Day 13, October 23, 2003: Tilton, NH to Greenfield, MA

Weather forecasters are often wrong. But they got it right yesterday with the forecast of snow. I awoke in the middle of the night and looked out the motel window to see it falling on the parking lot to lightly cover the cars. And when I awoke it was still coming down. But all was not lost. Because the ground temperature was not below freezing the snow there was merely slush despite the 4-inches on the Miata and as long as the ground didn't get much colder...

I cleaned off the snow, grabbed a quick breakfast, and headed back up the highway toward Canterbury. The road conditions weren't wonderful and visibility was bad when a big vehicle decided to pass raising a wall of slush to cover the Miata but traffic was light enough to minimize that hazard. I made it to Canterbury quite quickly. So quickly in fact that they were not due to open for nearly an hour. An early arriving employee was nice enough to invite me into the visitor center to wait.

The Canterbury Shaker Village has both guided and self-guided tours but during the off season they fall back to offering only the guided variety. I went out with the first group and the group was shown around several of the key buildings on site while the guide gave a narration of Shaker life and history. Nothing against the guide, he was doing well, but I've heard and read all of the information many times and wished that I could just wander about on my own. But that was not in the cards. Even worse, being forced to stay with the party meant being forced to obey their rules the most onerous of which forbids interior photography. This is a real pain to me since one of the main reasons I go to these museums is to gather ideas for projects and photos are the best way I can record them. Oh well...

My original intent was to stop next at the Enfield Shaker Museum which is not very far up the road but, due to the unpredictable weather and steadily increasing cost of the trip it was chopped from the itinerary. That meant that the next stop was to be for cheese. And cheese, at least in this part of the world, means Vermont. When it comes to award-winning cheese producers that tiny state has a major surplus. I had chosen one producer based on awards, press coverage, and web research so the next stop was to be Grafton, Vermont. As luck would have it this stop almost turned out to be a bust thanks to the intervention of the Vermont highway maintainers who, for some reason had completely blocked off the one highway I was depending on to get to Grafton. And they had failed to provide any sort of signs to show a different way. I assume that they figured that anybody who really belonged in Grafton already knew which back roads to take to get past the construction and they weren't about to waste time and money with signs.

I finally did manage to deduce a detour route on my own and to get into Grafton a at 3:45 and stopped at the restaurant which had the visitor's information sign out front. The woman there told me where the cheese company lay but also told me that they close at the tick of four. No exceptions and no reprieve. I sped through town and arrived at the company's parking lot with a couple of minutes to spare only to discover that they were already locked up tight. Defeat snatched from the jaws of victory! I finally did manage to get the attention of a store worker by going in the back door where the UPS driver was loading up and asked for entrance pointing out that they had jumped the gun and closed before the appointed hour. My pleas gained me admission to the front room for a few minutes and even allowed me to buy a bit of cheese but with the stipulation that they would only accept cash because they had already started processing the credit card receipts. And cash was not something I had much of at the moment. So, the great blocks of aged cheddar I had imagined carrying off as gifts and to enjoy myself were reduced to a few small one-pound blocks. The cheese went into the trunk wrapped in my heavy winter coat. Given the regional temperature this would be an effective short-term refrigerator.

For really great aged cheddar I can still recommend Grafton Village Cheese to you despite their inconvenient hours. Besides, they have a web store which is how I'm going to replenish my supply. The two-year old cheddar in the black wax is truly superb (I'm eating some even as I write this). And I'm going to go for some of the three-year cheese next. And then maybe work my way up to the five-year variety which I imagine might just be enough to make one's teeth spin in their sockets.

Headed off down the highway to Greenfield, Massachusetts in preparation for the next day's scheduled stop. The back roads and higher elevations had a few icy patches but the weather was not likely to be a problem since I would be heading steadily southward from now on and remaining on the major highways.

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