WILLIAMSTOWN — With a forecast calling for high temperatures to nudge 90, a long-planned visit to friends on Cape Cod last week seemed to be perfectly timed.
Looking forward to exchanging air conditioning for sea breezes, we loaded the car and headed east over familiar roads. Some of these, notably the Mohawk Trail, have undergone many changes over the years while retaining the essence of their charms. The trail’s lush greenery and spectacular views at journey’s outset and the slightly muted kitsch of Route 28 near its end are geographic talismans of a great vacation. In between, however, such clues are harder to come by.
On June 22, just west of Orange on Route 2, construction forced the temporary closure of the eastbound lanes of the road. A well-marked detour brought drivers to the end of an off-ramp, where a considerably smaller sign directed traffic to the right.
For several miles, we traveled along a pleasant country road but we didn’t spot any helpful signs re: the detour. On we drove until it became clear that we’d missed something.
After thorough consultation over the wording of a request for help from a smart phone’s GPS, our appeal was carefully enunciated into its delicate “ear.” We were rewarded with a confident-sounding command to execute a U-turn, and we headed back the way we came.
As we approached the Route 2 east on-ramp, which was temporarily closed with orange cones, the GPS warned that a left turn would be required to regain Route 2 east. This advisory was greeted with derision. Curses were heaped upon the GPS system and its electronic heirs, assigns, antecedents and descendants to remain in force forever and for all time.
We drove on, cooled off and concluded that the GPS hadn’t gotten the memo. Still, in case it had since been delivered by one of several drivers whom we’d seen pulled over near the ramp, red-faced and bellowing into Blue Tooth, we tried again.
“In 1,000 feet, turn right onto Route 2 …” was cut off mid-sentence and we pulled yet another U and drove to a convenience store we’d spotted. There, a resident of the area directed us to another road, some miles distant, that eventually gave onto Route 2 east and our journey continued without incident. Until the ride home.
A decision to treat ourselves to a harborside lunch in Hyannis occasioned an unfamiliar approach to that town, along the route of which was a newly installed rotary.
I joined the circular parade of vehicles and looked in vain for a sign directing traffic to “Hyannis Center,” or, perhaps, “Ferry Docks.” There were no such signs. Barnstable was well represented, as was Provincetown, Boston and Plymouth, but Hyannis – perhaps because the designers figured that since the rotary was, presumably, in Hyannis, such guidance could be omitted.
I composed a mental note to the state’s road sign consultants, a mythical firm I named Athol & Marblehead (also an old joke’s names for two former governors of Massachusetts), to the effect that it would have been helpful to include it.
I picked what turned out to be the correct exit off the rotary (my late aunt Anne called them “rotisseries”) and we were soon celebrating our good fortune with a plate of fresh, raw oysters from Wellfleet (which wasn’t on the signs either.)
Back home, we read The Eagle’s account of a public hearing concerning the placement of a rotary at the Five Corners intersection in South Williamstown. From here, it looks like a sensible safety measure, long overdue at one of the town’s most dangerous intersections.
We’ll just have to keep a close eye on those sign-writers.