Kelly had some things to do Saturday, which left me on my own for the day. I had tried to get my more important stuff done earlier in the week so this weekend would be free and clear for some good hard roaming. I was on the motorcycle by 10:15, and sitting on the Northampton town hall steps, biting into a bacon egg and cheese on an english muffin, by 10:50, free and clear.
The paper had some disturbing news though, how will this bode for Main St. U.S.A.?
A big part of the problem is a type of gambling they call Short Selling of Stock. Here's how you play this casino game:
Unfortunately it appears safe to say our boys and girls in D.C. are determined to make sure that the house always loses. I happened to look up from the grim news, just in time to see further proof that the pedestrians still RULE this town. Even the mighty Lamborghini must pause humbly before their feet.
Time to move on, and move north. Going through Hatfield, I came across the remains of a mighty Sycamore tree that had recently lost a couple of it's massive limbs to rot.
There was debate in the town about whether the tree, one of the oldest and tallest in the region, was safe to let stand. After some research and core samples taken, it was decided that it had to come down. It's too bad, but judging by the hollowness of the stump, it appears to have been the right decision.
From there it's a short but scenic trip up to Deerfield. Mt. Sugarloaf is looking a little Hollywoody these days.
They're working on a set for the upcoming filming of a Mel Gibson movie, "Edge of Darkness". Rumor has it the lookout platform on the top is being transformed into a villain's lair, replete with missile silos. The road to the top is still open to visitors, but it will be closed off during the actual filming in early October. Let's go take a look...
On the way up, some of the trees leaning over the narrow access road have cones attached and marker rope hanging, I'm sure to protect them from the construction and filming equipment going up and down the hill.
One of the parking lots on top is now occupied by a supply area/medical tent/trash depot.
The lookout platform itself is now almost completely disguised.
It doesn't look like they're building anything too permanent, though I wonder what the metal girders are attached to. But I'm sure they plan to revert it to it's original condition after filming, for liability reasons if nothing else. We can't have Mr. Jones and family perched on some shaky Hollywood scene prop, atop a windy 650 foot hill...
You certainly can't blame the movie producers for picking this hill. It's a world-class scene from atop Mt. Sugarloaf, fit for viewing by millions of movie-goers. And what super villain could resist settling down here.
There was plenty of day left, time to continue on. Up through Montague, then through bucolic scenery in Gill, then through Northfield where one of the last functioning Drive-In theaters marks the border into New Hampshire.
Maybe Mel's movie will be shown here...
Over the border, on through Hindsdale New Hampshire,
Then over the winding roads of the Pisgah hills, and finally into the town of Keene.
It is my third time in Keene. The town seems to consist of a massive outer ring of sprawling retail, chain restaurant and big-box stores. Then an inner core, with a more college-influenced atmosphere. And in that core, are five main roads that converge on a rotary, that surrounds a small town common, the neutron of this atom-town.
One of the converging roads is a nearly mile long beautifully tree-lined, two lane boulevard; lined with many, many small shops and restaurants. Benches and plenty of parking are available right up the middle and sides of the main drag. It's all set up very nicely, with a clean, safe vibe. Of the dozens of shops, eateries, and stores, I noticed only one that was for lease. Keene seemed to be doing well this Saturday afternoon.
I hung out and people watched for a while. There seemed to be a lot of kids from nearby Keene College roaming around. Also many skater-type kids with their wool caps on, (one very young skater kid stopped me as I walked by with "Hey, cool sunglasses, want to see me do a 360 on my board...for a buck?") I passed on that, this time, but kudos to the kid for his business savvy and ability to pick out a sucker from the crowd. There were older, richer ladies going in and out of boutiques, retirees sunning themselves on the plentiful benches. One older gentleman thanked me for stopping to let him cross the street, and grumbled that I had more consideration than the town bus drivers. (it's the Northampton pedestrian thing, see above). And to round out the type-casting, the occasional wannabe would drive by in a pick-up truck, playing cursing rap music way too loud. From my unscientific observations these past three trips, I'll surmise that like the rest of New Hampshire, Keene used to be very conservative, but has become more and more liberal, perhaps painfully...
It was time to head back. Somewhere between Hindsdale and Keene can be seen a fine example of an advertising commitment that should not be entered into lightly:
I hauled back down Route 63. It was getting a little chilly on the bike, so I made one more stop in Amherst, for a warming cup of coffee, and some more people watching.
After a few minutes of sitting there, watching the mobs of students and academics from Amherst College and Umass milling about, it was once again apparent to me that there are many college towns, like Keene for example, that must aspire to reach the levels of openness, education and art that exist in our five-college region.
How lucky we are to live in the valley.