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The question was to go or not to go…. And it all depended on one person, Dipali, as she had flue and fever. Shettigar had already declared that the trip will be cancelled if we decide not to join and our last hope was on that weekend to enjoy the fall colours. Because, that weekend was supposed to be the last weekend of the peak fall.

Brave enough and getting rid of boredom sitting all week at home, Dipali and myself decided to go. I was in a bit of tension what if her fever aggravates and knowing what kind of cold we might face . Thinking forward, I did packed all the medicines and warm clothes for her. Plan was to start by 5.00 in the morning. So we woke at 4.00 am, Dipali prepared Pohe for the trip. But because of Friday nights Falguni Pathak Dandiya Show, Venkat and Abhay made it to our house by 5:45 am and we made at Somerville by 7.00 a.m. In between, we picked up B.V. from Amar's place and Shetti met us there itself.
This time we were lucky to have an excellent and comfortable van: Nissan Quest. Main drivers being Shetti and Venkat. I was in the extra league.

Even starting at 7.00 in the morning, it was freezing out side and bit windy too. Shetti had to remove some ice from windshield before really getting started. The fun started the minute we started our journey. Great Natural Scenery while travelling from New York to Hartford, Connecticut. The good music playing on got everybody enchanted that nobody really spoke for an hour or two. Already the camera's were out and Abhay (Official Photographer), Asha and Dipali were in action capturing the great moments.

After almost 3 1/2 hours drive, we took a break just after passing Hartford and making the first U turn of the trip passing by the athletes running for charity. Everybody appreciated Dipali's pohe for the breakfast (I wish they appreciated the one who cut the onion, chillies and coriander etc.). After this digestive activity, I knew, we won't have trouble for next 2-3 hrs at least. Venkat took over the wheels and gave us some initial chills, but was performing very well later on.
Looking over the beauty of Connecticut and Massachusetts states, we passed over few lakes and small shipyards. We reached Conway, New Hampshire at around 1:30 pm to take a break at Subway in Conway. Venkat didn't ate anything, but everybody else enjoyed their sandwiches. After that, I took on the wheels and within few miles, we did our first real stop of our trip, at place which I don't think anybody of us know by name, but was one of the beautiful places on this earth. There was beautiful lake besides the road and dense forest nearby. All the trees were having colours Yellow, Orange, Pink and Red. A small road was going through the forest and a wooden bridge was built on the lake. It was very quiet there and we had our first encounter with foliage there.
Time past by, poses were given, snaps were taken and moments were enjoyed in an hour. See our photos to really know what I mean.
Next stop was the motel we had booked. After driving another 10-15 miles, we found it in heart of downtown of North Conway. We reached there by 3.00 pm. It was around 370 miles (600 Km) journey. Our motel name was School House Motel and it was next to a mountain. We had booking for 6 person, but we were 7. Mr. Denis, the motel owner, was kind enough to add another person and supplied a pad and cushion just for $4 more. So, B.V 's problem was solved.

After freshening up in next 30 mins, we came out to go out for another excursions. Firstly, we had some coffee and donuts in Dunkin Donuts, and we followed a road. We just wanted a nice evening drive amidst colourful trees. The road we chosen was the most beautiful in terms of foliage. It was going through small mountains. A small river was accompanying us all the way. It was going to be dark soon. We saw a group of cars parked near a mountain, just next to road. We also stopped there. We found some people having their dinner near the cars. Those were trekkers and they had finished a trek. It was end point of a mountain trek. One lady from that group told us that it was a nice trek route, but its late to start at that time. But the route was so tempting for foliage colours, we couldn't resist ourselves to go for some distance on it. We had a nice walk of 15 minutes on it and we turned back as it was almost pitch dark in that forest.

We came back to downtown to stroll and have look at shops. It was only 7.00 pm and all of the shops were closed by that time. We found it surprising because in New York, we get shops open till midnight. In spite of that, we took a round of the downtown. It was similar to some town in India. Road was very dusty, in bad condition, no road divider and very deam light on roads. Still several tourists were roaming around. We just bought the Maple syrup bottle as a souvenir. After the walk and window shopping, we went to dinner in Indian Restaurant called "Shalimar Of India". Grave mistake. The food was not that good and the cost was very high. Everybody left the restaurant regretting the choice we made. Don't think Venkat enjoyed the veg food either.

Looking forward to next day, it was decided we'll sleep early and wake up early to make more out of that day before 2 PM so we can head start our return journey. In the morning, while we were getting ready, Abhay, Venkat and BV had a morning drive to a nearby river. We left the motel at 8.00 am and started for Mount Washington. The mountain base was around 30 miles. Mount Washington is the highest peak in the northeastern U.S., with height of 6,288 feet (1916.6 m). There are two ways to reach the top, an auto road of 8 miles and the other is to take Cog Rail. We decided to drive ourselves to top by auto road. But, things were not going as planned, We started on the auto road, but the road was closed due to bad weather. The officials told us that there's heavy snowfall on the road, and they will decide whether the road will get open at 12 noon. (Later on, I would say, it was good that we didn't drove in those conditions.) It was 9.00 am at that time. We decided to wait till noon. By that time, we decided to take Gondola Ride (a cable car) to Wildcat Mountain, which was very near.

The Wildcat Gondola, Wildcat's trademark for many years, was the first lift of this type to be erected in U.S.. It is carried by 23 towers which kept the lift close to the contours of the mountain. It zips from the base to the summit in just over 6 minutes. For just $12, it takes you to top of Wildcat mountain, which is approx. 4000 ft. high and a great place for Ski lovers. The wildcat mountain region is voted to be most scenic place in U.S., and we found it really true. It was like a heaven there. Since we reached the base at 9.00 am and cable car was to start at 10.00, we decided to spend some time there itself. Luckily, we found out a self guided Pinkham trail. Its a 45 min. trail going through dense forest, and ends at Wilson Waterfalls. The trail is self guided, means there are proper directions written at every turn. You just have to follow the direction arrows. As Abhay went to get B.V., we five went ahead for trail. It was nice walk in jungle along the bank of small stream of water. A point came where we had to decide whether to go left or right and we also required to inform Abhay which way we were going. Since mobile were out of range, we left message on small piece of paper for Abhay and BV and attached  it to tree with the direction. Abhay, being a veteran trekker, did find the message and smartly located us. It was wonderful trail and before we came to sense the time, we were running back to cable car station for the ride up.

We were the first one to ride the car that day, and everybody remembered the Raigad rope way and its thrilling experience. A small station was built on top of the mountain, few maps were shown to give the idea of the sights from the mountain. The great White Mountain range could be clearly seen. The Appalachian range was visible and one could feel the vastness of it. The valley was having dense forest and the trees were in various shades of yellow and orange colours. It was exceptionally beautiful view from the top. Its no wonder that it was the most scenic place in U.S.. Snaps were taken and Abhay and Venkat were already looking forward to the Wildcat trail they had found, and soon we followed them. It wasn't an easy trail as it had to do some rock climbing. But Diapli and Asha did a good job. Somehow, the surroundings were so good that it instilled the energy in all of us. The water in small cisterns on the way was frozen. An hour or so went during this and then we decided to go back down and check the Mt. Washington road conditions.

The road conditions were still not favourable. But our intention was to reach the top of Mt. Washington in any way. "Take a chance. May not know if you'll come here again" motto made us to decide to take the other way to reach the Mt. Washington top, The Cog Railway. The starting point of the train was on the other side of the mountain, which was another 40 miles drive. Yet we started to go there. On the way, we stopped at a wooden bridge called 'Covered Bridge'. It was a very old wooden bridge on Ellis river. The scenery on the river side was really awesome. We had some snaps there and we left for Cog Rail station.

Cog Rail station was bit remote and we reached there around 12.45 pm missing the 1 o'clock train. But we were lucky to get 2 o'clock train tickets. A $57 per person ticket was a bit costly, but was worth the effort. We have to wait for one more hour for the 2 O'clock train. The station had a small open ground museum of old train engines, point of my interest. We spent some time there. It was very cold out there. Temperature was 1 degree Celsius with wind. The wind was also carrying small particles of snow. So, we went to a small restaurant inside the station. We just had some chicken nuggets there. Pure vegetarian Venkat had nothing to eat there. So, he went ahead in our van and started preparing bhel. We also joined him. Everybody enjoyed the bhel. It was good idea to take that stuff along with us. Filling up our bellys, we ran to catch the train.

The train was one of its kind. It was a push steam engine train with just one wooden compartment.The track up to the mountain was almost 3 miles with a one stop in between to fill water. The train track was build in 1869 and is the second steepest in the world. There was snow everywhere surrounding the track. A young man, Tom, was our guide. He was telling all the details about the train and the surrounding region. There was a track switch, which is supposed to be the most complicated manual switch of the world. I don't know what it means. The 3 mile journey to the top took one and half hours. When we reached on top, it was very bad weather. Temperature was -6 degrees and wind speed was 25 miles/hour. The mountain top is said to have world's worst weather. I found it really true. We couldn't stand outside in that snow. It was not at all possible for us to drive ourselves to the top by auto road. The station at the top had of small museum of the mountain geology and information. There was also a observatory. We had a look there. By that time, Abhay went for the summit. It was the highest point of the top, just 5 minutes away from the observatory. Abhay returned from summit, literally frozen. He was telling us how it was difficult to stand on the summit without support in that wind force. In the observatory, we read that,  Mt. Washington's climate can rival that of Antarctica. Over a hundred people have died on the mountain, many having succumbed to hypothermia from wind chills which have been known to reach -44 degrees. Snowstorms at the summit are routine in every month of the year, with snowfall averaging 645 cm (21 feet) per year. And it was here, where the world's highest wind speed was recorded: 231 miles/hour (372 km/hour) in 1934. We all got amazed to know these facts about Cog Rail and Mount Washington, and felt proud to visit such place and satisfied on our accomplishment. We could hardly took any snaps because we had to protect our cameras from the snowy wind. After spending around 20 minutes, we started our journey back in same train. This time the engine was using gravitational pull and not the steam energy. This complete 3 hour 20 minutes Cog Rail journey was a lifetime experience, and we will always perish it in our memories.

Coming down, we started our return journey at around 5.30 pm. Even though we were getting late, we did a stop at a lake for few more snaps and took a final look at the breathtaking views.
We again stopped in North Conway to have coffee and donuts in Dunkin Donuts, and finally started back journey at 7.00 pm. We had to cover 370 miles. Venkat was on wheels and driving with average speed of 90 mph.
After Boston, we had our last stop for fuel and food. Not much choice at Burger king. We had chicken teriyaki and French fries. Venkat took just orange juice. Listening silent songs and taking naps in between, we reached Somerville at around 12.30 midnight. At around 1.00 am, Venkat and Abhay dropped us back to our Woodbridge Village apartment, and reached their Waterford apartment at 1.30 am. We went to sleep with memories of such a fantastic weekend and a bit of sadness that it was over so soon. But then hoping for next adventure very soon.

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