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Off the Beaten Path Adventures

The Laker - June 10, 2017





Day Tripping

Story & Photos by Kathi Caldwell-Hopper

On a recent springtime Sunday morning, I decided it was time for my annual share-some-unusual-places ride. It isn’t just any sort of ride that I write about every late May/early June. A few years ago, I decided I just had to share some of my most unknown (by those visiting for Laconia’s Motorcycle Week) places.

“How about the Tilton Arch, the Madison Boulder and Sculptured Rocks?” I asked myself as I tried to recount all the strange and fun day trip rides I have taken. I’m not a motorcyclist, but I wanted to write about places that those in the area for Bike Week as I call it, could visit via motorcycle.

The story was popular and we (The Laker) even got a few complimentary letters with the request for more weird or little known places to visit. This challenge was right up my alley, because nothing makes my pulse quicken like a dirt road with no signage, a distant pond that I’m not sure how to reach, a ghost town or historical area that holds mystery or a good legendary tale.

So this year, as I prepare for Motorcycle Week in the Lakes Region, I sat down to think about some places our motorcycling readers might enjoy visiting. “Hmmm…how about Potter Place, the village where NH’s black magician lived in the 1800s? And what about a little ride up to see the exhibit at Castle in the Clouds that epitomizes the natural beauty of NH?” I asked myself.

As it does sometimes in the spring in NH, it had been raining and chilly for days, but on this weekend, the sun finally came out and a warmth replaced the cold. The sky was filled with puffy gray and white clouds scudding across the blue that seemed to meet the green mountain horizon.

“Perfect weather for an off-the-beaten-path trek!” I told myself as I headed out the door.

First, I headed from the Laconia area to Franklin on Rt. 3. I stopped first for a hearty breakfast at Water Street Café near Fair Street in Laconia. It was busy, as was to be expected on a Sunday morning, but I was soon seated and enjoying a stack of cranberry pancakes (with real NH maple syrup of course!) and hot coffee.

Back on the road, I continued on Rt. 3 past the Tanger Outlet at 120 Laconia Road, Suite 132 in Tilton. Along with many great shops, this is also the place where the Laconia Art Association has a spacious gallery. I recently visited (and wrote about) the gallery and its many wonderful works by Lakes Region artists. While it was not on my day trip agenda, if you are a motorcyclist who wouldn’t mind bringing home a painting, photo or print of the scenic Lakes Region, I strongly urged you to stop in the gallery, which is open Thursday through Sunday; call 603-998-0029 or visit www.lraanh.org.

While this story also is not about the Tilton Arch and the many wonderful old statues places around the town by wealthy Charles Tilton many years ago, I urge you to ask anyone in the town how to get to the Arch. You can see it from certain locations in town and up close, it’s quite a mammoth structure. There is parking by the Arch and it is free to visit. It’s a fabulous place for a photo, so bring your cell phone or camera!

To reach Potter Place/Andover, travel through Franklin and take a left onto Rt. 3A towards Bristol. A few miles after your left turn, you will see a left turn/sign for Rt. 4/Andover.

This route will take you – leisurely – along the shores of Webster Lake. You may say, “Hey! I never heard of Webster Lake!” and you wouldn’t be the only one to have not known about the body of water. It isn’t particularly huge, like Winnipesaukee, but I love Webster Lake. It is quieter, pretty and you don’t see a lot of boat traffic and congestion like busier places. You’d be correct if you guessed that the lake is named after an area native of note: Daniel Webster who grew up not far away.

The pace of travel and life is slower here and you will see some pretty fields and farms; pay attention because the road has some twisting and winding and the speed limit is enforced.

Andover is a tiny town with many old buildings. You won’t find many stores in the village area, but it is definitely a serene place. After traveling this road, you will soon come to a fork in the road. If you head left, you will go to Boscawen/Concord; right takes you to Potter Place, not many miles down Rt. 4.

The day I visited, the day seemed to have slid away and it was mid afternoon on a Saturday when I saw the sign for Potter Place (which is technically a sort of hamlet of Andover). I hadn’t called ahead and I was right in assuming the little cluster of houses and the railroad station, general store and the property where 1800s African-American magician Richard Potter and his wife, Sally, are buried would be closed for the day.

The Andover Historical Society is in charge of the railroad station, the train car, old-time general store/post office museum and the events that take place on the property each summer. I shrugged, not really disappointed that the place was closed. For me, you don’t need to see each and every display to get a feeling for a place. I parked in the lot beside the rust red train station and decided to take a few cell phone photos of the general store. As I stood beside my car, the lonely stillness and old-fashioned feeling of the hamlet washed over me. I could imagine a storekeeper standing in the display window of the general store, watching for his next customer. A lady – maybe Sally Potter – would approach, her long skirt trailing in the dust kicked up from the wagons that rattled by. In the distance, a whistle would cut through the forest, signaling the soon-to-arrive train.

But it was silence that filled the air on this day and the spicy scent of lilacs flowering on either side of the marble slab stone stairs of old J.C. Emons Store and Post Office. I gazed through the window and saw a Historical Society display and poster advertising an exhibit of train prints on display in the train station this summer.

I had visited Potter Place last summer and was aware the Society had created a nice garden at the site of Richard Potter’s former home (now a cellar hole). Richard and Sally are buried in a modest little cemetery in this area and I stopped by to say a silent hello to this man who had talent and courage to travel the country, entertaining folks in town halls, saloons and other places when slavery would have made travel quite perilous in some places.

A car slowed and stopped and a friendly woman asked if she could help or answer questions. I was lucky to chat with one of the Historical Society members who had stopped by the general store to retriever some paperwork. She invited me into the store where I got to see the many displays and step back into what the world would have been like when the store was the hub of the community.

The railroad ran all the time, and made the hamlet very busy. It would have seen passengers from many far away places pass through, and maybe some took the train to try to catch a glimpse of Richard Potter, the magician who was so unlike most people in this part of the world in the 1800s.

I saw a display of old-time hats and a sign that told of a millinery shop that once thrived in the town. It seems the female proprietor had a workshop over a store in town and spent the long, cold winters taking orders and creating fashionable hats. When spring arrived, the local ladies were atwitter and eager to see the new hats that would set the fashion pace for the summer!

The shop had an old-time pot bellied wood stove, with chairs placed around a checkerboard on a wooden barrel, just like we would imagine. Shelves are lined with old-time cans and merchandise; at one time this store was definitely the place to be! You could get your mail here, too, at the post office, which took up part of the first floor store space.

Of note, a great Old Time Fair takes place each summer. This fair is always the first Sunday in August, and this year the date is August 6. Organized by the Society, the fair is held on the Society’s grounds in Potter Place. This is a town-wide “Old Home Day” event, with activities and fun for all ages. Included are a country auction, an extensive flea market, a craft market, a farmers market, railroad handcar rides, children’s games, antique vehicle exhibits, musical entertainment, and much more.

If you want to really experience what life was like in a New England town over 100 years ago, put a visit to Potter Place on your agenda. (When I mentioned to the lady from the Historical Society that I was writing a story on where motorcyclists could visit during Bike Week, she smiled and said everyone is most welcome.)

The Society’s museum buildings are open to visitors during the summer on weekends from Memorial Day to Columbus Day. Hours are Saturdays from 10 am to 3 m and Sundays from 1 to 3 pm. Memberships and contributions are gratefully received. The Andover Historical Society is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. For further information, please contact the Andover Historical Society at PO Box 167, Andover NH 03216 or Pres@AndoverHistory.org. The website has many photos and information; visit www.andoverhistory.org.

It is admittedly a long ride from Potter Place/Andover to Castle in the Clouds in Moultonboro, but day tripping is really all about driving around, discovering unusual places…and sometimes, getting a bit lost!

It took me over an hour to retrace my route, and this time I decided to go through Danbury/Rt. 4, not far from Andover. It is another quiet village and has a lot of pretty scenery. Passing through Bristol, I soon found my way to Rt. 104/New Hampton. I stayed on this route until I came to Meredith, which was very busy with traffic on the sunny weekend afternoon.

From Meredith, I took Rt. 25 towards Center Harbor and on through Moultonboro. I took a right hand turn onto Rt. 171 and before long, I saw the left turn for Ossipee Park Road. Please drive carefully on this road, because it will lead you up the mountain. Once cresting the rise, you will have beautiful views of the lush, rolling fields and horse stables for Riding in the Clouds.

I was on a bit of a schedule at this point, knowing the afternoon was waning. So I drove to the Castle parking lot and headed right into the Carriage House. It was a busy place, and many diners were still enjoying lunch in the café. The charming trolley was parked outside, and passengers were boarding for a ride up to the famed Lucknow (Castle in the Clouds). If you have not yet visited the Castle, you “gotta do it” as I heard one man advising another visitor on the day I was there. The views are unsurpassed, the story and history of the estate and the architecture are memorable indeed.

I’ve been to the Castle many times, and so I was familiar with the Carriage House Gallery (with free admission). It is on the first floor and easy to spot. The exhibit was titled “Finding Place on Paper: Contemporary Poets and Printmakers Explore the Lakes Region and White Mountains.”

Before the storm…on birch bark is part of the current exhibit at Castle in the Clouds, Moultonboro, NH.

The exhibit gallery space isn’t huge, but I love the intimacy of the setting and it was just right for this particular show. The multi-media exhibit showcases work by local artists and poets and provides a wonderful perspective on artists’ and poets’ personal connections to some of New Hampshire’s most naturally beautiful environments.  The unique combination of words and visual images highlighted how different people (artists and poets) interpret the natural world. Poems were displayed alongside the prints, and even a rustic white birch log had words written on it! The wonderful exhibit is on view through October 22. Call Castle in the Clouds at 603-476-5900 or visit www.castleintheclouds.org. to view the extensive listing of events.

Heading back to my home after the long, but fruitful day trip, I was satisfied that I had found some new and off-the-beaten path day trip adventures for the many motorcyclists who com to the Lakes Region each June. While motorcyclists come for the excitement and entertainment, now and then they may wish to glimpse a more sedate portion of the state, and learn about its sometimes-unusual history. And if truly curious about what lies down a dirt road or in a historic building or at a castle, like me, they won’t mind getting a little bit lost. 

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