Making the Most of Massachusetts

This holiday weekend, Ali was looking to break our routine a little and wanted a bit more adventure than spending Sunday perusing the paper and getting groceries. She was restless and seized upon one of our roadside attractions books, looking for some destinations that spoke to the local color. We had recently been tipped off by a couple of places on television; so with a combination of the books and the web, she had a potential itinerary of places with particular attention to those that served up some grub. With a quick ring to Keri, the three of us hit the road looking to “Make the most of Massachusetts.”

First on the list of target was lunch at the Clam Box in Ipswich. A traditional New England clam shack, it is most notable for the building’s architecture, shaped in an obvious form. Maybe more noteworthy is the extraordinary wait that greets all potential customers. Pulling into the jam-packed parking lot, we were forced to park down the side street. From that point, we got into the line streaming out the doors and proceeded to wait about an hour before we were presented with heaps of deliciously fried seafood.

Photo: The Famous Clam Box

Not being regulars, we were a bit novice at navigating the seating of the establishment, which is nothing short of ridiculous. There are a host of idiotic people that stake out a table and sit there while someone else is waiting to order. Yet, with the line being as long and time-consuming as it is, it creates a situation where one person prevents people with food from eating anywhere other than the hood of your car. It is the one truly negative aspect of the place. However, as luck would have it, we were able to spin a negative into a truly positive experience.

Photo: Waiting in Line

Not being terribly shy, I headed to the picnic area outside and inquired whether we might share a table with some fellow clam connoisseurs. Seeing the couple that was standing in front of us the whole time in the line, I figured I would ask them if we might join them. Of course, that was far too much. The prospect of five people sitting at a regular size, rectangular picnic table is really just too many. The response I got was “Not three! That would be too many.” Instantly a couple of middle aged gentlemen at the next table, a much larger, hexagonal one, were more than accommodating and saved me from casting a couple of foul aspersions toward the former.

Photo: Girls with Clam Box Food Photo: Me and Ali at Clam Box

What a joy they turned out to be. A couple of old-time, neighborhood guys, they were lively, engaging, and thoroughly entertaining. With a slicked back mane of silver hair, dark shades, and a black sleeveless t-shirt, sporting his inked guns, all dripping in gold chains and rings, one of the gentlemen had all the looks of a Sha Na Na cast-off. He even had L-O-V-E across the knuckles of his left hand. Unfortunately, I never was able to glimpse what was undoubtedly on the right set. Ultimately, Ali, Keri, and I feasted and chatted with the gentlemen about the unlikely topic pairings of baseball and lottery winners, while they awaited their wives and wittles. In fact, we were off right before their ladies arrived.

Additionally, Ali discovered that just down the road from the Clam Box, in Rowley, another alluring attraction awaited us in the form of the Giant Gumdrop building. So we headed down Route 1 for a stretch, keeping our eyes peeled the whole time. I spotted the unlikely structure, much to the protest of Ali. Both she and Keri couldn’t believe that what I spied was in fact the Gumdrop. Once we had driven clear into the next town north and had to spin around, they were still slightly unwilling to concede, until we pulled up for a closer look. I had indeed identified the Gumdrop, corroborated by the mailbox. As Ali put it, “Wow! That [Gumdrop] was awesome! By awesome I mean (insert air-quotes) bullshit!” Still, none of other sites released tears of laughter, as we joked mercilessly about what could only be categorized as a self-proclaimed attraction.

From there, we angled south in search of one of the two milk bottle buildings, formerly built by Frate’s. It was a long stretch from Ipswich to Raynham, but we were up for it. We got lucky because the other milk bottle is in New Bedford, which was about fifty miles further south. Unfortunately, the milk bottle keeps strange hours and was closed by 3:00 PM. So we cannot attest to the ice cream served up at the joint, but we definitely got some pictures. Maybe we’ll have better luck next time.

Photo: Keri Presents the Milk Bottle

Also, on the itinerary, however, was a quick jaunt for a Paul Bunyan sighting. Although not quite as impressive as we might have expected, it certainly was not “gumdrop,” which we had already coined as a euphemism for the aforementioned (insert air-quotes) bullshit! Although Paul was a little on the thin side, he was clearly sculpted from a single large tree, which I suppose is impressive enough. I guess, I for one, was expecting a much larger and intimidating Bunyan. Perhaps, that stems from my childhood, where I was regularly tortured by my uncle, who always threatened to feed me to, what seemed to me at that time, an enormous fiberglass Paul Bunyan that loomed over a used car dealership on Irving Park Boulevard, in Chicago. The mere sight of the thing terrified me for years, so much so I refused to look at it from the car as we would drive past it. My mother would warn me to close my eyes as we passed and tell me when the coast was clear. Of course it has long since been removed, but obviously the memory remains.

Photo: Ali with Paul Bunyan

In true Ali dedication, she tried to orchestrate as many roadside attractions as we could conveniently glimpse in a day, one which didn’t really get going until about lunch time. Better still, we were able to even hit the outlet mall at Wrentham, a destination Keri had planned to visit the following day. So everyone got a little fun out of the deal.

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