (tick-infested) woods. The Salmon Brook letterbox in Glastonbury took us to a nice waterfall.

Stamping in

Cemeteries are a very popular location for letterboxes in Connecticut, we learned. Of course, these are not cemeteries of the type we know in the South. Many have colonial era graves and tombstones. Old South Cemetery in East Hartford, despite having colonial era headstones, seems all but forgotten except for a small sign on High Street pointing out its existence. 
A little cemetery on a tiny mound of earth now surrounded on all sides by a mobile home park that pays little testament to the pioneers buried there, it is a small diamond in the rough. According to the clue, the planter placed a letterbox here "to draw some attention to this cemetery in the hope that letterboxers will come and visit, even if not to pay respect to the brave colonials, but perhaps to remember them nonetheless."
Lunette style headstones popular with early graves
Nomad Indian Saint, a Connecticut letterboxer, has planted several dozen boxes in recognition of the stone carvers who produced the headstones in these 17th and 18th century cemeteries. The term lunette refers to the top central area of the headstone, the area containing the cherub. Her letterboxes feature these carvings, and the clues highlight the careers of these talented carvers.
Amazing detail from early headstones
We stayed in the town of Glastonbury, a suburb of Hartford, for the first part of our trip. Mid-week we met our friends Cathy and Ric in the little town of Coventry and did a bit of letterboxing together. We had dinner at a local pub, Bidwell Tavern. The food was great, as was the atmosphere. It also taught us a bit about history. We've always thought Manuel's Tavern in Atlanta was a quaint old neighborhood watering hole. It opened in 1956.

Opened in Coventry in 1822
On Sunday, we drove down to the coast and visited Ken's cousin Linda, who lives in Milford on Long Island Sound. After a walk along the shore, we enjoyed a delicious dinner in a harborside restaurant.  Following our relaxing meal and visit, we introduced Linda to letterboxing. As we were searching near the marina, we were entertained by a saxophonist sitting at the end of the dock.
Great setting for a visit with Linda
Elizabeth Park's annuals garden
 Our visit to Hartford took us to the beautiful Elizabeth Park in search of a letterbox. Near each of their flower gardens was posted a sign with a chart relating which flowers were planted in each section. A visit to Mark Twain's Hartford home was also motivated by the search for a letterbox. The 19–room Victorian mansion was Twain's home from 1873 to 1891.
Nice digs for a Missouri kid
The letterbox was located in the corner of the gift shop.
We spent the last couple of days of our trip with Cathy and Ric in Deep River at their condo in the incredible Piano Works building, a former factory. With only a couple of days left, we refused to let the rain interfere with our enjoyment.  Ric supplied some rain gear and off we went to the coastal town of Essex with its beautiful Riverview Cemetery.
Riverview Cemetery in Essex
After picking up a delicious lunch at Olive Oyl's deli, we enjoyed some time at the Essex harbor.
Ric and Cathy at Essex harbor
A local sailboat offered day trips, and Ken was ready to hop on board. Cathy and Ric, who have post-retirement sailing plans, needed no convincing. The boat's captain, however, was reluctant to go out with storms in the forecast.
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Our LB Conn plans turned out even better than we hoped. We loved the little villages, the mild climate, and the time with friends and family. We'll definitely be back!

Sounds like big fun, but so hot...