School had just let out for the summer. I had nothing to worry about and nothing to do. Because ten, yes ten glorious weeks of “Saturdays” lay ahead. With the exception of just one.
From my diary entry June 22, 1973 Pittsfield, Massachusetts
“We’re going to the Cape to see Uncle Jimmy and Aunt Bev…can’t wait!!.”
Normally, our family did a few day trips from June through August. Destinations included Onota Lake, Pontoosuc Lake, State Forest and if we were really lucky, the Catskill Game Farm in New York. But this time, we were going to venture 199 miles east to visit my aunt and uncle who had recently moved to Harwich in Cape Cod.
With my dad at the helm, my mom took her place beside him up front. My older brother and I got first dibs on where we’d like to sit. Of course, we chose the way back. Who wouldn’t? Our blue Ford Station wagon was stuffed with sleeping bags and duffle bags, but we managed to carve out a space so we could scope license plates…and actually breathe. My younger sister and brother stretched out on the back seat, each having a window to themselves.
While my dad was the driver, my mom was our Global Positioning System. She held the handwritten directions my uncle dictated to her over the phone just a few nights earlier. My dad felt confident that it was a straight shot from the Mass Turnpike Route 91 East to Interstate Route 495 South then to Route 6 over the Bourne Bridge, then Route 124 to Exit 82. Estimated time of travel: 3 hours and 28 minutes… give or take a little time for bathroom breaks. The only heads up my uncle gave was to not end up in Buzzard’s Bay. All I knew about buzzards were they were also called vultures and they were predatory. All I could imagine was huge “committee”of black buzzards eating carcasses along a bay on an outstretched beach.
Outside of Springfield in Wilbraham, we made our first pit stop. There we were encouraged to use the restroom, even if we didn’t need to. On the turnpike once more, the heat and humidity began to rise. Rolling down our windows, we welcomed in the buffeting wind, the smell of gasoline and the sounds emanating from cars whizzing by.
Everything was going along splendidly. My mom even turned on the radio and tuned into Casey Kasem’s American Top 40! We listened to it every Sunday and that day was no exception. When Paul Simon came on singing “Kodachrome” my sister started to laugh. She thought Paul Simon was odd looking and we teased each other about being in love with him. I’m not sure who started it, but we ended up with a picture of him, cut out of a magazine. It became a joke to hide him and see where he’d pop up. Once I found him in my shoe and another time she found him under her pillow. That day, I remember singing along with the Three Dog Night and Jim Croce as we journeyed easily on. With about 40 minutes left to go, we came upon a rotary. Confusing with the circular roads and traffic moving swiftly, we must have made the wrong turn. Because soon after that we saw a sign up ahead. It read, “Welcome to Buzzards Bay!”