Saturday, July 24, 2010

Light, Lite

Oye, fighting the effects of heat is my business and baby, business has been a-boomin'. It feels like this whole month has been one unending work week. By the time the weekends come I'm too wiped out to do anything but try and recover before Monday rolls around again. Not much extra time lately for our usual drives, events, get-aways ....or blogging.

But that's not to say the ol' camera has been still. It clicks away whenever and wherever possible. Usually during the later hours, which is fine as sunset provides some 'golden opportunities' for photographing. In lieu of the usual parade, picnic, craft show and museum reports, here are just a few random pics taken lately, without rhyme or reason, to share until a blog post proper can be proscribed...

Some shaggy Ludlow cattle enjoying a brief cool-off period between heat waves.

(...I wasn't the only one intrigued by the bucolic scene...)

A Granby farm silo, nearing it's final few sunsets...

And Northampton's meadows providing it's usual sunset glory:

Actually, a couple of unexpected free hours this past week were had, and carefully invested in a long overdue bike ride down the ol' Norrwotuck.

Pleasant, relaxing and refreshing as always. We did the 4 miles or so from the train bridge to the Maple Tree Farms store, which now serves up ice cream to enjoy while perusing a new petting zoo.

A little more energy burn off before heading back...

...after dizzy-recovery of course...

...and then a cooler twilight ride back to the car.

Arriving back at the bridge and the Elwell Recreation area just as the last of the day has dissolved into the deep blue. A couple of well placed hours to be sure. When time is tight, it must be carefully spent.

We strive to get our money's worth...

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Days Of Thunder

A couple steamy weekends ago we headed east to the town of Monson, mostly to check out their annual Summerfest...

But mainly to have a look at the annual Soapbox Derby they throw on that day.

There's something trademark-American about soapbox derbies. Something 1930's old fashioned, something creative. Something 'Our Gang' about the whole thing.

It's an event I've been wanting to check out since first catching wind of it a couple years ago, over on Radar Check.

The racers were very young and while it wasn't a toe to toe race, it was more like time trials, with each racer trying to make best speed down a long hill and stopping just short of the hay bail barrier at the bottom.

That is, if you make it to the hay bails.

A few speedsters brought their game that day; pushing the dual envelopes of their machines' capabilities and their own mettle to the limits.

Sometimes with harrowing results.

Most of the racing went off without a hitch, with successive runs by the competitors increasing in speed and competitive ferocity.

But half way down one of the runs, it became alarmingly apparent by the way the number 2 car was weaving back and forth that something had gone frightfully wrong.

The car suddenly veered violently towards track side and the crowd leapt to it's feet as, with nerves of cold steel, the racer struggled to maintain control in the face of imminent disaster.

With skills honed of weeks of experience, our driver struggled against forces of gravity and inertia. Refusing to succumb to cruel fate without a fight.

Control was impossibly maintained, and with a last split second maneuver from the old pro's bag of tricks... was over.

Car and driver had screeched to a halt. Intact, mostly.

A collective sigh of relief expired from the crowd, and pent-up emotion burst forth from the pilot's seat.

The pit crew raced over to console, and cleared the track with all haste.

In a plywood and lawnmower-wheeled nutshell, that's what sport is about.

It's not always the thrill of victory.

Just as often, it's the agony of defeat.

But in sport, it doesn't matter either way. Win and lose will always happen.

It's what you find out about yourself in the experience that matters.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Dancing In The Streets

As the 6 day and night heat wave continued on into a steamy Friday evening, we motored over to downtown Springfield to while a few hours away checking out the Hoop City Jazz and Art Festival. It's a weekend long outdoor concert which was kicking off that night. Parking under the highway was discounted to 5 bucks for the festival goers, and it was a short 1 block walk to Court Square where the music was playing in front of City Hall. Court Square itself was crowded with jazz afficionados, and Ken Navarro was just getting to the end of his set.

In between sets we acquired a couple cold (4 dollar) beers and found a place to sit on the grass. The upbeat crowd milled about in between sets, getting their own beers or ice cream, chatting or 'chillaxing' while waiting for the next performers.

The next group up was Soul Source, who kicked things off with an R&B-turned medley of James Brown funk, getting started just as dusk settled in.

While most of the people were splayed out across the green and closed off road on chairs and blankets, there were a few large round tables set up behind the main crowd where an event organizer invited us to take a seat. On the tabels were these handy hand fans, to help beat the heat...

...heat which didn't seem to have any effect on the power of music, as some people began working up a sweat movin' and groovin'.

Soul Source was rolling along as the evening came on, with not only jazz tunes but everything from Marvin Gaye to Barry White to Prince to Blackstreet.

Throughout their set dancing erupted spontaneously, everywhere. Behind us under the trees, out on the street, on the steps in front of the stage.

It was a beautiful way to finish off the steamy week. Later on, as the bloggerette began signalling it was time to get on back home, we said good bye to this couple sitting next to us;

David and his girlfriend. They said bye and David paused, and with a big smile fittingly summed up the mood of the evening, by wishing us "Happy Summer Days"...

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Old Glory

Kelly had to work (yes, work!), so it was me and the bloggerette scrambling up route 143 at about 10:50, trying to get to Chesterfield's parade, which started at 10:30. To save time we eschewed the regular parking spaces strung out along the Main road into the center of town, and pulled right up to the parade's road block; risking a parking ticket for a look at some good old fashioned July 4th revelry.

I'd say the parade was about halfway through when we arrived.

For a town of about 1200 people, either everyone in town showed up for this, or the surrounding towns came flooding in; because spectatorship must have been in the multiple thousands, lined into the distance along the parade route.

I'll go with the latter reason, because I'm sure many out of towners came here with the same idea: A good, old fashioned hilltown parade and festival.

Nothing to big or flashy needed. Few if any giant floats. Just a lot of people turning out for a local community event on a glorious day for celebration.

Antique cars, some tractors, a few fire engines. Some livestock. Just the basics, please.

Alright, maybe some new local innovations in travel thrown in... can't stop progress, you know.

But certainly, some remembrance of why we've been able to celebrate this day oh, about 234 times now.

Sacrifices that were, are, and will be made.

As a nation, we've been lucky, to be sure. But it wasn't all luck.

The last elements of the parade rolled, marched, honked and clip-clopped past.

With hearty applause and cheers, the crowd began to break up and mill about; purveying the other holiday festivities Chesterfield had set up for the day.

It's always a good feeling to see simple traditions spanning the tests of time.

Speaking of which, it was time to walk my baby back home...