Monday, September 22, 2008

Inside a Post Card

Driven by the desire to have a break from my weekly routine and stress, I started going away more often starting last summer. I really enjoy going sightseeing. Something about exploring the unknown exicites me no matter how insignificant the place is. My favorite scenario is driving on rural roads where I have close contact with natural elements. In order to choose a destination, I do a quick search on the internet to find key places of interest. Then I make arrangements for the trip along with my wife. Most places I go are located in Massachusetts and neighboring states. The fun part of it is that I am usually not in such a hurry to get wherever I intend to go. I like to take my time and not follow a schedule. I usually stop several times especially if I am traveling on a secondary road and I see a scenic area or anything that captures my attention. It is not uncommon for me to stop along the way at places like flea markets, street fairs or craft shops. I find sightseeing to be very educational. I learn a whole lot about cultural values, history, and also about the environment as a result of those short trips. They are also a fun way to get familiar with my surrounding.

One factor that I always take into consideration is the traveling distance. I try not to exceed the limit of a two or three hour drive. The reason for that is because they usually equate to a one day trip. I generally leave on a Sunday morning and by nightfall I am back home. A couple of days before the trip I go online and print directions and also get a sense of the time it will take to get to my destination. I read any information I see online so I can get some perspective of what I should look for once I am there. Based on the distance information, I have a better idea of when I should leave in the morning and the best time to return. I also like to take some precautions to minimize any kind of annoyance while I am on the road. Previous to my trip I usually take the car to a service station and have all the fluid levels and tire pressure checked. One thing that I find really useful is to have a valid AAA card. As my car gets older, my level of confidence in it decreases. I drive a 2000 Toyota Camry and any eight year old car is expected to have problems arise more often. I also carry some cash in my wallet and do not rely entirely on my debit card. I never know when I may have some issue which could prevent me from using it. If I am a few blocks from the house it is easy to handle but it could spoil my weekend if I am a distant away. On a number of occasions, I end up checking into a hotel to spend the night but that does not happen too often. Another thing I find really useful on theses day trips is to have a road map in the car just in case I need it. Once all these items are checked on, I am good to go. My wife and I then hit the road early on Sunday morning.

Driving is always fun. I love driving long distances as long as I have a companion to talk to. I am particularly fond of driving on rural, winding roads. Those are the best! I love to watch the scenery. It feels like being inside a post card at times. It makes me very excited to drive in areas with some peculiar landscape. My eyes keep moving restlessly in an attempt to capture every single image that comes into sight after every curve. Each place I go is unique. One place is like no other. This past summer, I was traveling through a farming area in Vermont when a large number of cows and horses grazing in a field caught my attention. The scenario was really phenomenal, not just because of the animals, they just happened to be there, but each element in that landscape contributed to such a rich picture. Different tones of blue tinted the mountains on the horizon. A cluster of pine trees heavily populated the base of the mountains. A vast area of field dominated most of the scenario. I was so thrilled that I had to stop the car and take in the scene for a while. It felt so peaceful.

Over the past few months I have been in different places: Newport, RI, Gloucester, MA, on the coast, and Amherst and Northampton, MA, both located on the Pioneer Valley in Western MA, just to name a few. The furthest place I went this summer was Woodstock, VT. It is about a three hour drive North of Worcester, MA. I was particularly impressed with the covered bridges found in that region. I also thought the architecture of houses and churches were somewhat different than what I am used to seeing. As I was traveling on Woodstock Road I could not help but to stop at Quechee Gorge Village. There I was able to samp different styles and flavors of the prestigious Cabot cheese. I also tried some of the corn on the cob cooked over an open fire at a country store just a few miles up the road.

Shelburne Falls, MA is another place I visited in the spring and really thought it was worth the trip. The town itself is very small and there is not much there, but the scenery is absolutely incredible. I was really astonished when I saw the glacial formation called Glacial Potholes. I also went to see the Bridge of Flowers which is walking distance from the Potholes. I thought it was neat to learn that the Bridge of Flowers was actually built in 1908 to be a trolley crossing the Deerfield River. Eventually progress forced the trolley to be phased out and it officially became the Bridge of Flowers in 1929.

Among the many things I gained from sightseeing, the awareness of my surroundings and also a sense of appreciation for the environment were the most impressive. I often learn new things about the cultures and historic facts that I would otherwise not come across. Each time I visit a certain town or a tourist site, I get thrilled by something I see. By the time I return home I feel more energized. The experience helps me to recuperate from stress and gives me motivation to get through another week or another month. Some of those experiences are simply unforgettable. How could I not be inspired and seduced as I come across the dance of colors such as that in a place like Newport? I will always be amazed when I stand at the foot of the white giant, Killington. Shelburne Falls, with its bridge of flowers dressed with simplistic beauty, moves me. Moments of reflections take me back to a roaring Flume Gorge and its glacial boulders. The way some of these places captures my imagination just reinforce that sightseeing is an insightful and rewarding experience in my life.

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