You know when you’re driving into southeastern Massachusetts because the land flattens out as you move into the south coastal plain. The Wisconsinan glaciation ground off any protrusions from the underlying metamorphic bedrock, and when it retreated, the land it left behind always appears to me quite a bit flatter than the landscape further north and west.
You see a different mix of trees along the highway, too. This morning as I drove down to New Bedford from Watertown, once I got fairly into the coastal plain, I noticed many more red oaks along the side of the road. They stand out at this time of the year because they are still holding onto their leaves; and the red oak leaves are a particularly brilliant shade of red this year; in some of the trees I could see almost none of the usual brownish tinge to the leaves. The leaves glowed cranberry red in the early morning sun.
I saw just one or two trucks parked along the highway this morning, compared to the half a dozen two weeks ago. Maybe it was because I was driving down a little later in the morning, or maybe it’s because the most of the hunters have bagged their season limit of pheasant and quail and grouse.
You pass the sign that says, “Entering the Buzzard’s Bay watershed: Communities connected by water,” and it’s pretty much all downhill, literally, from there. The traffic is significantly lighter by that point. Even at eight in the morning, there’s plenty of traffic along interstate 93 heading south out of Boston. But by the time I got onto state route 24, around nine o’clock, there were times when I could only see one other car on the highway.
I pulled into downtown New Bedford at quarter past nine. Downtown is pretty empty on weekends at this time of year; the malls along route 6 in north Dartmouth have sucked most of the retail traffic away from here. I got a parking place right in front of the door to our apartment. Later, I walked up to the pharmacy two blocks up the hill. The trees along William Street are sheltered, and still have a few green leaves. I saw a few people. I passed one a man who looked somewhat the worse for wear; he was softly talking to himself, let out a loud belch, chuckled to himself in satisfaction. The other people I passed were just quietly going about their morning errands, headed to the newstand or the pharmacy or Cafe Arpeggio, hunched into their coats against the cold, the coldest morning yet this fall. I took care of my errand at the pharmacy, and headed back home to make a pot of hot tea.