November: another year rapidly approaches its fate. In New Hampshire and other northern U.S. locations, November can be downright bleak. It's that awkward few weeks when fall has fallen and the holidays lay just over the horizon. It takes significantly more effort to appreciate nature's allure when everything's brown and grey. Not only that, the knowledge that color won't return for five months can be demoralizing. If you let it.
I've been fortunate enough to have some memorable November travels under my belt, most notably a lifetime-memory-producing swing through Portugal, Spain, and France back in 2000. Last year, in honor of that trip's 20th anniversary I wrote a three-part reflection you can find here.
Fast forward a few years to 2005. I had graduated from Saint Anselm College that May, and was living in West Chester, Pennsylvania for grad school - to this day the farthest I've ever lived from home (a whopping 320 linear miles). Times were good. I spent every weekend with my girlfriend and wife-to-be. My goal while living in the mid-Atlantic was to take as many day trips as possible on a student budget.
On November 12-13 of that year, Alyse and I splurged on an overnight in Fredericksburg, Virginia, hitting Washington DC on our way back the following day. At the time, Virginia seemed an exotic southern locale. Though I'd been to Europe and Canada, my US explorations were pretty much limited to New England, New York, Ohio, and Florida.
Highlights included a trip to George Washington's Ferry Farm (upon which I saw cotton growing for the first and only time in my life), strolling through Fredericksburg's noble colonial lanes, and enjoying some fabulous late-fall weather.
On our way back north, it was DC 101 for me, as we did the monumental tourist traipse, stopping at as many big-ticket buildings as possible and knowing we'd be back again to duck into more cultural institutions.
The following November Alyse and I once again had phenomenal weather for a day trip to Baltimore. Oddly enough, I had been to the Inner Harbor twice already in my life, both flying day trips from New Hampshire in 2002 and 2003. (Long story short, I took advantage of extremely low airfares and joined up with back-to-back school trips that visited an art museum and then explored the city afterwards).
In 2011 - incredibly, 10 years ago this month - I found myself in South Florida for my cousin's wedding. This trip was bizarrely short, but in typical me fashion I hit the ground at full sprint. I arrived Friday night, had Saturday morning for sightseeing before the wedding, then headed back north midday Sunday.
Crammed into a hotel room with my parents and brother and unable to sleep, I took a sunrise ride to Palm Beach proper to get some seaside shots in solitude.
I also made it with my parents, brother, aunt, and grandma to Jupiter Lighthouse and felt the sand between my toes in Lake Worth before heading back on a direct flight from West Palm to White Plains - less than 48 hours after arrival.
More recently, I've tried to squeeze out every last week of "usable" November weather by bopping around New England.
2015: Springfield, MA
"Why would anyone go there?" you might be wondering. As I've said before, if you're asking me that then authentic travel isn't far off. In this case, it was a stop on the way to Thanksgiving with the New York family. Julia was about to turn 5, and given that Dr. Seuss had called Springfield home, we made quick stops at the Seuss Sculpture Garden...
...and the Mulberry Street of childhood literary fame! Springfield gets a bad rap within New England, but like anywhere else has some interesting bits of charm if you're willing to seek them out.
2017: Providence, RI
The purpose of this family excursion was to see "WaterFire", the noteworthy display of burning cauldrons along the Woonasquatucket River (literally didn't know that was the name of it until 5 minutes ago) in Rhode Island's quirky capital.
Sometimes November is nasty, but other times you get a passable or even lovely day in the 50s or 60s. We were able to eat outside in the Italian neighborhood, and Julia had a meaningful moment posing next to a giant chicken.
The best part about this little adventure was that it was Julia's first time in the Ocean State. "Collecting" states is something I know a thing or two about.
2018: St. Johnsbury, VT
Saintwherenow? Yup, chalk up another quirky small town for my travel map. Evan and I drove the better part of two hours to get to this northern outpost of 7,500 stalwart souls.
We stopped at the Haverhill-Bath Covered Bridge on the way up. (Sidebar: were historic New Englanders the least creative people imaginable? Not only did they name just about every town after their English homes, but a bridge connecting two towns that could have been named Zazzafrax, Buquasba, or Great Wooden Wally was named the Haverhill-Bath Covered Bridge. Do I hear crickets?)
We stopped at the St. Johnsbury Athenaeum to admire a gargantuan Albert Bierstadt painting, as well the warm, worn interior of a Vermont cultural institution.
We then crossed town to spend some time in the Fairbanks Museum, a delightfully eclectic collection of science, natural history, and all matter of miscellany (think mini "Night at the Museum").
Despite a dull layer of clouds and temperatures in the 40s, it was another agreeable day on the road, and exploring a little-known corner of northern New England.
2019: Springfield, MA (redux)
OK, to visit Springfield once is eyebrow-raising, but twice within four years? Both in November? Just plain mad, I say!
This time it was another trip with Evan, but to the Basketball Hall of Fame, where we'd visited as kids many years back. It's also worth mentioning that he has a November birthday, hence my propensity to treat him to some of New England's finest landmarks this time of year.
We didn't do too much else, but it was a worthwhile day immersed in basketball history and brotherly companionship.
2020: Rye, NH
Not much to say about this one other than the fact that it was unseasonably warm, and both Julia and I had a day off. Incredulous, we were even able to wade into the ocean for a bit (her for much longer than me!).
Considering that New Hampshire's sliver of the Atlantic is barely warm enough for me in August, doing this in November was absolutely bonkers. Not that I'm a fan of climate change, but if it means winter is delayed for a few weeks each year, I wouldn't turn that down...
2021: TBA ...which brings us to this year, the last November of my 30s. I feel like I can relate better to the month's nearly-apocalyptic vibe this year, as I partake from the dregs of youth - the twilight of life's first half. Obviously such dramatic statements are subjective, and someone who's 65 might be more youthful than someone half her age. Age is just a number, right?
In any case, stay tuned for deets on what may be my final mini trip of the year. Nothing too crazy, but heading a few hours west for what should be an interesting little jaunt. Oh, the places you'll go...