Tag Archives: Massachusetts

The Least Touristy Destination I’ve Encountered

9 Dec

Berkshires rusted signNary a postcard or a t-shirt to be found. And I wanted both. And to be honest, it’s not often that I want a t-shirt from a destination, but the Berkshires have made it to the list as one of my magical places and that deserves a t-shirt, don’t you think?

The List of Magical Places
We all have our own reasons for knighting a place as magical, and I have no written criteria, no laminated list. But it has to be an incredibly special spot. In case you’re curious (and if not, why aren’t you?), here’s my list. It’s short, but size doesn’t matter.

  • The shuk, open air food market, in Jerusalem. There won’t be a post about that here, since the blog is about the US and all, but you can find pictures on my Flickr account.
  • Mt. Ranier in Washington state. Playing in the snow while wearing shorts. Good times. That post hasn’t been written yet, so stay tuned!
  • Cumberland Island, GA. No vehicles, unbelievable curvy trees, wild horses. Read more about this delightful place. 

Now Cumberland Island has no vehicles, no Coke machine, nothing to buy at all, but before you leave for the island you can buy a slew of souvenirs. To my knowledge, no shirts to buy in the Berkshires. And that makes it tops on my list.

Hold On, I’m Waxing Poetic
There is truly a different feel when driving over the state line from Connecticut to the Massachusetts Berkshires. It’s immediate. There’s beauty and then suddenly it’s inspiring beauty. Muse and soul beauty.  (I warned you I was going in for the adjectives.) Pockets appear: alcoves of land, nooks with cemeteries. A swimming hole placed… right… there. It does seem the stuff of tales and art, and some lucky people still live this way.

How Does Your Garden Grow?
The Berkshire folk seem to take joy in their gardens and also in letting the land that’s not theirs be wild. Both are beautiful.

But Wait, There’s More!
The Berkshires hosted several other adventures besides glorious drives. And I barely tapped the list of opportunities.

Which places are magical for you?
What’s the least touristy place you’ve been to, yet it’s still a destination?

Can’t see the slideshow? Click here.
Vodpod videos no longer available.

Berkshires, posted with vodpod
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Why a Stationery Museum is Sooo much more Interesting than You’d Expect

5 Dec
Sign at the Crane Museum of Papermaking

This was the only picture to take, so by all means, relish it!

Crane Stationery has been making the paper for US currency since the Revolutionary War. Yup, write a thank you note, make some ACTUAL cash–all goes together in a perfect business model, doesn’t it?

There’s Nothing to See Here
The Museum of Papermaking is in the Berkshires, housed on the property where paper for money really is being made. An innocuous site until you notice the security. And unmarked semi trucks. And fences. And oddly they point all of this out to you on the tour… diversion tactics or an eager tour guide? Either way, makes a good story.

The First Gig
In 1879 the US government selected Crane  as the sole producer of banknote paper for the first national currency. And they’ve been the producer ever since.

Working Hard for the Money
There’s no job security, though. Only within the last few years has the government become prudent enough to award the contract for more than a year at a time. Now it’s a four-year stint. Can you imagine the paperwork for an annual proposal? No pun intended. I’m sure it was a security thing, but come on, that’s serious inefficiency.

No Such Thing as Easy Money
The currency paper and anti-counterfitting measures are both made at Crane, with different security tactics for each denomination. The actual printing happens at the Treasury. The watermark process is so secretive that it’s imprinted on the plant floor behind guarded curtains. Crane is so respected for their money-making work that they do it for 15 countries and also print their currency.  

(Not) Made in the USA
Ironically, American money is not made using American product. The cotton comes from all over the world except the US of A. Quality and cost, my friends. Yeah for capitalism! And FYI on the cotton, it’s the tiny shreds left in the boll after the initial “extraction”, not the parts used for clothes. Take about using everything but the squeal.

Well What About the Stationery?
If it’s got cold edges, it really is gold leaf. That’s applied by hand and takes a year to master the art. And talk about quality control: every sheet of paper is inspected by hand before being cut to size.

So now we know why their stationery costs a bit more.
Do you think it’s worth it?
Do you still use stationery?
Can you come up with money puns that I didn’t already include in this post?

Like to be surprised by seemingly mundane museums that turn out to be amazing? Check out this past post about the Clock and Watch Museum.


The Journey vs. the Destination: Bish Bash Falls

9 Nov

Bish Bash FallsIt’s fun to say, isn’t it? Bish Bash Falls. Go ahead, say it out loud–you know you want to.

This Massachusetts state park is beautiful and the falls are indeed impressive, but the hike itself was actually more compelling for me. And in fact, the hike back to the car, not the anticipatory hike to the falls.

It’s a steep and cumbersome climb down and logic predicts that the return is even more breathless.

On my labored way back up I met an Indian family with a grandmother dressed in magnificent sari and flip flops. She had a hard time maneuvering the log bridge across a moderate gap and trickle of water and she was already out of breath. Her family asked about the rest of the trek and I answered honestly that they had a ways to go and it wasn’t an easy path. Grandma decided to turn around.

My steady pace suddenly slowed and this Grandmother and I were now holding hands. I gave her my hiking pole and we began our journey together. This was unfamiliar territory for her–she didn’t know where to place her feet, to look out for tree roots, how to let others pass on the path. And she didn’t speak English. Or have water. I motioned, guided, and shared my drink.

This isn’t a post to boast of a good deed. But to recognize that what feels like home and adventure for one is scary and difficult for another.

I thought about the guides who helped me learn to hike on high school excursions. I thought about the friends who taught me about gear and pacing.

We reached the summit; in this case, the parking lot. And to her it was beautiful. She smiled, pressed her hands together in Namsate style, and did a head bobble I’ve been told can mean many things and knew in this case meant thank you.

In truth, it was a gift for me to stop and enjoy the hike instead of plow through to the top. To experience my comfort in a place that wasn’t always so for me. And to think about the nameless people who have figuratively and literally lent me a hand.

When has someone given you a metaphorical hiking pole?
When has a stranger walked the path with you until you felt safe?