The Bay State’s Sparkling Southwest

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July 3, 2019, Great Barrington-

In all the years I lived in the Bay State, even when I was in attendance at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, there were areas to which I never quite made it for a visit.  One is the region of the Berkshire Hills that lies south of the Massachusetts Turnpike.

This morning, as I drove from Poughkeepsie, through Connecticut’s Taconic Hills and into the state of my birth, the opportunity to spend a bit of time in the southern Berkshires, entering at Sheffield and stopping for lunch at Egremont Market/Mom’s Cafe.

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I enjoyed half of my sandwich at a picnic table, outside by Hubbard Brook, which is hidden by a lush forest.  The New England and Mid-Atlantic states have a fabulous forest cover, surprising to some-given the density of population between Boston and Richmond, or Charlotte, for that matter.  I never once, growing up in the Boston area, felt at a loss, when I needed a forest break.

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As I was finishing my meal, a man who was through-hiking a section of the Appalachian Trail, that he had previously missed, sat briefly at the next table. As we conversed, he mentioned needing a ride to the Post Office in Great Barrington, the largest town in the southern Berkshires, so as to pick up his mail from General Delivery. Samuel seemed a pleasant sort, hailing from Houston, so I agreed to take him up to GB.

His tips could be useful, should I ever follow the long-distance hiking option, one of three post-retirement routes I’m considering.  Certainly, a series of General Delivery boxes eliminates a major impediment to such travel.

After dropping Samuel off near the Post Office, I took a few minutes to pick up a replacement for an implement that had broken, earlier this journey, and took a few photos of Great Barrington’s downtown.

Here is St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church.  Up the street, in the background, is First Congregational Church.

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First Congregational is better seen below.

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There is much that would lend itself to a longer stay in the southern Berkshires, but for now, I must head to the town of my childhood and youth.  Besides, it’s hot and my passenger side window is not working right.

NEXT:  Reflections on A Holiday Weekend, “Back Home”

 

Open-ended

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June 11, 2019-

Back at Home Base, for a couple of days.  I find peace has returned to some parts of my life which had been in upheaval, just before I went up to Bellemont.  A friend who was mildly irritated with me has reached out and it’s all good.  A person who was livid at my very presence, last summer, was gracious and helpful, this evening.  Time does heal wounds, without necessarily having to wound heels.

I had a nice conversation with my next-to-youngest brother, whose birthday is today.  He’s one of the stars in my life- a man who has overcome serious odds to successfully lead a team of Research & Development pros, for a small Boston-area company.

My hometown, so far, is the only solid East Coast venue on my upcoming journey, and it is by far the most important-Mom is there and a couple of childhood friends have been hurting.  In between, there are several friends and family, across the Southwest and South, and a few feelers have gone out-so we’ll see how it plays out.  This year, I’m told, it’s especially crucial to be open-ended and let the road lead.

There will be time, after my New England visit, for Chicago, the Great Plains, Rockies and Great Basin, en route to the other solid venue of the summer, a dear little girl’s stage debut.   The road will lead.

This will be, as things stand now, my last coast-to-coast road trip wholly within the continental U.S.- save a possible run out to Florida, over the Christmas-New Year’s break.  Summer, 2020 will focus on the Pacific Northwest, southeast Alaska, Trans-Canada and back across the northern tier of states.  After that comes retirement, and time with my little family and with friends in other parts of the world.  These, too, are open-ended and the road will lead.

Sixty-Six for Sixty Six, Part XXIV: The “First Home” Coast

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April 17, 2017, Prescott-   Last, but never least, on my recap of what has mattered most to me, in jaunts around the contiguous United States, are the special places that are on, or within a few hours of, the Atlantic Coast.

I’m a native of Massachusetts, so the places and people of Boston and the North Shore have had the most direct influence on the me that you see.  My special places in Saugus are still the Ironworks (now Saugus Ironworks National Historic Site), Breakheart Reservation, the Marsh (near where my middle brother lives) and anywhere along the old rail path, now a Rails to Trails hiking and biking route.  Kowloon and Prince Spaghetti House are still around; Hilltop Steak House and Augustine’s Italian Restaurant are not.

Lynn and Nahant still mean The Beach, and as a teen, I went to Fireplace 10, as that was where Saugus kids hung together.  The evening before I was to ship out for VietNam, I was with two of my mates at The Beach.  A rent-a-cop wanted to haul me in, for “being bombed”. I had had two sips of a 12-0z. can of Budweiser.  His sergeant heard my story of being about to head for the war zone, and let us go, with the comment, “Next time I see YOU here, is a year from now, right?”  “Yes, sir.”

There are almost as many beaches, along the Coast, as there are rent-a-cops.  Crane’s Beach was the site of one of my part-time jobs, after the Army.  Yep, I was a rent-a-cop.  I tried to arrest an Ipswich Selectman (town councilman) for being drunk and disorderly.  Guess how that worked out.  My favourite beach is still Hampton, NH- it had the biggest waves, when I was a kid.  Salem, Marblehead, Newburyport  and all of Cape Ann (Gloucester area) are my favourite seaport towns.  Gloucester House and Woodman’s (Essex) are fave seafood places, with Kelly’s, in Saugus, good as well, especially for take-out.

The rest of New England certainly has featured prominently, from childhood, on.  The White Mountains and Cape Cod were yearly fixtures of our family summers.  Martha’s Vineyard and Block Island were places where I got my toes wet, in terms of ferry trips and island adventures.  I didn’t get up to Maine much, except to Aunt Marie’s dairy farm, in Eliot, just over the New Hampshire line.  Now, I’ve been all over the Pine Tree State.  Cadillac Mountain, Kingfield, Moosehead Lake and coastal York County are all special areas.

In the Mid-Atlantic region, I used to enjoy Larrison’s Chicken Farm, near Bedminster, NJ, until it closed.  The diners of New Jersey and Pennsylvania, like the Mark Twain, on Hwy 22 (aka the Death Trap-the road, not the dining spot), and Bedford Diner, off the PA Turnpike, remain close to my heart, though my doc would prefer I leave such places in the rear view mirror.  Annapolis and Cumberland are  intensely special places, at either end of little Maryland.

I have fond memories of the great cities- Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Washington have all been kind, when I have either passed through, or had extended stays.  Boston Public Library is one of a kind as an edifice, and rules, as a grand place of public learning; so, too, does the Library of Congress.  I have had mixed experiences in DC- the security force, in the Bush II Era, gave us, and those near us, an unpleasant time, in July, 2007.  When I next visited the Nation’s Capital, in 2011 and 2014, all was delightful.

The Southeast is not as deeply ingrained in me, as the rest of the Atlantic Coast.  There are some special spots, though-  Martinsburg, Harrisonburg, Charlottesville, Hilton Head, St. Simons,  Savannah,Okefenokee and St. Augustine are this solo traveler’s  “feels like home”.  The Atlanta and Tampa areas have family, so they are built-in magnets.

Florida, south of The Villages, remains a mystery to me.  At some point, I will solve that puzzle.  Charleston (SC), Baltimore, Delmarva and the Hampton Roads area are, likewise, places that will get special attention, sooner or later.

Well, that’s it, for now.  I’m back to work, tomorrow and will be back in eastern AZ, next weekend.  Have a great post-Easter week, one and all!

No Black Thursday

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November 24, 2016, Julian, CA-  This little town, northeast of San Diego, has been our Thanksgiving hub, for three of the last four years.  Only in 2014 were we diverted to Aram’s ship, for what was an estimable meal, in its own right.  Otherwise, Julian Cafe has been an irresistible venue- for one of the best traditional Thanksgiving meals this side of the Appalachians.

Julian appeals to Aram, because it reminds him of Prescott and Flagstaff.  The oak forests that surround the town, and the Laguna Mountains, to its southeast, are of immense comfort to one who was born , and spent his first years, in a forested landscape.

It appeals to me, as all mountain towns do, because Saugus ( my home town), and so many towns in New England, are similarly entwined with rugged landscapes and a wealth of historical nuggets.  Julian’s history is inextricably linked to the California Gold Rush.  Southern California had several spots which, while not as noteworthy as the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, nontheless contributed to Gold Fever.

What appeals to neither of us is Black Thursday, as some have taken to calling the afternoon and evening of Thanksgiving Day.  There may be some LIMITED need for some people to pick up groceries, in the morning, as I did on behalf of Aram and his housemates, around 8:30 this morning, at the local Ralph’s store.  I can’t see either of us shopping for deals on Thanksgiving, ever.  I understand some want that to be their Thanksgiving tradition, but I stay with family remaining focused on non-commercial pursuits.

We had another awesome meal, with his two housemates along.  This will be the last time, though, for at least three years, as he heads across the Pacific, in a few months’ time.  That made it an especially treasured repast.