2012: New England


Oct. 14

Goodbye to the mountains.

My leaf-peeping plan was to drive to the north -- New Hampshire -- and spend two nights, then drive south for two more nights in Massachusetts, and then head to New York for a week in the city. My reasoning was that if we missed the best foliage in the more northern, higher elevations, then perhaps we'd catch up with the colors a little further south.

So, our two nights in New Hampshire were over; we had a nice last breakfast at the White Mountain Resort and packed the car for our drive to The Berkshires, a region in western Massachusetts. Unfortunately for my camera lens, it was another cold, gray, and rainy day,

I'd considered various routes to our next night's lodging, some longer than others with more places to stop. We were already getting a little fried, so we opted for a shorter route that took us through some typical New England countryside, including the town of Keene, NH, with its central white church steeple and small-town charm.

We dawdled a bit in town, mostly to kill time, looking in the window of a local glass-blower and admiring the buildings.

It's here I must admit that I don't remember much else about our drive from New Hampshire to Massachusetts. I depend on my photos to be my diary, and...well, there just aren't any more. I can only conclude that we just didn't find much of interest on our way to the next stopover.

Speaking of the next stopover...my research of The Berkshires area hadn't found any really obvious lodging choices. I finally went with Harbour House, a B&B located conveniently near some potential sights. It had a two-bedroom suite which would get me away from Mike's snoring. It also had good reviews on Tripadvisor, and a very nice-looking website.

Here is where I remind you, gentle reader, and also myself, that...anybody can pay for a nice website. Just sayin'.

Now, in the interest of being fair, the place wasn't completely horrible. It had nice pastoral grounds and charming old-fashioned furniture in the downstairs living-dining area. A little cluttered for my taste, perhaps, but what you'd expect. It was certainly shabbier than the website photos, but then I was prepared for a bit of marketing hype.

"Come in, come in, welcome, blah blah blah," bubbled our too-enthusiastic hostess when we arrived. Here's the kitchen, here's the dining area, here's dinnertime, here's this, here's that, this is my friend, this is my mother, they live here too, dinner's at 7:30, meet the other guests. *Phew*. Take a Valium, lady. A cup of tea? Some water? No thanks, we'll just flee for our lives -- er, check out our room and do a little unpacking.

Our third-floor two-bedroom "suite" was aptly titled "Summit View", because presumably from its balcony you can see a nearby summit on a clear day. Did I mention third floor? Yes, I suppose I'd seen that when I booked it. And yes, I knew we'd be climbing stairs. Not a problem. It's not like we'll be doing it ten times a day. Of course, these old New England houses have pretty narrow, steep stairways. Again, not doing it ten times a day. Puff, puff, puff.

Hmmmm. What's this...THING at the top of the final landing? Uh. It appears there's one of those stair chair-lifts attached to the railing. Blocking half the top of the dark, already-too-narrow stairway. Hmmm.

"Oh, yes, the lift's for my mother, she lives just across from YOUR room and she can't climb the stairs," burbled our hostess. Gee. How swell. And thanks for mentioning that when we booked the room. I don't remember a conversation about whether I could squeeze thru a 12-inch opening. Guess you don't book too many 300-pounders for this room.

Well, one thing was immediately clear: there was no friggin' way we were getting our suitcase past that...THING. So the first order of business was to go to the car and extract what we'd need just for our two-night stay here. We dumped underwear and toothbrushes and sundries into a couple of shopping bags and schlepped them up to the third floor and past The Troll guarding the stairway.

"It's not like we'll be doing it ten times a day." Is there an echo in here? Actually yes. Yes, there is. You get to hear every squeak on the stairs twice.

More delights awaited in our "suite". Did I mention third floor? At the top of an old-fashioned New England house? As in, converted ATTIC? Width AND height limits for booking this room, especially near the walls. Did she ask if we were both under 5' 8"? I simply don't recall.

Sitting room only. Angles room. Literally. Watch yer noggin! Balcony view. Go outside to stand up.
Why yes, I always comb my hair at this angle. Good thing I can sit down.

The surprises continued in the bathroom, where barely inside the doorway, a sharp, immediate right turn was necessary. We would soon learn how to scuttle along the baseboard like cockroaches to avoid a concussion. Of course, the opposite technique was required in the bedrooms. Hope I don't need to get up in the middle of the night. Wish I'd brought my glow-tape to put on the floor like bread crumbs.

In addition to sloping walls, we also had sloping floors. If I'd set down a bowling ball on the threshold of the second bedroom, it would have gained enough momentum to smash through the outside wall.

I don't remember the food at dinner that night; I wasn't in a very good mood so it could have been five stars, for all I know. I realized quickly that a B&B experience is not my cup of tea, spending a couple of hours talking to a bunch of strangers at a communal dinner table. I admit it. I'm a hermit, I'm antisocial, even a bit of a misanthrope. Sue me.

The Edge. Of. Doom.

I escaped as soon as I politely could and ascended to our turret, this time squeezing past The Troll at the bottom of the stairs where it had deposited Mom for dinner. As I was tidying up the shopping bags of undies, I was introduced to the final indignity in our room, a little item I call The Edge. No, not the guy from U2.

The floor of the sitting-area, just inside the room's entryway, had been redone in recent years with new oak planking. Apparently they'd just fastened the new planking to the old floor, making the new floor a good inch higher than the old part of the room. They covered up the difference with an edging strip and called it a day. So when I strode merrily and heedlessly back toward the door, I tripped and nearly went ass-over-teakettle.

The Edge put me OVER the edge. When Mike returned from dinner, I began lobbying for a quick getaway the next morning, rather than staying a second night as we had booked. The sight-seeing available in the area was somewhat lackluster anyway, and I figured we could see all we needed to while headed for New York.

We tried to secure an extra night at our New York hotel, but it was all booked up. Instead, I found a chain motel in Tarrytown, about an hour's drive outside of NYC. We could spend a leisurely day driving there through western Massachusetts and Connecticut, and then drive into NYC the next day. Freedom in twelve hours.