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Monday, April 17, 2017

New England is Epic


Every winter, my wife and I start brainstorming what other places we could live, and every spring, summer and fall, we are reminded there could be no better place than right here in perfect Western Massachusetts.

Though born and raised in New York City, I've lived in Massachusetts for nearly 20 years, and each has been more rewarding than the last. New England isn't on the go-to list for outdoor media outlets to spread across home pages and front covers, because it's much subtler than the West and not as outdoors-oriented. Those are bogus reasons.

Okay, there are no 13,000 foot mountains, but you can't ride a bike 20 miles here without gaining a minimum of a thousand feet overall, and often twice that. And the hills are, overall, much steeper, so a 20-minute climb here takes as much out of you as many one-hour climbs out west. Come ride with me for over four of those 20-minute climbs, and then tell me New England isn't "epic."

And that's just Western Mass. A couple hours north of here are gorgeous knee-busters in Vermont and New Hampshire. Two hours east? That little puddle they call the Atlantic Ocean.

And the sights!

I do adore the West -- the 500-year-old trees the infinite, arid vistas, the dramatic alpine ridges, and the impossibly blue sky. If you know me, you know there's no place on Earth I feel more at home.

But here, within five miles from my front door I cross paths with building that were put together by neighborhood hands at the time of the American Revolution (not museums; they're still being used for residences today); a flood plain that hosts the oldest continuously-used farmland in the country; and rolling, soft hills that are older by far than the towering mountains out West.

And then there are the endless little treats. Just yesterday, on a short ride to stretch the legs, I ran across a classic one-room schoolhouse with the interior preserved...

One-room schoolhouse  (built 1840) in Hadley, MA
Schoolhouse interior, Hadley, MA
... and a 200-year-old farm right out of a Currier and Ives print, that's still a vibrant operation today -- run by the same family that built the main house when the Constitution hadn't yet been conceived:

Barstow farmhouse, Hadley, MA
Just across the road, one of the reasons that Hadley is famous for some of the best farming soil in the world: a flood plain that regularly renews the minerals and moisture in the farm fields See the grass under the water?

Farm field under helpful flood waters
So, while I would happily pull up stakes if someone offered me a two-bedroom adobe in Taos or St. George (are you listening, world?), I'm really very happy right here in stodgy old New England.

Anyway, those long, cold winters only make a day like yesterday that much more exhilarating when I swing a leg over a bike.


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