2021 Road Trip : Birthday Bust?

It’s always nice to be on vacation for your birthday, but that doesn’t always guarantee a great time. Since we had exhausted most of what we wanted to do in the lower Berkshires–I might have just made that up, I guess we would probably say the southern Berkshires here in the US, but ‘the lower Berkshires’ makes it sound like I’m in rural England–anyhoo, since we had kind of run out of things to do and so many shops are closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, we decided we needed to go further afield for our day’s adventures.

One of the beauties of a road trip is you can be spontaneous. The night before my birthday, I looked at a map and decided we could drive north with Bennington, VT as our main destination with the idea of being in Troy, NY for my birthday meal. In doing so I broke the the cardinal rule of any good trip–Always do your research. But more on that later in this post.

On the drive up to Bennington, which I quickly realized we had started on too early in the morning, we came to Williamstown, MA the home of both Williams College and the Clark Art Institute. We hadn’t intended on going to the Clark because we had been there on our previous trip to the Berkshires and I knew that they had implemented timed entry tickets due to Covid, and we didn’t have a timed ticket. But since we had plenty of time we decided to take a chance on being able to get in. I’m so glad we did. Having expanded since 2008, the Clark is even more amazing than before and it provided a really nice way to spend a couple of hours.

The Clark’s most recent addition includes this wonderfully peaceful plaza and fountain with views of the expansive grounds.
You’ll forgive me if I thought this looked like a character in a Margaret Atwood dystopia.
Choupatte (Cabbagefeet) (2017)
Claude Lalanne
The Messenger (detail) (1815)
Martin Drölling
One of those moments where you think “That’s where this painting is…” The bib and metal attachments always reminds me of being at the dentist.
Fumée d’amgre gris (Smoke of Ambergris) (1880)
John Singer Sargent
Portrait of Madame Lemasson (1891)
Émile Henri Bernard
Interior Still Life: Christmas Morning (1926-27)
Nikolai Astrup
By the Open Door (before 1911)
Visions of Norway, the extensive retrospective the Clark was having on the work of artist Nikolai Astrup has me wanting to visit the tiny villages around Lake Jølster, northeast of Bergen, Norway.
From one of the galleries I spotted this mezzanine of books that were faced on the shelves to perfection and a serene research library.
Happily, the library was not off limits to rank and file museum goers, so I could get closer to the two mezzanines of perfectly faced books. But as I stood there I realized there was no access to either wall of books. What a horror. What was going on?
Inaccessible, but very pleasing to the eye.
Photos rarely do justice to meadows, so this close-up of clover (I think) will have to suffice for the lovely grounds that surrounded the Clark.

After the Clark we continued our path north by zigging over to North Adams the home of MassMOCA, another art museum we had been to in 2008. I opted out of going there this time because the art tends to be room-size conceptual kind of stuff, or other things that are somewhat lost on me. I mean how long can you stare at a Dan Flavin. (Look it up, not long.) And because we had Bennington to look forward to, we didn’t bother to poke around the former mill town.

Now, when I picked Bennington as our destination, I had visions in my head of another serendipitous stop we had made in Vermont on our previous road trip in 2008 in which we stayed the night in the very charming town of Woodstock where there was one of my favorite used bookstores of all time (and the place where I first discovered the work of May Sarton).

But Bennington is no Woodstock. While the town has some very nice architectural bones, there was a lot of empty retail space that appears to have been vacant prior to Covid. Half of the shops that were closed that day and not very interesting to start with. This town could use about 100 LGBTQ families to fill up the great old buildings with shops you actually want to visit.

There are a couple of museums that we might have enjoyed in town, but as I mentioned, I hadn’t done my research, and I didn’t know they existed.

And I hate to say it, but the indie bookstore that was there had recently moved locations and was not even remotely conducive to browsing. I’m sure my mood had something to do with it, but the store felt very suburban and not at all cozy. I literally spent less than a minute inside and turned around and left without even touching a book. Back out on the street I saw one of those “open” flags that seem to be all over the place in vacationland to draw attention to shops that visitors might be interested in. We crossed the street and walked a bit to go see what we could see only to find a vape shop. Time to leave Bennington.

When we go on a road trip we go to roadfood.com to see what delicious local food we can find along the way. In 2008 we made a slight detour to go to Famous Lunch in Troy, NY. I’ve literally been thinking about going back to this place ever since. Although I may not have done my research on Bennington, I knew that Famous Lunch was only about an hour from where we were staying in Lenox. It seemed to me the perfect place for my birthday dinner.
The house specialty, and, although it would probably be good, I wouldn’t even think of ordering anything else. These are the most amazing chili dogs you will ever have in your life. They are only about the length of a credit card and each one only costs $1.11. When we were here in 2008, John didn’t know how small they were and somehow talked me into only getting two of them. I never quite forgave him for that. This time we each got three and I ate one of John’s. Perfect. I think we also got some fries, but the star were these lovely jewels of greasy perfection. And did I mention they have RC cola and Diet Rite? Who knew they even still made RC and Diet Rite.
After our dogs in Troy, we headed about 35 minutes south to get to the Dairy Queen in Ghent, NY which was the closest DQ to Lenox. It was the perfect birthday desert. I love DQ and we don’t have any in DC. Perfect way to end the day. But by the time we got back to Lenox, I wanted another one.

Although my birthday felt like a bust at times because of Bennington, if we had only planned to go to the Clark, Famous Lunch, and the DQ, I would have considered it a fantastic day. I guess it is all about setting expectations.

16 thoughts on “2021 Road Trip : Birthday Bust?

  1. jennycolvin August 29, 2021 / 11:16 am

    That archival book art installation is a bit insane but cool. And I do love a good meadow.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thomas September 4, 2021 / 2:04 pm

      Since it is surrounded by a research library with open stacks, it didn’t seem cruel. Plus they were so beautifully faced, one didn’t want to see them disturbed.


  2. Jennifer August 29, 2021 / 1:34 pm

    Despite having grown up in Boston, I’ve never explored Western MA. I might have to make a trip; your travelogue is inspiring. We just took our DC-based daughter on a trip to DQ for her birthday. Her cousins in Fairfax were horrified that she’d never been to a DQ and we had to explain that although we have lots of ice cream places in DC, the closest DQ is in fact theirs. (But no chocolate dip? that’s what I associate with DQ and summer vacation more than anything else.)


    • Thomas September 4, 2021 / 2:06 pm

      You would love Western MA. I do love a chocolate dip cone, but for some reason on this trip the 3 or 4 times that we stopped at the DQ I just wanted to pure deliciousness of a plain cone.


  3. Ruthiella August 29, 2021 / 1:59 pm

    It feels like a very long time since I have taken a vicarious trip with you on your blog! Many thanks for sharing and happy belated birthday too. Sorry that Bennington was a bust. Isn’t it a college town?

    I laughed when I read that you never quite forgave your husband for denying you a third hot dog 12 years ago. Poor John!


    • Thomas September 4, 2021 / 2:07 pm

      That’s because it has been a damn long time. Every time I see the pictures of the chili dogs I wonder when I get back to Troy.


  4. Jeane August 29, 2021 / 3:25 pm

    The library there just for display- is baffling to me. Seems worse than people who buy books to show off in their homes, just to show off. Not to read them. Sad.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. TravellinPenguin (Pam) August 29, 2021 / 7:40 pm

    Happy Birthday from Tassie. I see what you mean about Flavin. I looked him up. The inaccessible book shelf would have frustrated me. I like closer looks at libraries. We don’t have DQ anywhere in Australia. My old home town in Michigan always had one. Will have ro wait until I visit again to enjoy. Who knows when that will be! 🤠🌻


    • Thomas September 4, 2021 / 2:08 pm

      Oddly, there are quite a few DQs in Thailand and Cambodia. So you don’t have to drive too far!


  6. Nadia August 30, 2021 / 8:43 am

    Happy Birthday! Sounds like you had a great birthday, even though sometimes things were a bit of a bust. Those little chili dogs looked delicious! And, you can’t go wrong with DQ – I would have dipped it in chocolate :)


    • Thomas September 4, 2021 / 2:09 pm

      The thing about the chili dogs is that every part of them is perfect. The dogs are good, the chili is good, the buns taste homemade while being squishy *and* chewy, little bit of mustard and onion. I also add ketchup to mine.


  7. MARY August 30, 2021 / 1:04 pm

    I always enjoy your road trips and eats reviews. DQ is a good thing. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Aileen September 2, 2021 / 7:34 am

    ~Immediately starts googling houses for sale in Bennington, VT~

    But seriously, happy birthday! Your lovely pictures remind me how long it has been since I’ve been able to look at art. I hope the rest of your road trip is a success.


    • Thomas September 4, 2021 / 2:11 pm

      What kind of shop would you open? We’d need you to buy a house there *and* open up something interesting.


      • Aileen September 4, 2021 / 4:40 pm

        My son is a baker, so maybe I can persuade him to open a bakery there! Our current city seems to have a saturated market.


  9. Gail September 15, 2021 / 12:43 pm

    Belated birthday greetings from Washington State. We were glad when our local DQ closed down..we were too often making late night pyjama runs through the drive thru…hot fudge sundaes!


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