There are some travel plans that turn out perfectly and others that fall far from the mark. I’ve had my share of both. But sometimes a trip seems to run itself on serendipity when good things just seem to happen to keep things rolling along. My recent road trip to New England with my brother Ken was one of these times. And not so much, maybe, for my friends Pat and Peter Weiss who did a similar trip a week later.
I plotted our route along the Kancamagus Highway, the mecca for leaf peepers this time of year. The leaves were changing into golds and oranges and quite a bit of red—maybe not “peak” but fine enough for us. More than fine, actually. But we were lucky. We were just ahead of the mobs of tourists that arrived shortly thereafter, when Pat and Peter were there, causing traffic jams when people took selfies and packed overlook pullouts where there was no place to park. But not on our visit. We even drove quite a ways with no other cars in sight, perfect for taking a soothing video of our drive that I posted on Facebook.
And then there was the drive up Mount Washington. We had repeatedly been warned about the terrible weather there at all times of the year and people tried to convince us not to drive it ourselves. But I was insistent. As it turned out we drove the auto road to the summit on a perfectly clear day with no fog, no wind, and great visibility for miles. On the way up we stopped at various overlooks where I photographed the views and the unusual Alpine vegetation and at the summit we had clear views for miles in all directions. Apparently, less than 16 days in a year are clear and even fewer are cloudless like the day we were there. But 10 days later Pat and Peter Weiss took the cog railway up the mountain and reported: “The summit was shrouded in fog. There was snow on the ground and the visibility was about 20 feet. It was like Ice Station Zebra. Then it started to drizzle. Rime ice was forming on everything but the cog train got us up safely and down safely at about 4 miles per hour.” Ken and I got lucky for sure.
When Ken and I descended the mountain we found a farmers market in full throttle in Gorham, New Hampshire where we listened to country music and filled up on fresh snacks before continuing to Norway, Maine to spend the night with Bruce and Debby Jarvis, our friends there. It turned out that the Fryeburg Fair, the largest fair in Maine, was less than an hour from their house and on our way to our next stop, Brattleboro, Vermont. Bruce cautioned us about the fair, “It will be crowded, you will have to park miles away, etc., etc.” but I didn’t let it daunt me. We left their house at 8:30 a.m. and got to the fair early enough to park in the official lot right near the gate. Ken and I spent a couple of fun hours soaking in the sounds and sights of a huge fair, watching iconic Maine events like oxen dragging weights, and eating ourselves silly on Maine specialties like fried dough with maple syrup, and lobster rolls packed with huge pieces of lobster. It couldn’t have been planned better, but it was really all luck that we found the fair right along our pre-planned route.
And our luck didn’t even end there. When we got to Brattleboro the town was having a celebration complete with food trucks, live bands, vendors and lots of locals, and we happily joined right in.
Was our good fortune on this trip luck or serendipity? It sure wasn’t due to advance planning. But sometimes these things happen. Whatever it was I’m not complaining.
Pat Foster-Turley, Ph.D., is a zoologist on Amelia Island. She welcomes your nature questions and observations. [email protected]