New England, Part 1 (Give me a Sign)

On May 25, 2016 · 2 Comments

I returned recently from another one of my hurried trips, this one to the New England states. All of them. Plus New York for good measure. Those of you who followed Twelve Mile Circle’s Twitter account knew that already. The rest of the 12MC audience may not have noticed anything at all. I wrote a bunch of articles in advance and they posted automatically, quite happily, as I cruised backcountry roads for a week.


New England Marathon Series - Packet Pickup

Once again, I chauffeured my favorite runner through small town America as part of a Mainly Marathons event, this time to the New England Series. This group catered specifically to people hoping to run marathons or half-marathons in all 50 U.S. States (my favorite runner focused on half-marathons), stringing together back-to-back races. The 2016 New England series stopped at Sanford, Maine; Greenfield, New Hampshire; Springfield, Vermont; Northfield, Massachusetts; Coventry, Rhode Island; Simsbury, Connecticut; and New Paltz, New York, on succeeding days, May 15-21. A race happened at dawn, then the circus packed up and moved on to the next state, and the cycle repeated itself. Seven races, seven states, seven days.



This was the fourth time I’ve attended a Mainly Marathons series, with my runner completing the Dust Bowl, Riverboat and Center of the Nation series previously. That was a lot of states. With New England now done, I’ve attended their races in obscure corners of 23 different states. Recently the Mainly Marathons group added a five kilometre option mostly for those of us who attended along with the longer-distance runners. I actually ran the 5K each day mostly so I wouldn’t stand next to the snack table for a couple of hours and stuff myself silly. I don’t have any intention of moving up to the half-marathon or marathon distances though. 5K each day was plenty enough for me.

We made time, as usual, for touring during the afternoon as we traveled between races. I’ll get into all of the details in the next batch of articles. I thought I’d start things off more scattershot with a few signs I noticed along the way. I’ve had a thing for unusual signs and this trip was no different. Ordinarily I’d present these at the end of a series although I thought I’d use them to whet the 12MC appetite. Think of today as an appetizer.


Welcome to Vermont


Welcome to Vermont

Surprisingly, I stopped at only one state border to record my crossing. This one occurred on U.S. Route 5 / Vermont Route 11 just after we passed the Connecticut River, as we left New Hampshire (map). This photo was particularly notable for my lack of skills as I managed to capture the top of the side-view mirror at the bottom of the image. That happened because I was too lazy to get out of the car when we stopped, and too incompetent to hold a camera high enough to get a decent picture. That was also the only photo I took of the car, now as I considered it, although I probably should have taken more. We rented a compact car because it was just the two of us. We figured it would be fine and we’d save some gas money. The rental agency must have given away all of the compacts on the lot though, because we ended up with a black, two-door Ford Mustang with only 500 miles on the odometer. We cruised around New England for a week in a sweet ride.


Think of the Children


New England Marathon Series - Day 3

I still wasn’t sure why the Toonerville Trail in Springfield, Vermont (map) felt it was necessary to ask us politely with a please and a thank you to think about our children in ALL CAPS. So I thought of the children. Unfortunately my only thought was a sign invoking the overworn and pandering expression "Think of the Children."


School Bus?


School Bus

While fixated on thinking of the children, or so I thought, I began to notice strange minivan school buses in multiple New England states. I’d never seen anything like them before. Were they used by private schools with far-flung pupils? Or for select children in special programs? I could definitely consider a role for these non-bus buses, and wondered if this was a common solution in New England (or elsewhere) or if I’d focused on them simply because they were unusual. I spotted this example on Interstate 91 near Deerfield, Massachusetts (map).

Also, before anyone becomes too concerned with my driving skills and posts a disapproving comment, let it be known that my passenger took this photograph. I kept both hands on the wheel and maintained a safe distance.


Marginal Way


New England Marathon Series - Day 1

I’ve often featured street names on 12MC, the more unusual the better. Generally I’ve only observed them on a map. That’s why I was so pleased to find Marginal Way in Sanford, Maine in the wild (map). It was right on the race course! Runners actually plodded directly down Marginal Way. I wondered about the name. How should a homeowner feel about property considered marginal? Would it affect its resale value? It ran along the edge — maybe the margin? — of a nearby pond. Was that how it earned its weird designation?


Don’t Jump!


Henniker Bridge

This was an instance where I thought a sign might be overkill. Certainly people have jumped from bridges, although generally very high ones and often quite tragically. That wouldn’t be the case here at the Henniker Bridge in Henniker, New Hampshire (map), only a few feet above the water. This was a covered bridge of recent vintage constructed as a pedestrian pathway over the Contoocook River. It served as a footpath between the main campus of New England College and various athletic fields.

College students do seem to get into all kinds of antics. Maybe the sign was necessary after all.


Road Trip


New England Marathon Series - Day 4

The driving force, the entire premise of this series, were races held in different states. Travel distances ranked higher in important than sightseeing for most participants. As a result, races generally fell within rural, out-of-the-way places near state borders. Sometimes this took us onto America’s Byways, for example the beautiful Connecticut River Byway extending through several states including this spot in Northfield, Massachusetts (map). We ended up putting a little over 2,000 miles (3,200 km) on that Mustang, many of them on winding country roads through quiet scenery.


New England articles:

See Also: The Complete Photo Album on Flickr

On May 25, 2016 · 2 Comments

2 Responses to “New England, Part 1 (Give me a Sign)”

  1. Steve says:

    “Were they used by private schools with far-flung pupils?”

    Sort of, maybe, perhaps. Here in southern New England (MA and CT at least) our way of dealing with desegregation is to have a billion magnet schools and lotteries for them. Here, perhaps more than anywhere else, your quality of education is predicated upon one’s wealth and the town one can afford to live in. So we have magnet schools that bring the few lucky lottery winners from the poorer towns 10, 20, 40 miles each day, each way, to gleaming new schools out in the wealthier towns.

    And minivans are often used for this purpose.

  2. Voyager0927 says:

    Where I grew up in Eastern Massachusetts, most towns had their own school system, and those that were too small to have their own high school formed a regional school district with one or maybe two neighbors. There is a state mandate to provide appropriate educational services to students with disabilities, but these smaller towns do not have the critical mass to efficiently offer special education programs at a reasonable cost. So, a group of towns formed a special education collaborative, and students eligible for special education would be sent to some other town in the collaborative based upon their grade level and needs (i.e. one town would host all the K-2 students with autism, another would host the K-2 students with developmental disabilities, etc.) Since only a limited number of students from any given town would need to be transported to any other specific town, this task was accomplished through use of cars and vans, rather than buses.

    Massachusetts also a number of public vocational/technical high schools, which are available as an alternative to traditional schools, and many of which pull students from a large number of surrounding towns. If one town is only sending 3-4 students to the tech school, it makes sense for transportation to be provided by one of these cars or vans, rather than a full-fledged school bus.

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