If you leave Ipswich Center and drive west, here’s some friendly advice.
First of all, just driving west from Ipswich Center, I realize, is scary for a lot of Ipswich residents, especially those in Precinct 1 who still think Ipswich ends at Marini Farm. And for those who live within walking distance of Five Corners and think Ipswich ends at Route 1. It may also be scary for those who grew up with those creepy bedtime stories about Yetis living on outer Linebrook. (It was mean of your mother to tell you those stories, true or not.)
But let’s say you’re feeling especially brave. Or maybe you’re one of those people who refuses to acknowledge fear at all — in which case you’re probably doing great digesting CNN these days. So you head out of Ipswich Center driving west. Eventually you’ll cross Route 1 between Wolf Hill and Cumby’s. (Yes! Surprise! Planet Outer Linebrook has its own Cumby’s.) Keep driving west on Linebrook, and you’ll soon find yourself in the deep, dark woods.
This is where you’re going to need my advice.
This advice will also apply to people who already live in the outer Linebrook area — people who think of themselves as rugged pioneers, living out in the wilderness, but who secretly take solace in the fact that the Route 1 Cumby’s is their lifeline during blizzards.
So, in any case, you’re heading west on outer Linebrook Road. Why? I don’t know. It’s not the time of year to be launching your kayak at Hood Pond Beach (which is a “beach” according to the sign, but is actually a tilted slab of concrete charitably misnamed a “beach”). So you’re heading west on outer Linebrook Road because you use a dry cleaner in Topsfield. Who could blame you? If you live on Planet Outer Linebrook, the closest dry cleaner is in Topsfield. Or maybe you’re going to visit a drinking buddy in Boxford. (You know who you are.)
In any case, for whatever reason, you’re heading west on outer Linebrook Road. If you look on a map, you’ll see that you’re heading to that place where Ipswich ultimately narrows to a point, that final resting place where Ipswich finally gives up the ghost and becomes someplace else: Topsfield, if you suddenly see a Yeti and lose control of your vehicle and careen off the road to the left; or Boxford, if your brakes fail you and you hurtle to your doom off to the right. Just for example, I mean.
But enough setting of the stage. Here’s the critically important advice you’re going to need for this journey, if you intend to arrive at your destination safely, Yetis notwithstanding. Because the closer you get to Hood Pond, the more potholes you’re going to encounter.
Please understand: I point this out only as a public service, not as a complaint. I revere the Ipswich pothole-fixer gods. They work dreadfully hard, they work awful hours, they often work in wretched weather, they do important work. But they have not, at this writing, had an opportunity to tackle the topographical nightmare, the asphalt moonscape, the concave mountain range that this winter’s blizzards turned the Hood Pond neighborhood into. Until they do — and again, let me be clear, I know the pothole gods will ultimately turn this stretch of road into an absolute work of art — you will need to fend for yourself.
Have no fear. The Outsidah is here for you. I can give you at least six essential insights into the challenge of navigating Planet Outer Linebrook during pothole season.
- After you bend left at the old Linebrook Cemetery, you’ll need to start paying closer attention to the road. I mean what used to be the road. Soon you’ll find that significant portions of what used to be the road are now, uh, air. Steer your vehicle around these portions of the ex-road.
- The further you go toward 97, the more you may experience unexpected audio sensations. These are echoes. Ignore them. Sound waves are reverberating off the walls of particularly deep and wide potholes.
- If you have an idea to create a tourist attraction, where people pay $12 to stand there and say something and hear the pothole repeat it back to them in a spooky tone of voice, please don’t. By the time you get a new-business permit from the Town of Ipswich, the pothole gods will have filled in your cash cow.
- The dense foliage of outer Linebrook may lead to confusion. The mottled shadows will make some potholes difficult to spot in time to keep your vehicle from plunging to its doom in them. I suggest creeping at a snail’s pace into and out of each and every oblong-shaped shadow, just in case it happens to be a mammoth cave-sized pothole.
- Please stay tuned in to your vehicle’s thermostat. You may need to adjust for unexpected temperature fluctuations. Outer Linebrook potholes are now so vast that some form their own climate systems. Our recent unseasonably warm weather has been largely due to what meteorologists now refer to as the Pothole El Niño. (So many joyous wintertime motorcyclists have fallen into one especially enormous pothole near Pillowlace Lane that they’ve formed their own local government and are now petitioning to set up their own town. I understand former Ipswich selectman and avid motorcyclist Pat McNally is hoping to be their first-ever Town Moderator, if not Emperor.)
- The occasional inappropriately aggressive entrepreneur may set up shop in heavy-pothole areas. DO NOT SLOW DOWN on outer Linebrook Road for unsavory-looking people waving handmade signs that say things like “Hubcaps Found and Re-Mounted” or “Lost Your Mini Cooper? We Can Help!” These people will just rip you off.
So that’s my advice. Drive safe. If you’re still nervous, drive east.