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US 20 Journey 2010
US 20 Journey 2010 Journal
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May 12

cruising in old van
following Susquehanna
two herons lope by

trees mostly leafed out
spring green lushness overwhelms
even in gray mist

dead woodchuck on road
crow waits until last second
to abandon food

in rearview mirror
crow back to feeding again
till next car comes close

valleys left behind
turnpike through Berkshire mountains
James Taylor's old song

When I left in the morning the car developed a brake problem about 30 miles from home. So Carolyn came down with the van, we exchanged vehicles and I continued on, a bit late.

Then, a bit of traffic slowdown getting the last mile to the Watertown Library for my first reading. I arrived a few minutes late, but no problem. A small turnout, but three of the people who attended were FootHills poets! Two I had never met before and the third only once previously, in Anemone Cave at Acadia! Paul Hapenny has some poems in the anthology, “I Was Indian” and will have a chapbook out sometime later this year. The other two have just recently released chapbooks. Jeff Bernstein and Susan Richmond. Jeff's will be up on the website soon and Susan's chapbook, “Increase,” about a Shaker Community, was released last month.

I love that connecting with poets we've published. There are so many spread out throughout the US and beyond. Journeys as vast as this one opens up the possibilities of connecting like this.

Stayed at Susan Richmond's house, after a great Korean meal at a small restaurant. Nice to be able to meet and talk other than in the cave. The owner stayed open just to accommodate us (Susan and her family are regular customers.)

Day 1 - May 13

Left her house 5:30 AM and stopped briefly at Walden Pond on the way to the start of 20. A beautiful, cool morning with light mist rising off the surface of the water. I didn't walk to the cabin site, had done that previously and was anxious to get into Boston before the heavy rush hour traffic.

One of the quotes from “Walden” that certainly has affected my life:

“If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”

A perfect stop just before heading west on this long adventure.

I was early enough getting into Boston to avoid the heavy traffic, though it was heavy enough for this country-dweller/driver. I parked a block from Kenmore Square and walked out to Commonwealth to get a pic of the first sign. I was curious if they had straightened it from the crooked way it hung 14 years ago.

no longer askew
sign not even there at all
some auspicious start

I walked a block beyond, a block before. Nothing. Finally I stopped and talked to a policeman, Bobby, on the sidewalk. He pointed to the brick sidewalk and said, BU. The university pretty much takes care of the area here and decides what is here or not. When I mentioned the start of 20, the longest road in the country he replied:

“You got me there. 26 years a state trooper and you'd think I would have known that!”

We chatted for awhile, very pleasant, then I drove on out Commonwealth and discovered the first sign a few blocks west. After a few pics I motored on west, over 3300 miles ahead of me.

I passed through Watertown and the library where I read the previous night. Stopped for some pics and saw and heard a Mockingbird in the little park adjacent to the library area.

In Waltham I parked and walked for a few pics, one of a totally different sign for 20.

I stopped in the mayor's office and inquired about the sign. The best answer I got was maybe it's a relic from old MA 20. I don't think that's correct. I'll have to research it a little. Have never seen a sign like that. (Anyone have an idea?)

A café had a sidewalk menu chalkboard sign listing a Route 66 Omelet. I stopped in to talk to the manager about how they should have a Route 20 omelet! A young woman. She didn't sound very impressed about the idea.

West of I-95 20 is called the Old Boston Post road. It started as a mail delivery route and was probably the major road heading west out of Boston.

10:30 AM. feeling busied out. Too much of city and near-city driving. Looking forward to a little country spaciousness.


city hall tower
eleven AM bells chime
drift off in blue sky

Every road construction crew had a police officer at the site. I was told that's because the police unions are very strong in Massachusetts.

West of Sturbridge I ran into a traffic jam. Stop and go, with more stop than go. After a few minutes I wondered what the source of this huge back up was. About a half hour of slowly creeping forward I discovered it: The Brimfield Antique Show! The largest outdoor antique show in the world, held three weeks a year. Unbelievable how many vendors and people were there! It took me an hour and 15 minutes to finally get to the west side of Brimfield and clear driving! I though of stopping for a little bit, but parking cost anywhere from five to eight dollars and most spaces being used for parking had “Full” signs. I motored on and vowed if I ever plan another coast-to-coast 20 journey to check the Brimfield schedule ahead of time.

Sign at the edge of Palmer:

Bought a few books at the Palmer Library Book Store, located in an old school building on 20, which I had stopped at a few years earlier when doing programs at the library. Great selection of books and great prices.

Day and Night Diner for lunch and talk with the owner, Carl. Small, historic little diner right on Main Street, which is also 20.

The worn-down board from decades of food prep.

Entered Springfield, tired after two 5 AM rising mornings after late nights turning in.

Took a little walk along the Connecticut River and discovered three fishing poles propped up from the ground and lines out in the river. The owner came by a few minutes later, a young Hispanic guy, and told me he was fishing for striped bass. He showed me the bait he uses, blood and sand worms. These are salt-water worms and he told me the sand ones bite, but not the blood worms. Also mentioned they catch sturgeon in  the river but you can't bring them ashore if you hook them. The line has to be cut. they are a protected species. He actually said  they are an “extinct” fish.

Blood worms                                                                      Sand Worms

A reading in West Springfield at the library. Pleasant historic area with old buildings and a big grassy, old tree Commons right across from the library.

in shade of tall trees
gentle breeze sways maple leaves
flips my notebook page

For the second time in my poetry reading career spanning a quarter century now, only one person attended. Had a good talk with Norman for an hour, but certainly a little disappointing. Otherwise, a great first day of the journey.