On Sunday afternoon, as mentors and participants piled their luggage in the lobby, then onto carts, then into shuttles or car trunks, I finally ventured out of the hotel in Manchester, New Hampshire, to see where I was. I'd been out once previously, seeking dinner, but that was a directed venture and Gwen Steege, my editor at Storey Publishing, and I were talking, so I only got a rough idea of the streets we walked along.
This post-SOAR Sunday accommodated an exploration because my flight went out late in the afternoon. I did have a goal in mind: food. The restaurant at the hotel did have a good vegetarian option, but I wanted something different and with more protein. On the evening that I'd arrived, my daughter (with more energy than I could muster after travel) had done some internet searches on my behalf for places to eat (all turned out to be closed by then), so I had a place in mind. It was on the same street as the hotel. I began by walking in the wrong direction, which isn't typical for me and is one of many indicators I've had in the past week that my reserves have been a bit extra-depleted after the week of teaching: notes to self—eat well; sleep as much as you can; yes, you have to work, but go at it slowly and deliberately and do the things that come most easily.
After a couple of blocks, when I figured out that the street numbers were going down, rather than up, and that the neighborhood was looking less like a place that would have a restaurant in it (although you never know), I turned around and headed back toward, and past, the hotel. Odd: The street was blocked off with barricades, and there was a police car at the intersection by the park, with its lights flashing.
This in itself wasn't so unusual. The hotel room that Stephenie Gaustad and I shared had been on the eighth floor and at the front of the building. It was a nice view, and at almost any time of the night (we were teaching during the days), emergency lights flashed blue or red somewhere on the streets below. It was hard to tell whether they were responding to calls or just controlling traffic—for example, for the International Chili Society's World Championship Chili Cook-off, which happened in the park directly under our window on both days of the SOAR-prep weekend. (On that first Sunday, some SOAR-ready folks got out of the hotel to try a variety of chilis. I was sorting wool. I did chat in the elevators with several chili-cooking teams, and I also watched the uniformed teams march into the competition area on Sunday morning. LOTS of work for them that weekend, and it sounded like fun. Also very high-energy and a bit stressful.)
But back to the flashing lights on the following Sunday. As I walked farther down Elm Street, I noticed that people were standing along the curbs on both sides, as if they might be expecting . . . a parade. And then I heard sirens and saw more flashing lights on a police car coming toward me, lights ablaze. Oh, Columbus Day! And they must have a parade here! (Sometimes New England is just wonderful that way.)
I was definitely heading in the right direction for the restaurant my daughter had spotted online, and worried a bit that it would be swamped because of the parade, but decided that a parade was exactly what I needed just then.
I walked down Elm Street and found the restaurant, thinking I'd watch the parade from right out front and then retreat inside for some lunch. Plenty of people had shown up to view the procession, but there was lots of room along the sidewalks.
As it turned out, the parade consisted of high school marching bands (all very good) and FIRE TRUCKS! Fire trucks not only from New Hampshire but all several nearby states: I know I saw Maine and Massachusetts, am pretty sure about Vermont, and think there were some Connecticut and New York as well. Checking my photos doesn't help. Many engines have large labels for their towns, but their state identity was only readily visible on license plates (not so clear in the pictures).
Here are a couple of marching bands:
Some of the bands had people with cool-down equipment, watching carefully for signs of stress in the musicians.
The bands were all separated from each other by lots of fire trucks, with people of all ages riding in the trucks.
Some of the fire equipment was about the same age as I am:
And some was a good deal older:
That's 1852 fire equipment from Marblehead, Mass.
I grew up in an era of hood ornaments, and in a family where being able to recognize makes and models of cars and trucks was a plus, so it was fun to get a good shot of a nice Mack bulldog:
I have lots more photos of fire equipment. Only two of the pictures I took ended up out of focus. Two little boys near where I was standing were jumping up and down with excitement for the whole forty minutes it took the parade to pass. Everything that had a siren was blasting it (I had to put my fingers in my ears for part of the time), and there were friendly folk waving from the driver's and riders' seats.
The last truck in the line appeared to be driven by a dalmatian.
There was a real dog in the parade, too, up at the front.
Lunch at Republic? Flavorful, local, leisurely, and relatively quiet. Despite the potential collision of seasonings, I had North African spiced pickled vegetables (which woke up my taste buds effectively) and field mushroom bolognese (vegetarian style) with grilled polenta and whipped ricotta, plus some iced tea to temper the transition. Aahhh.
And then I went back to the Radisson lobby, so well sound-insulated that the people hanging out there hadn't even known there had been a siren- and marching-band parade that ended half a block away, and spent a relaxed two hours spinning, visiting, and waiting for the shuttle to the airport. Wind-down time.