Kristine and I have just returned from nearly two weeks in NH. We
drove almost 1300 miles around the state, which isn't bad for a 200
mile long state. We stopped in towns all over to gather info on real
estate, zoning, available amenities, local attitudes, and general
impressions. We were open about our intent to move to NH, and about
our plans to try to buy a decent property, and have on it our home, a
wholesale yarn-dyeing business in a barn or outbuilding that may
employ up to 10 persons and would require a UPS delivery/pick-up,
possibly a small one-classroom private school, and likely a second
barn for hobbies and collections and such. We came back with two
grocery sacks full of real estate booklets, newspapers, zoning and
building regulations, employment ad papers, relocation packets, and
assorted other literature.
We flew into Boston, arriving on the morning of 21Jun (Monday), and
rented a car. That day we drove through Portsmouth, Exeter, Salem,
Nashua, and stayed the night at Stepping Stones B&B in Wilton
(recommended; it was excellent and fairly inexpensive). Portsmouth
is nice but quite expensive. Exeter is nice, but fairly expensive
and has very strict zoning; they were not encouraging. Small towns
nearby may offer some possibilities. Salem and Nashua were
unenticing and not scenic, but offered cheap real estate, likely
reasonable zoning, and easy access to Boston. Nashua seemed to have
the best selection of ethnic restaurants of any city we visited in
the state. Milford and Wilton were lovely, and reasonable in cost.
Zoning would require variances for our plans, but the town clerks
sounded positive about getting them.
Tuesday we went to Peterborough, Harrisville, Keene, and small towns
in between. Mostly lovely, a bit depressed around Greenville.
Peterborough zoning prohibitive. Harrisville dodgy, but other
solutions possible, such as rening one of the local mill buildings
for the yarn business. Keene is quite nice, and might be a good
spot. Smaller towns in the area looked like good options were
available. We stayed at the B&B in Wilton again.
Wednesday we headed north. Bedford looked like a good possibility.
Manchester is a real city, and bears looking into; probably in the
outskirts to affordably meet our needs/plans. Many neighborhoods had
signs prohibiting trucks on their street at night, sometimes at all.
Concord similar but smaller. We then detoured west through Bath,
Lisbon, Sugar Hill, and Littleton. All very nice. Real estate is
very reasonable up here. Zoning would require variances for our
plans, but the town clerks here again sounded positive about getting
them. This is all "above the notches", so weather will be more
severe and shipping costs for the business higher.
Wednesday evening through Monday morning we spent at Roger's
Campground in Lancaster. The gathering was fabulous, and we met many
fine people and made several new friends. There was a fine and
refreshing lack of obvious nutcases (something I admit to having been
a bit worried about); by and large it seemed a group of people who
could move in and make a difference without alienating everyone we
came across. It was great to meet in person so many of those I've
corresponded with online. I was quite impressed with the FSP leaders
as well. Amanda is I think doing a fine job, and did well with the
many press persons in attendance. It was nice to see Jason again;
good to see him get to relax a bit, lovely to meet Mary. The
organizers did a great job keeping it all rolling. Thanks to George
and Dave and Tim and all others! The Saturday evening BBQ was a bit
weak for the money, but it seemed that there were more people than
expected. I might suggest having speakers and vendors in different
rooms next time, which would allow both to conduct their affairs with
The press presence was amazing, both local and national. Most of
them seemed to be fairly positively disposed, and to have a
reasonable understanding of the movement. Articles in the papers
over the next couple of days were pretty fair and reasonably positive.
We did attend the NHLA dinner on Friday evening. It was well
organized and well attended. The speakers were interesting and even
the food was decent! Thanks to Mr. Murphy and the Pratts, as well as
the many others I'm sure had a hand in it. A small pack of liberals
protested with signs. Their favorite slogan seems to be "Government
is not the problem." Sorry guys, but you're wrong. Government is in
fact, if not the entire problem, usually a big part of it.
We also went on the trip to Grafton on Sunday. It looked quite
promising for the longer term, but will need time and work,
especially on Bob's land, which is still very raw. Grafton is the
closest cheap real estate to Lebanon/Hanover where Dartmouth College
is locaed, and might make a very good investment. On the way back we
took a look at Lebanon/Hanover, since there may be industries there I
can work in. These looked nice but expensive and probably
overzoned. Haverhill looked possible.
On Monday we left the campground and headed first up to Berlin, which
looked pretty active. The main employer in the town is a paper mill
that makes their paper "from scratch" as the librarians told us.
Real estate is very cheap. It's likely too far north for us,
however. We then came back south and toured the Lakes region.
Pretty, but both very expensive and a little tacky but mainly
touristy with ski condos everywhere. Unlikely to be what we want.
We stayed in a campground and got rained on very heavily.
Tuesday we continued our tour of the lakes region, through Conway and
Wednesday we went to Rochester, which looks depressed and a bit
rundown. Reasonable real estate and workable zoning probably
available. Somersworth was cute. We drove the beach/coast road;
very posh and expensive, crowded. Parts were scenic, but no thanks.
Dover might offer some possibilities. We stayed the night in Dover
with Dave Mincin. Thanks, Dave!
Thursday we went back for another look at Exeter and Portsmouth,
having learned much more about what to look for. Our initial
impressions were comfirmed. We stayed at a B&B in Portsmouth, and
had a fantastic (but expensive) meal at a French restaurant called
Lindbergh's Crossing. I highly recommend it if you have the
inclination for fine dining, it was worth the price!
Friday we walked Portsmouth some more. It's sort of more upscale
touristy; more art and less outlet malls. Then we drove back to
Boston and flew home.
1) New Hampshire is beautiful almost everywhere, and livable in most
places. Almost all of the west half of the state looked pretty good;
most of the east half seemed unsuitable for us for one reason or
2) As usual, the cities seem more politically liberal than the
3) Several towns were incorporated in the 1800's, from parts of
surrounding towns. I asked around at the FSP fest if anyone had
looked to see if this was still possible, to create our own free town
somewhere rather than disrupt an existing order, and was told by
several that it was not. I have since found out, however, that Sugar
Hill was incorporated in 1962, and that there are a few
unincorporated areas still existing (albeit mostly way up north). I
think further investigation is warranted.
4) NH natives are very nice and were almost universally welcoming and
friendly. Most had heard of the Free State Project, although many
had not. None gave us bad reactions to the concept (except for the
protestors at the NHLA dinner).
5) Kristine and I are going, whether or not the FSP officially
succeeds. Even if nothing there improves, it's a very good place,
and a damn sight better than California.
6) We can certainly make a difference, and I think we can actually
succeed in our goals, as long as we are willing to take a long-term,
respectful, gentle, and patient approach. I think most NH residents
are open to our ideas, and will help us achieve a real freedom,
provided we don't act like a bull in a china shop, and piss everyone
off before they get to know us.