Day 722: Marshes, Subs, and the Coast Guard

We awoke to a disgustingly humid day at the Walmart of Brandford, Connecticut.  We got on the road as quick as we could and drove east to the Salt Meadow Unit of the Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge:



We hiked down to the marsh.  We had to walk quickly to avoid the tenacious swarms of flies:



On the way back, Trish and M encountered this healthy looking fellow:




At the visitor contact station, the kids received a Biologist in Training workbook which is designed to be completed at a body of water.  We took the books with us, as well as the patches they will receive when the workbooks are complete:


Our next stop was the Submarine Force Library and Museum in Groton, Connecticut.  The large hoop on the left represents the cross section of a modern Ohio-class submarine, while the small hoop represents the cross section of the Navy’s first submarine, the Holland-class submarine:


The kids found a bird nest in the tail section of this submarine display:



The museum includes a walking tour of the USS Nautilus, the world’s first nuclear submarine and the first nautical vessel to reach the North Pole:



The torpedo room:


Officer’s mess:


The boat commander was the only one to have a private cabin:





The Nautilus was the first submarine to use staircases instead of ladders to move between decks.  It’s quite steep:




It’s not the Hilton:



This schedule in the mess hall may soon appear in our RV:


More bunks:


In the museum itself, a Polaris missile, a submarine-launched ballistic missile, was on display:




A model of a Gato-class submarine:


Modern submarines have three decks:


We left the RV at the museum and drove the truck across the river to the Coast Guard Academy in New London where we visited the US Coast Guard Museum:


I really enjoyed this museum!  I had no idea that the Coast Guard was formed from many other services, including the U.S. Revenue Cutter Service which was formed in the 1790s to collect import taxes from ships arriving in the US.  The Coast Guard was moved from the Department of Treasury to Transportation to Homeland Security.  It’s the only branch of the military not under the Department of Defense:




Here are various life saving devices from the U.S. Life-Saving Service, which was merged in 1915 with the U.S. Revenue Cutter Service to form the Coast Guard.  The object hanging from the block and tackle is a britches buoy, a floating life ring mated to a canvas diaper.  The person needing rescue would get into the diaper and be hoisted to safety:


This life preserver is made of wood and is hinged to be snapped around the neck.  The instructions say “when jumping, hold down with hands” to prevent a broken neck upon hitting the water.  We were relieved to read that this design never made it into production:



After returning to Groton to pick up the RV, we drove North to Norwich, Connecticut where we will be staying in the parking lot of the Brothers of Joseph synagogue through Shabbos.  See the trip map for today’s drive and our current location.

Day 721: Weir Farm National Historic Site

Today we left our driveway, where we have been parked for the last three weeks, to officially begin our third year of travels. Ben reinstalled the fifth wheel hitch in the bed of the truck after removing it to take a load to the dump.  Here the lower half of the hitch is installed:


Farewell, camping spot:


Ben saw this wasp while trimming dead branches off a tree.  He’ll explains what’s going on here:

At first, I thought this wasp, which is about 3 inches long, was molting.  After further research, I found out that this is a Giant Ichneumon Wasp (Megarhyssa sp., likely Megarhyssa greenei or Megarhyssa macrurus).  The female uses her antenna to find a Pigeon Horntail larva living inside the tree.  She drills about 1.5 inches through the wood and into the larva using her two inch-long ovipositor, then lays her eggs inside the larva.  When the eggs hatch, they consume the larva.  In this photo, the ovipositor is drilled about halfway in to the tree.  The two loops are protective sheathing for the ovipositor that are drawn away during the drilling process:


Our first stop, just a short drive away in Wilton, Connecticut was the Weir Farm National Historic Site.  Established as a National Historic Site in 1990, it preserves the history and legacy of one of the fathers of American Impressionism, Julian Alden Weir:


J. Alden Weir began his career in New York as an art instructor and portrait painter after studying for several years in France.  Although his early opinions of the French Impressionists were rather critical, Weir began to explore painting in the Impressionist style outside on the grounds of the farm he purchased in 1882.  He preferred softer colors to the French style of bright colors, and focused mainly on his family and scenes around his large and beautiful property:


The Weir Family Home:




Weir painted his wife and children seated on this rock.  In the painting, the tress are spaced far apart and are obviously quite young. Today, the trees have nearly merged at their base and completely cover the rock:


Weir created many beautiful areas on his property.  Here is the entrance to his “secret garden” where several varieties of flowers and shrubs offer ample material to inspire any painter:


The kids and I worked on their Junior Ranger booklets together.  When researching this Historic Site last night, I learned that the Junior Ranger program involved letterboxing which is something we have really enjoyed at different locations on our trip!  We came prepared with our own letterboxing stamps that we added to the 5 letterboxes we found around the property:



B is hot on the trail to letterbox #3 which she found just around the corner of this barn:



After completing the Junior Ranger books, we all headed to Weir’s art studio:


Walking into Weir’s studio was like stepping into another world.  The Park Service has done a wonderful job of preserving his studio space, including several paintings, original paints, and his mixing palette.  The park rangers were very knowledgeable, and told us many interesting facts about Weir’s studio.  We were told that Weir included stars on the ceilings of all his buildings, and we saw the only remaining examples in his studio.  The rangers also told us how Weir made several changes to his studio, including changing the color of the ceiling from green to grey to prevent the reflected light from affecting his work.  He also blocked off a set of windows for a similar reason:




Weir built a second studio for his son-in-law, sculptor Mahonri Young, grandson of Brigham Young.  Many of Young’s works reflected his Mormon roots, including his most famous work, This is the Place, which is displayed outside Salt Lake City, Utah.  The original panels used to cast this work are on site, and two of the panels are currently displayed in Young’s studio:




The kids received their Junior Ranger badges:


Weir Farm had no room for our RV, so we had left it at the nearby G & B Cultural Center and drove over to Weir Farm.  After leaving Weir Farm, we returned to the RV, had dinner, and then visited the various galleries in the Cultural Center:



B took some time to photograph the beautiful flowers outside the gallery:




The director of the cultural center generously offered to have us overnight there, but since the temperature was still in the 90s, we decided to drive another hour to overnight at the Walmart of Branford, Connecticut, which is near tomorrow’s activities.  It turned out to be a great decision, having cooled down to the the mid 80’s with a light breeze by the time we arrived.  It was still really hot and humid, so we broke out the generator to run the air conditioner for an hour before bed.  We sure do miss being plugged in back home with the AC running!

See the trip map for today’s drive and our current location.

Day 719: Back on the Road Prep

We’ve partially planned the next leg of the trip, in which we will explore New England and Nova Scotia.  Because it is in the 90s and humid now, we decided to stick to the coast in an effort to get cooler temperatures and ocean breezes.  We will therefore first head East along the coast of Connecticut. Our first stop will be Weir Farm National Historic Site, and it turns out the Junior Ranger program there involves letterboxing, so Trish and B made new letterboxing stamps:


Since the visitor center at Weir Farm is only open Wednesday through Sunday, we will linger here one more day before heading out.