The tiny “housekeeping cottages” my family used to rent at New Hampshire’s Lake Winnipesaukee are fishing sheds compared with Mitt Romney’s sprawling, 11,000 acre estate along those shores.
There was little to do there, and usually the prospect of a twilight rowboat ride, skippered by my Navy veteran Dad, was all we had to keep the hope of excitement alive during long but blissfully cool vacation days. The string of New Hampshire “resort” towns that catered to Boston’s working class were connected to one another by stretches of roadways pocked with souvenir shacks and cheap pancake houses.
Yet my visions of summer days and nights along Lake Winnipesaukee always returned to me, wrapped in the gauze of memory, each time I traveled to New Hampshire to cover presidential primaries.
It was always my favorite primary state, not only because it is really true that the candidates must woo voters in diners, on quaint college campuses and in white-columned brick buildings that set you to thinking about history. It’s because New Hampshire really is a beautiful, friendly spot that most of the media and campaign entourage will never come to know.
Bivouacked in Manchester and rarely venturing far except, perhaps, to reach the northern hamlet of Dixville Notch for a feature on the state’s first voters, the hundreds of media and campaign workers who will move on after today’s Republican primary will miss the best of New Hampshire.
I went back to savor it a few years ago, with my husband and teenage son. No laptop or cellphone, tape recorder or reporters’ notebook. Just us.
We stayed at an old resort hotel near the foot of Mount Washington, where every evening I would sit on the deck and watch the old “cog railway” train chug up to its peak–just as it did when I was a kid. At breakfast there were English muffins so plump and rich in flavor that I can honestly say you have not had an English muffin until you have tasted one in New Hampshire. Not to mention the maple syrup, rivaled only by Vermont’s. Or the home-brewed root beer offered at a simple roadside burger joint, where we stopped after a hike up one of the thousands of accessible and easy-to-handle White Mountain trails.
And did I mention the raspberry ice cream? It is a local specialty, rich and intensely fruity, more like Italian gelato than the ice cream that ordinarily suffices to satisfy Americans.
The White Mountains are green and cool in the summer, snow-frosted in winter. The small towns really do feature clapboard churches with white spires, and dozens of 19th-century town halls that evoke the era when public works were built to make the public proud.
By tomorrow morning, hundreds of media workers and campaign handlers will de-camp, heading for South Carolina or Florida and the other primary states that beckon.
They should return. Not only if Romney becomes the Republican nominee or even president, with a summer White House on Lake Winnipesaukee.
They should go back to New Hampshire with no laptops, no satellite trucks, no cellphones or notebooks. They should smell the soft pines. And order the raspberry ice cream.