Inertia has this way of grabbing me and Barry. When we travel, we just keep going. When we stop, it’s hard to get going again.
We were sitting in a Wal-Mart parking lot in New Hampshire, discussing our options. To get out of inertia’s grasp, we’d just driven out of Moose River without making further plans. Were there things to see in New Hampshire? If so, what, besides the cheapest liquor stores in the U.S.?
Barry surprised me.
“You know that ‘Old Man in the Mountain’ that’s on the New Hampshire quarter and all their road signs? If we passed within ten miles of it, I’d like to stop.”
I looked at my guidebook (copyright 2003) and my road map (one index finger = 10 miles), and right there at Wal-Mart, we were less than 10 miles from it.
We drove to a special “viewing area” at Franconia Notch State Park. There was a massive, multi-level parking lot with hundreds of parking spaces. I thought to myself, “Must be off season; there are only about six cars here.”
Skipping the museum and gift shop, we headed down the quarter-mile path. At the end, a sign dramatically pronounced, “Here above your heads…” We looked up. Above our heads was a green mountain, no old man. I turned around, looked all about me, craning my neck. Then the other, newer sign registered on my consciousness.
In May 2003, the old man’s face fell. New Hampshire lost its proudest landmark. This, despite almost a century of work to shore it up with cables, cement, and fiberglass. Time — and acid rain — weakened the chin, and it tumbled off, taking lips, nose, and forehead along with it.
And now, New Hampshire is a state with lots of parking, restrooms, a gift shop, and a nice trail. But no face. The face now resides on mugs, quarters, t-shirts, road signs — and postcards. Strangely, none of the postcards show the place as it is now, despite having a year to get new ones printed.
Nobody, except me, wants a postcard of the Old Man Whose Face Fell Off the Mountain.