Years ago, I had the opportunity to make a road trip through most of New England. It was just me, my trusty steel steed (a Buick Skyhawk) and essential road trip supplies (a.k.a. chocolate).
My road trips involve a sizeable dose of literature, with some art and history mixed in for variety. To start, I worked my way through a corner of West Virginia and zipped over to Fallingwater in Ohiopyle, Pennsylvania, the house that architect Frank Lloyd Wright built over a waterfall. Great house and almost no curves anywhere. (Frank Lloyd Wright was a big believer in straight lines. I’m not sure why he was anti-curves; perhaps an unfortunate childhood experience?)
From there, I worked my way up through New York, sauntering through a Vanderbilt mansion on the Hudson River on the way, and into the western part of Massachusetts to see the studio and museum of artist Norman Rockwell. I spent the night in Pittsfield and discovered that the strip mall across the street had some great art installations, including “The Sea Bee” by artist Dustin Schuler in the parking lot.
After that, I visited Bennington, Vermont to pay homage to artist Grandma Moses and poet Robert Frost. Hey, I’ve read Robert Frost often enough in literature classes; it was the least I could do.
I zoomed through New Hampshire’s magnificent mountain scenery and clipped the bottom corner of Maine via Kennebunk and Kennebunkport in preparation to coming back into Massachusetts along the eastern coast. I had a weird experience in Kennebunk. I was taking pictures of Kennebunk’s houses and had just climbed back into my car when I heard barely audible voices and got puzzled. Nobody was around since it was 8:00 a.m. on a Sunday morning…was I hearing the voices of ghosts? Angels? Some other invisible beings?
Nope. I discovered that when I took down my cardboard sunshade and put it behind the passenger seat, I accidentally switched on the radio part of my tape player, which was sitting behind the passenger seat. Whoops.
And then I got to the best parts of all: Nathaniel Hawthorne’s House of the Seven Gables in Salem and Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House in Concord. The House of the Seven Gables has a marvelous secret passage. You enter a hidden door and use a set of stairs to pass through another door that leads into a secret bedroom. (C’mon, people, did you really expect me to pass that one up? But I’d recommend some hours in the gym first. The stairs are a tight fit. *gasps for air*)
Orchard House has unusual features. In one bedroom, there are pencil sketches on a closet door frame, drawn by Louisa’s sister May (Amy in Little Women) and carefully preserved under transparent panels. May was kept busy; many of the other rooms have her artwork too. (And my parents told me, never draw on my bedroom walls. Lucky May.)
After Orchard House, it was Plymouth, the magnificent mansions of Newport, Rhode Island (more Vanderbilts; I can’t get enough of ’em) and Gettysburg before heading back home. It was a great trip and I’d recommend it to anyone. I met fabulous, hospitable New England people and would love to repeat the trip some day.