Road 2021-2022: Vermont, Massachusetts & Rhode Island, October 10 – October 16

Maine and New Hampshire were quickly left behind. Driving across the meat of New Hampshire I watched the color return to the houses passing by. I didn’t imagine it, the people of Maine use a lot of white paint. If not white, often a light yellow or grey.

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We landed in the Green Mountain National Forest in southern Vermont and decided to take a few days shake off the road vibrations in a dispersed camping site before moving on. We were well supplied with no needs, (unless you count the growing frustration with the lack of cell service coverage by AT&T in this region) (Like almost no coverage since somewhere in Ohio, holding phones up to the windows hoping for that one bar not to blink out).

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We Found a Campground!

There’s this place we wanted to go. To go there we needed to be within driving distance. In that case we had to find a campground to stay in. The campgrounds in Massachusetts are funny. Funny like $18 a night for residents, $80 a night for non-residents. Kurt and I weren’t that into those robust prices. But Rhode Island only doubled their reasonable $18 rate for non-residents.

I am disappointed that I’ve never questioned why Rhode Island is so bad at being an island. There is an island, somewhere according to Wikipedia.

Things:

  • Until 2020 it’s official name was the State of Rode Island and Providence Plantations (Plantations? I don’t believe there is room anymore).
  • It’s the smallest state. 37 miles wide by 48 miles long, but the traffic.
  • Alcohol is sold in separate stores, leaving gas stations quite small.
  • No limits on single use plastic bags. Appears to be a hold-out in the region

After settling in the camp site I had to summon the fortitude to go shower. I really wanted to put it off… but plans. I was suspicious when I entered and saw the change machine. My suspicions were confirmed in the shower stall, we were paying for hot water.

Don’t Do Salem in October

Massachusetts has these signs upon entering the towns, fancy wood cutouts painted white announcing the date established. As we approached the coast the dates fell further into the past. Stunningly further in comparison to the history I was used to living with in Northern Michigan.
I imagined that somewhere along the way we’d hit a population density that would give New England the feel of an urban sprawl. We hit that in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. The towns become a tangle of roads and housing leading into the greater city. In this case Boston (and Providence). These tangles, somewhat worse than a bad hair tangle, the streets of New England, make a midwesterner glad for the grids of city planning.
Boston crept up on me. I never imagined in my head that Salem would be part of city sprawl. Of course I also didn’t know most of the events associated with Salem, happened in Danvers. I was vaguely aware that people liked to visit during the fall.
My mistake.

We crawled into Salem, bumper to bumper traffic, a smallish town built in an old world style with the house fronts kissing the sidewalks and narrow streets. Everywhere, people. Women. Single women. Groups of women. Women with men. Young and old. Wearing black, maybe violet, and bobbing along in cartoonish black cone hats like a hoard of Wicked Witches of the West.
This.
was.
not.

the Salem I came to explore.
At one point an emergency vehicle came up behind us and Kurt had to pull up onto the sidewalk just to get cut off by the other drivers.
Away from the downtown there was a quiet park on the ocean. Paved paths wound around the perimeter. Clusters of picnic tables under susurrating trees. We took a break. Locals said Salem gets no peace between October 1 and November 1. There is no sane way to see the town.

Kurt asked: “What are we doing?”

I wanted to feel the history of the place. Kurt’s family tree included Mary Perkins Bradbury. This town was being assaulted and lacked crowd control. Oddly the one place that survived from the time period of the Salem Witch Trials was least under siege: The House of Seven Gables.
As with New Orleans I had to look between the lines to find the history, romanticism and patina that drew my heart to the location in the first place. If given the chance to return to Salem it’ll be in any month but my beloved October.

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Back in Rhode Island

I needed to do my own research in an Apple store. (All the way across Rhode Island in Providence, about a whole 20 miles away). My computer was dying a slow death. Incapable of handling my image files anymore. It had moisture trapped inside. I swear it lost files and then resurfaced them. I don’t trust it. I left it behind this time, not even worth the space it would take up. This decision has been put off for years. Did I in the months we were stationary manage to do this one task. No. I had to find the most complicated avenue available.

As it would turn out, Providence is nice. It has a big mall, a train station, a canal/river and a huge capital building. Massive. I think Rhode Island was trying to prove something.

The roads are narrow. The traffic thick. Everyone. Everyone is driving little cars and we are putting through in Baby Grey Whale (full size truck). Kurt’s driving was commented on, loudly, with expletives by one impatient driver. To comical effect.

The new computer will be shipped ahead of us. Wish me luck. Burn some incense to Eris for me. I have a month, 1500 miles and shipping port backups between me and my new computer▪️

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Taryn Okesson: Visual Artist