One of the major factors in my starting this blog is my love for the all-American tradition of the road trip. I love driving. I love watching the landscape change through my windows. I love listening to music at eardrum-blasting levels.
On a recent Sunday afternoon, I jumped in my car with no real destination in mind, hopping on Route 62 in Maynard and heading west. I drove and drove, through beautiful towns and hilly farms, just enjoying the time to decompress, check out the scenery and (since this is the best winter ever) feel the cool air blowing through my open windows. I drove until I ran out of road, and then I drove some more.
Route 62 ends in Barre, a town, quite frankly, I always believed was on the border with Vermont. It is pretty, sweet, and hilly. Lots of scenes like this:
I jumped out of the car in the town of Hardwick, at a town center perched atop a hill. To call it a sleepy place would be an understatement. There was nothing going on, at all. Hardwick is made up of several small villages, including the village of Hardwick — technically the seat of the local government — and Gilbertville, the slightly more energetic mill section. I imagine it would be an incredible place to see fall foliage and go for a long bike ride, once all the winter sand is gone from the windy roads. Like its neighbor, Barre, which has a more active town center and feels as if it’s at the crest of a big hill, Hardwick is a sweet, rural and ultimately kind of boring mill town.
I could have turned back toward home, but it was a bright and warm afternoon, so I decided to head to the town of Ware, with my sights on visiting the Quabbin Reservoir before its access point off Route 9 closed for the night.
Ware is a struggling mill town, with many of its factories closed or converted to commercial and office businesses that employ a fraction of the population that used to count on them for a living. Ware earned its national reputation in the 1930s, as “The town that can’t be licked,” after its residents fought to rebuild and support mills on the verge of failure. Now, as WBUR shows in this terrific report, Ware is a battered fighter, like many Northeast factory communities.
But just beyond Ware, Hardwick, Barre and the rest lies the Quabbin Reservoir. If you’ve never been, go. I had long been fascinated with the history of the reservoir, which provides water to Boston and much of Massachusetts. In the 1930s four Central-Massachusetts towns were washed off the map to build the reservoir. I like to think of the roads lying in the depths of the water, the houses long dissolved off their foundations, as a reminder of the price of progress.
And it’s beautiful. My God, is it gorgeous. Its main visitors’ center is located off Route 9 in Ware, accessible by an impeccably maintained road that climbs the banks of the reservoir. There are plenty of places to park and wander off onto walking trails — no dogs are allowed — in search of solace, quiet and perhaps a glimpse of one of the many bald eagles that call the preserved land home. At first, the drive is just a forest road and then, all of a sudden, there it is: Massachusetts’ biggest inland body of water. It’s spectacular.
I stopped a few times to get out and explore, at one point pausing before the Enfield Overlook, a steep decline toward the water with a plaque explaining the history of the town of Enfield, one of the four municipalities drowned to create Quabbin. I can’t wait to return in the summer.