From Florence

Hey guys,

So, the reason behind this walk finally came to me on Friday morning, after attending a selectman’s meeting Charlemont. Check the Why Walk page. Just trying to make the world a better place.

Sorry about not posting before this. I wrote an entry on Saturday morning, and I thought it posted, but it must have gotten lost somewhere between the Buckland Public Library and the World Wide Web.
I have changed my route a little. I was originally going to follow Route 2 all the way to Orange, then head south on Rt 122. But while in EMS last week picking up some last minute camping things, I started talking about my trip with a saleswomen, who turned out to be super nice and helpful. She pointed out that Rt 2 turns into highway in some parts. I started looking at other roads, including cutting all the way down to Rt 20, but decided on Route 9, the historic Old Post Road.
One of the biggest reasons I’m walking on Route 9 is I want to try to document the western part as best as I can. I’m betting that within the next 20 years, Rt 9 west of Worcester is going to change from the farms and orchards and small towns into the Rt 9 east of Worcester – parking lights and traffic lights and strip malls. This can be seen already in my hometown of Leicester where in 2007 they are going to and travel lanes and break ground for a Wal-Mart and four new box stores.
Since I’ve started this trip in Williamstown, I’ve stopped every 30 minutes to take photos of the road I’m on. It will be interesting to compare these photos of Rt 2, Rt 112, and Rt 9 when I walk these roads again in 50 years. When I’m 80. Haha.
So, with apologies to Erving, Orange, Barre, and Paxton, hello Buckland, Ashfield, Goshen, Williamsburg, Leeds, Florence, North Hampton, Amherst, Belchertown, Ware, West Brookfield, East Brookfield, Spencer, and Leicester. Cool that I just typed that list out of memory – two weeks ago I wouldn’t have been able to tell the difference between a Williamstown and a Williamsburg.
The last two days were monster days, walking all uphill from Buckland south on 112 into Ashfield and onto Route 9. I stopped to check out the Ashfield Fall Festival, and ended up staying and taking photos and talking to people for two hours. A nice woman named Kate offered to put me up in her house that dated back to 1810. She had this pretty big library and I found this book called “Big House, Little House, Back House, Barn.” The title was based on an old nursery rhyme, but it refers to the architecture of most New England farmhouses. There would be the big house, with sleeping quarters and room for evening activities. The little house would contain the kitchen and room for daytime activities. The back house would usually be the pantry and the privy, and the barn would be the, well, barn. And though the layout between parallel to perpendicular would change, they would all be connected. But that was 200 years ago, right? Since I picked up that book yesterday morning, I’ve noticed 90% of the houses in this part of the state follow that design. The old ones of course, but even the houses built recently follow the same segmented design, except instead of a barn there is a two car garage. Anyways, now that I somewhat know the roots of the architecture, I’ve been obsessed by this idea and I’ve taken about a hundred photos of houses around here.

It feels like a whole different world out here. With the farms and the foliage and the mountains, it feels more like I am in Vermont. Until I talk to someone and they mention Governor Mitt Romney or the Mass Pike, and suddenly I remember that I aim still in Massachusetts.

In Goshen on Route 112, where there is nothing else but trees, there is a man who repairs antique stoves. You can’t miss the outside of the Good Time Stove Company – outside the shop there is a sculpture made of bicycles, old rusted stoves and colorful knick knacks all around the lawn, and a 15 foot Tin Man guards the door. In the inside f his shop about 40 stoves stand at attention, black and shiny and proud like the day they were first sold, 150 years ago. He has been in business since 1977, and there is a photo on the wall from when he first started, working on a stove, wearing with a flannel shirt and a 1970’s hippy beard.
His daughter Sara, “The Stove Princess,” according to the sign painted on the outside, is 29 and taking over the business. She now works in the same room where she was born.
Well guys, I have a ton of stories, but I should really head out. Today I’m walking from Leeds through Florence, into North Hampton and along the bike path into Amherst.
Just one more story – on Friday was walking along Route 2, when this big red SUV pulls on the other side of the road, does a three point turn, and pulls up about a thirty feet ahead of me. A well-manicured hand pokes out of the passenger side window and starts waving. I’m thinking, that’s funny, I don’t know a hand that well-manicured. I walk up, and the woman in the rolls down the window and asks, BJ? in a southern accent. I’m Janelle Ashley, from Worcester State. How cool is that?! It’s the president of my college! She was on her way to a higher ed. conference in North Adams, saw me walking on the road, and had her husband turn the car around. Small world!


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