Friday, August 2, 2013

Summer Road Tripping

 A friend and I make our way mid-July  from Washington, D.C., to Bridgewater, New Hampshire, stopping in a pre-Revolutionary War home outside Philadelphia and going on to multi-faceted Poughkeepsie, N.Y., headed for two nights in Stockbridge, MA., around the corner from Tanglewood, and finally reaching tiny Bridgewater (outside Bristol) on the sixth day. A total of 689 miles and no protest at all from the four-year-old MiniCooper. Philip Caputo did an even longer trip (Florida to Alaska),  creating a book out of it (see 'The Longest Road'), with homage to the wanderings of predecessor William Least Heat Moon.
 We had no vision in mind beyond a chance to drop in on familiar terrain that would remind us of the distinctly different demographic and geographic contours of the Northeast. Nothing to prove beyond the pleasure of the changing scenery, though in hindsight, Berkshire country and New Hampshire terrain (both coniferous and deciduous, ticks and mosquitoes) aren't really so different. Go with the flow and come back with new memories. Swim in a clear cool lakes and gamble on good weather (70 to 100 degrees) with history as an aside. The Philadelphia origins of our country, alongside Franklin Roosevelt's 20th century legacy laid out in the modest splendor of Hyde Park. N.Y. before coursing onto the sublimely elite Tanglewood festival scene, second home for many of New York's Upper West Side denizens .
Road trips may well be an American invention. A person doesn't think of the Silk Road in those terms. That fabled journey was meant to get you from one place to another in record time doing some commerce along the way. Modern tripping implies rambling, discovery,  escape.
It's possible, of course,  to take a road trip by foot through the city, looking up and around and poking in and out, learning as you go. There is a certain conspiratorial sense among city residents who choose to - or are forced to - stay home in the middle of summer. No better demographic view can be had of them than the barely-dressed patrons of the Olympic-size outdoor pool at Hains Point in the Southwest. Swimmers and dabblers are a mix of brown and white, sleek and slow, awkward and athletic. A cozy cross-section cheerfully engaged.

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