We travel instead on Interstate 81. Yes, yes, I know, there are a lot of trucks on 81. Truck Alley I suppose you could call it. But it really isn’t too bad and for interstate driving this is a beautiful trip. Once we hit Binghamton, NY we switch to Interstate 88 – this is a breath taking ride! I think it is the most enchanting bit of interstate I have ever driven. Pastoral and quintessentially American, it rivals the Switchbacks in Montana and Wyoming. Where the Switchbacks are bold and daring, I- 88 between Binghamton and Albany is the epitome of Norman Rockwell.
The first time I drove up to Massachusetts, we were conducting our tour of colleges during our daughter’s senior year in high school. We did this in the fall, smack dab in the middle of “peak” season for fall colors. I am originally from Illinois, and while fall is my favorite season in North Carolina, I was transported by the dejavu I felt upon seeing the vibrancy of the leaves as they turned on the trees in Pennsylvania, New York and Massachusetts.
The area of South Hadley, which includes the charming townships of Amherst and Northampton, looks just like a movie set. I refer you to Hocus Pocus and the Witches of Eastwick for visual clues.
We always stay at the Quality Inn in Hadley, MA, because it is pet friendly. Happily, we never leave home without our conversational Bassett hound, Taffy Apple Sweetness, and as it turns out, choosing this hotel was a crucial part of the karma we experienced when Sweet Child of Mine (SCOM) made her decision to attend Mount Holyoke.
This serendipity was made manifest most particularly because of the route we stumbled upon when trying to locate the college. We ended up using state road 47 between Hadley and South Hadley. The first time we were in Hadley, we had no idea where we were going, so we just followed the arrows: South Hadley – 4
This is about an eight mile stretch of the most glorious, winding, picturesque road in the country! You travel through a valley dotted with houses dating from the 18th and 19th centuries, not to mention charming farms that put me in mind of the illustrations from my childhood Golden Books. Think: Rebecca of Sunny Brook Farm. I couldn’t stop sighing rapturously. Had we chosen to turn right, instead of left, we would have driven through the classic drek of American stripmalls and Target shopping centers.
Rounding the final curve on 47, you come upon Mount Holyoke and all its loveliness. Okay, I know MHC is probably a bastion of liberalism, but my daughter tells me that she does hear both sides of an issue in most if not all of her classes and so far, no one with three heads and green toes spewing garbage has tried to indoctrinate her. She is, from all appearances (and from reading many of her papers) receiving an incredible education.
That is not to say the area isn’t decidedly left of center or progressive in sentiment. One of our favorite places to eat is in Amherst. It is a Deli called the Black Lamb or Sheep or something like. They sell “Republican Party” Cookies. The ingredients for these cookies are listed as being “full of fruits and nuts.” Naturally, being us, we bought several (fruits and nuts are healthy, nez pa?)and enjoyed them thoroughly, proving that ingesting anything made from Republicans is wholesome and very good for you!
I suppose this is long enough. I guess the message is, VISIT NEW ENGLAND. It’s a lovely area – a national treasure.