Sometimes the stars align and offer up opportunity. My son called from London and asked if I wanted to meet him in New York; to take a road trip through New England while he waited for his emigration papers to be processed. Neither of us had been to that part of the United States and it was to be in October at the height of “leaf peeping” season.
Such opportunities are rare…a chance to spend time with a grown son who lives an ocean away. A chance to reconnect as adults and to cement relationships with new adventures. Of course, I said “yes”.
After meeting, we were on our way up the beautiful Hudson Valley. First surprise…the Hudson is big. Not a blue line on a pull-down classroom map. That was to be followed by many other surprises. Our knowledge of the history of New England was of the “fill in the blank” variety gleaned from dim memory of school lessons. The names leaped from forgotten pages: Roosevelt, Ticonderoga, Mohawk, Abenaki, Fort Henry, The Green Mountain Boys, Breton Woods, Carnegie, W. E. B. Du Bois, Frost, Thoreau.
The concept of wilderness and the beautiful waterways were everywhere. They mingled with flocks of wild turkeys and fields of pumpkins…descendants of that first Thanksgiving.
The trees rolled golden, russet and lime green over the Berkshires, the Adirondacks and the Green Mountains. The forests were thick, filled with brush, and tumbling streams. We began to piece together what a daunting sight this would have been to the first settlers. Land to be cleared and cultivated, but at backbreaking price.
Through little towns spread out all over with the same name, only differentiated by the words North, South, East, West and Center tacked on the front. We never quite knew when we had arrived. We puzzled over car dealerships in the middle of the woods, real estate offices far from any other business, tanning salons in the middle of “nowhere”?
Some things are familiar. The false front building would be at home in the west. And some things are different. I’m enchanted with the covered bridges. The order of towns built around a town hall and church. The Barn Stars and gazebos remain a charming mystery. And we admired Vermont’s sign laws…businesses advertised on small road signs; no western-style billboard. We laughed at business names, especially the beauty salons…Curl Up and Dye, Combing Attractions, Hair Force One.
And we ate well, starting with a feast at the Culinary Institute of America, alma mater to two of our family. Daily there was a choice of local sausages, cheeses and brews. New flavors in new environs. Amazing bakeries…coffee and conversation while mastering a crossword puzzle.
On toward the White Mountains, we stayed close to the land, choosing to picnic in the blueberries and hike the Long Trail where we could. Early morning treks rewarded us with shifting fog and mist rising over farm ponds and turning forests.
We crossed the Appalachian Trail, wound through Smuggler’s Notch, climbed Mount Horrid, hiked through The Flume in Franconia Notch and admired New Hampshire granite. Slabs of it in the mountains and piles of it stacked and finished in town halls and churches. For seven days and 1700 miles there were new adventures, long conversations, memories shared.
On our last evening together, we kiss and walk away and the sudden silence consumes me. I want to run back and get into the car…to continue down this road, knowing that this kind of road trip with my son may never come my way again.