We departed today on our first big driving leg after spending a week more or less attending a niece’s wedding, purchasing the camper, registering it with a temp permit from New Jersey, provisioning for the journey, and shaking down the various systems to test them and teach ourselves their use and to adjust stowage for the fewest moving, clattering, and rattling noises.
Yesterday we left the western suburbs of Boston after attending a memorial service for Diane’s brother Jim. Over 150 people crowded into the Broadmore Audubon reserve nature center representing family and friends from Audubon, the bird club, radio club, and Jim’s work. He was recognized for his professional contributions to the government’s national security through his work on remote radar systems and the advanced analysis of complex radio telemetry. People spoke of his important impacts on their lives, and we all cried together. The temperature rose to the mid 80’s with soaring humidity and we all retired to the out of doors to catch a wisp of air and look at the colorful foliage surrounding the property.
With a heavy heart, but feeling some additional closure, we at last pointed our rig westward to begin the journey home. Leaving so many warm family relationships and other friendships and hugs behind, we drove through the colorful Berkshire mountains of western Massachusetts. As we drove the temperature plummeted more than 30 degrees and by the time we reached the New York State border we were engulfed in a massive thunder and lightening storm, putting on a flashy display for our first night’s stop in Clifton Park at Diane’s brother David’s house.
We awoke to an acorn bombardment from the local squirrels, with loud and persistent “poings!!!” reverberating through the camper as the summer fat nuts dropped far from the tree limbs above us bouncing off the fiberglass roof. Although we could not see them through the skylight, Diane’s brother informed us that this time of year it is not uncommon for small dings to appear in the cars from this dietary habit of the local wildlife.
After a quick breakfast we topped off the water tanks and departed.
We chose to follow the southern tier west, through the broad glacier carved valleys along the southern border of New York. The place names of Oneonta, Otsego, Unadilla, Chenango, Susquahana, Tioughnioga, Tiog Center, and Oouga Creek conjured up images of the Native Americans who heavily populated this region long ago. The water ways which carve through the region became central arteries for development and places like Central Bridge, Davenport, Port Dickinson, Port Crane and Painted Bridge were added to the map. Industry arose along the rivers powering mills and factories leading to the population of towns like Gang Mills, Stephens Mills and more. Even with all this development, there are large stretches of this highway that unfold visually as they have for hundreds of years, with small family farms patch worked with a variety of crops and pastures filling the bottom land, orchards climbing up the lower slopes, giving way to heavy woodlands covering the 1,000 to 2,000 foot ridges. The long running mountain ridges stretch uninterrupted from here down to Virginia and the lower Appalachia, so Harris Hill claims to be the soaring capital of America.
Today the temperature hovers in the mid 60’s but the colorful deciduous trees tell of colder nights past. The sumac lead now with the brightest of reds and yellows, with the birch trees not far behind. Their stark white bark gleams in the low angle sunlight with yellows and tans of their falling leaves. There is still lots of forest canopy cover in green, so we are missing the “peak” – an annual event so dramatic it is tracked nightly on the local weather stations like a coming storm, ushering in the long cold stretch of winter.