With the long weekend behind us, there is much to look back on. During this week, I will try to recapture some of the magic my family and I found in the fall colors of New England. I previously supplied much of the logistics and a host of travel information to plan a New Hampshire road trip, but in that, some of the actual details and experiences might have been lost. These details, the sights, sounds, and, quite often especially, the smells are what make memories. The next few installments will, hopefully, capture the memories.
Rising early used to be a normal practice in my household, out the door by 5:30, the kids not far behind with school at 8. With the last decade spent working the night shift, that early starting point has moved closer to 7:30 for all parties involved. This past weekend would be a return to the early days of rising before the sun and heading out. The reasons behind the early start, getting a jump on the NY traffic, allowing for time consuming pit stops along a 6 hour route, and to make it to Polly's Pancake Parlor before they closed at 3 o'clock. The last reason being the most important factor for everyone but the dad driving. All would be well as long as the truck pulled into the grassy parking lot of the pancake place before they discontinued accepting hungry travelers. And so, Friday morning saw our departure, bright and early. (Note: It is important to leave early on Friday due to traffic on the George Washington Bridge but also because Polly's is near impossible to get into on long weekends during the fall.)
Surprisingly, the traffic was avoided and the first leg of our trip went smoothly. The highways cooperated and the passengers slept fine. Our first stop for coffee, donuts, and bathrooms came at a quickly reached 9 o'clock. Three hours down, an actual bathroom break, and some fuel, and we were on our way. This would be considered by my family as a small miracle, to actually have the truck stop for longer than a few seconds and only halfway through our journey. I felt this was as good a place as any to stop in order to keep the little gremlins of grumbling bellies and bursting bladders at bay. We would also be nearing the Vermont state line and the highway was about to become wide open and bursting with scenery. A short 60 miles would bring us to the exit from which our trip would be overtaken by back roads and even more picturesque landscapes.
In short order, we had arrived at our main destination for day 1 of our weekend, Polly's Pancake Parlor. The magnitude of the mountains rising up all around the small parking lot, and the opportunity to take so many colorful pictures, was overwhelmed by one thing, the subtle, smoky flavor of bacon that fills the air all around the place. It is almost as if the smell of this wonderful meat candy was the breeze itself, not a product of the little farm-shed-turned-eatery but the air itself was bacon. A person, if so inclined, could lick the air and taste smoky, maple-covered pork. Our noses were assaulted like this for the 20 minutes it took to secure a table. By this point the whole family was a wild-eyed, syrup craving bunch. I can not tell you who ordered first or what they ordered, only that perfectly formed pancakes were arriving faster than we could slather them in maple cream, maple sugar, maple butter, and maple syrup. The bacon that had been teasing us outside covered our plates, cut more like small steaks than any bacon bought out of a common grocery. The breakfast ham looked like something cooked for Thanksgiving. And my youngest, devoid of all humility, covered her entire platter of food in Hurricane Sauce, a sweet addiction made from sliced apples candied in sugar and maple syrup.
We slowly moved to our truck in a food daze, bellies full and souls content. Our first order of business for this weekend was successfully completed. We piled into the truck, trying to fend off that Pied Piper-like aroma that seemed to follow us down the road. The tendrils of smoke from the chimney spread like fingers through the woods and along the road, down into town, chasing us back to the highway. The have sunken their nails deep into our stomachs, the smell hangs hauntingly within our nostrils, the taste sits on the back of our tongues. They return when we talk of our stop at the parlor, teasingly in the background, just out of reach, pleading for our return. The pancakes, the waffles, all the maple goodness, and the bacon, the bacon beckons our return. The bacon.