A Day On The River With My Dad

I had hoped for a day that could be characterized by a scene like that. God, I hope that last sentence makes sense.

I’m tired. Long day. Lots accomplished. This crap about vacations being for resting… I don’t think so.

Stef was babysitting this morning. That put her afternoon shopping with my mom on hold, which left enough time for Helaine and me to hoof it to the top of Sleeping Giant. I expected this week would be sans walking. Wrong.

And I claim to predict the future for a living! What a scam.

Back–oatmeal–shower. Stef takes my mom and drives off. This leaves Helaine, my dad and me in the house. I had a plan. I asked my dad if he wanted to take a drive to take some photos? I knew the answer before I popped the question.

Have I mentioned I predict the future for a living? I’m pretty good at it.

We hopped in the car and headed toward Chester. The top was down on this sunny afternoon. This whole trip was a leap of faith. I programmed our destination and blindly followed the disembodied GPS voice toward the Chester/Hadlyme ferry slip.

My folks lived in Connecticut for fourteen years before moving to Florida, but I guarantee this ferry (and its sister that runs between Rocky Hill and Glastonbury) was totally off their radar.

My goal was simple–get access to the Connecticut River. Is there a better way to see it than crossing it in a boat? Actually, calling this ferry a boat is a stretch. I’m not sure how to describe it, except to say “small.” The web write-ups consistently say it takes 8 or 9 cars. Yes, but with a shoehorn.

We timed it perfectly, getting to the slip as the ferry was halfway to the other side. That gave us time to get out of the car and take some shots.

As I approached the ramp, a canoe glided by. A woman in a two piece was paddling as a large black dog stood watch in the front. I had hoped for a day that could be characterized by a scene like that. God, I hope that last sentence makes sense.

“The present ferry, the Selden III,was built in 1949. It is an open, self-propelled craft, 65 feet long and 30 feet wide. The vessel can accommodate 8 to 9 cars and 49 passengers. The Selden III provides a convenient, direct link between Chester and Hadlyme at Route 148.” – CT DOT

I definitely recommend the ferry over the free bridge a few miles upriver. The ferry toll is $3 for a car and passengers, but it’s a piece of heaven. About &#190 of the way across the deckmate looked up and told the handful of passengers there was an eagle overhead. Holy crap, there was!

Making it to the Hadlyme side was all I had planned for the day, but it was still early. I asked my dad if he wanted to visit Gillette Castle? It became our next stop.

William Gillette was a stage actor, born in the 1850s. His specialty was Sherlock Holmes. Born too soon for the movies (he has a few picture credits from the 1910s), he still did very well financially. Gillette Castle was his estate, overlooking the Connecticut River at East Haddam.

I visited the castle when I was a little kid and the fear induced by seeing this very weird residence (now a state park) is still with me! I felt sorry for the young kids being dragged in by their parents. They will not sleep well tonight.

“Gillette Castle, built at a cost of about $1 million and completed in 1919, features a number of peculiarities including hidden mirrors, a lock-protected bar and intricate, hand-carved door latches on each of the castle’s 47 doors–no two are alike.” – About.com

I have more of an appreciation of Gillette’s home today. The outside is still strange to see, but inside is now more understandable.

It was hot today, so as I explored the home, my dad stayed downstairs. I can’t say enough about the Castle staff who brought him a chair and made sure he was comfortable. Then they let me backtrack (wrong way on the one-way stairs) to rejoin him when I was done.

We got back to the car and I punched the GPS screen a few more times, programming in our next destination. It wasn’t long before we were at the Goodspeed Opera House. As strange as it is to say, this theater in the middle-of-nowhere has an astounding history of spawning Broadway hits, including Annie!

Talk about spooky looking buildings!

The Victorian inspired theater sits on the river too, but at a much lower elevation than Gillette Castle. Unfortunately, there wasn’t the easy foot access we had there either. I went out and took a few pictures of the opera house and the swing bridge across the Connecticut and got back in the car.

That was it for us. We were ready to go home.

I am very lucky indeed to have a father I enjoy sharing afternoons like this with. I’m luckier still, he enjoys sharing them with me.