The Road to Hobart

I’ll go a long way to talk about Beyond Beowulf so when a friend told me about Hobart, New York, I went there. You may not have heard of Hobart, “Victorian Gem of the West Branch,” but it advertises itself as “Book Village” by virtue of half a dozen books stores in and around the village. It’s mostly used books and one store is “antiquarian” (books need to be at least a century old to qualify).

Occasionally they have author events and recently I was included. It’s about a hundred miles from Sharon to Hobart and MapQuest provided detailed instructions. MapQuest has an extensive knowledge of obscure byways. Not that Hobart is on the more traveled routes, but MapQuest found the less traveled ones. Did you know that New York State has a Route 990V? It’s in the Catskills and MapQuest recommends it. So do I. Following MapQuest’s twists and turns took me along roads through the Catskill Mountains that, like the road Alan Paton describes in Cry the Beloved Country, are “beautiful beyond any singing of it.”

For days the weather prognosticators had been publishing alarming accounts of Hurricane Ernesto and predicting that wind and rain would cause havoc on the date of my visit to Hobart. They were wrong. Some wind there was and a bit of light rain, but nothing at all alarming. On the other hand there were spectacular clouds hanging low on the mountains. And views! How would you get any work done if you happened to live along Route 990V or County Route 20 or South Gilboa Road? If you looked up for a moment, how could you look away?

And then there’s the sheer wonder of traveling through new country and realizing that many people live in places you had never heard of. Live there and express themselves in highly individual ways. The sign for “Hadry Mums” puzzled me briefly and then delighted me. And I was glad to come by signs for the “Zoom Flume Water Park.” I liked the place also where someone had piled mattresses along the road – six or eight piles of six or eight mattresses each – and marked them “FREE.” I didn’t need a mattress, but I wish I had had time to stop at the Durham Center Museum or the Gilboa Museum. I would have liked to explore Moaning Meadow Road or Shook Road but MapQuest directed me to go straight at those corners. It seemed best also not to turn on “Lost Road.”

And then there was the “Hamlet of East Durham” which seems to be an outpost of Ireland. It has an Irish Gift Shop and an Irish Sports Centre and Shamrock House and Darby’s Irish Pub. The local Roman Catholic Church is Our Lady of Knock. Side roads included “O’Brien Road” and “Sullivan Road” and there were motels owned by the Hogans and the McGraths. Shamrocks were a frequent element in all the signage.

With such distractions, it’s a wonder I got to Hobart at all. But I did, and I recommend it. Nice people and interesting stores. I even sold a few books. And bought a few too. If you like books, you’ll love Hobart. Check it out on MapQuest and leave time to enjoy the scenery as well!

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