| [Introduction: The US 20
trip actually began two weeks earlier, with a weekend drive to
eastern end of US 20 follows Commonwealth Avenue, beginning
just west of the
State House at Kenmore Square. Crossing Massachusetts,
highlights include Old Sturbridge
Village, a restored/re-created 19th Century New England town,
and Springfield's Basketball Hall of Fame,
where the game was invented in December 1891 by Dr. James
Naismith. This makes basketball the youngest of the major team
sports, as well as the only one with a clear founding.
Later on, approaching New York, comes Shaker country. The Shakers, one of the earliest American religious communities, established 19 communal villages across the Northeast during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. They maintained their simple, devout lifestyle at Hancock Shaker Village for over 150 years before succumbing to the fatal flaw in their doctrine: celibacy. With no new Shakers ever born into the faith, the difficulty of recruiting new members finally transformed the active Village into a museum in 1960. One active Shaker community still remains, at Sabbathday Lake, Maine; another Shaker museum sits just across the New York line.
I continued to Albany, where the skyline is dominated by the surpassingly ugly Empire State Plaza, a collection of state office buildings (over-)built by Gov. Nelson Rockefeller. The State Capitol, a few blocks away, looks nothing like the standard dome-with-symmetrical-wings model: it's a 19th-century model to pork-barrel spending that resembles a European chateau. Then turned south and waited for the trip to begin in earnest...]
Friday, May 25, 1990...
Appropriately for a vacation devoted to traveling the old, pre-Interstate roads, the trip began on the first of the "new roads," the Bronx River Parkway, just down the street from my apartment. This, the nation's oldest parkway, opened to traffic in 1925, just before the system of marked U.S. Highways was adopted. North to Kensico Dam Plaza, around a traffic rotary (an old-time invention which has long outlived its usefulness in crowded areas...which of course doesn't stop Massachusetts from relying on them), and toward the Taconic Parkway I drove on the winding, narrow four-lane road, speed limit 40, that had launched the era of high-speed automobile travel.
When the Taconic opened in the late Twenties, it was hailed as a masterpiece of design -- beautifully sculpted bends of the road showing off the scenic Hudson Valley. Well, the scenery is still there, but the road shows its age. Two narrow lanes in each direction, with no shoulder and no median strip...the only thing separating northbound from southbound traffic is a small, low barrier which was obviously an afterthought. In other words, much like the Bronx River Parkway -- the difference is that on the Taconic, many of us were driving about 70 mph. Not recommended...
Turned west at I-84 and headed for the Thruway. Amazing how most of the folks who whine about nasty Big Government never complain about the federally subsidized interstate highway system which makes their modern lives possible. Outside the Northeast and Midwest, where the road network evolved faster than Washington's willingness to pay for it, toll roads like the Thruway are virtually unknown, but here they're a way of life. We pay $3.00 for the privilege of driving a hundred miles, while elsewhere in the country the same folks who bitch the loudest about their taxes drive free on nearly empty Interstates which would never have been built if not for the government.
Stopped for the night at the Super 8 in Amsterdam, NY. At $40.88, this is probably the most expensive room I'll occupy on the entire trip...
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