Tri-state Travel Wonders

We’ve spent the past week circling around the the confluence of New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Vermont.

On Sunday night we went to the last night of the 2002 season for the Northfield Drive-in, which is located exactly on the Massachusetts/New Hampshire border between Hinsdale, NH and Northfield, MA. It was their annual Labour Day quadruple feature (Monsters Inc., Signs, Mr. Deeds and Reign of Fire: we stayed for the first three). It’s a wonderful drive-in, and possibly the one I’ve attended that best matches my memories of a “classic” drive-in from my youth: a large kids playground out front, lots of families with lawn chairs (some with barbeques who came early for dinner) and a genuine cross-section of people from goth teens to huge families. Their projection building and canteen were in an interesting location, much closer to the screen than most and sunk down almost underground. Best canteen server I’ve ever received, anywhere.

On Tuesday we passed through the same eye of the same needle on our way to North Adams, Massachusetts, which is the unlikely home of MassMOCA — the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art. North Adams is an otherwise decaying mill town (think Bangor, Maine) in far-western Massachusetts that has been somewhat revitalized by the founding of a funky art museum in the shell of the abandoned factory buildings in its downtown core. The spaces are huge, and so offer themselves well to the exhibition of huge pieces of art. I’m not an “art guy,” at least in the goatee sense, but I was awed and impressed. Well worth a day trip from the Boston area if you’re in New England.

By virtue of our tri-state follies, we’ve been in Brattleboro, VT twice this week (and I’m on my way there after I post this, as my friend Stephen is taking the train north from Brattleboro to Montreal this evening). Brattleboro is a weird, weird town. If you’re travelling from the east, it’s the gateway to Vermont, and it certainly plays that role well, especially if you consider the liberal food-loving part of the Vermont gestalt.

Our first meal was at an Indian restaurant. Not a great meal, and the service was severe. But nice to have dal and currie in the middle of our travels. Our second meal, two days later, was at an all-organic Asian-inspired restaurant run by the same people who used to run Latacarata in Peterborough, New Hampshire. All organic means all-organic, from the meat to the vegetables to the wine. I had the “Zen Meal” from the menu, a $16 set of entrees served in a Japanese bento box; there were snow peas served with sesame seeds, some tasty dumplings, rice with seasoning, several variations of tofu, and a very clean tasting squash soup. The service was delightful — even with Oliver having an infant nervous breakdown freakout through much of the meal — and the meal ranks high on my lifelist.

Before we left Brattleboro we stopped by the Brattleboro Cooperative grocery store, which is a cooperative in the “locally, cooperatively owned and run” sense, not the “owned by a pretend cooperative based in Halifax” sense that we are used to in Charlottetown these days. It was, quite simply, the grocery store of grocery stores, and almost enough to make us think of picking up and moving to Brattleboro. Another place worthy of a stop if you’re in the area, if only to get ideas for your home community.

Tomorrow I’m off to Quincy, Mass and Nashua, NH for a server relocation, Saturday’s our last day on the lake and Sunday we begin our trek home to the Island.