Out of Home Range: Roadtrip to Amherst

A quiet corner at The Bookmill, Montague, MA

On a sunny day last week, the Owl and her 80ish-year-old parents took off on a road trip because…well, why not? It was just before Labor Day weekend, the owlets were in school, and we pulled out the metal compass to determine best options for a 2-hour drive-time destination from Weston. That netted us some places we didn’t want to go (no comment) and also some places we thought might suffer from Friday afternoon traffic syndrome (I’m looking at you, Maine). And we wanted a scenic drive as well…so what did we come up with? Well, you already know from the title.

We drove 117 north from the Owl nest, marveling at all the pretty scenes and farmstands on that road. You really don’t need to go far to experience rural life. Favorite farmstand will always be Bolton Spring Farm right next to the Lime Kiln conservation area (definitely hike that one sometime, wow). Bolton Spring has year-roundish (open May-December) apple cider donuts. Do I need to say more? You’re welcome. Also the best peaches at this time of year…anywhere. Also varieties of apples you have never heard of. Also cheese. And corn. Oh, why bother even leaving?

Onwards. Just after your donut, you’ll hop back onto 117 briefly then 495 north (unless you want to further backcountry road it–at will.. just know you cannot drive directly through the Quabbin Reservoir) to Route 2 west. This eventually narrows down and becomes the Mohawk Trail which you can take all the way to North Adams. But we didn’t…we headed south on 202 just west of the unfortunately-named Athol (this would have provided minutes of amusement with the owlets, alas they had less sophomoric fun available at school that day).

Amherst became our end game as hunger approached. What a fun college town that is–or wait, maybe not fun. It actually seemed quite serious–Emily Dickinson’s house on the outskirts (more on that soon), a lovely town common designed by none other than Frederick Law Olmsted, ample metered parking, and amaaaaazing trees. I’ve met their tree warden. There, that’s my version of name-dropping. In any case, we hopped on in to the helpful Visitor’s Information Center at 35 S. Pleasant Street and got a recommendation for lunch. Note that Amherst is asking for indoor masking as of August 18, and that all five campuses are closed to outside visitors.

Bistro 63 from the back door to the parking lot

Bistro 63 had outdoor seating on their “patio” which overlooked…the parking lot. That was fine with us because they also had draft beer and it was almost a holiday weekend. And let me tell my Canadian friends this one: they have poutine! Yeah, I wouldn’t touch the stuff with a ten-foot pole but somehow our northern neighbors find it appealing. Have at it. I narrowly behaved myself (truffle mac & cheese, sigh) and had a yummy shrimp and avocado salad.

Enough about food and drink for the moment…it was time to break into Emily Dickinson’s house. Yes, we found out that the museum was closed for renovation until 2022…and this visit had been one of the main drivers of our road trip. What’s a person and her cute parents (who would never be arrested based on cuteness) to do? Find a side entrance of course.

Sneaking in the side door. Just kidding, officer.

Oh all right, we did not break into the actual house but headed around the side yard and umm…sidled into the garden area. I mean, it was technically open and there were no signs forbidding it. And we had to see the garden where we were rewarded by this little feller on a zinnia:

Emily would have liked this, I think

Emily honestly makes me a tiny bit sad because though she wrote and wrote and wrote during her lifetime, she was never publicly recognized or lauded for her works. Now, of course, she is known as one of the greatest American poets. Here’s a bit of my favorite, from 1861…

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –

That perches in the soul –

And sings the tune without the words –

And never stops – at all –

If you want to think on that a bit, there’s a bench in the yard, and a garden for contemplation:

From Amherst, we hopped back in the car and onwards towards Deerfield. This is the most ridiculously cute town I have ever been in. We drove around Deerfield Academy where family friends had attended school, and marveled at all the nicely-dressed day and boarding school students. What a place to go to school–I felt like I was in a movie. I was kind of hoping that Robin Williams would hop out of somewhere. Alas. If I were made of money, had really good family connections and enjoyed the Owlets a little less, I would try to send my kids here. Double alas.

While we did not do any of the house tours, Historic Deerfield is open and if that’s your thing, check it out here. I am definitely heading back in the fall to self-tour some of those places.

Sheldon House Built in 1754/7. Photo courtesy Historic Deerfield

All this touring around made us crave…books. Yes, we had to go check out the world-famous Bookmill in Montague. My dad classified this one as hippie central but used books, a melodious waterfall and a small cafe called the Lady Killigrew made this a perfect stop before heading home to Weston. The bookstore is in an 1842 gristmill, with views towards the falls, sounds of the falls, AND comfy places to sit and while away some time. Highly recommend.

The Bookmill and Alvah Stone restaurant

The downstairs restaurant, called the Alvah Stone, was closed for vacation, and is on my list for the next visit–what a lovely outdoor place for lunch! There is also a small shop which had some wonderful local arts and crafts, and one with movies and records. Get thee in a car!

One comment

Leave a Reply