On the Road with Al and Ev – New Hampshire & Maine

We leave Littleton, pleased as always with the ambiance of this beautiful camp, Boston Minuteman Campground. Not only is it heavily wooded, it is situated so beautifully into its setting that you aren’t aware there are other RV’s parked nearby. The cooking areas, rather than being fire buckets used in most parks, are carefully built stone pits, into which the camper can put his/her cooker and be safe and secure. Thank you, Minuteman, for another lovely stay.

We pass Concord, home of the Massachusetts Penitentiary, which seems somehow more benign than the one in Sparke, Florida. Maybe it was the Colonial architecture, or maybe it’s my bias that all things Massachusetts are done well. Then we pass everything Walden, from Thoreau’s Pond to parks and streets, with no sign of Concord’s bloody history. Then we pass Hansen Field, a military installation, so we’re still worrying about war.

We’re excited to be going to see Rae and Jordan, she a friend from our high school days, and Jordy a friend of Allie’s at Penn. We’ve all been friends for over 70 years—so hard to imagine we are now this age.

We enter I95 which feels so familiar as we pass the towns bordering our towns where we grew up. A shoutout to Phyllis as we pass Weston, and a hello to Brandeis University. I’m sent back in memory to being dressed in a lovely Sari gown and Allie in a tux as we get ready to go to the Brandeis Ball. Brandeis was so young in those days that it didn’t have an alumni/ae, so Allie, his brother George and his father Paul became foster alumni to help the University grow. Back to the gown—my dear Mother-in-law brought me the Sari from India, and my dear Mother fashioned it into an evening gown. I felt so glamorous. Brandeis has thrived and we’re very proud of it.

We pass Route 9, the road to Brookline, our home for all of the years until we retired to Sarasota. We also went to school there as did our children, and then Al and I taught in the Brookline Schools. Traffic begins to pile up on Route 128, and we marvel at big city traffic once again, but soon we’re riding free and on our way to Canton where our friends live in Orchard Cove.

Photo by Annie Niemaszyk

We had a wonderful visit and lunch with them, where Rae appears to be the Social Director. She knows everyone by name, has something nice to say about each person as she introduces me as her high school friend, and it’s easy to see she is really loved by them all. And why not? She is warm, loving, non-judgmental, caring, and fun.

After lunch, we head for Centerville to visit another lifelong friend, our dear Gaby. She lives in a lovely old house on Lake Wequaquet, and as I sit here working on the computer I am watching the sunset on the lake. We knew we were on our way to the Cape when we passed a McDonalds that didn’t look like one. The only thing that gave it away was the big M on the lawn. We also knew we were on our way to the Cape when we spotted a sign that said drivers could use the breakdown lane between 3 and 7. Picture the amount of traffic heading for the Cape, especially on weekends and you know why they made this exception.

The only jarring note in all the lovely ambiance surrounding our entry to the Cape was a sign at the entrance to the Sagamore Bridge: “Desperate? Don’t Jump. Call Us…”
I couldn’t picture a jumper anyway because they had built such high fences on the bridge. But evidently, there are people who still try. Life is not lovely for everyone.

But it’s lovely here at the Chateau Gabriella (my name), where Gaby has just served us a wonderful dinner of salmon, roasted veggies, cucumber salad, and strawberries and blueberries. We’re sleeping upstairs tonight, where we have lovely beds and a shower, so all is well at Gaby’s.

And we’ve arrived!

It’s Day Ten (actually it’s Eleven because I was too tired last night after unpacking, so just headed for bed, but here I am today, in five layers of clothing in this beautiful, brisk Maine air, and ready to blog.)

11:30 a.m. Just leaving Centerville where we had a fabulous visit with Gaby and her son Roger.

Hadn’t seen Roger in years, and he has turned into a brilliant man, a fascinating raconteur, and a charmer. We sat hours over the breakfast table listening to his stories of Louisiana, his wife Anne’s home, and Boston, his home and ours. He’s knowledgeable about all the sociological changes, the architectural changes, and being in the real estate business, everything pertinent to housing and gentrification—its positive and negative effects on communities. His scope and breadth of knowledge were breath-taking and we could have listened forever.

But, having been trained by a master mediator (when I took the course at UMA Boston), you watch the feet. When they start to twitch, you know that person is ready to get up and leave. Allie was heroic in trying to stay put but is like the horse who is on his way to the barn for dinner, he was ready to go camping. We had intended to stay overnight the second night, but I know a lost cause when I see one and suggested to him that perhaps it was time to go. He flew to the luggage, packed the van, thanked Gaby and Roger profusely, and gave me a huge smile. Thank you, dear friends, for a wonderful and memorable visit. Gaby, you’re still a great hostess and cook!

Photo by Michael Browning

Now en route to Camp where Bill says the temperature in Winslow, Maine, goes down into the forties at night and takes a while to warm up during the day. But he has had his crew scrubbing the A-Frame, and de-critters it, having discovered nests upon nests where the little ones, knowing a good thing when they saw it, came in from the cold and nested in our house for the winter. Sorry, guys, but we’re back and it’s time for you to go outside and play.

I’m wrapped up in Martha’s electric blanket, which plugs into the car and keeps me toasty, plus Sue’s shawl from Paris, which goes wherever I go. We should be at camp in about four hours and like Allie, I now can’t wait.

We see wind generators in the fields and solar-paneled signs on the road, both of which make me very happy. I think our East Coasters are beginning to catch up with the Middle West and West, where wind farms are everywhere, as is solar.

I have time to think about our days in Centerville, where we spent three summers on the Lake where Gaby lives. They were happy times when the children were small, and Ira, Gaby’s first husband, was alive. We lost him much too young. But back to the Cape—Ira’s favorite activity at night was to pile us all into the car—his three kids and our two, plus all of us, and head for the local ice cream parlors. They were both good, but the plan for the night was to sample each again, ordering double scoops of our favorite flavor at each place, and then comparing to see which was better. They were both great. Imagine eating four scoops of ice cream and being happy.

It finally happened. Allie parted company with Sally Mae, as she insisted upon a devious route to Maine, while he was happily scooting along 495N en route to 95N, a direct and familiar route. Being on a road so familiar to us after these many years, Sally was a non-essential, and goodbye, dear, you’ve been a good friend.

We have been playing the license plate game together, our goal is to spot all 50 states, but I fear we won’t make it, as the states we are missing are all mid-West and Western, and we don’t see too many of those on the Maine Turnpike. We have 39 states at the moment and I think that’s going to be it. I’d list them for you, but it would be boring. I am willing to be anything but boring, having been trained to resist such a thing by my eighth graders, who were never reluctant to tell me if something was boring. So no list, but you can guess, since the only Western states we have are California, Washington, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, and Oregon.

We’re looking for a good place to stop and feed the RV and us. We finally find a Cracker Barrel and a Gulf with diesel and pull over. The third necessity is a parking space for our 24-footer, which takes up three regular parking spaces, and can’t block other cars. This was it! We parked, we filled the tank, and we filled ourselves with a tasty lunch. Allie had French Toast with real syrup, and I had what they called “Eggs in a Basket” and we call “Bull’s Eyes”. They were cooked just right and delicious, with hot tea, really hot, while Allie guzzled real lemonade, ice cold. By the way, we noted on the odometer that our trip to the Cape was a 250-mile detour, and it was worth every mile.

Welcome to New Hampshire, says the sign.

And it’s a very short visit, as Maine is upon us in a very short time. But there is time to greet Portsmouth, NH and Kittery ME as we cross the state line. Ah, Kittery, the vacation spot for my dear friend Ellie, her loving Mother Maebelle, and me. We were teenagers and Mae was driving us North on the Newbury Turnpike to a weekend in Kittery at Mr. Adams’ cabins. I worked weeks to gather the $5.00 it would cost for the weekend: A dollar a night times two for the cabin; one dollar for cosmetics (Maybelline) at the 5 and 10; two dollars for a lobster dinner at the Lobster Shack in Portsmouth. Mae, bless her, picked up the rest, including her picnics, gas, and two pounds of Fannie Farmer’s candy. This sat on the open door of the glove compartment, where Ellie and I had easy access to the top layer on the way up and the bottom layer on the way back. We finished the two pounds on the trip. We won’t talk about the pounds on our hips, which in those days were pretty robust.

We pass Freeport, which used to have only an old, rickety L.L Beane, and now is home to dozens of shops, discount stores, boutiques, ice cream parlors, restaurants, lobster shacks, and motels. If you’re a real shopper you could spend a whole, happy day there, ending with a double scoop.

A shoutout to Carol C., Sue’s friend, in Freeport Harbor. We see signs at exits which would take us to Route 1, the coastal route, a beautiful road for vacationers, travelers, and sight-seers, but not for anyone headed home.

Augusta is on the horizon and from there it’s a hop, skip and a jump to camp, just 27 miles away. Our trip comes to an end, all 3,000 miles of it, and we marvel that it is our 50th trip down the camp road as we arrive each summer. Well, fifty or not fifty, depending on how you count. We bought the camp in 1968, and were co-Directors the first summer, but didn’t really own the camp until August. So perhaps we’ll just celebrate two years in a row. We pass the hundreds of towering pines at the entrance, trees which were just tall enough for us to reach the tops our first summer when we enlisted the kids as we attacked the “evil weevil” which was nipping the buds at the tops. We must have done a good job, for the trees are tall and healthy.

And here’s the A-Frame, warm and cozy, to welcome us to Camp. Thanks, Bill and crew, Lori, Alex, and Jerry, for all your work, for helping us unload, and forgetting the cabin so clean and vermin-proof, to say nothing of warm. We feel very welcomed.

Sayonara, dear ones.
Be well and happy.

On the Road with Al and Ev – Massachusetts

Shokan NY to Littleton, MA

Feels like coming home, just to say MA, although we’ve been Floridians for 25 years. I guess you never really leave home. Perhaps they don’t call her MA for anything. Looking forward to the Minuteman Park in Littleton, because it’s charming, woodsy, a lot like camp, and I love the names: Revolutionary Ridge, Flintlock Road, Redcoat Lane, Minuteman Road, Tricorn Avenue and Musket Path. It’s quiet, very clean, heavily wooded, and so courteous to its patrons.

As we drive along and see work areas, I notice that here in MA there is lots of equipment and very few workers; in other states, I noticed very little equipment and lots of workers. Perhaps it’s only that I think MA does so many things well. We had our first daytime rain, not much more than a drizzle, but it did clean the windshields since the window washer spritzer is not working. Our baby, our RV, is asking for more attention.

We pass Lenox and I am reminded of our trip to Tanglewood when I was 16 and my oldest sister Mimi was 22. She took me there for a weekend where we met two brothers, our ages, and had a wonderful time together. Driving through the Berkshire Mountains is glorious, so lovely and so uncongested. Traffic moves smoothly, even on these mountainous roads and once again I marvel at Allie’s consistently good driving. If someone is lallygagging along he does tend to get a bit vexed, but as soon as there is an opening, he’s off to the next lane and all is well again. “She’s history,” I say. or preferably, “He’s history.”

We pass the sign to the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, but much as we love the Celtics, we’d rather be tucked into our campground and have lunch and a nap. We pass Worcester with a shoutout to Judy and Bernie, and a shoutout to all my relatives, my mother’s brothers, who landed here just off the boat from Russia in the early twenties (1920’s, that is). Had they been friendly to one another, rather than antagonistic, they could have owned Worcester. But then…

And speaking of technology, a sign reassures us that even if we have “No transponder? No problem. We’ll just bill you.”

We wonder what they’re talking about and find out when we exit—no ticket takers, no tickets, no people, no jobs, just a magic eye taking pictures of our license plate which they will magically convert into an address and send us a bill. Wow!

Hopkinton and the beginning of the famous Boston Marathon. We watched it every year from the front window of our apartment on Beacon Street, leaning over the sewing machines and cheering. My mother’s favorites were the stragglers who came limping by at the end. She’d open the window and shout encouragement and clap.

On the Road with Al and Ev – New York

Here we are in Saratoga Springs NY, having left Carlisle PA at 7:50 a.m. Not as good as yesterday, but not so bad either. We’d like to arrive early afternoon, so that’s why we wanted an early start.

“Beside the Appalachian Trail”, the sign read at the exit, which accounted for the young men with backpacks we saw on the road. I guess they came down for supplies, before finding their way back up through the woods. We were also fifteen miles from Gettysburg and we all know what happened there. Which brings me to Miss Bliss, my grammar school social studies teacher. She was rough and ready, but a grand teacher of American history, which is why I revere the Gettysburg address. If you weren’t a lover of America before Miss Bliss, you surely were under her tutelage.

We’re heading, as you know, for grandson Jerry’s college graduation.

Oops! Traffic jam starting in Harrisburg PA. Too bad I don’t knit. I’d have a sweater done by now. Turns into just a short delay, and give me time to reminisce about our time together in Philadelphia PA, the year we were married. I had already graduated while Allie was in the service, so after our wedding and honeymoon, we went to the University of Pennsylvania for him to finish his degree interrupted by WWII. We had an apartment, a postwar special, which was half of a bay window in an old building. We had a bathroom with a sink (the only one in the house), and a living room with a bed, a stove and a refrigerator. It wasn’t much, but we were young and happy to be enjoying each other far away from families.

The graduation at Skidmore was a powerful and beautiful day with gorgeous crisp New York weather, but just a bit on the chilly side for this Floridian. We had to arrive early because the crush for good seating for Oprah was on, but our son Bill and daughter-in-law Martha had arranged for tickets, so we sat in the last row in the middle of an outdoor theater with the sun at our backs for part of the four-hour ceremony.

Oprah was terrific. She had the audience in the palm of her lovely hands, easy to see and easy to hear on two huge TV screens in the auditorium. Her message: be true to the essence of you. Hear your passion. Accept your role in this world. Follow your instincts and your intentions. Don’t get caught up in the rules or regulations others would have you follow. Take a chance. Find out who you are and be you. Be the best you can be and give back. Success is sure to follow. She didn’t say, but I think she also meant that happiness in reaching the goals you set for yourself will also follow.

She also urged us to practice gratefulness. She does it in a diary, mentioning a few things each day she is grateful for. But no diary or journal needed, you can just stop a moment, make yourself peaceful, and think gratefully. She was inspirational for old and young and received a real ovation at the end. She also received an honorary Doctorate, looking thrilled in spite of all the many honors she has received in her lifetime.

Saratoga Springs is a lovely college town, filled with lots of stores and boutiques, cantinas and bars, and the younger set here (excluding the great-grandparents) went dancing after dinner last night. There it is, our last graduation, as our great-grandkids are just little ones. But we’ve loved them all, and would just like to tell you that at one point Oprah asked us all to close our eyes, breathe deeply, and mention just one thing we are grateful for. Without question, mine was “family”.

Our grandchildren

It’s over. Funny how the days are long when you’re waiting for an important event, and then when it finally arrives, the days fly by in an instant. It was wonderful, including dinner at a charming restaurant where Beth, our waitress, adopted the whole unruly clan including friends of Jerry’s and our family. Now we’re packed and Allie has already loaded the RV so that on our last trip down to the lobby it will be just us as we go with the family to enjoy a goodbye brunch.

We leave Saratoga with another wonderful family memory, only this time it’s not ours, but Hattie’s. The restaurant, Hattie’s Chicken Shack, is a tribute to its founder, Hattie, with its New Orleans vibe, great Southern food, and waitstaff and cooks, all of whom are related to Hattie. The table was soon filled with samples of Southern Fried chicken, shrimp and grits, bowls of cornbread, biscuits, and beignets, each more scrumptious than the other. People ordered their own meals and then everyone passed everything around, almost as if Hattie herself were there directing traffic. It was great fun and a wonderful goodbye to a weekend of love.

We are approaching our destination,Shokan, New York, and Sally Mae is not giving us enough information to decide which country lane to take to the “farm”, “compound”, “camp” which our friends have bought. Allie gets out to ask directions (a new habit adopted in his old age, since there was a time he’d just keep going and looking”, and we are directed properly. It’s a lovely 17-acre camp (my preferred word) with a wonderful old farmhouse, a soaring art studio for woodworking (Ben) and painting (Carol), and a marvelous, lofty, airy, sun-drenched yurt. What’s a yurt? I asked the question and found out it comes from the Mongolian culture, was originally made of fabrics and other flexible materials, and was carried from place to place by the nomads.

Wrap it up and take it away. This yurt is permanent, and it’s gorgeous. Carol had ideas for painting, fixing, and remodeling, things she is really good at, and this should be spectacular within a year. In the meantime, it’s marvelous as is.

We enjoyed an outdoor fire at the campfire with congratulations to David who built a beautiful tepee-style fire a la Camp Caribou and Bill; we were thrilled with the heat as we enjoyed some nibbles and drinks. Then for dinner, enhanced by greens freshly picked from the garden, and early bed. It’s cold in them thar hills, folks, and bed sounded like the best way to the warmth that I could think of.

I have to tell you about how city mice enjoy life as country mice. While we were cozying around the campfire, David was flying a drone, which was taking pictures of us, the grounds, and the outlying districts where there are Howard’s favorite activities, fishing, hiking, and biking. Once indoors, he protected the pix the drone had taken onto the large TV screen in the living room, while we called on Alexa, the technological lady in a tube on the counter, to play Frank Sinatra for Allie and to tell jokes for the four-year-old nephew. “Alexa, tell me a joke,” said Ollie, and Alexa obeyed. Ollie also entertained us with pictures from his cellphone, which he handled much better than I handle mine. Since we have an Ollie in our family, too, it was double the fun seeing this little one. It was a wonderful day in a wonderful place.

As we were leaving the mountains (the foothills thereof), I took stock of the places a person living in the woods could go for sustenance and discovered there was really nothing missing that anyone could want. I found lumber, a gym, a farm store, slate, auto repair, police, churches, a motel, a bakery a dinner, a library, a gas station, a laundromat, a theater playhouse, and should you be really hungry and nothing is open wild turkeys.