Archive for the ·

multi-day event

· Category...

A Voyage Across Massachusetts [Day 5]

Comments Off on A Voyage Across Massachusetts [Day 5]

Tuesday, October 15 – my alarm went off at 4:55 in the… whatever. The hour between 4 AM and 5 AM is too late to be called “night” but too early yet to qualify for “morning.” Still, reluctantly, we were awake. Becky’s mom insisted that, in order to get to Mike and Nicci’s house by 7 o’clock to babysit Sam while they were at work, she had to leave at 5:30. This, frankly, seemed absurd to me, but sure enough, shortly after packing up and leaving the house at, we hit traffic on MA-3 North. At, like quarter of 6 in the morning. When it was still pitch dark out. What the hell even is wrong with you, Boston.

We fought through it until a bit after 6 o’clock, at which point we merged onto I-93 North. Since there were 3 of us in the car, Becky’s mom was able to hop in the HOV lane, which made things go much faster than they would have were she in the car by herself. It only took us 20 minutes – instead of her usual 45 – to get up to the exit for Cambridge, meaning we arrived at Mike and Nicci’s in plenty of time, at around 6:40. This was fine by me, as the entire drive was a stressful experience, between the traffic and worrying about how well Becky’s mom could see in the dark. I asked – several times – if I could drive, but she insisted it was her thing to do. When we arrived, she told me, flatly, that she can’t see well in the dark. This didn’t make me feel much better about the whole experience, nor about her making that commute before dawn on a regular basis. Both Becky and I really wish she’d at least take the train up from Braintree, but I guess if you didn’t grow up taking trains, it’s hard to get in the habit of doing so.

At any rate, Sam was happy to see us, so much so that he abandoned half of his breakfast in order to start playing with his toys. Mike grabbed a quick bite and was out the door at 7, but Nicci stayed behind for 15 more minutes to try to get him to eat some more. Still, she was going to be late, so eventually she said goodbye to us, and headed off to work herself. Since TV is a no-no without Mom and Dad there, that meant we had plenty of time to play with Sam before we needed to be on our way:

Sam’s a really cute kid, and I suspect he’s genuinely quite bright for his age, too. He was – at the time – too young to be reading, really, but his object retention is excellent. As I went through a favorite book of his all about construction equipment going to bed for the night, he was able to not only tell me the name of each rig (some of which I didn’t know), but also what sound each one made. A couple of times I could have sworn he was reading the words, but I suspect he’d just memorized the pattern. Still, for all of 18 months old, that’s pretty great, I think. I know that Mike and Nicci both really invest a lot of time and effort into giving him a good environment in which to thrive, and, from everything I’ve read about early child development (which, I’ll admit, must dwarf what they’ve read, especially Nicci, given her career), that pretty much means he’ll come out as best as his genes will allow. And he’s got some good genes going for him, too.

We enjoyed playing with Sam for as long as we could, but at some point it was clear that the normal routine was “Sam plays with Grandma in the morning.” Which is just fine, since routines are fundamental to learning processes. Plus, we did have a flight to catch. So, at 8:30, we said goodbye to Sam and Becky’s mom (we’d see both in a bit over 2 months, for Christmas), then made our way, bags in tow, down Broadway toward Kendall Square. We stopped in at the Dunkie’s near Beauty’s for some late breakfast (there were even cops there on break. Oh Boston, never change), then we made our way down toward MIT:

We didn’t have a lot of time to kill, but we had a few moments in which Becky could pop into the Stata Center, for old times’ sake:

It’s funny, the things you miss after being away for a while. Becky doesn’t really miss her old job, per se, but the MIT community. It really was a great environment to be in 5 days a week, all full of drawings on public-access chalk boards:

…and, of course, the famous MIT hacks:

The police car is there as a museum piece celebrating one of the more famous hacks done decades ago, but the origami cranes were new to us. Apparently there’s a lab at MIT that does origami as a means of studying applied surface mathematics (because of course there is), so that might be related to that. Or it’s just pretty.

We arrived at the Kendall/MIT Red Line station at a bit before 9:30. I had some issues with an expired Charlie Ticket (apparently, I had two of them in my wallet, both of which were expired, and I’d picked one each on our journeys to and from the airport), but that was only a minor delay. It was still the tail-end of rush hour, and so it was only a brief wait until we got a train down to Park Street, where we hopped the Green Line out to Government Center. Apparently, while renovating the station in the past years, they unearthed a sign for the old Scollay Under station on the Blue Line platform:

I’m not a huge train geek, but the idea of lost underground stations really appeals to me, for some reason.

We pulled into Airport T Station right at 10 o’clock. A shuttle to the terminal was waiting for us there, though, thanks to the mid-morning rush of air travelers, it was quite busy. Still, we arrived at the Delta section and got our tickets without any issues, then passed through security with less of a wait than we’d experienced at ATL on the way out (fun fact: the TSA checkpoint at Hartsfield is, in fact, 57 varieties of horrible). This got us out to our departing gate at about 20 of 11, just a bit ahead of schedule:

I used the restroom, then went out to get some Sbarro for an early lunch. I know it was all of 2 hours after I’d eaten breakfast, but it was unlikely we’d get another chance to eat until we were back home, and so that would have to do.

Our flight didn’t seem too terribly busy, or at least everyone on it was more of a decent human being than your typical air travelers. We boarded at 11:45, then the plane shoved off at 12:11, slightly ahead of schedule. Of course, that won’t do at all for Logan, and so we sat on the tarmac for 20 more minutes before finally getting our wheels off the ground.

The flight was generally a quiet one, despite the Decaturite family of Overprivileged White People in the row ahead of us. Their kids were acting up during the brain-numbing period during which we sat on the ground, but they more or less calmed down (of their own volition, that is; it’s not like it’s not like good Hippie Crunchie Whole Foods-Shopping Flower Children would ever actually move to discipline their children) during the flight. I read some of a Smithsonian magazine I’d brought along, then more of Reamde on my Kindle.

Our flight managed to avoid the jetstream pushing up the coast, and so we touched down 15 minutes early, at 2:46. By minor miracle, we were at the gate only 7 minutes after that, then Becky and I both bolted off the plane and into the terminal, while our melanin-challenged friends in the row ahead of us still urged their unfortunately-named children to behave like not-children in the tired, flat affect that is so typical of someone trying something that didn’t work the first 500 times, but refuses to do it another way. There but for the grace of Having a Goddamn Clue.

We had put in at Terminal C, and so we had a brief ride on the shuttle tram to the exit:

Hooray for Atlanta!

The good luck we’d had with our train connections the entire journey finally ran out as we just missed a departing MARTA train upon arriving at the Airport Station. We wound up waiting another 10 minutes in the next train to arrive at the platform before it finally made its way north toward downtown. We arrived at Five Points Station at about quarter of 4, then immediately hopped on the Green Line train that just showed up. It would only take us as far as Candler Park Station, but waiting at Candler Park is immensely preferable to waiting at Five Points, in that the chances of getting stabbed by a homeless guy in broad daylight at Candler Park are relatively insignificant, unlike at Five Points. Fortunately, it was only five more minutes there before the next Blue Line train arrived, then took us the rest of the way to Decatur Station. We hoofed it from there out to Paul’s and Meera’s house, where we picked up the car, none the worse for the five days’ wait there. From there, we fought our way through evening rush hour traffic back to our house, finally pulling into the driveway to make it home at quarter of 5.

Whew! What a trip!

We confirmed that everything in the house was as we left it, then we opened up some windows to air out the place, as it had warmed up while we were gone. We unpacked our bags after that, then I started my laundry from the trip, emptied the dishwasher, and then checked my Internets that I’d missed out over the past five days, as Becky headed out to Stone Mountain to pick up Giles. He was, of course, overjoyed to see us and to be home when she returned with him.

By that point we were getting pretty hungry, and so I went out to Zaxby’s to get us some dinner. We ate while watching the Daily Show, then I folded my laundry as we watched the Colbert Report. We put on the end of Game 3 of the ALCS after that (the Sox won), then we watched Jeopardy!, followed by a DS9 from Netflix. When that ended we were quite tired out, and so we went the heck to bed.

All in all it was an excellent trip, and I’m very happy with how it all went. We didn’t have any time to see friends in Boston, but we’d instead caught up with several older friends I hadn’t seen in far too long. We’d also visited some places that are near and dear to both me and to Becky, for which there is no good replacement down here. We had only 5 days to absorb as much of Massachusetts as we could, all while ostensibly going up for a wedding. I think we did a pretty darned good job of it.

Comments Off on A Voyage Across Massachusetts [Day 5]

A Voyage Across Massachusetts [Day 4]

Comments Off on A Voyage Across Massachusetts [Day 4]

Monday, October 14 – we awoke at around quarter of 8, having slept decently, but not altogether perfectly, thanks to some barking dogs next door. After getting showered and dressed for the day, we headed downstairs to have some coffee and cider. As we waited for Becky’s mom to finish getting ready for the day, I went out front to get a picture of the sun coming through the trees:

It looked like it was going to be a nice day, and so we were enthusiastic to go out for a drive somewhere. We watched a Daily Show rerun, followed by some of a How It’s Made, as Becky’s mom took care of the dogs, then we finally got ourselves loaded into her car and headed out by around 10 o’clock.

To let Becky’s mom rest (and because, once I get into a driving mood, it’s hard to stop me), I took the wheel as we made our way down MA-3 South. There was very little traffic on a Monday morning in mid-October, and so it was only a half-hour until we hit the Sagamore Bridge and so arrived at the tail-end of the Cape. From there, it was another hour as we wound the curve on US-6 up past Wellfleet and to Truro, where we merged onto Route 6A, the scenic back-route that took us into Provincetown:

Distance so far: 91 miles

We didn’t have a lot of time to see the Cape on this trip, and since the chilly breeze coming off the Atlantic meant it was hardly beach weather, we decided to go all the way to the end and stop in at P-Town:

Thanks to all the local shops still being open even this late in the season, there were plenty of people there. We wound up parking in a pay lot out in front of the central pier:

By the time we got the car safely stowed away so we could hit the town on foot, it was drawing close to noon. Since we’d yet to have any solid food that day, we elected to immediately find some place to get lunch. Fortunately, the Surf Club Restaurant was nearby, and so we headed straight there to get a table out on the patio:

The place was hardly busy, but a group of middle-aged tourists from the Netherlands or thereabouts (whatever they were speaking sounded like garbled German, which, to me, mostly means Dutch, but Danish can also sound vaguely German-esque without context to my ears) sat down shortly after us, and so we had enough time to take some pictures of Becky with her mom as we waited for our food:

I had some lovely clam chowder and some decent fish and chips. All in all, pretty good, though, admittedly, Becky and I quite rarely get fresh seafood, what with the whole “living 200 miles inland” thing and all.

After finishing our meal, we went for a nice stroll down the pier:

In hindsight, this was a great time to visit Provincetown. The weather was beautiful and sunny, but since it was only about 50 degrees out (and, of course, mid-October, well past beach season), there weren’t very many folks walking along the shore. This made for some great postcard photo opportunities:

Look! Boats! Quaint seaside New England scenery!

A pier in front of the rolling hill of the town! So New England it hurts!

An old, salty fisherman wearing wader boots, towing a rowboat with his dog in it! Now you’re just showing off, New England!

Ah yes, and a seagull. Because no sea-side scene is complete without gulls basking in the sun:

…though some were clearly on their break from looking scenic, and just wanted to sit about all day:

After reaching the end of the pier, we turned back toward land. When we got to the parking lot, I found this sign:

I don’t know, Jennah, if it’s a good idea to post your phone number on the side of your car, along with the fact that you evidently live alone. I’m also not entirely sure how to parse “mature female, secure,” but I’ll have to trust you on that one. Still, $600 a month is hell of cheap, even out on the Cape, so maybe it’s not a bad deal after all. At least you know what kind of car your prospective housemate drives.

As I mentioned above, I didn’t have any issue with my lunch, but the same can’t be said for Becky’s mom. She started to feel ill, and so had to go sit down for a while. I see now that the place we ate at gets less-than-stellar reviews, so it’s possible her experience is far from atypical. She was a good sport about it, though, and encouraged us to move along for a bit until she felt better. This, of course, meant hitting up the fudge and candy shop right away:

Actually, we went to the one across the way from that one, since it was closed for a lunch break when we got there. But it’s more picturesque, so we’ll pretend we got candy from there. We were feeling pretty bloated from all the rich food we’d been having the past several days, and so we opted against getting fudge. Not that I didn’t seriously consider it, but restraint won out over hedonism.

From there, we walked down Commercial Street to Shop Therapy, every teenager’s dream-store:

Though their mural looks like it hasn’t been updated since the early-90s, so it still holds a bit of nostalgia for Becky (and me, to a lesser degree, in that I recognize the style, but my family rarely went to the Cape growing up, what with being on the other end of the state and all). Plus, they sell edgy stuff! With totally edgy signs all over the place!

In a misguided attempt to be cheeky, I opened one of the boxes. Before I knew it:

Aaah! A poorly-taxidermied lion… wolf… bear… thing!

I sure learned my lesson. We continued on out of there, stopping for a bit so I could hit up an ATM to get some cash so as to be able to buy some ice cream (apparently I was too bloated for fudge, but not ice cream. It’s a delicate balance, I know). This was made somewhat more complicated by the dude in line ahead of me, who appeared to be attempting to do his taxes using the ATM. The wait wasn’t totally in vain, though, as it gave Becky time to catch a nice shark:

Becky’s mom rejoined us at that point, then we all walked down to Marine Specialties, the most cluttered surplus store on the planet:

As Becky purchased some items there (including a nice pint glass we now regularly use at home), I wandered into the game store next door. It was actually really, really nice and had a great selection, but since we would by flying home the next day and I didn’t want to check any bags, I couldn’t get anything. Our board/card game collection would have to wait to grow.

We made our way back to the car at about quarter after 2, then hit the road down US-6. After passing through Wellfleet, though, we pulled off to the right, down an increasingly-narrow and poorly-defined dirt road leading out to the bay:

Total distance so far: 111 miles

At first, there doesn’t seem to be all that much to Lieutenant Island, aside from the long, flat beach, and the distinct lack of infrastructure leading to it, even in 2013:

But it’s a very calm, peaceful place, worth visiting for a walk alongside the dunes to the beach:

You see, due to its unique location within Cape Cod Bay, Lieutenant Island juts out like a sand bar into the current, catching and depositing lightweight objects that are carried on the surf. Namely, horseshoe crab husks:

You may recall that Giles was a Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Dog who destroyed Becky’s horseshoe crab husks that she’d moved down from Boston with us. Apparently he thought they were potato chips specially made for dogs. Even though it was late in the season, Becky still hoped to be able to find some to replace the ones she’d lost. We were in luck, as the beach was studded with them, including several in remarkably good shape:

The biggest find of all – both literally and figuratively – though, was this guy:

That’s an actual crab, not just the husk of one! It must have become disoriented and washed ashore. It had to be very old, as, not only was it quite big, it was also covered in barnacles, meaning it hadn’t shed in some time:

Becky made a memorial for Old Crabby by surrounding him with the better-quality husks that we’d pulled from the beach:

We threw Old Crabby back into the water so he could return to the bay’s ecosystem, then we gathered up the husks and brought them back to the car so we could drive back to the house. After another hour on US-6 we hit the Sagamore Bridge at 4:30, then we pushed up MA-3 to make it back to the house right at about 5 o’clock:

Daily total distance: 185 miles

I wound up driving roughly 600 miles over the course of 4 days on this trip, thanks to Becky’s mom letting us borrow her car. That number may not sound all that impressive, but keep in mind that, in doing so, we never left the state of Massachusetts. We drove from Boston, out to a couple hundred yards short of the New York border, then back to the tip of the Cape, covering almost as much of the length of the state as you possibly can in the process. Not bad for a long weekend.

I knocked the sand out of my shoes when we returned, then I ordered Becky and me some bacon cheeseburger pizza for dinner from Capone’s, just down the road. I was positively starving, but Becky wasn’t feeling all that well, so we relaxed after eating, watching whatever we could find on TV: first some Seinfeld, then a Family Guy, then an episode of Big Bang Theory. After watching Jeopardy! at 7:30, we made ourselves some cocoa and had a couple of cookies. We watched some of Liar Liar as we had our dessert, then we finished off the evening with some Futurama. We retired to the bedroom at about 9 o’clock, packed up our things, then read some until we turned off the light at about 10.

It had been a lovely day, though a tiring one, for sure. On the one hand, we were saddened that we didn’t have the energy to go up to Boston that evening, as the four days of manic travel had worn on us and left us too pooped to make the journey there and back. But, on the other hand, we had to get up stupidly early the following morning, and perhaps it was for the best that we got some rest while we could. Our return trip would start well before the sun rose the following day.

Comments Off on A Voyage Across Massachusetts [Day 4]

A Voyage Across Massachusetts [Day 3]

Comments Off on A Voyage Across Massachusetts [Day 3]

Sunday, October 13 – I awoke in the morning at around 8 o’clock, then somewhat reluctantly got myself up to get showered and dressed for the day. I headed out at quarter of 9 by myself, as Becky got ready to go herself, so that I could get us some much-needed breakfast. After a brief stop at CVS for some cough drops for me, I drove up into town to go to the Dunkie’s on First Street:

Local distance: 3.1 miles

There was probably a closer one to us than that, but darned if I knew where it was. It was best to stick with what I knew. It was predictably busy on a Sunday morning, but I was able to get in and out without too much trouble. Oh Dunkie’s, visiting you outside of New England just doesn’t seem right, somehow.

After having our breakfast sandwiches and coffee back in the hotel room while watching some of Despicable Me on TV, we loaded up the car, checked out of the hotel, then hit the road back up toward Pittsfield. This time, though, we continued on US-7 North past Pontoosuc Lake, through Lanesborough, then hooked a left onto Brodie Mountain Road:

Distance so far: 16 miles

To any resident of the Berkshires, Brodie Mountain Road can mean only one thing:

Yep, we were at Jiminy Peak. It was a glorious – if somewhat chilly – and sunny Sunday morning, and we were fixin’ to ride the Alpine Slide. I had deliberately gotten there a bit after they opened at 10 o’clock, but from the looks of how busy it a) already was, and b) was constantly getting, we could have been better served by getting there right as the gates opened. Oh well, good to know for next time.

The tickets were certainly more expensive than I remembered them being, but whatever; it was a special occasion and we were on vacation. I was giddy with excitement as we took the chair lift up the mountain:

There were already some folks sliding down the track as we made our way up, but I was encouraged to see that it wasn’t too busy just yet:

After the lazy, 15-minute ride up to the top on the chair lift, Becky and I each grabbed a sled, then waited to go down the track:

I couldn’t help but notice some of the warning signs at the start of the track:

First off, barring skirting the laws of electromagnetism, I’m not entirely sure how one would propose to over-take a sled on the same track, as it would require passing through said sled. Second, “brakes DO NOT work in the Rain” [sic] seems rather ominous in pretty much any context. Still, Alpine Slide! Hooray!

Our first run was great, as there wasn’t yet much of a line at the top. Becky and I went down on the same track, so I was able to get a picture of her coming in after me:

The extra 90 pounds of weight I carry certainly helped me out in my velocity versus hers, too.

I was pretty chilly on the run down, so I quickly ran back to the car to grab my jacket to put on at the top of the mountain. With that done, we jumped back in line for the chair lift and went up again:

It was markedly busier this time and so it was clear that, if I was going to video record my run down the track, it was going to be then or never. I didn’t [yet] have a GoPro camera, so I had to balance my crappy Casio point-and-shoot on the dead-man’s-switch brake handle as I went by. This cut my speed some so as to not drop the camera and/or die, but it still came out looking pretty impressive, I think:

Despite going slower than usual, I still had to cut it off before the bottom, as the young girl in front of me had yet to clear the track as I was approaching. Oh well; you get the idea.

We had gotten two good runs in, but we felt like we could do with one last one before leaving. So, back up the mountain on the chair lift we went, for a third and final go of it:

This would clearly be our final run, if only because the line at the top was getting rather ponderous:

Still, we finally made our way down for one last trip down. This time, I let Becky go first, so I wouldn’t have to worry about catching up with a stranger in front of me:

It was my experience as a child, by the way, that the guy running it, there, was not paid nearly enough to enforce that “no racing” policy. Which is good, because racing is fun. Dangerous, but fun.

Still, no racing for us, at least this time around. It was a good final run, though, and I appreciate Becky taking the lead, as not only she, but the girl in front of her were still clearing the track as I pulled into the end:

I’m the fastest at sledding!

As we headed back to the car, Becky found a sign for a lost dog:

Strange, he looks like such a nice puppy.

She also found a wooly bear caterpillar to balance on her henna-covered hand:

While she chatted with her caterpillar-friend, I tried to find the men’s room:

Whoops, sorry dude.

Still, despite the pooping skeletons, it was an excellent time. It was a bit past noon by the time we finished, too, and so we decided that we should get some lunch for our next stop. I knew just the place, back in Pittsfield:

Total distance so far: 30 miles

And, really, is there any question as to where we’d be getting lunch?

No, of course not. Going to Pittsfield and not eating at Teo’s is like going to Rome and not seeing the Colosseum. If the Colosseum had delicious, tiny hot dogs, that is:

Oh Teos. As typical, the place had a decent number of townies in it, but it wasn’t altogether too busy. The waitress took our order with all the courtesy you expect from western New England, then, several minutes later, the plates you see above were plopped down in front of us, along with the check. Welcome to Pittsfield: eat then get the hell out.

Still, so good. Objectively, I think, not even relative to my own childhood memories. We got four with ketchup, two with everything, two with cheese, and two with “sauce,” which is what they refer to the chili they ladle onto some of those dogs as. It is as unpretentious a meal as you can possibly get. And I loved every bite of it.

There’s only one proper way to top off a meal at Teo’s. Conveniently, it involved backtracking down to South Street:

Total distance so far: 33 miles

They have Ben & Jerry’s scoop shops outside of New England, I know, but it just doesn’t feel right to go to them (much like Dunkie’s). Plus, the one in Pittsfield is one of the oldest ones still in operation in the country. It still proudly supports its minimalist cow pasture wall-mural that I remember being there s a kid. The Liz Lemon Greek Frozen Yogurt sign was new, though:

As much as I enjoy 30 Rock, that actually sounds kind of gross. Blerg!

I instead opted for coconut ice cream, since it was a scoop shop-only flavor. It wasn’t life-changingly amazing, but it did the trick. Ice cream achievement: unlocked.

It was already 1:30 by that point, and we were still on the wrong end of the state from where we needed to be that evening. So, after gassing up the car as we continued down South Street, we left Pittsfield for good, then the Berkshires, as we merged onto I-90 East and made our way back toward Boston. So long, Berkshires. If this was my final visit to you for many years, then I’d say it was a very good one.

Given that it was Sunday, we didn’t really have any issues with traffic on the trip back East. When we hit Exit 14 and the intersection with I-95, we instead continued on into Boston, then hooked off Exit 18 across the bridge, and up into Cambridge. We followed Prospect Street up to Inman Square, then picked our way through local roads to arrive at Becky’s brother’s and sister in law’s house at quarter of 4:

Total distance so far: 138 miles

When we arrived, Mike and Nicci weren’t quite home yet. Instead, it was just Becky’s sister Jen and, of course, her nephew Sam:

Mike came back very shortly after we arrived, then we all sat down and chatted for a while, as it had been a few months since we’d seen one another. Sam was growing up quite quickly, and had reached the phase of toddler-hood where he wanted to show all the adults around him how his toys worked:

We were mostly there to see him, and so it was good that he was in a spry mood for the time, even wanting to continue to play with us after Nicci got home (the usual indication that it was time for his nap):

His ability to recall the names of various items was pretty impressive, especially in the case of construction equipment. Sam loves construction equipment. Fortunately, there were several sites within walking distance of their house, and so he’s able to occasionally go out to see some in real life with his Dad or Grandma.

Speaking of Grandma, it was getting close to 6 PM and we still hadn’t checked back in with Becky’s mom, whose car we were still borrowing. We said goodbye to Mike, Nicci, Jen and Sam (though we’d see all of them except for Jen again before leaving), then we made our way down to I-93 (despite some construction on an on-ramp that I’m sure Sam would have been more entertained by than I was), then to MA-3 South from there, and back down to Marshfield:

Daily total distance: 196 miles

We were relieved to hear that Becky’s mom had not been terribly inconvenienced by our use of the car for the past couple of days. It really made this trip so, so much easier, and so I’m very grateful she let us use it. We brought our stuff back inside as she watched the tail end of the Pats-Saints game, then we sat down to have some ziti for dinner. I had the best of intentions of watching Game 2 of the ALCS that evening, but after the first inning, all of the physical, mental, and emotional activity of the past several days finally caught up with me, and I could barely keep my eyes open. I retired to bed with Becky at 8:30, then we read some out of a hokey Scary Stories book she’d found from her own childhood collection. By 9:10, we were tired enough to turn off the light and go to sleep. It was an early night, for sure, but it had been an excellent day. An excellent several days. We had one more full one before our return home.

Comments Off on A Voyage Across Massachusetts [Day 3]

A Voyage Across Massachusetts [Day 2]

Comments Off on A Voyage Across Massachusetts [Day 2]

Saturday, October 12 – we awoke around 7:15 in the morning, bright and early. We took our time getting going, though, laying around some and watching some Mr. Ed on TV, then some She-Ra and SpongeBob Squarepants. Hey, given the state of the TV in the room, it was remarkable that we got reception at all.

After getting cleaned up and dressed for the morning, we headed out at a bit before 9 o’clock. Our first stop was just right across the road, so I could say goodbye to an old friend:

It had closed in April, but there were no signs of any progress to either demolish or re-open the place. Later, we’d overhear a couple of folks in Pittsfield still talking about it, six months after the closure. It’s so strange to me, living in a rapidly-growing area now, how any change is seen as traumatic in western New England.

Not that all change is good, mind you. For example, I was more than pleased that our next destination was still up and running:

Local distance: 7.8 miles

I missed the turnoff onto South Mountain Road, and so had to head into town and all the way up to West Housatonic (hey, I left Pittsfield when I was 15 and so never drove there, give me a break), but we eventually made our way down Barker Road to good old Bartlett’s Orchard:

Unfortunately, though it was unquestionably cider season, they’d changed around the place a bit, such that the window into the cider press was no longer visible:

Not that they were running the press so early in the day, anyway, but I do have fond memories of watching the machine devour apples into a sort of chunky slurry, then press them out into cider, leaving behind square-yard wafers of dehydrated apple remains. The press was still behind the mostly-obscured window, but it was clear it wouldn’t be running any time soon. While that was no longer something I could see there, everything else remained the same: the cider doughnuts were warm and still, to this day, the best I’ve ever had. We picked up a dozen (because vacation, dammit), I got some coffee, and Becky got some maple candy for herself and a half-gallon of cider for her mom to bring back as a thank-you for letting us borrow the car.

Upon arriving back at the hotel room, we devoured the doughnuts. So delicious. We planned on saving half of them for later. Instead, we ate 5 apiece, leaving only 2 for later. No regrets. Best doughnuts ever.

We made some plans for the rest of the day after that, then relaxed some as we watched Rick Steves’ Portugal on TV. We’re not big fans of the southern Europe episodes, but it sure beat the pants off of whatever else was on TV during the late morning. We got dressed in our finest after that, then headed out once more at about quarter after 11. After a brief stop off at the CVS to get Becky some panty hose (there was a chill in the air that’s not exactly common in Atlanta in October), we pressed on up US-7/US-20 into downtown Pittsfield:

Local distance: 2.9 miles

The Berkshire Museum isn’t the biggest nor the most ornate one in the world, but it’s surprisingly good for being so far away from any major cities. Plus, it is awfully pretty when the sun hits it the right way:

I don’t think it was open then – not that we’d have had time to tour it, anyway – but Becky did find a friend out front:

Since it’s rare for us to be able to get pictures together when we’re all nice and dressed up, we took the occasion to get one of us with our new stegosaurus friend:

He said that he likes plants. We thanked him for his time, then moved on.

We still had some time to kill before we needed to be at the wedding, so we made one more stop at an old haunt for me, this one a bit up the road, to the northeast:

Total local distance: 6.9 miles

There’s very little special about the Allendale Shopping Center, aside from a remarkable kinetic sculpture that ran on golf balls, moving all about the place, hitting colorful levers and making all manner of sound. Much like the cider press at Bartlett’s, I spent endless time as a child watching it and marveling at its Rube Goldberg-esque action. The last time we were in Pittsfield, it was still there, but not functioning. We thought, years later, we’d give it another shot:

Not only was there a “yoga Zumba” place next door now, but the sculpture had been completely removed! Drats! Since I’d mourned the loss of the Dakota, Becky had to stand in for me for this one:

I really wish she could have seen it in action, but I suppose nothing lasts forever, even if it wasn’t yet November and it was certainly not raining. It was a little chilly, though.

By that point it was noon, and so we felt confident we wouldn’t be too egregiously early if we went over to the hotel for the wedding. So, we did just that:

Total local distance: 10.3 miles

The ceremony would be held throughout the day at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, or, what I (and certainly present Pittsfield residents) would still call the Hilton, because that’s what it was when I lived there. We could have stayed there for convenience sake for the wedding, but it was crazy expensive, and plus we valued our sleep. A third mitigating factor I didn’t even know about was the parking garage: we managed to squeeze into it through 6-foot ceilings to find a space, but it was clearly under construction, and looked about as sound as if it had been made with Tinker Toys. We made a note to park on the street when we’d return for the reception in the evening.

We entered the lobby to join several dozen beautifully-dressed Brown People and a small handful of confused-looking White People. It wasn’t entirely clear what, if anything, we were supposed to be doing, but after several minutes, a number of folks started walking outside to the enclosed promenade flanking the hotel. A drummer fired up his dhol, and as the beat reverberated through the walkway, it was clear that the festivities had begun:

As we made our way along, several Indian folks made it to the front of the procession to dance in a little circle near the drummer. Gaurav’s older relatives offered the standard, Westerner-confusing blessing of cashed-waved-over-the-head for this:

Every minute or so, we’d walk another 20 or 30 feet, then stop as Gary’s father or one of his uncles would make a brief speech:

As you can see in the background, this was about the most interesting thing the local Pittsfield townies had seen in about forever. They gawked with all the subtlety of a metaphorical elephant in the room.

Speaking of elephants, tradition has it that the groom is to arrive on one. Elephants are a bit hard to come by in western New England, and so Gaurav’s ersatz-elephant was instead a red convertible, bedecked with flowers and garlands:

He sat there at first, as the procession made its way around the cul-de-sac in front of the hotel, again stopping so family patriarchs could proclaim short vignettes:

Now, believe it or not, neither Becky nor I speak Hindi. Hell, for all I know, they were speaking a different language altogether and we’re just dumb white folks for assuming it was Hindi. Point is, all we heard was a series of 15-30 second-long speeches, inevitably punctuated with a roar of cheering from the Indians in the procession. In lieu of understanding what was being said, I assumed they were all telling Yo Mamma jokes. That seemed to make it make a lot more sense from that point forward.

After much dancing, cheering, and banging on the drum – all of which was wonderful, by the way, even if we couldn’t get a word of what was said – the procession made the circle around the cul-de-sac, back to the entrance to the hotel lobby:

It was at that point that the attention of the procession moved away from the family patriarchs and to Gaurav, who seemed to be implored first to dance himself:

…then, after a blessing and some encouragement from his father:

…he made his way out of his Mighty Chariot, and toward the entrance to the lobby:

He danced once more for the procession (I got the feeling that his first effort, above, was deemed insufficient, which I have to agree with… more dancing was clearly warranted), then he headed into the lobby, and upstairs with his brother, toward where the ceremony would be held:

All of this was fantastic, and very much the highlight of the occasion for us. Good, since the ceremony that followed was more all about the reverence and austere sanctification. Like ya do in wedding ceremonies, I suppose. But, unlike in Christian weddings, at least the stage they would sit on was all hell of ornate:

There’s no big, Baroque-march-blaring pipe organ entrance in Indian weddings to signify the start of the ceremony, and so folks just sort of wandered in ad libitum, alternately taking seats or milling about. This gave me plenty of time to appreciate their lovely wedding programs/Guide for the Melanin-Impaired:

Eventually, a sort of consensus was reached that the ceremony was starting. Which is to say, most of the adults paid attention, and children were, for the most part, herded into a corner table supplied with scrap paper and crayons. This is, I’ve heard, more or less typical for Indian wedding ceremonies. If anything, most of the audience was keeping the chatter down to a minimum. White folks always gotta like things to be quiet.

There were several distinct facets to the ceremony. The first was an exchange of garlands between complimentary members of each family:

This was easy in the case of say, the mothers:

But, since Vanessa doesn’t have a brother to match Gaurav’s, Chris stood in as an honorary-sibling:

When all of the garlands were exchanged, Vanessa and Gary entered the room to take a seat on the stage:

You’ll note that Vanessa is wearing a different, even-more-beautifully-ornate dress from the one she had on the previous evening. She’d change into yet a third one for the reception. This alone is more effort than I think Becky and I would have put into a wedding, so she’s to be applauded for that.

For the next part of the ceremony, a small fire was lit in the put, into which the couple spooned some symbolic offerings:

Again, if you’re going to have an hour-long wedding ceremony in a foreign language, your best course of action is to light something on fire. So well done, there.

For the next bit, the officiant went through a big series of scripture, as the bride and groom did a wonderful job of looking reverent:

This was followed by each leading the other in a circle:

…around the fire pit, several times:

My Western sensibilities told me the next part, in which the bride and groom donned ornate flower garlands on one another, was the “okay now you’re married for reals” part of the ceremony:

But it kept going for a bit more after that:

It couldn’t go on much longer, though, since the furtive glances Gaurav was occasionally shooting meant it was approaching the end:

Sure enough, shortly after that, the bride and groom raised to receive blessings from their parents:

…and then they were married! Hooray!

We all got some flowers to toss at them after that, then more or less everyone lined (okay, less “lined” more “mobbed.” Again, I think orderly queues are White People Things) up to be photographed with them. We’d have plenty of time to congratulate them later, and so I just snapped this quick one of the newly-married couple with Deb and Randy before moving on:

We chatted some with Chris and his family afterward, as well as with Jon Cohen, who apparently was also at the wedding, though couldn’t make the party the previous evening. It had been even longer since I’d seen him, and so I was happy to catch up with him for a bit, too. Becky and I were getting pretty hungry, though, and so after offering if anyone wanted to join us (they all had separate plans, but it’s not like we wouldn’t be seeing them in several more hours), we departed at around quarter after 2 to go get some lunch.

Fortunately for us, the place we’d be getting food was just a hop, skip, and a jump down the road, off East Street:

Total local distance: 11 miles

We’d stopped in at Teddy’s Pizza, home of roughly four out of five meals I had during my 3-semester tenure at Pittsfield High School. Chris had warned me that the place had changed after Teddy retired, but I had to check it out anyway, if only for closure:

Sure enough, it just wasn’t the same. The kitchen alcove had been replaced with a bar, and the wood paneling had been removed to expose the brick. The sitting Joust machine had been replaced with high-def TVs broadcasting ESPN. The pizza was still roughly as I remembered it, or at least close enough. Still, a bit of the magic was gone. Fortunately, Becky had been to Teddy’s with me during a visit years earlier, before the remodeling, when Teddy was still working. So at least she was able to experience that bit of my young teenage years before it was gone. And hell, pizza is still pizza, and it hit the spot right then.

We decided to drive around some after that, through the southwestern quadrant of town with which I was most familiar, growing up. We made our way down East Street, turned on Dalton Division Road, then drove past my old house on Caratina Ave. It had been repainted, and the excellent sledding hill in back had been rudely cut off by a fence. In other words, another change that would never quite be the same. Still, some things were still as I remembered them. We pulled over to stop at one:

Total local distance: 18 miles

Ah, good old Williams Elementary School, where I went to primary school from 2nd – 5th grade:

That front building there had been renovated since my time, and I failed to find the plaque marking the tree planted in honor of my 5th grade teacher, who had died of a heart attack while shoveling snow in the middle of the ’92 – ’93 school year. But the important things were still the same: much of the playground equipment I’d risked life and limb on nearly a quarter-century earlier were still there, including the gloriously uncomplicated swing set:

Becky swung as high as she felt comfortable doing, stopping when one corner support started to lift out of the ground. I assured her that no, it’s always done that. Oh, Williams, don’t ever change.

I mentioned to Becky how Vanessa’s grandparents lived very close to Williams, but I couldn’t quite remember which house was theirs, only their furball of a cat that seemed to generate its own body weight in shedding daily. Odd what one remembers sometimes.

Memory Lane sufficiently trodden down, we drove back into town via Elm Street, where I’d often bike in the summer, then hooked back onto South Street to return to the hotel:

Total local distance: 23 miles

We returned to our room at about 3:15, then settled in to watch some TV. We watched a bit of the Cosby Show, and episode of Monk, then some of the Northwestern-Wisconsin football game (spoiler: NU lost) as we got ready to go again. I put on a fresh tie, fixed my hair, then we hit the road back to the Crowne Plaza at around 5 o’clock.

We first headed up to the pool for a cocktail hour. This was most excellent, and gave me the first real time I had to catch up with both Chris and Jon at the same time. You know I must have been having a good time then, because I neglected to take any photos. Still, indoor pool. Scotch. Hors d’oeuvres. You get the idea.

At 6:30, we were all encouraged to head over to the reception hall:


First things first, I found the bar in there, just in case we had to wait a bit to be served:

We were seated with Jon, and a couple of Vanessa’s friends from Penn State:

Though I’d end up spending a good amount of the evening talking with Jon and Chris, the folks from Penn State were also cool to chat with, and I’m glad Vanessa sat us with them.

The reception was kicked off with a Western-style wedding ceremony, including the obligatory walking-down-the-aisle of the bride by her father:

It was held up on the dance floor, in front, and was officiated by one of her good friends:

What he may have lacked in terms of experience as an officiant he more than made up for with brevity, and, for the second time that day, Gary and Vanessa were pronounced husband and wife:

Hooray again!

The reception got going after that, during which time we were provided a lovely buffet of Indian food. Vanessa later told me some of her family was confused by it, but I elected to make up for them by eating ALL the Indian food:

Indian food is good.

Of course, a wedding reception would not be a wedding reception without a First Dance:

And so the night went on, chatting with the ladies from Penn State some, having drinks and exchanging stories both old and new with Chris and Jon some more. All the food and drink made me feel like dancing would have been a bad idea, but Becky still gave it her best toward the end of the evening. All in all, we had a wonderful time.

We departed at about 10 minutes of 11, then hit the road down South Street, back to Lenox and to our hotel room for the night:

Local distance: 3.0 miles

We got out of the fancy clothes we’d had on for the past 12 hours, then bedded down to read some before turning off the light. Though we’d be checking out the following morning, we still had some fun left in store the following day before we’d make the drive back to the eastern end of the state. Still, for the second year in a row, we’d gone to a wedding in Massachusetts for some old friends, and had a positively excellent experience in doing so. And I’m really, really happy about that.

Comments Off on A Voyage Across Massachusetts [Day 2]

A Voyage Across Massachusetts [Day 1]

Comments Off on A Voyage Across Massachusetts [Day 1]

Friday, October 11 – we awoke at 8 in the morning, having gotten a decent night’s sleep for the standards of sleeping in a guest room at Becky’s mom’s house. After getting showered and dressed, we headed downstairs and had some French toast with Becky’s mom for a nice, leisurely breakfast. We went on a walk in the woods with the dogs after that, as we had a bit of time to kill before we needed to leave, but not enough to go out somewhere. When we returned to the house, we packed our things up, loaded them into Becky’s mom’s car, then got ready to drive across the state. We thanked Becky’s mom for letting us borrow the car, then we headed out, hitting MA-3 North at around 10:20 AM, after stopping quickly to get gas before departing Marshfield.

Traffic on our way up didn’t give us any troubles, and we were able to hook onto I-93 South, then continue to I-95 North so as to loop around Boston, without delay. We hit the Pike after that, then stopped off to get some cash at an ATM in a service plaza. The ATMs in the Pike plazas used to be for Bank of America, but the ones at this location were for CitiBank now. I suppose I can’t really complain about Bank of America becoming less ubiquitous than it already is, though.

We continued apace from there, pulling into our first official stop just a bit before half past 11:

Distance so far: 51 miles

Good ol’ 49 New York Ave, where I used to work at Genzyme. Through Mario, I’d made plans to meet up with some of my old work-friends to go out to lunch, just like old times. While a couple of folks didn’t quite seem to understand (or else didn’t care) how rare an occasion it was that I’d be there on a Friday afternoon, right at their doorstep, I still got a decently good number of folks to come meet Becky and me. In addition to the guys who came to lunch, Jim, Amy and Stu came down to say hello to us in the lobby. I felt bad for not keeping in touch more with Amy and Stu (I’ve kept tabs with Jim better, if only because our work together was, as of 2013, still being actively published), and I was touched that they came down to see us. So that was really nice.

After the several of them headed back upstairs, the rest of us piled into cars to follow the winding road up to a familiar location:

Total distance so far: 57 miles

That’s right: it was time for a reunion of the Acapulco’s Friday Lunch:

That’s just about everyone except for Ron, who was apparently on vacation in Japan, and Jim, who I guess just didn’t want to see me for that long. Clockwise around me, there’s Rod, Tony, Mario, Pablo, and John. Really, I was quite touched that they all made time to come out again, even if their new French Overlords might not approve of such things.

Of course, they just had to get me a sombrero:

I believe the waiters knew it was a ruse, since they only half-heartedly sang the birthday song. Oh well, it’s the thought that counts. And by “thought,” I mean “sombrero picture.”

Pablo, Rod and Tony all headed out a bit early on their own, and so Becky and I drove back to Framingham with Mario and John. We got back at a bit after 1 o’clock, said goodbye to them, then hit the road once more, continuing down I-90 West toward the Berkshires. We saw some horrid traffic through central Mass headed the opposite direction, but fortunately for us, the folks going west seemed to be having a better go of it.

We hit Exit 2 in Lee at quarter of 3. 15 minutes later, we pulled into our hotel, a little roadside motel in Lenox, practically on the border with Pittsfield:

Total distance so far: 174 miles

There’s not much special to the Lenox Inn, aside from its quaint, generic New England name. The place had all the up-to-date amenities of the early-60s, as evidenced by our bathroom:

…and the old timey check-out notice placard on the door, which looked straight out of Twin Peaks:

On top of that, it was fairly clear from the view out our bathroom window that we wouldn’t be doing any swimming:

Not a big deal in the mid-50s weather then, but that sucker looked like it had been closed for some time.

At any rate, it definitely won the prize for the most “rustic” room we’ve ever stayed in – complete with the actual-made-of-metal key we got for our room and the trip down an unlit, wood-paneled hallway to where we were put up, in the room directly next to the supply closet – but hey, what do you expect in the Berkshires in leaf peeping season. A more typical chain hotel would have been literally 3 times as expensive, and, so far as I was concerned, this was all part of the experience of life in western Massachusetts, where things change so very rarely. Plus, it was nice to have a room so secluded, since we didn’t have to worry about noise from US-7/US-20 right outside. And the Indian family running the joint were quite nice to us the whole time, too. We almost mentioned we were going to an Indian wedding up in Pittsfield, but I thought better of doing so, in case I would have been breaking some social taboo by doing so. Though I imagine the henna they’d wind up finding on the sheets after we left would be a clue.

We rested some after unloading our things, then put on a show hosted by Marc Summers that was all about movie candy, for lack of anything better on TV to watch. Eventually, we decided to go try and see something out-of-the-way that wasn’t part of my childhood. For that, we followed US-20 south back down toward Lee, then pressed on for a bit past the Pike on-ramp:

Local distance: 11 miles

Where we were headed was a bit out of the way, for sure, but there was no question we’d found it when we got there:

Yep, it’s a big, ugly statue of a beaver, conveniently rolled in on a wooden cart to advertise a storage locker facility, the property of which it sits on:

As you can see using the Standard Becky of Size Comparison, he was maybe 6 1/2 or 7 feet tall. The whole time we visited him, though, I couldn’t help but chuckle to myself:

I’d have a certain song stuck in my head for the rest of the day.

The beaver said he’s heard that joke before. Like, every day. Sorry, beaver.

We’d noticed a CVS and a Price Chopper in a plaza right next to our hotel on the way down to see the Big Beaver. Since I’d have to look my finest over the coming days, I would need to iron the dress clothes I’d rudely crammed into my carry-on suitcase. I’d hoped our room would have an iron in it, but we had no such luck. So, I tried to find a travel iron (I figured I’d stash it in a closet at Becky’s mom’s house when we returned) first at CVS, then the grocery store, if only for due diligence. Again, no such luck. When we returned to the hotel, I asked at the front desk if they had one I could borrow. The man there silently opened up a cupboard containing no fewer than 8 irons (from what I could see, alone), carefully selected one, then handed it over to me. The iron worked, at least, so I suppose he picked the right one.

We watched a bit of Futurama on TV after I finished ironing the clothes (I carefully hung up the ones for the following day, so I wouldn’t need to borrow the iron again), then we left for the evening at about 20 minutes of 6. Our choice for dinner that night was less than a mile down the road from the hotel:

Local distance: 0.7 miles

There aren’t too many places in Lenox that I fondly remember from childhood, so that limits it down a bit. I’ll give you a hint:

Yep, that’s right: the Luau Hale. The Dakota might have been closed up for good, but the Berkshires’ only-est Polynesian-themed restaurant was still alive and kicking, looking precisely the same as I remembered it:

We weren’t quite sure what the food situation would be at the party we’d be going to that evening (it turned out that, by virtue of being held at the Italian American club, “a whole ton of it”), but I knew that extended visits to where I’d lived my formative years from 1989 – 1997 were few and far between even when we still lived in Boston, and so I jumped at the opportunity to go to an old favorite restaurant from when I was a kid. We even got a pupu platter, just like I always got there. The scorpion bowl we got to accompany it, though, was a new addition for adulthood, I’ll admit. Hey, some things change.

The place was pretty darned empty when we got there, but filled up quickly, such that we were happy we’d arrived when we did, by the time we left at quarter of 7. It turned out we could have planned dinner a bit earlier than that, but we weren’t quite sure when to arrive at our next destination. Still, we were doing pretty good, in terms of planning specific meals at specific restaurants all across the damned state.

After a straight shot up US-7 that took us through downtown Pittsfield, up to the Sons of Italy ITAM club off Pontoosuc Lake:

Total local distance: 11 miles

There’s no Indian-American Society in Pittsfield (that I know of), but there are two different Italian-American clubs. Because Pittsfield. Still, they decked out the place with some Indian bling for the occasion:

I was a bit nervous as we entered, for a couple of reasons. For one, it seemed like the party was quite hopping already. While many of the guests were there already, we didn’t miss anything important, so all was well. Plus, Indian DJ with a bushy mustache and a turban, standing in front of a Sons of Italy crest:

I’m not sure if it’s racist to be amused by that. I’m sorry if it is, but he just looked all sorts of awesome.

I was somewhat relieved when I found Vanessa and Gary, pictured here in a rare moment to themselves:

I say that because they were just about the only people we knew there. I say “just about” because I did know one other person there, but I had no clue how meeting with him would go down: you see, for the first time in nearly 8 years, Chris and I were in the same room. And while I’d sent him an email to break the ice, I really had no clue what to expect. Would he be happy to see me? Angry? Sad? Would he ignore me? Was I ignoring him by pondering all that nonsense?

To my immense relief, he walked up to me and greeted me warmly. He had gotten my email, but felt it best to just meet me in person instead of responding, since he knew he’d see me shortly. We’d parted ways at a very rough period in both of our lives, but it made me very happy that we were finally able to get back in touch, as something more closely approximating adults:

I would spend much the rest of the night having drinks and catching up with him, and his family. His wife was there, and I was glad to meet her, finally, too. Deb and Randy were, as always, Deb and Randy. So very little changes in Pittsfield. For me, it almost felt like entering a time warp. We were older, all of us, but maybe 8 years wasn’t such a long time to be gone after all. At least, it no longer seemed as impossible as a gulf as it did before I’d walked in.

While we chatted, had some dessert, and got bearings on one another’s lives since 2005, Becky went off to put henna on her hands:

Her [Indian] boss would, upon seeing it, remark how it didn’t look good, but whatever lady, I think it’s awesome. Though not entirely as awesome as Gary’s grandfather:

Or… great-grandfather? Grand-uncle? “Family patriarch,” let’s say. Point is, he was soft-spoken and charming to listen to talk about just about anything. In this case, he was giving his blessings in a short speech, the function of which seemed to be to kick off the real festivities for the night, which was dancing:

As a means of doing a (rather phenomenal) job of trying to make compatible the sprawling, week-long affair that is a Hindu wedding and all the austerity that is an American Catholic ceremony, they’d converted the rehearsal dinner into an all-invited “sangeet party.” So, after the food, all of the folks from Gary’s side got up to do dances:

The rest of us were there to look and feel so very, very white. Westerners aren’t so good at pre-memorized dance moves. I mean, we can’t rightly claim the Macarena for American culture and no, we are not doing the chicken dance, thanks very much. The Indians seemed to have a knack for it that we lacked. Hell, even the little girls got into the routine:

To encourage them and to offer blessings for the occasion (at least, that was my interpretation), Gary’s older male relatives would walk by and wave dollar bills over the heads of the dancers, then drop them to their feet:

You, as a Westerner, dear reader, may recognize this routine as “makin’ it rain.” Which is a way different thing than offering blessings, especially to young girls. So, yes, that was a bit unusual to see for the first time.

Not that it fazed Grampa. As the night went on, he only got cooler:

Can we keep him? Please?

The party and dancing went on into the night, showing no signs of letting up. The Italian Americans keeping the place open, though, clearly wanted to go to sleep at some point. The chairs and tables were all cleared and, since that wasn’t enough of a hint, the lights started going off. Yep, time to go. Still, it was lots of fun, and I left with a much lighter heart than I’d entered with. What I was fearing would be a Can of Worms was really Nothing Special:

And that’s a good thing.

We departed shortly before 10 PM, then made it back to the hotel room about 20 minutes later:

Total local distance: 17 miles

I re-arranged our luggage a bit, then read some before turning off the light at 11. Overall, an excellent day. We had plenty more festivities ahead of us, too.

Comments Off on A Voyage Across Massachusetts [Day 1]

A Voyage Across Massachusetts [Day 0]

Comments Off on A Voyage Across Massachusetts [Day 0]

Thursday, October 10 – I awoke on time, laced up my nice new shoes, then headed into work alone. Becky would be staying home to clean up a bit and bring Giles to be boarded, so she took the entire day off. As for me, I still had some business to take care of at work. First, I wrote out and printed a trip pack for Day 5 – the last day of our voyage up to New England. Good thing, as we’d be leaving in a few hours.

I read some after that, then wrote out and posted an entry for the day (it would get difficult, then impossible, to find time to do so after we returned). I heated myself up some leftover Little Caesar’s that I’d saved for my lunch, then I read some more until a few minutes before 1 o’clock, at which time I shut down everything in the lab, then headed out for the day. This was somewhat complicated by the presence of a guy sitting on the ledge of the parking deck behind the building, but I didn’t hear anything further about it, so I think it’s safe to assume he just wasn’t aware of how dangerous him sitting there looked to everyone from the ground. Still, an odd thing to see right before leaving.

I arrived home at 1:20 to finish packing, close our windows (we’d left them open to let some nice, early-autumn air in the house, but we didn’t want to tempt rain/robbers in our absence), then fill up the DVR queue with shows we’d be missing while gone. With all that done, we locked up the house, loaded up the car, then drove on down to Decatur, where we parked the car at Paul’s house off of Ponce. He wasn’t home at the time, but there were some gas and electric workers there doing some construction zoning. They kept out of our way, though, and we were able to leave the Prius in an unobtrusive spot as we made our way on foot to the Decatur MARTA station. It was warm and sunny out as we walked, and we made note to enjoy the balmy temperatures while we could, since it wouldn’t be nearly that warm out where we were headed.

We arrived at the station at quarter of 3. We had to reload a fare card for Becky, but after that we had barely any wait at all for the next westbound train. Our unusual train-luck continued at Five Points, where a where a southbound train was waiting on the tracks as we arrived. This got us to Airport MARTA Station at about 3:20, only 35 minutes after we departed Decatur Station. That has to be some kind of record.

I had no difficulty getting our boarding passes this time. Good, since the line at Security was atrocious. It took us over 20 minutes of waiting to get through that hot mess, but we persevered, making it to the gate just a bit before 4 PM for our 5:55 flight. I planned it that way so we’d have time to eat a light meal before departing, since we would arrive in Boston too late to get dinner. As it turned out, the flight previous to our own at our gate was still boarding when we arrived, so we immediately went back out in search of food. When we returned, the flight was shoved off, there were plenty of seats available, and I had a lovely burrito from Willy’s:

Every now and then, I think I’m starting to actually get good at this whole travel thing.

I picked up a bottle of Coke Zero and a Snickers from a nearby news stand after I finished my burrito, then I read as we awaited our boarding call. Delta didn’t pull a blue-sky delay on us this time, and so we got on the plane at 5:25, just about a half-hour before scheduled departure:

The plane shoved off from the gate at 6:00 on the dot, then got in the air about 20 minutes later. A bit late, but we’d make up some of that in the air. Still, we were on our way:

It was a pleasant, quiet flight, all in all, which is all I ask for once in the air. I read an article in a Smithsonian Magazine I’d brought along all about Albert Camus, then I switched to my Kindle to continue reading Reamde. I had a light snack, and watched the sun rapidly drop from the sky as we flew northeast, into the terminator:

It would be completely dark out by the time we landed, but we weren’t so far gone from living in New England that that surprised us.

We had a smooth landing at 8:27, just a hair early. We gathered up our stuff after that, got off the plane, then immediately headed out to catch the Ground Transportation Shuttle to the T station:

We arrive at Airport T a few moments after 9. We had a bit of a nerve-wracking moment as we discovered that my old Charlie Ticket had expired. We rushed to get replacements, but still managed to make the Blue Line train that pulled up to the tracks moments after we hit the platform. That took us to Government Center without any troubles, where we made the quick switch on the Green Line out to Park Street. We had only a brief, 2 minute wait there until the next outbound Red Line train going to Braintree pulled up. We rode that all the way to its southern terminus, where we arrived at 10 minutes of 10:

It’s here that we hit our first real travel snag. We’d asked Becky’s mom to meet us “at Braintree.” She normally takes the Park and Ride Bus from Braintree up to the airport, not the T. As it so happens, the Park and Ride lot is NOT in the same place as the T station. This was certainly our fault for not specifying where we’d be, but fortunately, it didn’t cost us too much time, as, after getting the confusion cleared up, Becky’s mom arrived to get us after only about a 10 minute delay.

From there it was a straight shot down Route 3 to her house. We pulled up at 10:30 PM, unloaded our stuff, grabbed some flavored water from the fridge, then retired upstairs to the bedroom. I read some of a book of tales about Lincoln that Becky found on a bookshelf, then we turned off the light for the night. Overall, it was a very well-executed day of travel. We’d hang around a bit the following morning, then make our way – this time by car – clear across to the other end of the state, where we’d be spending the next couple of days.

Comments Off on A Voyage Across Massachusetts [Day 0]