Tolkien wrote: “not all those who wander are lost.” Ed and Rachel Barnhart are this sentiment sprung to vivid life. When they retired in 2004, the intrepid RVers hooked up their Alfa Gold fifth wheel on a mission to see all that God created and man constructed…and find the best pizza in the USA. From the beaches of Seattle, Ed and Rachel set their sights on Maine. From there they would turn south toward the sunshine, only to be greeted by the worst Mother Nature had unleashed in decades. Undaunted, the Barnharts headed off into the sunset, through the southwest and across the Rio Grande to the shores of Mexico’s Sea of Cortez. From sea to shining sea and back again, all in their first year in the “Land of Awes.” In Chapter 11 Ed and Rachel explore Old Sturbridge and find a signature Chicago pizza in Massachusetts.
As early as Wisconsin we had seen evidence of the Amish, but we had no idea they had reserved parking at Wal Mart. As we searched for a spot big enough for our rig at the Ogdensburg store, we passed a horse and wagon waiting stoically in a space marked: “Reserved Parking for Horse and Carriage.” Wish they had that for “Truck and Fifth Wheel!”
Along the way we also passed other Amish selling goods on the roadside. At the first stop we met a polite but shy boy and girl selling baked goods out of their horse-drawn buggy. We purchased a loaf of bread, two bags of cookies and a raspberry pie. All were delicious! Further up the road we saw a man selling handmade baskets. These we resisted.
Scotti's Italian joint
A stop in Schenectady gave us another opportunity to renew our quest for the best pizza in America. While the truck was being serviced we discovered Scotti’s, a little family-run Italian joint that had been serving up the marinara for nearly four decades. “Mama Scotti” aka Vincenzia Sementilli, makes 15 to 20 gallons of marinara sauce each and every morning. Husband, Gaetano Sementilli and their kids help keep the place humming. The sauce is so good the locals come in with quart jars and ask Mama to “fill er up.” Fair warning – you have to request it on your pizza (it is one of the toppings). We did and it was amazing, a definite contender for top spot along with – so far – Pegasus Greek back in Washington and Gino’s East in Chicago.
While we are not living on a steady diet of pizza, during one stretch it had been a while since we’d noshed a nice pie, so Rachel entered into the “Unofficial Best in the US” competition. She whipped a pizza up in the toaster oven – which we affectionately call “Easy Bake – and it was phenomenal. Of course, given our small prejudice in the matter, we labeled the “Rachel Toaster Oven Special” a welcome diversion but not an official contender. With all of the South and Southwest yet to go, will anyone unseat Pegasus at the top spot? Only time – and miles on the tires – will tell.
After Schenectady, we stopped by the nearby town of Gloversville to catch the town band’s summer concert. An aside here…RVing definitely changes your perception of distance. Gloversville is about an hour north of Schenectady, but that’s “just around the corner” to us by now. Upon arrival we were greeted by torrential rain. The outdoor show had already been relocated to a local church. We tracked them down and, a bit soggy, found spots inside for the performance.
The musicians and music selections were great! They played a couple of Sousa marches, some Broadway medleys, a few somber numbers and finished off with a Mozart piece. It might have been a bit of borrowed RVer delight, but it was exhilarating when we realized we were listening to “New York, New York” in New York. The band is made up of all ages, school kids to adults into their later years. The conductor is the former Gloversville High School Band director. As we excited the church, the weather, as if sensing the mood, greeted all of us with a spectacular rainbow.
After the concert in Gloversville we departed New York for East Brookfield, Massachusetts. We spent the first day there reassessing our “travel needs.” Eventually we mailed over 100 pounds of books and excess clothing to friends and family to store until our return to Wenatchee in the spring. When getting started, you always think you are traveling light, until, you learn what that really means. After a few months in the RV, I understand how Rick Steves can get all over Europe with just a backpack.
Sturbridge Print Shop
Our second day in Massachusetts we toured Old Sturbridge, a reconstructed circa-1820 village. The town was actually recreated using vintage buildings – homes, businesses and barns moved to the area and refurbished. Today you can visit an entire working village. There are stores, taverns, a print shop, a weaver, a blacksmith, a sawmill, a gristmill, a farm, a school, a meetinghouse, a bank, a glassmaker and a bevy of houses typical of the time. Costumed docents stroll the town welcoming visitors and are available at each exhibit to answer questions. Over two days we learned a considerable amount of what went into making the barter economy of this village operate. We also witnessed lumber being cut at the mill, grain being ground,
a blacksmith forging a chain and many other displays of authentic village life.
One of the most interesting displays at Old Sturbridge was the glass blowing. Not just decorative, the artisans here also explained how windowpanes were made in the 18th and early 19th centuries. Something that came as a bit of a surprise to us, but made sense later, was learning that the majority of trees in this part of New England date from no later than 1849. The old growth virgin forests encountered by colonists were burned or clear-cut to create fields. Rocks were piled to mark property lines and the few remaining trees were left near homes to provide shade. The trees began a comeback by virtue of the 1849 gold rush when many subsistence farmers abandoned failing crops to strike it rich in the gold fields of California.
Activities and educational programs in Old Sturbridge are seasonal, so visit www.osv.org for times, prices and other information. Old Sturbridge is located at 1 Old Sturbridge Village Road in Massachusetts, 01566. Call 1.800.733.1830 for hours and admission rates.
Rachel in Sturbridge
After leaving Old Sturbridge we passed a shopping mall near East Brookfield and saw a Pizzeria Uno. The one pie we had been too full to try while in Chicago was calling to us in Massachusetts! Considering it a sign as well as an invitation, we returned that evening for dinner. We ordered and dove into authentic Deep Dish Bliss. While it felt a bit odd enjoying a Chicago original in Massachusetts, Pizzeria Uno certainly travels well! This singular Pie had edged above all other contenders to mount a serious challenge to the Pegasus Greek masterpiece. For now, our Pizza Pie Title Fight card is set…but what new culinary delights and cultural wonders will our journey south reveal?
Read previous chapters by selecting one of the links below:
Chapter 11 – Marches, Mozart and Mozzarella
Chapter 10 – Loving Life on the Road
Chapter 9 – Picturesque Settings & Police Surveillance
Chapter 8 – Erie Museums and Niagara Mist
Chapter 7 – The Amish and Edison
Chapter 6 – Dutch Treats and Bavarian Festivals
Chapter 5 – Two American Icons – Miller Beer and Chicago Pizza
Chapter 4 – Touring the Twin Cities
Chapter 3 – Discovering Middle America
Chapter 2 – A Trip Around the Sun
Chapter 1 – Pacific in the Rearview, We Wave Goodbye