June 16, 2020

At least Williamsburg is downhill.


I read, I study, I examine, I listen, I reflect, and out of all of this I try to form an idea into which I put as much common sense as I can.

-Marquis de Lafayette


So far, our trek from the New York border to Provincetown (P’town in the vernacular) has taken us 8 miles to Pittsfield (population 42,533), then 6.5 miles to Dalton (population 6,569), 6.8 miles to Peru (population 847), 8 miles to Worthington (population 1,156) and lastly, 5.9 miles to Chesterfield (population 1,222), for a total of 35.2 miles.  Chesterfield’s about fifteen miles or so from Northampton and the Connecticut River.  We are making slow progress.

We’ve been able to do this in cool weather and we’ve picked only dry days to go.  Typically, we would meet up at about 10:30 AM and drive to our starting point, roughly 2 hours away.  We then start our walk around 12:30 to 1 PM.  The days are warming up, though, and we will only be able to do this as long as the days stay cool.  Soon, we will have to get up before dawn so we can finish our walk before it gets much above 75 degrees.  Our next leg is from Chesterfield, MA to Williamsburg, MA, another 6.8 miles down the road and the day we’ve picked for it is forecast to have a high of 70 degrees — a nice temperature to walk up hills.

Waldo is a great walking companion and causes little trouble as we walk along.  I suppose the 75-degree requirement, forcing us to leave in the early hours on hot days, is a nuisance in some ways, but it also makes it more comfortable for everyone and the women go along with it with only a teasing objection.  Christine is an animal person and enjoys having Waldo with us.  Karen is tolerant of Waldo and he stays pretty much to himself, doing his Waldo thing, and gives Karen no reason to object to his presence.

The worst part of each walk is the two-hour drive to our starting point.  Waldo and I take one car and Christine and Karen, the other.  Waldo doesn’t like car rides much and he sits in the passenger seat next to me, squirming and nudging my right arm with his nose, trying to get me to pet him.  He paws me in the chest, to press his point, and nervously licks me, the console and the touch-screen radio, changing the stations often.  I drive along, one hand on the wheel, the other resting on Waldo’s back, giving him reassuring rubs and pets (and changing the radio station back to where I want it).  This only stops when we reach our destination.

The two-hour trip back home is exhausting.  Waldo is more chillaxed, spent and lethargic.  But I have to stay awake and alert, even though I, too, am all played out and ready to rest.  At least the radio stays on a single station.  Once we get home, Waldo and I eat, drink and take a well-earned nap.

We’ve been able to arrange each leg of our walk to be 6 to 9 miles long.  It’s interesting that towns in western Massachusetts are right around 6 miles apart, which is close to our comfortable endurance.  But maybe that’s not coincidental.  When these towns were established, walking and horse-powered transportation was the rule and maybe that was a factor in deciding why they are where they are.

We keep our eyes open and, every so often, interesting things reveal themselves.  I remember when we were walking along between Pittsfield and Dalton, Christine stopped and looked at the side of the road.  “I wonder what that means,” she said, staring at a sign which said, “The Lafayette Trail.”

“Maybe Lafayette was involved in some Revolutionary Way battles out this way,” said Karen.

“I’m no expert,” I said, “but I don’t remember any battles out this way.”

“Hmmm,” said Karen.  “Grist for the Google mill.”

Once home, we did look it up.  It turns out that from August 1824 to September 1825, Lafayette, the last surviving Major General of the Revolutionary War, went on a 24 state (the total number of states at the time) farewell tour.  The route we are taking is along the path he took on his way through western Massachusetts.  Known today as state highway Route 143, it is two-laned, paved and very rural.

We are discovering our heritage and the lay of the land as we make our way to P’town.

All it takes is boots on the ground.


Karen and Christine on their way, one step at a time.

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