The Ballards - New England


Tea leaves in the harbour?
Let's start where America started: damp, seasick, undernourished, scurvied colonists further West from England than almost anyone had a right to be, finally coming ashore from the leaky tubs they had been forced to endure for the last six months on to the low, Massachusetts shores to find.... trees.
Forests as far as the eye can see, and in fact stretching all the way to Lower Sandusky, Ohio (for those of you who remember BBC Micro games of the mid-1980s) where they finally give way to prairie which lasts until The Rockies. But that's for another day....
These loominig, ubiquitous forests of the North East have given rise to the whole American Gothic "lost in the woods" psyche so profitably mined by Tim Burton et al. Everything is wood: the houses are wood, the bridges are wood (and often box girders that you drive through), the car parks are wood, volunteer fire stations are everywhere and huge sprinkler systems are installed in every building, down to sheds, because it's all wood.

Most of the small towns are named after the Red Indian tribes the colonists befriended, relied upon for food, cultivated and stole their land, then shot. A side of early American history not dwelled upon in primary school...

Instead they Major on early American history: how the plucky colonists built their country then rebelled against the Evil Empire who taxed them cruelly without representation (shades of Star Wars with Great Britain representing The Dark Side), culminating in the wanton destruction of bales of tea in Boston harbour for some bizarre reason and thus fomenting a revolution.

One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter and unfortunately for all concerned (and the English language as a whole) the colonists won, and they celebrate this fact every 4th July. Living in America I was never entirely comfortable with the 4th July celebrations: after all, they were celebrating having won a war against us....

I've never seen New England (despite having roamed across much of the North American landmass at some point), so a 50th birthday invitation from a very long-standing friend living in Hudson NY was enough to get us booked on United Airlines to New York with a Chevy Spark rental booked at the far end. All credit to the Spark: it's a sewing machine with wheels on but it costs 10 to fill up the tank, does 90mph without turning over and got us 2200 miles around New England in a week. Dollar were dismissive when we went to pick it up: they weren't making a profit on it at $10 a day, but it survived my leaden right foot for a week so it must be well built......

Landing at Newark, we exited the airport car park rental lot and headed West as quickly as possible: the Pope was in town and it being Friday afternoon we had a limited window in which to escape the New York / Newark traffic before it all ground to a halt as everyone tried to escape.
So West and then North, managing to squeeze on to I-87 North just as the numbers of yuppie Range Rovers and Mustangs were starting to build. Another hour and the entire system would grind to a halt (we heard it all on the radio), but we flew free ahead of the storm front, heading North.

New York, in most non-American minds, consists of New York, New York (actually New Amsterdam, but that's another story): a large conglomeration of skyscrapers on an island. Oh, and The Bronx.

But in fact the forests start pretty quickly once you leave the metropolitan area

Many of the cities are duplicates of English place names - you get th impression the colonists were trying to recreate their old European certainties and stamp their order on this new continent

Weather like England but more extreme.

Why did they go? Religious freedom? More like the possibility of a better life; the driving force behind most colonists

Americans pass on both sides, thus making more efficient use of the lanes available. There is none of the frustration with the middle-lane hogger here; there are plenty of them being passed on both sides at the same time. We could do this, too, and save millions of on extra lanes.

Expansion joints and cats eyes

RV drivers licences