We slept until ten. Yesterday was a long day on the road, beginning in Vermont where we woke up then drove to New Hampshire to make a quick stop to get a check for work Rich had done while we were in Maine. Then it was on to West Newbury, MA where Rich left his shoes. Next stop was Boston to visit our oldest daughter’s new apartment and say goodbye over a late lunch and a long walk through the Public Gardens. Finally we hit the Mass Pike at around five and made The Reverse Commute on the turnpike from Stockbridge to Boston, as James Taylor sings it.
(Shameless plug for my first novel The Reverse Commute. If you haven’t read it yet, please tell me why.)
This morning we woke up at a Howard Johnson’s nine miles from Woodstock, New York. I felt like Josie Wolcott in my novel Take Me Home because the stairwell at HoJo’s smelled like Indian curry. If you read the book you know what I’m talking about. If you didn’t read the book, what are you waiting for?
Rich was eager to get on the road but I convinced him we had to make the pilgrimage. It was another sign. My third novel has a lot of rock ‘n roll floating through the story and here I was a short ride from music history. He acquiesced.
We drove past art galleries and funky lawn artwork. On the Johnny Appleseed property (yes, he was a real guy) we saw a deer, then quickly found a parking spot and took a walk through the town which smelled like incense and patchouli oil. Shops sold candles and hemp clothing. A landscaper from the Islands was taking a break and smoking a joint on a front stoop.
Not Fade Away sells T-shirts that I expect also do not fade.
The cottage above the waterfall is a vacation rental.
Woodstock Earth sells pottery. We never found Yasgur’s Farm but we found our way back to the highway on Levon Helm Memorial Boulevard. Levon is mentioned in my novel so I took this to be yet another sign that things are moving in the right direction for me. I would have liked to have found his music studio, The Midnight Ramble, and I wish I had the chance to see a show there before he passed away.
Before we left town, I made a wish on a wall at a coffee shop called Before I Die I Want To…. I wrote “have my book become a movie” and added my name just in case someone who saw it might be curious and wants to read the book.
For miles we drove past farmland along the Catskill Mountains in upstate New York, and into the breadbasket of Western New Jersey that you never think about when you think of New Jersey.
The farms in Pennsylvania have circular hex signs on the barns and we wondered if they were owned by Amish or Mennonite farmers. We also wondered what was the difference between the two. We tried to pronounce the name of one of the towns. Rehrersburg. It was a tongue twister.
A billboard advertised 92.1 FM. Rock ‘n Roll. We turned it on and listened to ZZ Top’s Sharp Dressed Man.
We passed a massive Dollar General warehouse with no windows. It was most likely filled with cheap toilet bowl cleaner, paper plates, and plastic shit from China that no one needs.
Route 78 to 81 is a trucking route which gets on my nerves when we get caught up in a convoy, which is frequently, but the scenery was beautiful and the traffic lighter than Route 95 from Boston to DC. We had decided to take a different route home, avoiding the Northeast Corridor which I have driven more times than I can remember. The trucks are full of food like Utz snacks and Thomas’s English muffins, and probably more cheap shit from China.
“I’ve been driving all night, my hand’s wet on the wheel, There’s a voice in my head, That drives my heel.”
Golden Earring sang Radar Love as we passed a large farm owned by Bell and Evans. I reminded Rich of the time I bought their organic antibiotic chickens on sale and how good they tasted. He said he didn’t remember. I asked myself, Why Do I Bother Cooking? Lynyrd Skynyrd was singing their version of Call Me the Breeze. It was the third time I heard the song in as many days. J.J. Cale, Clapton, and now Skynyrd. I took this as another sign.
We passed through the skinny panhandle of Maryland in no time and were in West Virginia when we decided to take a walk. Rich needs to take walks every couple of hours, he has issues with his blood. We saw one of those brown road signs designating an historic sight. In this case it was the entire town of Martinsburg. Three miles into the rather rundown downtown area we decided it didn’t look like a good place to walk. Rich announced he needed to go to the bathroom. Now. We crossed over the railroad tracks and a one-way bridge then down a long country road that had no turnoffs.
“Just pull off here,” I said.
“Sharon Road? It’s a neighborhood. I can’t piss here.”
We kept going until we found a river launch under a set a railroad bridge. There was a small park along the river. He got out of the car and I waited, watching him pass a pretty young girl walking her dog out of the woods. She looked nervous. She probably thought he was a psycho killer. When he got back to the car, I pointed this out.
“She’s probably thinking why can’t this guy use the highway rest stops like everyone else,” I said.
“I prefer a rural setting,” he replied.
On the way out of town we passed a cute old couple shuffling along on the sidewalk.
“Look, she’s brushing him off,” Rich pointed out. And she was. She brushed her hand across his pants. We started a conversation trying to use West Virginia accents, pretending we were the old couple.
“Whatta ya got all over yourself, Bill?”
“I don’t know.”
“It looks like you sat in something.”
“Stop wiping my ass. And what are you doing touching my balls?”
“You’re a mess. What the hell did ya sit in?”
I started laughing hysterically and now I had to go the bathroom, which isn’t easy when i get into an hysterical laughing jag but I managed to make it to the gas station at a highway rest stop.
This is what happens after forty-nine days on the road.