Turning of the leaves tour in New Hampshire

We were Texans in New England in early October, on another assignment, when we started seeing the colors of fall.

The gold and reds of fall had barely begun to touch San Antonio, but on our trip to New England, they were much more pronounced. But it was still “too early,” many locals said.

There wasn't any sign of the famed foliage when we left Manchester Boston Regional Airport for Nashua in our rental car. After two days of interviews, photos and edits, we were ready to tour the turning of the leaves in New Hampshire.

That morning, gray clouds filled the sky and rain drizzled off and on until nightfall. We had breakfast at Norton's Classic Cafe on Main Street in downtown Nashua, where the décor and music of the '50s are still alive. Our guide, Karen Bill, suggested the spot, where regulars filled chrome and turquoise counter stools and crowded into booths outfitted with vintage drive-in speakers.

The menu reflected the era of big-fin Cadillacs and poodle skirts, offering dishes named The Ford Fairlane, The 54 Mercury and Chevy Bel-Air. The waitress brought us a special stock of Grade A, light maple syrup in a silver decanter. At our table near a lithograph of Lauren Bacall, Humphrey Bogart and Marilyn Monroe, frozen in their heyday, we doused our pancakes with the syrup, watching the overflow swirl around sausages, eggs and home fries.

After breakfast, we followed Bill to the Collins Brothers Chowder Co. on Temple Street, where patrons' cars lined both sides of the street. Workers and neighborhood folks filed into the entryway for takeout that ranged from seafood chowder to Italian wedding soup. Still stuffed from breakfast, we saved the clam chowder and corn and bacon chowder for dinner.

Calzada's in-laws, Stephen and Karen Wagner, drove from South Windsor, Conn., and picked us up. They immediately displayed New England hospitality by providing us with home-baked ginger cookies, hot cider, a leaf guide and a map of covered bridges.

The farther north we drove from Nashua, the more we could see that autumn was taking hold. As we exited onto two-lane roads, the countryside blurred by in swaths of red, yellow and gold, as if the leaves were on fire.

More Information
mySA.com: To see more New Hampshire fall photos.

Beyond stretches of birch and pine trees, green pastures were dotted with Cape Cod-style homes, new and old, each one exhibiting a personality of its own. And deep in the woods, large and small election signs for Barack Obama and Mitt Romney stood out like red, white and blue encroachers.

The Wagners had our itinerary in hand. Our first stop: the Contoocook Railroad Bridge and Depot, in Contoocook Village on the old Concord and Claremont Railroad Line. The bridge was built in 1849-50 and underwent major reconstruction in 1889.

We had lunch at the Everyday Cafe on Main Street, located at the bottom of the hill leading into the town center. We ate deli sandwiches and bought souvenirs to take home — hot mustard and dark maple syrup in a plastic jug.

One of the sites on our trip was a ski resort. It was much too early for snow, but the trees lining the ski slopes and ski lifts were turning.

At the lake, docked boats filled the harbor and inlet surrounded by lakefront homes. An old man leaned against the bed of his pickup, puffing on his pipe, watching as we snapped pictures with iPhones and an iPad. A gazebo with a green weathervane sat on a grassy bluff across the street.

The only sound that broke the silence was shouts from a teenage girl quarreling with a teenage boy striding ahead of her across the rolling landscape.

The next bridge was the New England College Covered Bridge, also known as the Henniker Bridge, which was built by Milton Graton and his son Arnold in 1972 using traditional methods. It uses lattice trusses, which are artistically put together. Today, many students of New England College use it daily to get to and from campus.

On the peaceful day that we visited, the dewy afternoon gave the bridge and surrounding flora a fresh feel.

The final bridge that we visited was Rowell's Bridge in Hopkinton, N.H. This bridge was built in 1853 for a mere $300.25, constructed of a long truss with burr arches.

In early fall, the temperatures in New Hampshire hovered between around 50 degrees and the mid-60s, a perfect antidote to the long, hot summer in San Antonio.