Having a job that is basically a 7-month camping road trip definitely has its perks: I get to see all nooks and crannies of the United States, I spend most of my time in the out-of-doors, and I can now navigate the country by breweries alone. Sure, there are long travel days, with hours spent looking out the windshield, but these are made bearable by finding entertainment where you can find it: the spectacles that are truck stops and travel plazas, and watching family melt-downs during their vacation road trips.
(Note: It’s not that I get some kind of twisted pleasure watching families melt down in public or snap at each other when checking into a hotel after 10+ hours in the car together (with the hotel clerk awkwardly standing there waiting for an answer to his simple question “do you have a floor preference?”), but because I experience the same melt downs/snappiness multiple times a week, I can do nothing but revel in the misery of others, knowing that, at least this time, I’m not the one melting down.)
The best thing about being on the road in the U.S. are the Roadside Attractions. Many afternoons have been lost exploring the wonders that litter line the American highway. Have you ever wanted to see the World’s Largest Ball of Stamps? You can find it in Nebraska. How about seeing Foamhenge? (yes, it’s a foam replica of Stonehenge) You’ll pass it by in Virginia. How about the World’s Only Life-Sized Chocolate Moose? (get it???) You can give it a visit (and a lick) in Maine. And if you want to see a good ol’ statue of Paul Bunyan, you’re in luck: there are more than 45 spread all over the country.
I’ve seen more than my fair share of roadside attractions in the 40,000+ miles I’ve driven in the U.S. in the last 2 ½ years, so it normally takes something special to get me to stop the car. When I saw a sign pointing to Robert Frost’s farm in New Hampshire, Kim and I needed a discussion on whether or not to stop.
Kim loves poetry, so she really wanted to stop. Me? I can’t say I’m a huge Robert Frost fan (I can’t tell you anything he wrote other than The Road Not Taken), but even though it wasn’t advertised, I was pretty sure that this was the World’s Largest Robert Frost Farm, which piqued my interest in the estate.
Pulling into the property it looked like, well, an old farm. There was a house, a barn, and a huge field that now grew nothing but grass. It looked like the kind of farm that someone would purchase during their retirement to New England, but had no intention of using as a farm.
As we entered the barn, we found two extremely friendly people working there: a retired social studies teacher and a poet. We looked at all of the displays, asked them questions about the farm and Robert Frost, and since we were the only ones visiting at the time, spent a while just chatting. We discovered (from the retired social studies teacher) that not too far from where we were standing, General John Stark penned the famous line Live free or die: Death is not the worst of evils in a written toast he provided for the anniversary celebration of the Battle of Bennington in 1809. (Poor health prevented him from attending, so he wrote a letter, which included is toast, that was read at the celebration.)
After watching a video (on a VHS tape!!) and chatting with the poet for a while, he asked us if we would like the tour of the farmhouse. He said that there was normally a charge for the tour, but he’ll give us a quick tour for free. At first I thought my schmoozing skills had reached new heights, but then I remember that he was a poet: he was used to not getting paid for his work.
After our “quick” 35 minute tour through the 3 bedroom house, we walked away with a plethora of Robert Frost trivia knowledge: he had a multi-line phone installed in his house so he could gossip chat with his neighbors, he deplored anything he thought of as work (he moved his chicken coup 10 feet closer to his house in the winter so there was less walkway that had to be shoveled, but used the same snow shovel to build elaborate snow-mazes for his grandchildren to play in), and had six kids but only one that outlived him.
Now, the Robert Frost farm might not have been as breathtaking as the World’s Largest Ball of Twine (found in Kansas) or as majestic as the Beer Can House (in Houston), but it was a lot more enjoyable than any other roadside attraction I’ve been to, mainly because the people who worked there cared about what they were doing. They weren’t there to just pump dollars out of tourists, they were there to share their passion and knowledge of the area and the man who once owned this farm.
We even walked away with a great little souvenir: a piece of the sugar maple tree that inspired the poem A Tree At My Window.
Now, I know that Paul Bunyan is known for more than being a popular statue: he cut down many-a-forest in his day, but I doubt any trees he felled have half the story this little wooden leaf has.