50 States, Day 157 York, Maine to Lowell, Mass. 97 Miles
"Who can closely examine all the movements of the complicated, curious machinery, and not be led to the reflection, that the mind is boundless, and is destined to rise higher and still higher; and that it can accomplish almost anything upon which it fixes its attention!"
˜Sarah G. Bagley, Lowell mill worker, 1840
Mr. Sun was our friend today, and would have stayed so if the clouds and rain hadn't gotten in the way. We launched and rode the blue highways, lines of green trees with amber accents on each side. We said goodbye to Maine and a short hello to New Hampshire once again then rolled into Massachusetts. Soon we merged into an interstate, complete with trucks and poor drivers.
As we cruised along, a sign read 'Lowell.'
"Isn't Lowell a famous textile mill town?" Mrs. Jeopardy said.
"Uh...yeah," Mr. Clueless answered.
On a hunch we turned into Lowell.
We followed their terrible small signs and kept close to water. "The mills were close to water," Mrs. Jeopardy said.
"Uh, of course," Mr. Clueless replied. Why would the mills be close to water?
Don't ask and sound ignorant!
We found the National Park Service's Boott Cotton Mills and wandered in. A nice ranger met us and I didn't say a word about her Smokey the Bear hat. They just look out of place without a forest around them. She gave us a fascinating nickel tour and sent us on our way to the museum and movie. Cool.
The tour proved to be fascinating, and an interesting look at business, working class, the tension between the owners and the workers, and the rise and fall of textile.
They operate a Weaving Room, complete with eight looms working off the leather belts from the driveline at the ceiling. You can say what you want about pay and benefits, but the working conditions? The sound of those looms ratcheting back and forth at the rate of two slams per second, multiplied by 200 looms when the place was running full tilt, and the heat and humidity we missed, plus the cotton dust in the air, and the conditions were deplorable.
And the water, yes. The clever people dug over five miles of canals, ran them through the buildings and it spun turbines, which drove the belts.
The canals still run through the town looking pretty (except for sections with floating garbage) and useless. Many of the mills were demolished after the last one closed in the 1950s, and the town fell into disrepair. After many decades the mills, what remain, have been given facelifts and refurbished into condos, shops, and offices. Lowell looks like a very nice town.
And while it wasn't on our radar, we'll revisit Lowell tomorrow, as-hang on, you're going to love this-they have a quilt museum! Woo hoo!
After our tour (actually during the tour on the trolley ride), the rains came down. We headed out of town in search of an outlying motel. No luck. Finally stopped at a bar and fired up the iPad and HotSpot to search for a spot. Found tons of ridiculous places, like $189 a night. Forget that. Against my better judgment, we sloshed off to a (PP!) Motel 6 and surprise, a very nice place. King size bed, separate vanity from the bath, little desk, coat rack, and a laundry. 54 bucks including tax. And a clean and comfortable room. They left the light on for us.
Note: When it's raining, the photography suffers. Quilter Girl is not hanging off the side of the bike in the rain to take a shot. What can you do? Maybe I'll make her ride the bike and I'll take photos on the back.
Okay, maybe not.
And a big "Hey!" to Rick, who works at the looms in the Weaver Room. He rides vintage bikes and owns a cool old Beemer that he bought when he and it were quite younger. He's a member of the United States Classic Racing Association. They have a video of some nice old bikes. If you like vintage, check out this link:
Friends, Quilter Girl is dried and ready so without further ado, Quilter Girl!
It was such a nice morning! And such a depressing afternoon looking for a motel.
Lowell was a surprise, all the reading I did before the trip paid off today as I saw the mileage sign to Lowell. I remembered reading something about textiles so off we went. It is so interesting with more history about the industrial revolution, labor disputes, strikes and violence. I have done some hand weaving (I hated it) and weaving is a perfect task for a machine. The shuttles fly back and forth so fast that I couldn't see them. We talked to so many interesting people today. The man who runs the machines is a biker; he told to us a lot and gave me some samples of their products. The ranger upstairs knew so much about the history and was passionate about it and the first ranger we met checked our blog while we were upstairs. She came to the museum to talk to us about it. This is way more fun than high school! Quilt museum tomorrow, I am looking forward to that.