Saturday in Sandwich
I gots a host of errands done yesterday, and didn’t make it as far down today’s list, but the vitals got done, anyway. A little of that consisted of hopping on the Raleigh to take some snaps for this post, and a combination of exploring and food shopping at the local downtown store, Art’s Foodmarket. It’s in the “old downtown” which dates back to the Civil War as far as significant buildings go. Sandwich’s downtown hasn’t suffered from the ongoing coma as much as many others, maybe because it’s just a block from Route 34 that passes through it. 34 is just a two-lane, so the plaza and mini-mall buildup along it is limited. It’s obvious from looking at the businesses that, since 34 ran so close to the railroad tracks in Sandwich, that the original Church Street/34 roadway was simply absorbed into the town early on.
To be sure, there are more than enough closed signs and empty buildings scattered throughout downtown Sandwich. A few shops are still in the process of closing. It’s a shame of course, especially since many of the empties are assorted sizes of vintage brick buildings dating way back, and yet they are still in exemplary condition. They’re charming. Many small, rural towns have had their downtowns become virtual ghost districts, like Darien, Wisconsin. Many have a decimated air about them. There are newer buildings here along 34 of course, but even there, Sandwich seems to have resisted the frenetic urge to mindlessly tear down and replace with something glossy.
Sandwich is almost startling, in its own way. Yep, it’s hit hard, but there’s no lingering scent of dismay here, not as far as I’ve been able to pick up. Many towns list “friendly people” on their mission statements, but Sandwich omits that and just has them. All over. Pedaling in to town, I was surprised that 100% of the drivers going opposite me on side streets either waved or nodded to me. So far, some isolated areas of Wickenburg, Arizona approach that, simply because the only folks who would be out there must live there or be visiting someone who lives there. No such assumption in Sandwich, because I was dressed as an out-of-town character: VW T-shirt, sun hat, shorts, world-famous sandals and white socks, on a mountain bike, and with a camera slung over my back. Who waves to visiting strangers these days, especially weird-looking ones?
Then after loading – overloading, really – at Art’s, I had the Raleigh heaped with maybe 30 pounds or more of food in its milk crate rear basket and hanging from the handlebars. I was getting it set so perhaps it wouldn’t tip over while I let go of it and returned my cart back to the store entryway. Boom, another customer about to get in her car appeared and offered to take the cart back for me, out of pity, maybe. or she might have figured, yep, that baby’s gonna flip as soon as he walks away. Bottom line: you’ll find a healthy pile of people here who still have that operating core of values that originally built and sustained the town. It’s kind of a “we” thing, and they include people who are there for just a while, too. It’s an endearing trait for a town to have, breaking out of the “try not to get involved” outlook that’s become so fashionable over the years.
As a campsite town, Sandwich is a clear winner by any measure. The fairgrounds campsite itself is a bargain for what you get, and it’s perhaps half a mile from downtown – a very easy walk. Art’s Foodmarket, much like the local Ace hardware store, is much larger on the inside than it looks from the outside. They have everything, if you don’t require the eclectic. That is, the organic food count is approximately zero, which is not surprising in a small Midwest farm town. You get what you get and like it. But you can get quite a bit, and prices are quite good. I’m heavy into produce, which has cut my “head for town and shop” boycotts from every 2-3 weeks to once-a-week. Being so close to Art’s is going to reduce that even further, most likely. I found myself automatically stocking up on items out of habit, when there’s absolutely no need at this location. Thus the overload. Same for getting clean laundry. The laundromat is right downtown too, so there’s no need to amass a huge pile and then drive. I can bike it in on a more frequent basis, which takes up more time, technically, but avoids running the truck for micro-trips, which is not at all good for it.
The other benefit of staying here is that if what you need isn’t in Sandwich, Plano is a scant few miles down the road. Plano is larger. If Plano still doesn’t do it for you, the odds are that Yorkville will. That begins to get into an actual drive, but not too badly. There’s a Ford dealer here in town, though they aren’t equipped to do any serious work on diesel pickups. I believe they can do the 60K-mile servicing that’s needed, though.
I was looking for the photo of the weird stranger in town???? The City Hall building is a beauty. Seems like you can enjoy about any place. I want cactus out my front door, but that’s just me.
I was just snapping some photos of cactus in bloom this afternoon! I went for a hike up along the ridge over town and also saw hawks and a cute little rattlesnake up there. Wonderful stuff.
Cute little rattlesnake? That, I’m not missing here.
Why look for photos when you’ve seen him in person, in all his glory? What’s great about travel is the choice of view, isn’t it? I eventually get to look out at huge boulders, or trees, grassy meadows, cacti, bare earth, mountains, plains, semi-trailers or other RVs. 😦
They used to have a lot of antique shops.It a nice little town there. No shade where you are camped? I have to have shade as I have no air.
Well Linda, they do still have antique shops aplenty, but no shade at the fairgrounds parking proper.
Traveling off the freeways through the small and dying midwest towns was my mode of travel during my nomadic travel days. I am enjoying your photos and words about a life off the freeway. Keep it up.
Thank you Lloyd, and good to hear from you again. When I head west again in a couple of months, I’ll still be transporting from A to B promptly, but after that, I will be rethinking my long-distance travel mode.
Great post Doug, it both gives unusually deep insight and also captures the feeling of the life energy of a functional small American town.
Thank you, Rod. Just noting down my perceptions and when, certain kinds of events gather, it’s hard to ignore them.