Monday, September 3, 2018

Massachusetts - Day 1 - cross-state

Northampton/Springfield KOA
Saturday, 1 September 2018

today's route
The online maps told me today’s drive – even using the interstates much of the way - would take 3 hours, 43 minutes, which meant to me it would take me at least 5 hours and possibly more.  Because that’s already about as long as I want to drive in one day any more, I decided to grit my teeth and take the interstates.

I-95 through Maine and New Hampshire are both toll roads, which you know I hate, and today gave me a really good reason for it.  I drove only 20 miles on the interstate in Maine, and they charged me $7.50 for the privilege.  That’s more than I’ve paid on any toll road so far on my trip, not to mention the price per mile.  Outrageous!  When I gasped at the toll booth and said so to the lady, she said Maine charged only those who drove on the roads to avoid property taxes.  Not reassuring to people like me.  And there I’d been thinking nice thoughts about Maine and it zapped me like this.

I drove about 17 miles in New Hampshire and they charged me $4.00.  I wasn’t thinking happy thoughts about toll roads by the time I got to Massachusetts.  Incidentally, NH was touting its liquor stores on official highway directional signs – you know, the ones that straddle all the traffic lanes.   They really get into this grab-as-much-as-possible-from-our-no-sales-tax ploy.

I wasn’t planning to do any sightseeing along the way today but still passed a lot of intriguing indications that I need to go back.  For instance, Leominster has a sign saying it’s the birthplace of Johnny Appleseed.  Gardner claims to be the furniture capital of New England.  Amherst is home to the Emily Dickinson Museum.

In some small town or another I passed one of those pedestrian crossing signs, but in this one the pedestrian had a hula hoop, which was moving (the illustration was easy to understand).

I stopped at a state rest area to walk the dogs, and while I was there I walked myself to their bathrooms, which turned out to have composting toilets.  They had lots of signs up, but it’s still a bit of a shock to lift the toilet lid and see a pit below, as if it were a latrine.

As I came west, I started to see hills – and then I started to be driving in hills – the edge of the Berkshires, I guess, and they’re part of Vermont’s Green Mountains (which I didn’t know before).

I came through Amherst without thinking about what I’d find in town, mainly because the name didn’t mean anything to me right away, other than that it was familiar for some reason.   Well, I found that reason pretty quickly when I saw a gazillion people about college student age walking around town, and then started seeing signs directing people to registration locations.

Turns out Amherst is home to Amherst College, Hampshire College and Umass-Amherst.  And this weekend is move-in weekend.  There were kids and traffic everywhere.

So of course I got lost and figured I was no longer on Route 9 when I hadn’t seen a highway sign for a while and the road kept getting narrower.  I finally stopped in front of a FedEx truck that was pulled off the road onto the grass to make a delivery; I flagged down the driver and sounded a little desperate because my RV was wider than his delivery truck and I was parked like him.  He kindly gave me directions that started with me making a u-turn (on a narrow barely-2-lane road, but hey so what), and I did what he said and got found again pretty quickly.

Amherst has a Whole Foods store, which I guess figures with all the college students there.

I’d been trying to find a place to stop in Amherst so I could walk the dogs, but it just seemed impossible with all that was going on.  So I drove 8 miles down the road to Northampton – and found Smith College, also on move-in weekend.  I also found the parking meters were all pay-using-a-phone-app (do they not understand that some people don’t have smart phones? or that those non-smart-phone-owners drive and park?) but finally got desperate and found 2 space together to park in and decided to take my chances on the parking not being enforced this weekend.

Then I discovered another hazard, which is that lots of other people were walking their dogs in that same neighborhood.  Fortunately I found lots of places to dodge and the dogs and I managed to get in a short walk where they could sniff and mark territory to their hearts’ content.

And eventually we made it to our campground.

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