Autumn in the North Cemetery.

Sixty miles west of Boston, Massachusetts there is the small New England town of Sturbridge. Located at the junction of I-90 (The Mass Pike), and I-84 it has become known as the "Crossroads of New England". The town was first settled over 300 years ago, and like other small New England towns it has grown just enough over the years to be in a difficult place today. How do we embrace the future without forgetting how we got to our present? How do we attract the right kind of growth, and maintain who we are? And, what about our culture out here in Central Massachusetts?



These pages will cause one to think about how to protect what we have, our future direction, and how to move on in the very best way.


Those thoughts, and other ramblings, will hopefully inspire more thought, conversation, action, and occasionally a smile...

...seems to be working so far

Friday, April 1, 2016

It's Just The Waiting That Gets Me

Planting seeds, and cultivating good ideas already planted, that is what I do.

I plant seeds, and cultivate.  Thoughts, and ideas that come to me through the ether, or an overheard conversation in the check-out line at Shaw's, they're all seeds worth planting, and ideas worth nurturing.

Now, the harvest is something totally different.  Most of the time the seeds may be the very best, but they just didn't grow.  No one else took up the hoe.  No further cultivating of idea by just talking it up at the counter at Annie's at breakfast.  Without a little care even the best of seeds will simply wither, and die.


I don't enjoy it when an idea fizzles.  I offer them up, support one already out there, but when they fail to take root I don't take it personally, I just wait.


There are times when after years, and years of waiting a sprout pokes up.  I imagine I was not the only one that had the idea, but I really like to think that someone read something here, and told someone else, and so on, and so on.


That would be the best.

Lately, I have had a lot of delayed gratification.  I wrote on these pages back in November of 2008 of the need for a seasonal trolley in Sturbridge. Thinking Out Loud In Sturbridge: The Sturbridge Trolley Company


Not bad, only eight years later some folks see the need a well.  Well, at least the direction they are heading is right.  Now, let's see what the harvest will bring.




From golocalworcester.com 
click for complete article.


Town of Sturbridge to Receive $10K Grant for Trolley Service Study

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Senator Anne Gobi and Representative Todd Smola announced on Wednesday that the town of Sturbridge will receive $10,000 though the Massachusetts Downtown Initiative (MDI) to conduct a feasibility study for seasonal trolley service for the town of Sturbridge. 
“I appreciate that a seasonal trolley is being considered. Sturbridge is a major tourist destination and a trolley may help to encourage more tourism and help to reduce some of the traffic congestion currently experienced during the height of the season," said Gobi. 

--credit golocalWorcester.com 

Boo-yah!  Better late than never.

While I am on the subject of delayed gratification, I have also written  about having a place in town that could support some music, and dinner.  In addition to having Old Sturbridge Village attracting people to town, and the Host Hotel bringing in all sorts of folks attending conferences and trade shows, we also need a place that would attract people that not only enjoy great food, but live music as well.  
I think we finally have that place.
The Collection at Wight Farm is the latest place that the Table 3 Group has started in Sturbridge.  The Table 3 Group owns, and manages Avellinos, and the Duck restaurants on Main Street as well as the Cedar Street Grill on Cedar Street.  The Collection at Wight Farm is located at the corner of Main, and Cedar Street, and was once the home to Bass Shoes, Van Heusen Shirts, the Seraph antiques, and the Perennials Restaurant among others.  Purchased in 2014, the site has undergone an amazing renovation, especially in the the Old Van Heusen store which is now the  event venue, The Barn.  The original post and beam architecture was maintained, and added to, and now supports dining for 175, a bar, kitchen, and rooms in the lower levels for bridal parties, and others.
We have dealt with the the Table 3 group several times for family functions, and our nephew will be having his wedding reception at The Barn at Wights Farm on Main Street in September. We have found them to be, not only accommodating, professional, and detail oriented, and but just plain nice people.  In addition to weddings, showers and other functions offered at The Barn, they have also begun a music series.  Dinner, and live music for a very reasonable price, or just stop by for the music for even less.  This past Saturday we had a great meal at the Cedar Street Grill, because the dinners at The Barn were sold out.  After dinner we walked across the street, and listened to an Eagles cover band, Seven Bridges Road, play for two and half hours. 
It was great.  The music was dead on, and the venue was perfect for an evening of good food, and music.  The place was packed.   I wrote about needing a place like this as recently as last spring.  Thinking Out Loud In Sturbridge: Time For A Different Focus.  It was nice to see that a thought I have promoted for years actually come to fruition.  And, it is even better to know that there are others out there that not only have similar thoughts, but the perseverance to see them through.

The Collection at Wights Farm on Main Street would make a great stop on the trolley line.    :-)

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Antidote for the Boring Drive

There is a very nice ranch house not far from me built in the early 1960's.  It's a well kept home, a pretty house, that looks the same as it probably did when it was first built.  An attached open breezeway connects the house to a single car garage. Currently, the breezeway has heavy, clear plastic against the screens to keep the winter out.  There are a few aluminum framed, webbed lawn chairs inside.  I haven't seen webbed lawn chairs in a very long time.  From the street one would swear it was still 1963.  When I drive by this home I think of all the stories, all of the history, all the happiness, hard times, and life that was, and is still lived there today.  I wish walls could actually talk, but in a way, they do.  The home speaks volumes.

The house was built in a time far different from today, and is comfortable still being there, although the owners have moved on, and grown through fifty years of changes. The single car garage tells of a one car family that moved in back when the space race was just beginning.  No need for two cars since it was usually the father that went to work each day, leaving the mother home to watch over the family, and home.

This particular house is in excellent repair on the outside.  When I pass it each day I imagine the inside is still living in a time when copper gelatin molds hang on the kitchen wall, and crocheted poodles hides the toilet tissue in the bathroom.  Of course, that is a lot of assuming, and imagination at work, but without it, the story would be just a story, and my drive by would be just that, a drive.

I imagine they raised their children in this house, and they devoted all their resources towards their upbringing.  Saved a lot.  Sacrificed even more.  Money was set aside for college, maybe an eventual wedding.  The family car was kept for longer than a few years, and when it came time for a new car, it was newer, not new.

The grass was mowed, and lime put down.  Leaves were raked each fall, and burned in a pile out behind the ranch.  The light, gray smoke joined other swirls from other fires up and down the street billowing high over the treetops.  It gave the spotter at the fire tower something to report on a quiet Saturday morning.

Birthdays were held in the backyard at a homemade wooden picnic table draped with a tablecloth.  Countless games of hide and seek, tag, and kick-the-can were played on that grass as the space race moved on from Mercury to Gemini, and finally Apollo.  The sounds of far away gunfire, and mortar shells were muffled by distance, but heard clearly in the evening on the Philco.

If you stop, and listen quietly outside this old ranch, you can almost hear, through a half opened window, Cronkite speaking from the television, dinner plates clattering in the kitchen, and children teasing each other before bed.  Those simple fifty year old walls are still talking, and if you actually listen, you will hear them.

The ranch is only one house frozen in time on a drive to anywhere.  Some are kept far better, most not kept up that well at all.  Their stories as individual as the reasons for their various conditions,  and those that live inside them.

When you are out for a drive, take notice of that Cape with the rusted swing set nestled in the overgrowth out back, the ruins of a tree house in the oak tree over a driveway, a broken window pane on a garage door replaced by plywood years ago, and the basketball backboard over the garage long missing its hoop.  These are chapters of a home's story left open for us to read. The whole story is not there, nor is there an ending, but those shared chapters, those moments of time, are visible.  Those moments are proof of a life once lived there.

Now, the fun part.  The story those chapters reveal can go anywhere your imagination will allow.  Tangible pieces of reality, mixed with your imagination. When you are a passenger during an otherwise endless, and boring drive, look, and see those moments.  They are the perfect fodder for some quiet thinking, and bit of self storytelling.

One thing is for sure, your ride will be shorter, and far sweeter than you imagined when you let your mind wander into a story.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

This is Not a Good Idea. In Fact, It's Just Silly

Last evening I was reading in the Telegram how MassDOT would like to take a portion of Route 20 in Sturbridge, and Brimfield, and alter the lane configuration by excluding lanes.  They propose downsizing the roadway from four lanes to two in order to add turning pockets and a bike lane.  This would stretch a little over four miles from East of New Holland Road to west of Galileo Drive.

Blue route is the area that is to have traffic lane reconfiguration.


As I read the article on my phone I stood up, and screamed, "OHMYGOD!!  Don't let them do it!!" Scared the cat to death, and as of this morning she has yet to show herself.

One of the biggest design mistakes ever to hit any department of transportation was the idea of taking away a lane of traffic and designating it for left, or right turns only.

Why?

Well, it if a road was initially designed for four lanes of traffic, two one way, and two the other, it was because the traffic flow dictated it.

Four lanes flows smoother than two, and when it comes time to take a left turn across oncoming traffic one just has to wait.  Simple.  And, when one has to take a right turn, one just does it when it is safe to do so.  The whole waiting-our-turn-to-turn thing takes under a minute, but on average just a few seconds.

Now, a turning pocket allows a driver to pull to the side, out of the way of the traffic behind him so as not to hold them up, and still wait their turn to make a turn.

Hmm. The only thing that they are gaining is getting out of the way of the traffic behind them, and not holding them up, but they will unless the the lanes a kept at the same number, and the turning pocket is ADDED to the lane configuration.  This configuration works great in front of the Hobbs Brook Plaza on eastbound Route 20.

When one takes away a lane to facilitate easier turning it leads to a bottleneck.  The drawing below is of Route 20 in Charlton at the intersection of Route 169.  I have been trapped in traffic heading east in this area from Sturbridge for an hour.  For one mile west of Route169,  until just after the Route 20 / 169 intersection it has taken me anywhere from twenty five  minutes to one hour to travel on my way to work.  Now, there are a couple of factors that play into this delay.  Most times I take it when the turnpike is bogged down, and it is barely moving.  If is a recent delay, then my delay on Route 20 will be minimal, but if it is a long term delay on the Pike, then everyone else is thinking like me, and we are stuck in this debacle of poor planning which I have scribbled below.

Whether there are traffic problems on the Mass Pike , or not, Route 20 should be free flowing at all times, and man made obstacles should not be part of the equation.  Yes, traffic will run at a slower speed now, and again, but is should not be at a standstill on a regular basis.  Cutting back to only one lane of east bound traffic in order for only a few cars to turn right onto Route 169, and creating a bottleneck of traffic that stretches far beyond Zorbras Restaurant far to the west is a design born in the mind of a silly person.

There.  I said it.  A silly person.  I know, strong language, but well deserved.  And, to take the silly design even further, the designer kept the lane configuration at one lane even further east on Route 20 to allow vehicles to make a left turn at the next light.

At the light.  This is the very reason why God gave us traffic signals with little green arrows pointing left.


The Route 20 / Route 169 Traffic Bottleneck

I can't complain, or make a seemingly negative observation, without offering a suggestion that may be able to fix the issue, and this time is no different.  I'll keep it simple.


Remove the "turning pockets", and paint the appropriate directional arrows on the pavement like other intersections on Route 20.  And, as far as those vehicles wanting to turn left where there are no intersections, well then, you will have to just wait your turn.  Simple.

I know that a vehicle wanting to turn left should not have to wait long to do so, and that it would be better for them to be pulled over a bit, but not at the expense of taking away a lane of traffic.  Add the turning pocket to the existing configuration.

Now, there is one other traffic design solution that is worth considering, too.  In Wells, Maine, among other places, along Route 1, there are three lanes.  The outer lanes are for traffic, and the center lane is for turning to the left.  Traffic from either direction uses the middle lane, and it works.  I imagine they use it here because land on either side of Route 1 is scarce for making an additional lane.

A few years ago I wrote to MassDOT on their website, and mentioned the issues on Route 20, and 169.  

I never heard from them.  Go figure.

This time, I know Craig Moran, and the other selectman will make themselves heard to MassDOT, and maybe, just maybe, someone from MassDOT will read this as well.

With all the traffic the Route 20 sees, especially during Flea Market season, it would be plain silly to alter the traffic configuration from what it currently is unless the number of lanes remained the same.

There, I said it again.  Silly.  








Friday, December 4, 2015

Have I Got A Deal For You

Well, we did it.  We bought a new home in Sturbridge.  After a number of years of searching the local area for the right home that checked all of our boxes we finally found what we were looking for right here in town.  We are beyond happy.  No only did we find a home we like, but we found it in town.

When we found what was to become our new home last spring, and we needed to make a decision on whether to go for it before we sold our home on Brookfield Road, or wait.   If we went on the side of caution, and waited to sell then the house we found would surely be sold in the interim.  After years of searching we went for it.  We put our Brookfield Road home on the market, and committed to the new house.

Talk about living on the edge.

We closed in early November, and moved into our new house shortly after.  The Brookfield Road house is on the market as I write this.  We set the price only $12,000.00 more than we paid for it in 2006.  We invested much more than that amount in the house during our time there, but we understood the way of the real estate market since had moved in back in 2006.  It hasn't been pretty during that time, but over the past couple of years things are looking so much better..

When we bought the home in 2006, it offered everything we wanted, and had the potential to give us so much more, and did.  It had a new roof put on just prior to us buying, as well as new electrical.  We added to the list over time.  We hired a contractor to tear out the upstairs bathroom, and put in a new, modern bath.  it came out so nice.  I was inspired, and  did the same to the first floor powder room.   Everything we did in the house we did for us, but also we did to help when it came time to sell.  One has to keep that in mind, and not choose designs that are too individual.

Since we put the house on the market we have lowered the asking price a few times, most recently last week.  Our plan is to encourage a buyer to stop by, take a look , and make an offer.  We're easy, and are willing to entertain offers.  We aren't out to make a killing in the market.  We are just looking for the next caretakers of this wonderful older home.

It will sell.  I'm not worried.  Yet.  The house offers so much more than most in the same price range in our area.

Today, I am going to use the power of this blog to further promote our house for sale.  It's kinda neat having the ability to reach a few more folks that may be looking, or know someone that may be looking.  If you are interested, or know someone, click the "share" button, or the email envelope below,  and send it off to them.  You can always send me a note to aroundsturbridge@gmail.com.

One more thing, if you do refer someone that you feel would love our home, and they buy it, we would not only be thankful, but also pay a finders fee.  That is only right.

Getting paid for a job well done is always a good thing.

View home



Friday, October 16, 2015

Time To Step Back, Pause, and Re-think The Plan

Marketing is a field that is not in my wheelhouse.  Oh, I can sell you something you may need in order to  live a normal life, or to just to continue living.  Nurses do that.  But, when it comes to marketing a companies image I am clueless, unless that marketing is based on common sense, then I may be able to offer something.

CVS Pharmacies is a massive company.  They have on their payroll a whole bunch of pharmacists, but a whole lot more marketing, and PR people.  They have to.  They want to be the best, and the biggest pharmacy in the United States.  Currently, they are number two after Walgreen's.  CVS would like to be the pharmaceutical equivalent of Starbucks.

In recent history, CVS has attempted to place a store in Sturbridge at the junction of Route 20, and Holland Road without success.  Something about the construction, and eventual building would adversely affect the Quinebaug River. How it would adversely affect the river more than the ruins already on the site is beyond me.  Again, not in my wheelhouse.

Currently, CVS is hoping to plant itself in front of the Host Hotel, on Route 20,  in the spot occupied by the Exhibition Hall.  The Exhibition Hall houses Bentley's Pub.  The building is one hundred and forty seven years old, and was once the main building at the Sturbridge Fairgrounds.  It is in excellent condition, and is historic.  CVS would prefer to have a new building on that spot after the Exhibition Hall is torn down.

I don't believe the town will allow that to happen.  There is a process in place to determine if a building warrants saving due to its historic significance.  I hope that all the town departments will act in concert to save the building when the time comes.  At present, CVS has asked to submit their site approval plan at a later date. This could mean that CVS is either thinking things over, or they are pulling out.

I have an idea.

We want to encourage large companies to come to Sturbridge, and all they need is a little guidance on just how to fulfill their plans for expansion without causing the communities, like us, from having a conniption when a piece of their town is threatened.  What if the  CVS architects took the existing building, and used it to house their new CVS store.

It would be a design challenge, may cost a bit more, but it would speak very loudly not only to the town, but to all the future towns it would like to build in.   Imagine CVS saving an historic building in historic Sturbridge, Massachusetts so that it may be used in a new way.  The good press that would generate would be a marketing departments dream, and it may even set a precedent for future building by CVS, and other companies.  The goal of building a new store is met, and is met with smiling approval of the locals.

What could be better?

Can't thing of a thing.  Just common sense.