My gracious hosts during my visit to Cambridge, NY were Farrah and Dave Dobbins, who moved to the area only about a year ago, and were running the motel for only three weeks when I turned up. (In fact, they told me I was the first to reserve a room with their new online booking system.)
Farrah and Dave sold two businesses in their home state of Colorado (Dave originally hailing from Missouri), packed up their belongings and daughters, and moved to a farm just over the border from Cambridge in Vermont. They had a vision of operating a Christmas tree farm, which they’re doing, but they needed a way to generate income while the tree business matures. Just then, the motel called to them. A roofer was at work while I was there — the first of the renovations Farrah and Dave are planning.
Farrah sat down with me to talk about their move and Cambridge.
How would you describe Cambridge?
I think if I had to describe Cambridge, I would say it is a quaint and friendly and rural upstate New York town. A lot of people I know grew up here, and a lot of them told me that, when they were in high school, they wanted to leave, but then, once they started their family, they wanted to come back. So I would say that it’s a great town to raise a family and to plant roots. I also think it’s a town that, once you’re an outsider, you’re maybe always kind of an outsider. I mean, I’ll never be from Cambridge. I think for a long time I’ll always be the new person. Not in a bad way. There are people who generations of their family have been here. It’s a place that people come back to.
Farrah told me that their move from Colorado was prompted by wanting a lifestyle change. The first seed of interest in a Christmas tree farm was planted more than five years ago when they read about one in Maine. After a few zigs and zags as they figured out the right next step, they found Cambridge and loved it. They also appreciated its proximity to Albany, from which they can fly back to Colorado to visit family.
The farm and the motel aren’t even their only occupations right now. They’ve also been working on real estate photography (which is what first led them to the motel). And then there’s the running of the household — their daughters were at the motel when I arrived, but soon were ferried off home having finished a morning at basketball camp.
I imagined that most of the motel business would come from seasonal activities — foliage in the fall, snow sports in the winter, etc. Farrah said that wasn’t really the case (though someone called, while we were talking, to book a room for his fishing trip). Instead, the motel keeps busy with regulars (folks originally from Cambridge who come back to the area to see family) and crews of laborers (road repair crews, tree pruning teams who maintain power lines, for example). The motel also regularly sees guests attending local barn-based weddings, and it housed the pilots for the 2019 balloon festival. Farrah hopes, ultimately, to draw more visitors from other cities.
Farrah, Dave, and I very briefly discussed the political environment in our respective Cambridges. While I mentioned Cambridge, MA’s strong left-lean, they said they found Cambridge, NY to include a diversity of views, more so than Fort Collins, CO, their previous home.
My conversation with Farrah was perfect for framing my interactions with other folks during the rest of my short trip to Cambridge, NY. I appreciated her perspective as an outsider who is now an insider. And plus, both she and Dave were very generous in making time to chat with me and pose for a few photos.