Fourth Cliff Recreation Area. Photo by Herb Harfst.
As we all know, there are lots of benefits connected with traveling Space Available, and we read examples of those benefits in every issue of the R&R Travel News. But, there is one very important benefit that is sometimes mentioned obliquely in articles, but not often addressed directly. I would like to remedy that situation.
The benefit that I am talking about is the opportunity to meet really nice people, share experiences and develop new friendships. The September-October, 2010 Issue of the newsletter contained an article about our trip to Sicily. Our email address was printed at the end of the article and we got several requests for more information. One of these requests was from a retired Army couple living in Pennsylvania. We carried on quite an extensive correspondence with this couple and developed an on-line friendship. We are part-owners of a beach house and at some point we decided to invite our newfound friends to the beach for a week so that we could get to be better acquainted. All of our friends thought we were absolutely crazy to invite people, sight-unseen, to spend a week with us. “What if they turn out to be axe-murderers,” our friends said, “Or what if they are so boring that you want to throw them out ten minutes after they arrive,” or, “What if they are just free-loaders wanting to take advantage of a free week at the beach?”
We found out that their friends asked them the same questions.
Well, the people who asked these questions had never traveled Space Available and met up with the kind of people whom one meets when traveling “the military way.” We were not worried for an instant. As it turned out, the week at the beach just served to solidify a friendship.
Shortly after the beach week, we were invited to our new friend’s home in Pennsylvania and once again had a wonderful time. During both visits Charlie and Sharon regaled us with stories about a place called “Fourth Cliff,” in Massachusetts. We had never heard of the place. Fourth Cliff Recreation Area is one of their favorite places on the earth and they had spent time there on seventeen occasions in the past. We were sold and planning for a future joint trip began.
Our trip began on Easter Sunday, 2013 after church. For us a drive to Massachusetts, especially with a late start, was more than we wanted to do in one day so we made plans to spend the first night at the Naval Weapons Station, Earle, New Jersey. The drive was pretty miserable. It rained the whole way and there were multiple accidents along the way. For the first time ever our GPS routed us off and back on the New Jersey Turnpike to take us around traffic delays. The fact that we had chosen to drive on Easter Sunday probably added to our problems.
At any rate, we arrived at the Weapons Station (Deer Run Lodging) around seven-thirty in the evening. We were starving and the car had less than a quarter tank of gas. It was pouring rain and there was no place to get out of the rain to take our luggage in. There is no check-in lobby at the facility so we picked up the key to our room at the gate. Soaking wet we got into our room and freshened up as best we could and went out to find gas for the car and dinner for us.
Well, perhaps because it was Easter Sunday, there were no gas stations open, further raising the anxiety level. There were two restaurants close to the base but both of them had three seating’s, one at one p.m., one at three p.m. and one at six p.m. If you are not there at those times, you don’t eat! There were no fast food places open either so we struck out on both counts and returned to our room. Scrounging around in the car we found some peanut butter snack crackers and a couple of tangerines and Herb dug into our trip supplies and found a bottle of red wine. We dined sumptuously. The room at Earle was very clean and very comfortable and very quiet. Our room had a double bed, a bit tight for two, but we were so tired we slept well.
The next morning dawned cool but clear and sunny. We packed up and went to find a gas station and then breakfast. We found both and were on our way. The rest of the trip was uneventful and we arrived at Fourth Cliff around 4 p.m.
Fourth Cliff landscape. Photo by Herb Harfst.
Fourth Cliff is a very unusual place. It is an Air Force facility, a dependency of Hanscom Air Force Base. There does not appear to be any actual military presence on the facility. When we arrived the gate was closed and we had to open it ourselves and close it behind us. Reminded me of days back on the farm.
The facility is located at the tip of a peninsula with the North River on the west side and the Atlantic Ocean on the other side. The peninsula is basically a rock spine with rough water on the ocean side and sandy, river beaches on the other. It was too cold and windy for us to really get out and explore but in addition to the lodging facilities there is a picnic area and a newly refurbished bath house.
There are several different types of accommodations available; ours was a two-bedroom cottage which we shared with Charlie and Sharon. They were waiting for us and helped us unload. The cottage was very comfortable; two smallish bedrooms, a large bathroom and a nicely appointed “great room” with a kitchen area at one end and the living room area at the other. The west facing wall was almost all window so sunset viewing was beautiful. There was also a thermostatically controlled gas-log fireplace that added heat and light.
Fourth Cliff Lodging. Photo by Herb Harfst.
Dinner this first night was simple but hearty: ham, boiled potatoes and steamed asparagus topped off with a homemade cake that Sharon had brought. After a bit of catching up around the fire we went to bed early.
After breakfast on our first full day we struck out to do some exploring. We started out going south to the town of Brant Rock where we had lunch at a restaurant called Hadads. Based on the sound of the name Herb was expecting belly dancers and hookahs but it turned out to be a very nice restaurant specializing in sea food. We highly recommend Hadads.
Leaving Brant Rock we drove up the west bank of the North River towards Scituate, Mass. On that side of the river there are islands separated from the mainland by classic New England salt marshes. These are vast expanses of marsh grass drained by many small tidal channels. The marshes are regularly flooded by tidal action. We drove out towards these islands on small roads atop causeways. It was apparent that the causeways themselves were at least occasionally flooded. This discovery leant a certain urgency to our retreat back to the mainland!
The road is lined with beautiful homes making for a pleasant and interesting drive. At the northern end of our exploration trip was the town of Cohasset, Mass., where we got out and did a little window shopping. We also visited a small bakery where we bought fresh bread for dinner and successfully resisted the temptation of all the sinfully sweet desserts available.
New England Marsh area. Photo by Herb Harfst.
Dinner this evening was Herb’s Brazilian seafood stew and the bread we bought in Cohasset. Dessert was more of Sharon’s homemade cake. Wednesday had been set aside as the day for a big road trip up into New Hampshire and Vermont. We started out by learning a valuable lesson: if you are a tourist, don’t try to drive through downtown Boston at rush hour. Leaving the madness of Boston behind we headed for our first destination, the Cabot Cheese store in Quechee, Vermont. If you are a cheese lover, this is the place for you. A huge variety of cheeses and all the “accoutrements” for serving and eating cheese. We all decided though that this is a great place to visit if you happen to be in the neighborhood, but it is not a primary destination. Of equal interest with the cheese store is the very large antique store located next to the cheese store. The store is billed as the largest antique mall in Vermont. This, at least for Herb, made the stop in Quechee a destination.
Our next stop was the primary reason for the trip, the King Arthur Flour store in Norwich, Vermont. Both Sharon and Herb are passionate cooks and for those who like to cook and bake, it is a wonderful place. The building itself is beautiful, but the store is one of those places where “I’ll take one of everything” comes to mind. If you like to bake, go to Norwich! The icing on the cake that is the King Arthur Flour store is the restaurant. Everything sold there is baked there and the sandwiches and desserts are just out of this world. You have to eat there to really know what it is like. There is also a school connected with the store where they teach baking skills.
We left the King Arthur store and made the long and uneventful drive back “home,” this time giving Boston a wide berth. After having driven all day, Charlie went beyond the call of duty by fixing a marinated pork tenderloin on the grill. Sharon turned the meal into a feast with polenta and vanilla-orange glazed roasted carrots. Dessert was a carrot cake that Sharon had baked and brought along for Landis’ birthday. No restaurant in the world could have topped that meal!
On Thursday we got up late and lazed around the cottage for a good while, packed up a picnic lunch and took off to explore Cape Cod. Our first stop was the Glass Museum in Sandwich, Mass. This is a small museum with world class exhibits. One of the highlights of our visits was a glass blowing demonstration put on by a young woman whose personality matched her considerable skills. We also watched a short movie about the glass industry in Massachusetts. Very informative. There is also a very tasteful museum store featuring glass items.
We had an impromptu tailgate party in the parking lot for lunch and then set out again to explore. We hadn’t been on the road too long before we came to the realization that we had better leave the rest of Cape Cod for the next trip. We headed home stopping at a local grocery store to pick up a few needed items and drove back to Fourth Cliff. Sharon whipped up a great dinner with left-over items from the previous two evenings. We all dissolved into TV watching and reading for a while and it was then to bed.
On Friday we had another lazy start before driving to Plymonth, Mass. for a little sight-seeing and lunch at The East Bay Grill on Water Street. We can recommend this restaurant to you also. Sadly, Charlie and Sharon had to leave early the next morning so we headed home so that they could begin packing. Dinner that evening was “whatever you can find in the fridge.” None of us starved.
The next morning we had breakfast very early and saw Sharon and Charlie off and then back to bed for a little while. Then Landis started getting “happy birthday” phone calls and the day brightened up. In the afternoon we made a little foray to Scituate to scout out a church to attend the next morning. We then went back to the cottage and packed to go home.
Charlie and Sharon had recommended a local restaurant where we could celebrate Landis’ birthday. We made our way there in the evening only to discover that there would be a one and a half to two hour wait. Not wanting to wait, we set out to find another restaurant. We finally resorted to using the GPS to locate a place. We were taken to a very small restaurant called “Bondo’s” in Marshfield, Mass. It may have been small, but the food was world class. Our waiter was absolutely delightful. We would almost go back to Fourth Cliff just for the opportunity to eat at Bondo’s again.
The next morning, we loaded up the car and drove to church. After the service, we headed to Fourth Cliff, which is a very nice, very quiet place to spend some time. The accommodations are very comfortable and reasonably priced. There is virtually nothing to do in the winter on the facility itself but there are enough sight-seeing opportunities for many short day trips. We spent a very relaxing week at Fourth Cliff and look forward to going back some day.
If you would like further information about any of the places we visited on this trip, send us an email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Herb Harfst , CPO, USN, Ret. and Landis Shepherd Richmond, Virginia email@example.com
Reprint from May–June 2015 • Volume 45, No. 3