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Ipswich is Just Around the Corner – Isn’t it?

     Should’ve asked for a car with GPS. But then…

     The arrow on the sign pointed toward a blacktop road that left Route U.S. 1 heading east, toward the coast. The plane had brought us to Rhode Island. The rental car brought us to Massachusetts and here we were, drinking in the glories of fall in New England that hadn’t quite gloried yet but were only beginning to turn.

     But that’s okay. I never was crazy about the autumnal oranges and browns and yellows – maybe the reds. I kind of liked the reds… Besides, fall always meant school, the end of summer and too long until my favorite season - winter! Snowballs and blizzards! Frozen fingertips balled up inside snow-crusted mittens…

     The sign with the arrow said Ipswich. We were looking to stop for pie and coffee, but we hadn’t seen a single restaurant on Route U.S. 1, so when we saw the turnoff to Ipswich, we hardly paused. Sure! Let’s have pie and coffee in Ipswich!

     Well, here in California when you turn off the freeway to stop for pie and coffee, you’d better hit your brakes as soon as you leave the exit or you’ll zoom right past the restaurant. So, although we couldn’t see the restaurant for the trees, we knew that Ipswich would be right around the corner.

     It wasn’t. There were really nice homes on either side of the road, sitting regally on gently curved lawns and surrounded by leafy trees.  This must be the outskirts of town. As we drove through the outskirts, the houses grew smaller and fewer. The woods grew taller and thicker. Did we miss Ipswich?

     We couldn’t have. We didn’t take the wrong turn. There were no signs saying “Ipswich – the other way.” There was no other way.

     We drove on. Four miles later we heard the buzz of chain saws in the distance. Civilization! We must be near town. Finally.

     A trio of road maintenance workers sporting autumnal orange on their caps and work vests waved as we drove carefully around their barriers. I could taste the lightly cinnamoned apple pie. Or blueberry. Or lemon meringue… Because I knew – I just knew - Ipswich was just around the corner.

     It wasn’t. A mile down the road we crossed the Ipswich River and continued our stubborn search for the town.

     I spotted it first. “We’re here!”

     There was not a humanly constructed edifice in sight. But the sign said: Ipswich Town Limits. So we were here and the town proper would be right around the corner.

     It wasn’t. Two miles later, I was told in a most definite tone - Five more miles. That was it. If there was no Ipswich after five miles, we would turn around and go back to Route 1.

     Exactly six miles later we arrived in the center of Ipswich. It was only two blocks long and I forget what all was there – but I remember exactly what wasn’t. I’ll bet you can, too…

     We were barely out of Ipswich, looking for a place to turn around, when we saw the sign: Junction - U.S. 1. Meaning if we’d had GPS in our rental car, we would’ve taken this exit and landed squarely in the center of Ipswich. No meandering drive through the woods and across the river and to grandmother’s - oops. But there still wouldn’t have been any pie and coffee.

     Five days later I spied a small book, “Ipswich: Stories from the River’s Mouth,” at the Massachusetts Information Center. I couldn’t resist. Twenty bucks I spent! The stories, set in colonial times, are all about witches, demons, lighthouses, secrets, the goodwives, pillow lace, boats and fires. There’s not one single story about pie and coffee.

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