On June 10, our gypsy pilgrimage landed us in New England where we will be spending six weeks traveling around. The weather had turned sunny and clear when we first arrived in Connecticut, visiting my sister and her husband in Glastonbury in a visit that was all too-brief and incredibly precious. Then we migrated north to New Hampshire and parked/camped in the lovely, park-like lower back yard of our daughter and her family in Keene and later spent a long weekend with friends in Swanzey.
The entire time in Keene we were bathed in the richness of dinners with family and friends, family reunions, and birthday celebrations all of which honor the heart, and the spiritual and physical connections to these people whom we have loved from afar for nearly one year.
The second week in New Hampshire found us witnessing the echo of the life we lived here so richly for decades. People often ask us what we miss about being on the road and we find that the answer changes depending on where we are. When here in Keene, we find we miss living downtown, shopping locally at the Monadnock Co-op which opened just before we left the area in 2014 and was one block from our home. We miss the $.99 iced coffees from Cumberland Farms, a chain of convenience stores located in the northeast. We miss the incredible Cheshire Rail Trail which winds through the town and the surrounding area. I had forgotten the look of the dappled light in the New Hampshire woods. As we rode our bikes along the Cheshire Rail Trail, we pedaled along the top of the berm, in shade, and 40 feet below, the sunlight splashed on the forest floor, like water from a tipped pitcher, forming pools of liquid light. Breathtaking.
We have been gifted by meetings with old friends as we shopped, had coffee in our favorite places, and savored a favorite frozen yogurt. These simple pleasures come from returning to a familiar place and seeing it, and them, for the first time. I hope we do so with more gentle eyes of time on the road.
Peter has observed that the passage of time is most obvious when we see the grandchildren. While we huddle in the illusion of our own constancy as adults, it is the grandchildren who reveal the truth of the passage of time and the inevitable course of life. Here are grandchildren who have combined being inches taller with changing from child to pre-teen, from teenager to young woman, to exhibiting the eye-contact that comes with blooming self-confidence and maturity. It was a happy time.
For week three, we headed to Cape Cod to one of our favorite campgrounds, Shawme Crowell State Forest in Sandwich, Massachusetts. Sandwich is the oldest town on the Cape, having been settled in 1639 by people from the mainland colony of Plymouth (where the Pilgrims settled). Sandwich is a gem of a place, tucked up against Cape Cod Bay and accessible by the Old Kings Highway, Route 6A. We spent one wonderful day driving this historic highway and agree it is one of the most beautiful in the country. It winds through little villages where historic homes from the seventeenth and eighteenth century line the roads. The historic homes seem to go hand in glove with spectacular gardens which are in full bloom at this time of year. Early summer roses, delphinium, lilies, geraniums and more, provide color on the ground while dogwood and honeysuckle please the upward gazes.
Our tour along the Highway took us eastward along the marshes of Cape Cod Bay past last year’s discoveries (Heritage Museum & Gardens and the Wing Fort House built in 1641) and onto this year’s. We stumbled upon the 1791 Judah Baker windmill in Yarmouth and learned of its critical importance to the local community, grinding corn for use by the villages.
We visited the Chatham Coast Guard Station/Lighthouse where in 1952, Bernard Webber and his all volunteer crew of three rescued 32 crewmen (they lost just one man in the rescue) from the tanker, Pendleton, which had broken in two during a fierce nor’easter with 60’ seas and 70 knot winds. The incredible rescue is subject of a new 2016 movie, The Finest Hours, which we are going to track down at RedBox.
These same treacherous Cape Cod waters were one part of the forces of nature that changed the course of the Pilgrims landing. Originally hoping to land along the Hudson River, they were blown off-course, driven further north up and around to Provincetown where they first landed in 1620. They were looking for a safe harbor and good water and after months in P’town, they moved to the abandoned village at Plymouth, across Cape Cod Bay and the rest, as they say, is history.
Our time in Sandwich was marked with a re-visit to some our favorite spots. We spent time biking along the Cape Cod Canal trail and the Sea-to-Shining Sea trail (along Buzzards Bay). We visited Crow Farm which offers the most amazing fresh fruits and vegetables and this year’s strawberries were plump and juicy. Our favorite place for homemade ice cream is called Ice Cream Sandwich. This year’s special flavors included a fantasy called Cape Cod Crunch – almond ice cream, cranberries, chunk of white chocolate truffles. Yup. Amazing.
For week four, and the 4th of July, we are heading Downeast to Maine. On our way, we stopped at my sister’s home in Hampstead, New Hampshire near the seacoast, for some of her fabulous desserts, this time done with festive reference to the upcoming holiday. Pictured here are some of the yummy shortbread cookies that actually made it home to T2 and which we will savor over the next couple of days.
Happy birthday, America, and happy 4th of July to all.
Peter and Liz continue their travels across the U.S. in their Airstream, now celebrating summer in New England, as their pilgrimage to here nears its first anniversary.