The KOA was nice, with my spot being a pull through facing well-kept camper cabins. The recreation area offered two pools and a playground. Three multi-colored slides exited at the bottom of a hill that overlooked a large grassy field. The quintessential New England landmark, the rock wall, lined our drive up to the entrance. I was immediately reminded of Robert Frost’s Mending Wall poem even though the words escape me. Something about walls making good neighbors comes to mind.
We started our way up Route 2 eventually entering Route 32 with the intent of stopping at Deerfield, Massachusetts. The Foxwoods casino delayed our progress as I felt the need to stop. Not to gamble but to see where my Grandparents would frequent when their gambling bug hit. My Grandfather played the slots while my Grandmother was a hard-nosed Blackjack player. She always said Grandpa would lose in the machines everything she made at the tables. My Grandmother played the little old lady card but in truth she was a shark, playing in tournaments late in her life. She liked to win whenever the cards came out and if you beat her, you beat her. No mercy for family was shown. I cruised through, and was able to avoid the Dunkin Donut stand as I got a feel for the casino. It was early and not very busy but it reminded me of the few casinos I have been in. I am a casino’s worst enemy, never gambling or eating the buffets, I just people watch and take in the grandeur. I bet I have maybe spent $57 gambling but that even seems high.
Mabel and I had a greasy burger lunch from Burger King, eating under a tree in the RV lot. She lifted her nose at the $1.00 burger I bought for her, a way to ease my conscience at eating so unhealthy. Maybe she knew something I did not. There were a number of RV’s in the lot and I approached an older man outside an older RV. He was sitting in a chair, under a tree, just keeping an eye on things. “How long do they let you stay?” I asked. “For as long as you want”, he answered and after I showed surprise he continued, “I plan on staying till October.” His story was interesting, over the last 10 years he stays as long as possible in New England and then heads to Florida to stay with friends. He has lived on two boats since a divorce but likes the RV best. The RV was supposed to be for a friend that was having girlfriend problems but they reconciled and he was left with the RV and started living in it. One day during the fall, he decided the cold was enough and headed South, he has been commuting each fall ever since. I left him with the wish that his Patriots do not make it to Minneapolis next February and he just smiled.
Back on Route 32, the towns seemed more spread out, not restricted by the mountains like in Pennsylvania. There was sprawl, and a lot more Dunkin Donuts. I think Minnesota is starting to get them, and I love their chocolate glazed, but I have to be strong. All the time in the car, with little exercise, paired with donuts, does not do well for a healthy way of living. There is so much history in this part of the country that I find myself wondering if something historical or culturally significant happened where I am driving. Imaginary colonials and redcoats must have battled near “here” but I continue driving, the historical markers come up too quick to safely turn. I did notice that the sandwich shops now advertise grinders instead of heroes. Is that culturally significant?
Crossing over to Massachusetts and the country felt different, like the area had a more substantial effort in shaping our early nation. There wasn’t a sign, like you see in so many states, announcing we had entered Massachusetts, but I could just tell. Yankee fans have a spider sense when it comes to Boston and maybe the entrance into enemy territory heightened my awareness. We stopped at Monson, MA so Mabel could exercise. She is a good travel partner and I want to let her experience/sniff the culture of this area . We came across a motorcycle rider who belongs to a club for ex-submariners. She rides with her husband and hopes to travel the back roads in all 48 CONUS states. She liked Mabel and explained this is her second motorcycle, the other was involved in an accident. “Everyone should have two motorcycles,” she said, “we need two shoes, don’t we?” I explained where I was headed and she told me there is an old mental hospital up that way that should be converted to Veteran's housing. “We don’t keep the promises we make to Vets,” she said and I couldn’t disagree with her.
Next stop was Deerfield, Massachusetts to see the Eaglebrook School where Steinbeck’s son was in attendance when he passed through on his trip. I turned off Route 32 and eased my way through the winding roads until the sign appeared. I took the obligatory photo and continued up the dirt road soon realizing that I wouldn’t pass an orchard and needed to turn back. The road was tight so I would be forced to back up as part of my retreat from the woods. Thankfully I found a small indenture in the woods and swung around but still had backing to do. I was able to get the trailer turned just enough to continue my rotation, tires spewing dirt, and we were on our way. A bit of triumph in my voice as I announced to Mabel we were almost out of the woods. Or so I thought.
While I was there, I thought it a good idea to see what the school looked like, so we turned left at the sign and proceeded up the hill past a dormitory and a small pond. The main building with its wrap around porch had a view from both sides of the hill and cast a condescending view on our arrival. It did not have a turnaround. More backing, now in a tighter spot, with just enough room for us to reverse direction. It was late and in the summer so we did not experience any of the fanfare that Steinbeck did on his visit.
A place to stay now became the most pressing matter and we settled in at a family campground in Bernardston, MA. The Arabella looking very small nestled between two much larger rigs, but we didn’t care, it was our home for the night and time for dinner.