Well, maybe everyday is now a “day-off” but today was planned that way as a road trip away from home. Not all excursions need a finite purpose, for example last Saturday I followed the front of the car around Vermont. My planned destination was west into Vermont, but I ended roaming from Chester to Weston, then Manchester down to Arlington and East Arlington, North Bennington, Bennington then through Wilmington to Brattleboro. Scouting for props for our upcoming play was my excuse, but whenever I head out I am looking for books. Only found one worth buying, but once it sells my gas and meals for the day are paid for.
Friday, 5 April, was planned in more (but not exact) detail. Last month I replaced my white Corian kitchen counters with a Verdi serpentine marble from Rochester, Vermont. The kitchen was just too much white. While doing so I also changed the island
to one level since I now spend much more time “working” in the kitchen and thus can spread papers out. On the way to The Red Lion Inn last month I found the counter stools I wanted in Holyoke, Massachusetts, but they were short a few, thus this trip was to pick up what they ordered in for me. Now, Holyoke is just north of Springfield, home of the Springfield Armory National Park which was “on my list.” Sadly, in fact, I had never been in Springfield except cruising by on I-91, so this became the perfect opportunity to visit.
But what else to do? I went to Trip-Advisor on my Iphone, and number 13 on the list was TITANIC MUSEUM – shocker, in Springfield?? I checked their website, and now had my
first stop nailed after retrieving my chairs. HENRY’S JEWELRY in the Indian Orchard section of Springfield has been the home of the Titanic Historical Society for the past 50 years with the museum in two rear rooms featuring original artifacts that were onboard given by the survivors. Its founder, Edward Kamuda, as a youngster worked in the family theater across the street. During the showing of TITANIC in 1953, he obtained a booklet with all the survivor’s names and addresses. He wrote a letter to each beginning lifelong correspondence, and fascination leading to the establishment of the society in 1963, the museum, and the many donations of artifacts from the survivors of the sinking. Definitely worth the visit (I spent an hour
reading all the displays) but I was disappointed to learn that the most significant artifacts (Mrs. Astor’s lifejacket, a deck chair, etc) were away on loan at two new TITANTIC museums in honky-tonk areas – Bronson, Missouri and Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. I may want to visit one of these someday, but I did get to the TITANIC museum in Belfast last year, and have also been to important Titanic sites including Southampton, Cobh (or Queenstown) and Halifax.
The founder’s sister then routed me to downtown Springfield via Berkshire Avenue to State Street which would get me to the Springfield Armory. That was easier than going back via interstate, and gave me a flavor for the area. For 174 years until 1968 the Armory (along with the one at Harper’s Ferry until the Confederates thought otherwise) was the producer of arms for the US, and research facility. The entire area has been repurposed as a local college, police academy, office complex center etc., except for
the main armory building where the National Park Site is located along the commandant’s home built in the 1850s. A small museum, half of which is displaying arms (not my interest) and the other half gave me an insight to the history of the industrial development and importance of Springfield and the water power of the Connecticut River. Some fascinating machinery was on display, and one exhibit helped me understand Shays’ Rebellion of 1787. I enjoyed my time there, checked it off my list, but do not have to return. Not sure what to do next I went down the hill to downtown, circled the museum area and business district. Now, if you ever pass Springfield on I-91 do get off and explore!!! The commercial and residential architecture is fabulous, well maintained, and I will probably return to “do” the museums and tour the streets with my camera.
Then I decided to cross the Connecticut River on Memorial Bridge and head north on US 5, which was the main north south route until I-91 was completed. There are sections between Springfield to Greenfield that I had not been on previously, so now was the perfect opportunity to rectify that. I passed back through Holyoke, and soon saw a sign –
DINOSAUR FOOTPRINTS – now that deserves a U-Turn and hike down to the Connecticut River. Then I did some antiquing in Northampton, but sadly no treasures to load into the van. I still had time before the dreaded 5PM closing hour to get to an antique center north of Yankee Candle, and bought enough books to cover gas money. A fun walk around Yankee Candle followed before heading to my planned dinner stop at the Deerfield Inn.
My first detour to Old Deerfield was in the pouring rain in the summer of 1963 – the top was up and side-curtains on Belzebuth – my 1929 Model A Ford Roadster. I-91 was not yet completed, so my 21 inch tires rolled the back roads on this trip up the Pioneer Valley towards Chester, Vermont and eventually into the White Mountains – is there a pattern to my life? (sadly, I never discovered Walpole 50 years ago). Since that day I always detour through the village. I love the gift shop and buy books there, but have never toured the museum buildings nor stayed at the Inn.
This time I planned dinner at the Inn – a long overdue stop. And it was a special and exceptional treat that will be repeated. I did not know that the floods of Irene had closed the Inn for 18 months and that it had only reopened on Monday. Nancy greeted me at Champney’s Restaurant and Tavern (I later learned that the formal dining room will reopen soon). Then I was warmly greeted by the Innkeeper, Jane, who shared some photographs and history with me (I always carry a sport coat when planning fine dining – I feel better, and it does set you apart). Once seated, I found the wait staff exceptional. Having studied the menu on-line I ordered and savored the Deerfield Farm Burger, and thoroughly enjoyed the ambience for over an hour with a locally brewed beer. From now on, dinner at The Deerfield Inn will be on my menu even though only 50 minutes from home (hint to friends – easy dinner road-trip).
So with piles of travel plan ideas laid out in a front room, and itchy feet for even local day-trips, you will soon be getting more posts from me, and hopefully ideas for your own travels. Happy Shunpiking, as always, yours, RAY