Day 13 – Lovely, Livable New England

Sean’s Journal: I’m on the road again and love it. I’ve been on the New York State Thruway (I-90) and now I’m headed across western Massachusetts. I’m glad it’s still summertime. Upstate New York and Massachusetts are beautiful with dense woodlands, rolling hills, quaint towns, beautiful farms, etc. I spent last evening in Albany, the capital of New York State. It is a beautiful city with many historic and modern structures. This morning, I visited the Empire State Plaza. There are beautiful reflecting pools, The Egg performing arts center with the historic New York State Capitol and museums nearby. I strolled about for a while and realized I should probably spend a full day in Albany just being a tourist. The city is situated on the Hudson River. Albany and Boston are truly historic cities. Please read up on Albany.

Awesome Albany. I had breakfast at a quaint colonial style restaurant. The Albany restaurant options are endless. I sat at a counter next to a couple of businessmen. We chatted. One was visiting from out of town. The other fellow was a local entrepreneur. The “out-of-towner” said that one of his favorite business trips was to make multiple New York stops in the fall starting in NYC with a super-scenic drive up I-87 to Albany. If I wasn’t planning to visit Newport, Rhode Island, after Boston, I’d love to take that route south. Next trip. The other fellow, who was local, raved on about the quality of life in Albany with its easy access to New England. These guys were upbeat about the U.S. economy.

Old Sturbridge Village. My route is taking me through Springfield, Massachusetts, then on to Old Sturbridge Village (OSV), a living history museum recommended by Vince. From what I’ve read, OSV is one of the best places to get a feel for early 19th Century colonial life in New England. Marie told Vince to tell me to go directly to the bakery for fresh-baked cookies. This is what V&M’s children most remember. It was their first stop once inside the village. This is one of those places where life gets back to basics with live exposure to farmers, artisans, bakers, blacksmiths; and to the livestock that sustains the local families. I know that life back then wasn’t easy, but there is a homeyness and warmth about such an early village that isn’t often found in today’s modern villages and certainly not in the city suburbs. Here is the must-study link:

My journal includes many handwritten notes with brochures and other info stuffed inside. My mobile phone holds priceless photos. It was so fun today to talk with families who had come to soak up the OSV history and charm. Many were so happy to get away from the city to smell the roses literally and to get away from the television barrage of worrisome news and worldly stuff. 

Beloved Marlboro Home. Next, I came to Marlborough (or Marlboro), Massachusetts, where Vince & Marie and their family lived from 1973 to 1981. Vince mentioned earlier that “he left his heart in New England.” Yes, he and I love the rugged beauty of Utah, but there is a pastoral quality to New England that is hard to beat with the super-dense woodlands draped across the hills with ribbons of small and large rivers everywhere, plus the colonial style homes and community buildings. It looks like a Masterpiece Theater movie set. No wonder they call it New England.

Where Vince, Marie, and children lived happily in the woods of New England.

As I arrived in Marlboro, I was starved. I stopped at Vince & Marie’s favorite Italian restaurant right on Route 20 in Marlboro. The name’s changed, but I think it was the right one because the pizza is almost as good as Chicago pizza. I found a campground for the night and then drove straight to Vince and Marie’s old neighborhood that is called Miles Standish Estates. Here is a photo of the last home where they lived in the late 1970s, where they learned to love New England. The yard is filled with large trees. They tell me that the yard backed up to the state forest where their children could roam the woods and explore nature. I can certainly see why they loved this area. Tomorrow, I’m headed toward Boston via one of the V&M family’s all-time favorite places, Longfellow’s Wayside Inn on the historic Boston Post Road. Tomorrow, I’ll attend church and then head to Boston and the coastal areas to the north.   

Vince’s Response: Well, Sean, you bring tears to my eyes. When we lived in New England, we had six children under the age of 12. They were lively yet well-behaved youngsters. Marie and I were blessed to be their parents. They didn’t yet have teenage distractions, so they were quick to jump in our Ford Country Squire station wagon and go wherever Marie and I chose to go. They would troop along behind us, except for the youngest who was in Marie’s arms or on my shoulders. Our favorite place to eat out that was family-affordable and also near the Wayside Inn was Friendly’s ice cream parlor. We still remember a favorite flavor, “Burnt-Almond Fudge” or something close. Yum, yum. Sometimes when we entered the restaurant, one of the clerks would remark, “Are these all yours?” I think some of them still thought we should be part of the ZPG (Zero Population Growth) movement back then. We were proud to declare that every one of the six good-looking and well-mannered children were ours.

Dear Friends. I would also mention one special neighbor family (they’ll know who they are) who just happened to be from Utah and came to live next door to us at one point. They were a mighty special bunch. One vivid memory is of our two families canoeing together down the famous Concord River. I believe we even saw a re-enactment of the Battles of Lexington and Concord or at least there was a group of Redcoats marching along the river bank. We have treasured memories of our activities with this family.      

Oh, Wayside Inn. After ice cream, we’d go to the Wayside Inn. I’d sit amidst the mighty oak trees on an old bench with one or more of the children, where Mr. Longfellow and his occasional visitor, George Washington, might have sat. The children would romp around the old Grist Mill. Marie would usually be keeping an eye on things as I soaked up the history of the place. This is where I left my heart.

Bookends: (1) The colonial history of our nation’s beginnings is full of struggles and triumphs that we should all learn to appreciate. As one marvelous lesson in American history, watch the HBO mini-series, John Adams. (2) Home is where the heart is and where it once was as you savored life and enjoyed your loved ones.