Sussex was looking stunning for the two weeks we were home; the weather was beautiful and the trees were just about turning. We had managed to get out on the bikes a couple of times, which was fantastic because, as much as we like our Bromptons, you can’t beat a full sized bike when it comes to exhilaration. Weirdly for us, we left the country in the pouring rain and arrived to fantastic weather back in Boston. Our flight came in at 8pm and we were warned that the immigration computer was down and so we all had to fill in customs forms and we thought it would take even longer to get through than the two hours it took last time. Nope! Due to the fact that they couldn’t check finger prints and faces as usual, we were out within an hour. They didn’t even look twice at us in customs, although we noticed that they seemed to be stopping nearly every Asian family for the fourth degree. Mike (who is fast becoming our hero) was there to meet us as we came out of the final gate. He then drove us through the horrible Boston traffic and we finally reached his house at nearly eleven pm. Sally, bless her, had a meal ready for us and, after nearly twenty four hours of being awake we fell into bed.
I thought I might have beaten the dreaded jet lag when I woke up at my usual stupid o’clock (that’s about fiveish) as I was feeling pretty good. We came down to the delights of Sally’s delicious home made berry scones, hot out of the oven (yep, she knocked them up before she went to work) and then headed out to see the New England trees in their full autumn glory. Tim has been wondering why I was making such a fuss about being here this time of year- you could almost see the sarcastic speech marks every time he said the words ‘Janet wants to see “New England in the fall”’. I think the penny dropped as we headed back out to Fruitlands. The trees looked magnificent, glowing in the bright sunshine and set off beautifully by a bright blue sky.
Some looked as if someone had spray painted half of them.
The museum was open this time and it was a very interesting and beautiful place to visit. There were exhibitions of portraiture, landscapes and modern art. There were sculptures all around the grounds.
There was the house where Louisa May Alcott’s rather eccentric father tried to create his own utopia, where he believed you should only eat things that grew towards heaven. Not surprisingly, despite the financial support of his brother in law, the whole project had to be stopped after about six months, as they were well on the road to starvation. The house was beautifully preserved, as was the Shaker museum. A lot of their ideas sounded pretty worthy, as they believed in hard work and making beautifully practical things. They also believed that one of their female founders was the reincarnation of Jesus Christ and that they should be celibate. It came as no shock to find out that there are only three Shakers left.
On a different level I was interested by this numberplate in the car park; Big Question…. Is there a third state of being apart from being alive or dead????
We had a light lunch there and then drove out round the local reservoir and stopped to enjoy the views. The wind was blowing so Tim had a go at flying his kite.
Sadly the wind was just strong enough to create ripples on the reservoir so I couldn’t get pretty reflection effects for my photos but it was too weak to get the kite up. By this time we were fading as jet lag caught us so we headed back for a cup of tea. Mike came back to find us about to doze off on the settees, so he suggested a walk around a local lake, and the minute poor Sally came home from work, we headed out to enjoy the evening light filtering through the leaves.
We then went on to the local Irish bar, which actually felt like a proper pub for a change and then back for a delicious Thai takeaway.
On our last day in Clinton we had originally planned to go for a mega drive west to get the full autumn colour blast. I first wanted to get a new sim for my iPad to ensure we could always track down somewhere to stay, so we headed to the nearest mall in the town of Leominster.
We found these lovely young people, Jerry and Jo(?), on the telephone stand in the mall and they sorted me out very efficiently, although Jerry seemed rather sad that we didn’t have enough room in Camel to take him along with us on the next leg of our journey. At this point we realised that we had not repacked Camel with all the stuff we had brought back from the UK and Tim wanted to check she was ready to go, so we stocked up on supplies at the supermarket and headed back to Clinton, via a tremendous farm shop which sold outstanding coffee and cake (I wanted to say buns, but it’s a bit rude in the USA) where you can buy large quantities of fresh apple juice… Tim was a bit jealous of the possibilities of making cider without all the hard apple mashing.
In the evening our hosts were busy preparing for a retreat they were running at a local church. I naively had assumed a retreat was a nice time where you stared at the trees and thought calming thoughts. Even the theme of the retreat which was welcoming didn’t give me a clue. Mike’s version of being welcoming included making sure that you paid attention to waiting staff so they did not feel excluded and he also, while he was planning the event, showed us a clip from a movie where a young girl and her friends got caught up by the Gestapo during the second world war for handing out leaflets. She tried to get the interrogator to understand her point of view, despite knowing that she was going to cop it and then they showed her being guillotined. It freaked me out a bit at the time, but Mike took the point that if he showed the final execution, anything he wanted to say would be totally lost in the shock.
We waved goodbye to Sally and Mike as they headed off to their event and then we packed up our last few bits and headed south. We wanted to go to Washington next and it was a bit too far to drive all the way there and get the Tentipi set up before dark so we aimed to find a motel. We didn’t go there by the quickest route, as we want to visit as many American states as possible while we are here. This meant that we left Massachusetts after breakfast, had coffee in Rhode Island,
which did look beautiful
but not always…
lunch in Connecticut,
drove through New YorK state (again)(we’d been there way north)
and then found a tatty motel in New Jersey. It looked highly unpromising, but the nice Indian guy on reception pointed us in the direction of the nearest ‘pub’, which turned out to be not bad at all. We ate a couple of starters between us (mega portions again, damn it) and ended up both watching the locals enjoying each others company and then getting talking to the girlfriend of the band that was about to play. We were pretty tired and were thinking about heading back to our motel, but Jo convinced us that the band was waiting for. Watching them set up was a lesson in time and motion gone wrong. They took ages and the sound check was interminable. We nearly gave up, but the guitarist came to chat with us and he persuaded us to stay for one song, at least.
We waited and waited and waited and…. finally they got going. I really liked them as did most of the room and, strangely, a random woman came over and asked me to dance. It was a hoot and we stayed for about five songs but we had to go as we had an early start in the morning.
The next day we managed to have breakfast in New Jersey (if you count the naff offering in the motel as actual breakfast), coffee in Delaware
and then camped in Maryland.
The campground we stayed at was just north of Washington. It is not cheap ($60 a night compared to $80 at the tatty motel) but it is a fantastic place. The washrooms are clean and (joy) heated, the grounds are lovely and, luckily for us, they have ONE pitch that allowed us to pitch the Tentipi and set everything else up.
It seems that big family tents have not come this way yet, all the rest of the place is filled with massive RVs. Tim and I have been carrying out an informal survey of RV names. Some make a lot of sense; Adventurer, Freedom etc. but we do worry about somebody’s idea of a good name….Typhoon. We wondered why anyone would want to camp in a structure that sounded like a disaster was about to hit you; maybe tsunami or nuclear meltdown?
Sunday night was a bit of a shocker, as the temperature dropped to something like 2 or 3 degrees C and the wind was blowing hard enough that, despite the fact that Tim had built a wonderful campfire, the wind blew the heat away, We ate a quick, hot meal and huddled by the fire, but eventually gave up and went into the tent. It was VERY cold, especially as we had not had a chance to get used to it. When we gave up and went to bed it took ages to warm up, but, I can assure you; if you want to do cold weather camping take a nice, warm person with you, because you can be comfortable on even the coldest night!
We woke up next morning and went into what we call ‘Iceland mode’. The idea is that you do not get out of bed until the sun hits the tent. We waited until it looked like it might be a little warmer outside, having already decided that we would have to have porridge for breakfast. The state of the campsite confirmed that we were not turning into total wusses.