From the Berkshires I headed East toward the "hometown" to visit with a few family members and friends, as well as celebrate the second half of my birth month. There is no doubt in my mind now that at 64, people will still feed me, and given the calls, cards, texts, and surprises received, I do believe some people still need me. Putting aside the lack of postal delivery (Where is my priority mail?), and the arrival of Hurricane Laura residual, it was a great 48 hour celebration! Thanks to all of you who remembered and those of you who stayed out in the rain! Let another year begin.
While I'm currently under a tornado watch, with the rain and wind of Isaias beginning, you'll see from the photos that the past three weeks have been anything but inclement weather. Following a very long 9-hour trek from Western Maryland, I arrived in North Adams, MA to a bright, cozy 374 square foot apartment in the heart of town. Weekends bring summer travelers, but without students at Mass College of Liberal Arts or nearby Williams College, it's low-key and really pleasant here in the mountains.
For a few centuries, North Adams was a mill town, and today the former Arnold Print Works is home to MassMoCA, the largest contemporary art museum in the U.S. Just 5 miles west, Williamstown was primarily agricultural in the 18th and 19th centuries, but the College is the primary employer today. In North Adams, you wear tie-dye; in Williamstown, khakis.
I've been enjoying both towns by bike and foot, and while I can't get myself indoors to enjoy the broad array of art, I'm not feeling deprived with the outdoor artistry at my disposal. And, with just 10 days to departure, my list of hiking possibilities seems challenging!
The past three weeks have flown by in Frostburg -- a small town of 9,000 folks at 2100'. Not a lot of hustle and bustle, which is perfect, and I'm enjoying the mountain views on every walk and ride.
Frostburg was put on the map in 1811 by the National Road, the first federally funded 620-mile "highway" connecting the Potomac and Ohio Rivers. Originally called Mount Pleasant, it was renamed for Meshach and Catherine Frost in 1820 when the postal service arrived. The Frosts built the first house here in 1812, were the first major coal producers in the area, and had great success due to the railroad lines. The other major influence in Frostburg came in 1898 with the authorization for a school that today is Frostburg State University, adding over 5,000 students to town (though nary a one this summer).
The mountains, the coal mining, the railroad, and the University have an obvious impact on the Frostburg culture, and it's quite a little microcosm of the USA. On Main Street, you can have a cone at the Frostburg Freeze, a beer at the Moose Lodge, or sip under the tent at the Toasted Goat Winery. Folks are here to ride ATVs or do some fly fishing, to hike Savage Mountain, and to bike along the Great Allegheny Passage (GAP). The coal industry is gone; the railroad lines are biking, walking and ski trails; and the forests and mountains are shared by a variety of sports enthusiasts.
More than a decade ago, I biked Pittsburgh to DC along the GAP and C&O trails, but Frostburg wasn't a stop. So, I'm quite pleased to be here cycling again, living in a cozy spot reading, writing and cooking, and spending time poking around town. I've shared a long chat at the Winery with a dear friend; a friendly conversation with a GAP thru-rider; and a hundred hellos all around town. The photos tell the rest of this story!
Next up, a 500-mile push to the Berkshires in Western Massachusetts. I'm living month-to-month right now so I still feel like I'm traveling, but my true wish list is close at hand.
It's been too easy to stay in hiding and regress to unhealthy habits amidst the virus fear and socioeconomic anxiety. So, while I'll admit to some restless nights coupled with a few large pizzas, I'm also actively avoiding a lackadaisical lifestyle.
Suffice to say that I'm pleased to be without TV, yet must admit that Twitter is eating too many hours of my brain. I'm grateful for a lovely kitchen; for a patio with a view so I'm outdoors even when I don't get out the door; for two wheels and two feet to cruise about town; and for my continued love of learning. While I've yet to focus a minute on my book proposal, I did complete my history course, am habitually reading two books simultaneously, et oui, j'etudie le Francais, aussi! Honestly, my "to do list" seems never-ending.
If there's one thing I've learned these past five years, it's how important it is to keep my eyes wide open to see and appreciate what every place and most people have to offer. So for weeks, while Baltimore had very few cars and people about, I did pause and appreciate the city. Socially, I'm feeding my need for people time with phone calls (lots of family & friend birthdays this spring), and on two days in May, I actually had in-person fun.
Believe me, I miss life on the road and cocooning in my tent. I miss waking up with the sun to the birds singing. I miss stepping out of bed and stepping into the great outdoors. Yes, I miss living outside and meeting people with stories to tell. But, I'm not ready to share public spaces, so remaining nomadic means moving to a new (indoor) location mid-June in the hills of Western Maryland. Stay with me.
While I gleefully rolled out of Melbourne at 6AM, I'll admit to feelings of trepidation. But, what a great feeling to be back on the road, even for less than 48 hours.
Like many of you I've spoken with, I imagined the drive from Florida to Maryland would entail empty highway stretches, perhaps limited gas stations, and arrival to an empty hotel. Quite the contrary, there were many people, from at least 7 states, heading north; the stretch from Daytona to Jacksonville felt like rush hour; and South Carolina was a truckers' domain. In North Carolina, my hotel hosted at least 20 guests from 4 states; and along the way, fuel was readily available, with Virginia winning the award for $1.39/gallon. I was pleased to arrive in my "state of residence," though the location hasn't fully registered, as I continue to be surprised by seeing Maryland license plates!
It's been a week in Baltimore, and while I'm very rested and relaxed, it will take another week to adjust to urban life (and the temperature). My home for 60 days is a delightful apartment with instant access to walking/biking the harbor promenade. So, while I am learning how to be an urban cyclist, I'm simultaneously feeling like a greenhorn as I adjust to using FOBs for doors and elevators, wonder how to clean laminate floors, and realize (after 72 hours) that I have an oven to bake pizza.
Thankfully, I know my way around the nearby neighborhoods of Federal Hill, the Inner Harbor, Fells Point and Canton, as my initial draw to Maryland was based on the TV series, Homicide: Life on the Street. Have you any doubt then, that my first long walk was revisiting both recognizable series locations, as well as a few memorable haunts from my wilder days? And, while I can't belly up to the bar at Bertha's, I will soon enjoy a take-out cappuccino from The Daily Grind.
I had many plans in place for spring that I've now let go of, and I refuse to ponder the plans I had in mind through fall, but I must move on in early summer. Decisions, decisions. In the meantime, lots to do here in yet another unique environment.
Cyclist, writer, teacher, avid reader, bike/ped advocate, nomad, pie lover