By JAMES PENTLAND
Published: 4/30/2023 1:00:45 PM
CHESTERFIELD — As Beth Sobiloff settled into the front passenger seat of a custom-made dryland dog sled, the barking of the team of Alaskan huskies reached a crescendo.
Moments later, they were off, Marla Brodsky driving from the rear, flying up the woodland trail, the dogs finally free to race.
“I’m all splattered with mud,” Sobiloff said with a laugh after returning safely from the brief sled ride.
The adventure at Brodsky’s Hilltown Sleddogs was all part of Two Grannies on the Road, in which Sobiloff, 73, and Marcia Rothwell, 80, explore Massachusetts, have adventures with the people they meet, and film the results for cable access TV stations in several states and their own YouTube channel.
Last week, the pair took a two-day tour through the hilltowns, visiting Chester, Worthington and Chesterfield for a varied slate of experiences including a horse and carriage ride, seeing sights such as the Keystone Arches and Chesterfield Gorge, visiting Worthington artist Lindsey Molyneux and her driftwood sculptures, and sleeping next to a train museum.
“We slept in a 100-year-old caboose, with trains coming by all night,” Sobiloff said.
“I never realized a caboose was so large,” Rothwell said. Both women said they thoroughly enjoyed the experience, despite the interruptions to sleep.
Sobiloff, a 1972 Smith College graduate who now lives in Plymouth, said she had the idea for the project a number of years back after her youngest child graduated from college.
“I was bemoaning the fact I never got to travel the country with the kids in an RV,” she recalled.
As a self-employed web designer, Sobiloff realized she could do that from anywhere and possibly combine work and play. She told a friend of hers, a graphic designer named Ginny Just, who loved the idea. Just created a logo for the venture and Sobiloff set up a website.
To begin with, the show involved interviewing retirees who had reinvented themselves. Since Just stepped down, Sobiloff has enlisted a few different traveling companions, including Debbie Thelen, with whom she hatched a plan to visit every town in Massachusetts. Thelen moved to Florida last year, then Sobiloff met Rothwell.
“Marcia is my third second granny,” Sobiloff said.
While pursuing their dream of traveling, exploring and meeting new people, the Grannies say “they hope to inspire others to think outside the box and pursue their dreams, because it’s never too late.”
The two do everything for their show themselves — planning the itinerary, taking the film footage, editing and producing it.
“We’re the hosts, editors and directors,” Sobiloff said. “Someday we’re going to have a posse of grannies.”
One rule of thumb, she said, is that it takes an hour of editing for each minute of final footage. At the moment, Sobiloff said, she still has eight shows to edit. She has her day job, and the Grannies don’t get paid, although they’re working on soliciting sponsorships.
“I’ll post little clips (from unedited shows) every day on Facebook,” Sobiloff said.
Visiting an average of a couple of towns a month, the Grannies now have more than 50 towns under their belts. In early April, they took part in Athol’s River Rat Race (they visited neighboring Orange last year).
“We find the Facebook forums for the towns, ask for help on what to do, where to eat,” Sobiloff said. “We get to places that aren’t in the travel guides. We always contact the historical society and make time to find out the history.”
The itinerary for the year is loosely mapped out, but it’s flexible, Sobiloff said.
“Last fall we went out to the Berkshires for four days (in the recreational vehicle they bought two years ago). We’ll do that again,” she said.
Though she confesses she had never heard of the Hilltowns, Sobiloff said she had fond memories of her time as a student in Northampton.
“We just had our 50th reunion last year,” she said. “We couldn’t leave without going to Miss Flo’s.”
As the Grannies keep up their relentless touring schedule, their fame continues to spread.
“A guy came up to us when we were in Shrewsbury and asked if we were the Two Grannies,” Rothwell said. “He said ‘I follow you.’ And he was from California!”
More information can be found at twogranniesontheroad.com.