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

Thursday, December 4, 2014

They Just Like To Dot The I's, Cross the T's, Loop The J's, Coil The G's, Bump The B's, and Wiggle The S's, That's All.

Sturbridge isn't too serious about attracting new business to town.  If someone has an idea for a business, maybe a piece of land to place it on here in town, then they should consider it good retirement income, because it is going to take forever to get it approved.

The hotel project for the corner of New Boston Road, and Route 20 that was given permission to begin construction back in 2010 is only just now rounding the last bend in the approval process.

Four years.

Four years of plans, and re-plans.  Vernal pond discoveries, threatened species protection, buffer zone adjustments, size adjustments, and on and on, and on for over four years.  Now, the landowner may have contributed to the delay as well, but from what I've read, it appears that life just goes at a much slower pace here in Bugtussle than in the big city, and this project isn't on the Top Ten list for the town.  Actually, I don't think there is a Top Ten list of things to get done here in town, just a list of stuff to see about someday.

Was it all the waiting necessary?  Hard to say, I am not on any of the committee's, or boards that demanded adjustments along the way, and I am not up to speed on any of the requirements the town insisted on to get this far.  However, I do own a calendar, and I am well adept at reading it, and my calendar has indicated that it has taken a very long time to get this far in the project.   It took four years to reduce the project by 1.4 acres, and .35 acres of pervious area.

The landscape plan for the area surrounding the proposed hotel is going to have 88 trees, 200 shrubs, over 500 perennials including ground covers, and grasses.  This is a pretty extensive plan.  Although, the actual layout has not been shared, it must need a bit of a tweak since the Planning Board feels it could be done better.  Apparently, the plan is not specific enough for the Planning Board.

They know best.

They want to be sure that this corner business is attractive to the eye for folks living in town, and those coming from all over the world.  I like the way they think, but I also think at this point in the process, and it being  over two years since the old hotel was torn down, and the ground has been left looking like a playground in Chernobyl, that a daisy in a milk carton would make the site look 100 % better.

Simple Rule # 23:  When there is no urgency felt by those making decisions, then decisions will be made without any urgency attached.

 Is four years a bit long to get to this point?  Probably.  Would the process moved faster in another community?  Only if there was an urgency to attract new business, get it up and running ASAP without compromise, and create a welcoming atmosphere to attract other businesses.

The current plan is to begin hotel construction in the spring if the current plans pass muster with the Conservation Commission, and the Planning Board in a few weeks.  Drainage is the next topic.

I guess the bottom line is that a new facility is coming to town eventually, and it replaced the old American Motor Inn that desperately needed to come down, and, it will be nice to see a new facility welcoming those that come into town off of Exit 3b.  Visitors will smile when they drive down Route 20, and look around them, and see that not much more has changed over the past 10 to 15 years.   I guess that is why most visitors come, to experience the history, and ambiance in a history loving town where time doesn't really stand still, it just moseys real slow.

Real slow.

Just as nature supposedly abhors a vacuum, Sturbridge isn't too fond of change, especially fast change.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Belief, Reality, and Perspective: Weapons Against Father Time

My uncle celebrated his 90th birthday on Saturday.  Ninety years on this planet is a heck of a milestone.  We gathered at the local American Legion, in Medfield,  to celebrate, and to recognize Uncle Tony for his 90 years of giving to others.  Governor Patrick proclaimed the day in my uncles honor, as did his hometown, and the legislature passed a resolution marking his day as well. The recognition was so well deserved.  A lot of recognition for a quiet man that loves to smile, live life, and family.

Before all the official recognition had begun, it was the more intimate form of recognition that I was having issues with.  Relatives I have not seen in 35 years were there, and although we were all fairly close as kids, I barely recognized them now.  I did manage to connect the faces with the names from my past after a lot of uncomfortable staring.  Recognizing their children was impossible.

I scanned the hall, and attempted to identify the faces that hung under the graying, and gray hair.  I saw cousins wearing sweaters, and Dockers with their belts hiked up to their nipple line.  It seemed that it was just  few months ago that jeans, and a work shirt would have once been the ensemble of the day.  One thing didn't change, they still drank their Bud from the bottle.  Somethings are just instinctual.

The hair was more dyed, gray, and sparse;  the faces showed thirty five years of added character.  The changes, hardly noticeable when seen over the years on a more frequent basis, only announced that not only was Uncle Tony older, but the celebrants were that much older, too.

A damn lot older.

Cripes, we all had become that sixty year old we used to think was synonymous with  the end of life when we were twenty-five.

How the hell  did this happen?  Just a few months ago it was 1982, and I was singing along to Survivor's  "Eye of the Tiger", and now I was standing in the middle of an American Legion Hall with a bunch of old people that insisted they were my cousins.

The realization that one is not only getting older, but is old, doesn't just come with ones first invitation to join AARP at fifty, it comes all along the the way, too.  All those little bothers like getting out of the car a little slower, popping a couple of Aleve after spending the morning working in the yard,  changing glasses in order to read a text on the phone, and then changing them again when you want to go back to watching Jimmy Fallon, tell us that something is up.  If we accept things as just life, we'll do fine, but if we write off every wrinkle, ache, set of lost car keys, forgotten items at the store, missing hairs, teeth, as being old, then we will be old.

The mind is a neat thing, if you tell it something that you believe in, it responds in kind.  Acting ones age is not always the best advice, being how one feels is far better.

I'm not old.  I am aging, though.    I'm younger than Uncle Tony, but I'm not young, either.  This is my reality, and it is essential in moving forward without getting all hung up on what I used to do better than I do now.  I listen to Top 40, and always have.  I work with people less than half my age, and enjoy it a lot.  I still wear jeans.

What's in my mind is so much younger than what's in my mirror.

Staying young has little to do with the date on the calendar, but everything to do with what is on your mind.  If you choose to live old, chances are you will be, but if you choose to age, like wine, then you will most definitely become better than you are now.

I want to live to be 90 like my Uncle Tony, and I am working on being fifty when I get there.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Rail Initiative Meeting 11/19 At Union Station

For those interested in learning more about rail service options, and improvements, and how it could affect us locally.  This would be a great place to learn if it was possible for a train station that would be accessible for Sturbridge residents.


Jill Barrett

Senior Project Manager
FHI | Fitzgerald & Halliday, Inc.
Innovative Planning, Better Communities
416 Asylum Street, Hartford, CT 06103
Main: 860-247-7200 | Direct: 860-570-0740 | Mobile: 860-539-2038

Monday, November 10, 2014

About Those River Lands...

I was wondering what ever happened with the River Lands the Town of Sturbridge purchased a few years ago to extend the Grand Trunk Trail along the Quinebaug River.  Last I knew the BOS had stopped work on the trail until the toxins found on the property were remediated.

Last time I wrote on this subject was last January, and I haven't heard, or read a word about the lands status until this morning.

This morning I learned that no actual remediation is needed, but only a recording, and delineation of the area not to disturb.  I'm told that the area is about two acres.  The order from the Sturbridge Board of Selectmen not to do anything on ALL the acreage still stands, after all this time.  It is time to move on, ad get the trail completed.

So, let me put it out there to the Sturbridge BOS.  What is the status of the River Lands, and when can we expect work to begin on completing the Grand Trunk Trail?

Sunday, November 9, 2014

A Serious Sunday Morning Thought

This is important.

Ebola is only spread by contact with infected body fluids, infected needles, and syringes, Fruit Bats, and primates.

That's it.

The medical teams in the U.S. that are caring for those infected clinicians returning from West Africa are not required to be quarantined for 21 days after caring for those infected persons, however if that same team cared for that infected person 7000 miles to the east, in, let's say Sierra Leone, and returned to the U.S. they would be subject to quarantine for 21 days.

Why?  What is the difference?  Care is care, right?

No.  Apparently it is not in the eyes of some state governments. Some states have made it clear that the care given over there is not quite as good for the caregiver as it would be if had been performed over here.

Dallas proved otherwise.

In Dallas we proved that we can offer the same "here's a band aid, and a prayer" therapy, that many world governments have extended to third world countries for generations,  to our own people inside of America.

We were caught with our isolation gowns down, and were too proud to admit that we had no clue as how to proceed.  We thought our big modern hospitals with their modern isolation rooms, and trained staff would be immune from Ebola hurting our own.  We could have done way better.  Nebraska proved that.

I admire the nurse from Maine that was quarantined in a tent in a parking lot with a bucket toilet for three days.  After returning from Africa, where she cared for those stricken with Ebola,  she said  the right things, in the right way in order to put the attention on a system that was not up to speed, poorly thought out, and based on fear, not science.

This isn't over.  There will many more health care workers exposed to the disease.

Fear is a natural component, but only knowledge, training,  and proper equipment are what matters.  Given to the right people they are the only things that can stop the outbreak.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Just When I Thought I Was All Set

Just when I thought I had a good system going, I find out that I don't.

Charter Cable recently went all digital.  What that means to folks like us is the TV's we have in our house that did not require a cable box now do.

It was too good to last.

Even is it is a digital TV, it still requires a cable box.  So, the old TV in the basement we used while throwing a load in the washer, or folding the laundry is now disconnected.  No sense in paying $5.00 a month for a cable box that is seldom used.  The TV in the kitchen did need a box, as did the TV on the wall in the bedroom.  Those were boxless for years, but now I needed to figure out where to put the newly required boxes.  The kitchen was fairly straight forward, the box sits on the counter with the tiny flat screen on top of it.  The vents aren't blocked, and it works.  The bedroom was different.  The TV is hung on the wall with no place to put a cable box.  I though of putting the box on top of my bureau on the other side of the room, but Mary knocked that thought out of my head.  No, it had to go near the TV, preferably above it.

The Container Store in Natick has a bunch of neat shelving products.  I bought a shelf system there a few years ago that was simple shelf supported by a cable.  The shelf hung above the TV on the wall putting the box, Blu-ray player, and Wii console up, and out of the way.  All the cables are hidden behind a cable hiding system I bought at Home Depot.

I drove back over to the Container Store to see what other options there were for the bedroom, and found a simple system of a shelve, and two supports.  It was rated to support up to 65 pounds, and was simple.  It also cost under $20.  Come to find out the Home Depot has a very similar system, too.

I bought the shelf, and supports, and installed them that day.  Took very little time, and Mary was happy.  The only issue was the new cable box had the time lit up on it all the time.  I never paid much attention to that on the other boxes, but in the bedroom that little bit of light is very annoying.  Between the air conditioner LED lights in the summer, the humidifier LED lights in the winter, the clock radio, the little standby LED on the TV, and now the cable box , the bedroom was lit up like Times Square.  Then I remembered reading an article about the phantom energy robbers in our homes.  One of the things that robs electricity is cable boxes that stay lit all the time.  I pushed the menu button on the remote, chose to have the clock off unless the box was turned on, and the problem was solved.  I did the same for all the other boxes in the house, too.

If you have a table to place the cable box on you are all set, but it your TV is stuck on a wall without a table in sight, then these shelves may be an option for you.

Saving a little electricity is always good, but getting that annoying cable box up, and out of the way is even better.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

George Carlin Is Turning Over

I love George Carlin.  I laughed at his observations of life, but apparently didn't learn what he was teaching.  I've  become an expert at storing a pound of stuff in a half pound bag.  It happens when you only have a half pound bag to begin with, and a whole lot stuff that needs to be stored.  What makes it work is being creative.

I can be creative.

Our garage is a one car garage, and was built sometime in the 1960's.  It's large enough for a 1968 Pontiac Bonneville, and a lawn mower, but little else. It's a half pound bag.  In New England,  there is  stuff that needs to be put away.  Stuff that needs to be stored seasonally, or just stored till the next time it's needed.  A lot of New England folks have a different idea just what storage is.  It could mean putting something in the barn, the garage, or out in the shed.  Others just place it on the lawn, under a tarp. If I placed our stuff under a tarp on the lawn I can assure you that in a very short time one of the things living under a tarp on the lawn would be me.

Mary's tolerance only goes so far.

In order to keep our stuff inside, and out of the weather, I built a lot of shelves, and racks for holding all our stuff in the garage.  It worked.  Rakes, shovels, hoes, and extension cords hung from hooks on the wall.  Snow blower, lawnmower on the floor in the corner.  A small wastebasket, recycling bin, and bin for returnables in the the other corner.  Fireplace wood, ice melt, and bicycles in the back, and bike racks, ladders, sprayers, tire pumps, shrub trimmers, saws, pruners all hanging from hooks on the other wall.

It all fit.

Problem got to be Mary not being able to get out of her car once she pulled in after work.  It only took one night of her sleeping in the garage to convince me that we needed an alternative.  A barn would be nice, but a bit too much since we only have cats, and the tarp idea was definitely out.  It looked like the alternative was a shed.  

I've stick built sheds in the past.  I enjoy it, and I can do it very well, but time was a factor.  I didn't want to have to wait a couple of months  building it on my days off.    

This time I wanted someone else to do it.  

This concept is very foreign to a guy that will try to do most anything before calling in the pro's, but it was an attractive one.  

We pulled up the Reeds Ferry Sheds website on the computer, and went shopping.  The site is good, it has lots of photos of what they offer, tools for  designing sheds, and lots of shed options.  Siding options, roof line options, color options.  Where to place the door options, number of doors, and how wide of a door option.  Window options, too.  If you spent enough time on the site you could design a three bedroom, two bath shed.

After we looked over all the shed designs, and the multitude of options we took a ride up the the Reeds Ferry factory in Hudson, New Hampshire.  The place is immense.  A large factory where the sheds are built, and many different style sheds setup outside for us to walk through, and for getting our storage juices flowing.

It worked.  

We bought a traditional colonial shed, gray clapboard on the three sides, gray shingles on the front with white trim, and a double front door.  And window boxes.  Very New England.  "Has to have window boxes", she said, and I agreed, as my living in under the tarp in the yard was still a very real possibility.

The minimalist garage.
The neat thing about buying a shed in Hudson, New Hampshire is that they build it there, then load it onto a truck, give it a ride to Fiskdale, and unload it.  In no time, compared to me building a shed from scratch, the little building was unloaded, leveled, with the ramp, and window boxes attached.  And, I sat on a lawn chair and watched them do it.  

Watching others do in a fraction of the time I could do it was the best.  What a concept.

Soon, the Reeds Ferry guys were done.  They asked me, as they had throughout their time at our house, if I was satisfied with the shed.

"Yes", I smiled, "Yes, I am".  

Over the next week, or so, I moved all the stuff from the garage into the shed.  It took a bit of time to figure out just where everything was to be placed so that it would fit well, and be accessible.  Now, the garage houses only Mary's car, the wastebasket, recycling, and a couple of snow shovels, and a broom.

That's it. The garage has become a minimalists dream, however we did need to buy a shed to accomplish it.

George Carlin is turning over, I'm sure.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

I Like The Idea

We decided to take Stafford Street in Charlton to the Worcester Airport yesterday.  The Pike, and I-290 are how we have always traveled to Worcester, but when I pulled up directions on Google Maps, it gave three options, and one of them was Stafford Street.  We weren't in a hurry, and neither one of could remember taking that route before, so we went on an explore.

Stafford Street is a straight shot into south Worcester, and not to far from Goddard Memorial Drive, the road to the airport.  It's a rural road, all tree lined, with simple homes along it's edges.  A welcome change from 290.

When we reached the Leicster town line, there was a sign welcoming us to the village of Rochdale.  It's a nice sign, and from what I remember reading as I drove by, it read "Welcome to Rochdale -- A mill town."  Although a village within Leicster, the Welcome to Rochdale sign gave the village it's own identity beyond a separate zip code.  Mary turned to me and asked, "Why doesn't Fiskdale have a welcome sign?" as if I am the Sturbridge Oracle.

"Dunno", I answered as intelligently as possible being caught off guard without a snappy reply.  "I really don't know", I reinforced.

There is a nice mini-park at the clock on Main Street in Fiskdale, beside the mill building,  that contains a little history about the area on placards placed in the garden, but Mary is right, there is no "Welcome to Fiskdale" sign on either end of Main Street, Holland Road, or Route 148.

Map of Fiskdale, Massachusetts
Although, Fiskdale residents, such as ourselves, share Sturbridge government, taxes, and schools, we are most definitely a different place from Sturbridge.  The Federal government states this fact each time I receive a letter addressed to Brookfield Road in Sturbridge.  Sturbridge is always scratched out, in a frantic manner - not just a line through the word, and Fiskdale is written in large, bold print, often followed by an exclamation point.  I have even received notice that I must correct the address with those that send us mail, or our mail will take much longer in arriving since it has to go to the Sturbridge post office first.  The federal government thinks a lot of Fiskdale.  They built us a large, modern post office, and when compared to the Sturbridge post office, well, you can tell who Mom likes best.

I think a few "Welcome to Fiskdale" signs placed about would not only reinforce what the feds have stressed on our envelopes for years, but lend an immense sense of pride to the those of us living "out west".

Now, I can hear the hairs rising on the back of the Sturbridge purists necks as I write.

"Welcome to Fiskdale signs will only confuse those that come to our town.  They won't know where they truly are."

"They'll think they overshot Sturbidge."

"They'll get lost looking for Old Sturbridge Village."

"The signs won't do anything to promote Sturbridge."

"Sturbridge is the historical place, not Fiskdale."

Other towns put up signs as a matter of pride, and I am quite sure that Sturbridge is very proud of Fiskdale, and it's history.  I don't think it will affect folks heading to Old Sturbridge Village, after all, it is located in Fiskdale.

If worded properly, and placed appropriately, the signs would be a wonderful addition to our roadsides.

Welcome to Fiskdale  
A village of Sturbridge

I like the idea.  Something to think about this Sunday morning.  Feel free to run with it.

Friday, October 10, 2014

And, It's Free

What is your happiness?  I don't mean to sound Zen like, or like some speaker at a "feel good" seminar, but think about the question for a moment.  What is it that makes you happy?  Are you happy daily, or only at particular moments?  Is your happiness a constant with the ups, and downs that everyone experiences?  Now, I am not talking about depression, that is a whole different ball of wax.  I am talking about plain old happiness.

Now, don't say you are always unhappy, or you are a lifelong pessimist, or you have an enzyme dysfunction that excludes you from being happy ever.  I don't buy it, and don't be a dink.  Happiness is universal, and it is a choice to either experience it, or not.  Oh, you may be bummin' about something that might make it hard to smile at the moment, but that is temporary.  The smile will come back, just grab hold when it does.  You'll be fine.

If you are breathing be happy.  That is a simple thought to start with.

I've had several times in my life where happiness took a leave of absence.  You have, too.  I have also had far more times where happiness not only found me, but grabbed me, and throttled the bejeepers out of me.  It was that good.  The sad times were rough, too, but I knew that they were only temporary.

I was not going to live sad.  I am not talking about depression.  Depression is far beyond being sad. Depression is a clinical condition, sadness is something everyone feels now, and again.

I've lost people close to me, jobs that I loved, all sorts of relationships, pets, my car keys, my train of thought, and money, but nothing did I loose was so severe as to suck the life from me for the rest of my days.

I've also had the attitude that I will maintain happiness, be ready for the next smile moment, and experience it to the fullest.  That moment could be the simplest thing.  On Monday, my happiness reached a high.  My face still hurts from smiling for two hours straight.

Mary and I were both off on Monday. I slept in the morning after my work at the hospital that night, and she ran errands, and did "Mary" things.  After noontime we moved somethings into the shed for the off season.  It was a beautiful fall day with blue skies, a few white clouds, and seasonal temperatures.

"I want to go for a ride on the motorcycle", she said.

I am a novice rider, and had to gain some experience before taking a passenger with me.  After a month, and a half of practice yesterday was the day to grab that next moment.

We ran over to Auburn, bought a helmet for Mary, and drove home.  "Hurry!," Mary said as she smacked my arm, "We're burning' daylight!".  She was little excited.

On the way home, I gave her the prerequisite safety talk about being a passenger on a motorcycle.  I knew she heard me even though her smile was overlapping her ears.

At home we donned our gear, I got on the bike,  and Mary sat behind me.  She gave my back a squeeze, and I could feel her excitement though her gloves.  A deep breath, a prayer, then off we went to Cumberland Farms.

We needed gas.

We gassed up, and headed out for real this time to Route 148 north,  and Route 9 west in Brookfield.

The air was brisk, and the sun was out.  Blue skies with  a few white clouds led the way.  The afternoon sun played with the foliage along the road.  At each stop sign I checked with Mary, and asked how she was doing, and even over the motors rumble, I could hear her smile.

You can actually feel happiness, and I felt not only my own, but hers.

We rode up Route 32 into Hardwick to the covered bridge.  This is one of our favorite places, and it was only natural we would come here on our first ride together.  Riding the bike through the covered bridge over those thick wooden boards was great.  The sound of the motor against the bridges floorboards, and echoing up against the rafters will stay with me for a long time.  We dismounted, took a few photos, and headed back down 32 to Route 9 west, and the Quabbin Reservoir.

Route 9 becomes less wide the further west you go, and has more twists, and curves.  It is a great road for riding a motorcycle.  The scenery is the best, and around each corner I could feel Mary give me a squeeze when she saw a sight that was awesome.  I got a lot of hugs that day.

We entered the Quabbin Reservoir, and rode slowly through the forest that reservoir sat inside of. The leaves were near peak in some areas, and in others they hadn't changed at all.  In the very best areas, where the late afternoon sun was just hitting, the colors were the most glorious.

We pulled over in a scenic area, and stared off towards the water.  It didn't cost us a thing.  The happiness we were feeling was free, all it took was for us to find it.

We rode down the rest of the road chose to ride down by the dam, and back out to Route 9.

Coming up onto the Salem Cross Inn in West Brookfield the view was perfect with the sun illuminating the trees around the pasture.  The cows looked as if they had been painted onto the scene.  All it was missing was a signature in the corner.  I'll hold that picture in my mind for a long time.

We took Route 148 south.  The Brookfield Common, the Quaboag River, the fields, and woods  lined our ride back home. The sun was beginning to fall below the tops of the trees to our right, and the shadows cast into the fields on our left were punctuated by colors of the changing trees.  Mary's squeezes were held longer, and tighter.  She was pushing the Happy Meter to its limits, and my smile hadn't left my face since we first pulled out of the driveway, and now, as we were pulling back in, it was frozen in place.

There is no secret to happiness.  It isn't some mysterious force that only finds it's way to others.  It's homemade.   Whether you're giving it, or feeling it, happiness doesn't cost a thing.  Be proactive, and don't wait for it to find your face, go find some for yourself.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Lifes Map Is Constantly "Recalculating", But You'll Get There Eventually

It isn't a bucket list thing.  No, far from it.

A bucket list thing is something one wants to do before they die in order to feel that their time here on this rock has been one of accomplishment.  Checking off things on a list is one way of keeping track of those accomplishments.

Nothing wrong with a bucket list if one starts it early enough.  If one starts a list early enough then life will steer one toward the items on the list,  instead of the need for accomplishments steering ones life.

An early declaration of goals is not called a list, but rather a map for the path one chooses.  Way points, destinations, layovers, and detours will be all over that map, and they will be added to, crossed off, ignored, and postponed.

I have one of those maps, and I have some postponed items that are now in the accomplished pile.  One of those things on my list from very early in my life was to ride my own motorcycle along the back roads of New England in the fall.

This week, on the first day of autumn, I did it.

The ride was freedom, fun, and a smile that started in Fiskdale, and was still there when  I arrived home again, and putting my bike back into the garage.

I'm still smiling.

When I decided that life finally was at the point on my map that would allow me to head in that direction, I began by taking the required test to obtain my motorcycle learners permit in spring of 2012.  Soon after, a small detour went up when we bought a summer place.  Just a detour, I've had those before, and the road it led me on was either a bit rocky, or better than my original route.  This time it was the latter.

This past spring, with only a few months left on my two year learners permit, and having no time learning, I signed up for a two day motorcycle safety course in Boylston.  Classroom hours, and hours on the asphalt course gave me a basic understanding on what it takes to get hurt, and how to avoid it.  The class also taught me how to ride.

At the conclusion of the course I took a written test, and a practical test on a motorcycle.  I passed both, and was awarded my very own Commonwealth of Massachusetts Motorcycle License.

Almost there.

I put off the idea of doing my long thought of back roads ride for a bit, there were other things that needed attention, and I don't like spending money on myself.

After a thinking things over this summer, reviewing the map, adjusting for detours, I decided to take the next step, and buy a motorcycle.  A tent sale at Sheldon's in Auburn was a very good incentive.  The motorcycle was affordable, in excellent condition, and apparently had been waiting for me.

Over that past several weeks I have taken the bike out and put a couple of hundred miles on it.  Each time I go out, I learn, gain more confidence, and understanding of my bikes, and my limitations.

This past Monday, it was bright, sunny, and the fall colors were starting to appear.  It was also the first day of fall.

It was time.

I took the motorcycle north on  Brookfield Road to Warren Road.  The trees, were changing, especially by the wetlands.  I stopped at a farm stand we usually buy our pumpkins at  in West Brookfield, took a couple of photos to remember the moment a destination on my map had been reached.  I then headed the back way to Brimfield, towards  Route 20, and home.

I have a lot of destinations left on my map.  I know I will be adding more as well, and there are others I will never reach, have gone by, and have been reset.  Reaching a destination is important, but not nearly as important the trip one takes in getting there.  That is where the learning occurs.  That is what makes reaching the destination so meaningful.

This journey took some time for me to reach those red, and yellow, leafed roads of West Brookfield, but it doesn't matter, I made it.   The neat thing is that it may have taken forty four years to get there, but I was sixteen when I arrived.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Let's Get This Rolling

At the recent selectman's meeting this past Monday night, Selectman Mary Redetzke asked for support from the other selectmen in asking the state for a commuter rail station between Palmer, and Worcester.


I've written about having commuter train access for those in the region in the past, and today I am writing again in support of the selectman's plea.  The addition of a rail platform on the existing line would be a tremendous boost to the area.  Commuters to Worcester, Springfield, and beyond in both directions, would be able to cut their commute time, save oodles of money, reduce wear to the roads, and our environment, and do it all by driving a little bit north to the CSX line, and boarding a train.

So simple.

No need for  tracks.  They are already there.  Just a station.  A sheltered platform.  A small investment with incredible returns.

Widening of the Massachusetts Turnpike from 4 to
6 lanes looking  west toward Exit 9 in Sturbridge.
There are some that question whether it would be worth the investment.  I, for one, would like someone else to do the driving on my commute to Boston, and I am sure Mary would enjoy it as well going to Worcester everyday.

A rail station would be an amenity that would attract thousands to an area that has been disconnected since the age of the trolley.  The turnpike was an innovation designed, and built during the Eisenhower years when the interstate highway system was being constructed countrywide.  Based on designs of the autobahn in Germany, modern highways served an incredible importance as our country grew beyond the neighborhoods, and out to suburbia.  The turnpike is mainly responsible for Sturbridge being who we are today.  Problem is, we are stagnant.

The age of the automobile not only spawned the toll road, but has maintained it.  Today, the turnpike is like an old soldier trying on his uniform years after he took it off.  It looked great at one time, but it simply no longer fits. The turnpike was built for 1957 traffic, widened for more traffic in the late 1960's.  2014 traffic is too much for the old road .  It is no longer the care free road from here to way out there, but a clogged artery that causes accidents, lost patience, constant repairs from the load, and travel times far exceeding the times the highway was orignally built to provide.

The highway brought the people to rural America, but is struggling to get them in and out on a daily basis.

Time to shift gears, and put an option out there.  Trains are a fantastic option.

Thank you, Mary, for your passion.

Previous articles on trains for our area:

Thinking Out Loud In Sturbridge: We Have Met The Enemy...

Thinking Out Loud In Sturbridge: Best Regional Idea ...

Sunday, September 14, 2014

It's Not 2005 Anymore

Telephone landlines will be history within a few years.  The latest Verizon phone book for Charlton, Sturbridge, and Southbridge is about a quarter of an inch thick, and the residential listings are about a third of that.

We can actually see our world changing with each new edition.  Soon, only businesses will have landlines, and they will be over the Internet landlines (VOIP).  Mr. Bell's baby is beyond grown up, and now getting ready to retire.

The cell phone, and Voice Over Internet Protocol, cable telephone, has almost completely replaced the hardlined telephone line.  CAUTION:  OXYMORON AHEAD.  Now, we are a generation of relying on our cable company for uninterrupted service.


Then there's  the cell phone.  We  have we been turned into a head down, jaywalking, eye averting, texting, society who is only social when posting food pics from a restaurant , or of their cats being cats.

The expression, "Did I say that out loud?" was funny at one time, now it is expected behavior.  Everything that is running through ones head is immediately texted, posted, or pinned.  There are few secrets today.  There is no mystery.  We know everything about each other.  From your inseam, to your bra size.  From your dietary needs, to his GI issues.  Wishes, to fantasies.  We now know who each of us love, and who we don't.  Some of us ramble.  Others mutter, and others make absolutely no sense.  There are few that are eloquent with their posts, and others are only confirming what many have known all along, and are now sharing with the world.

Our behavior has changed almost over night.  What would have been regarded as rude, impolite, introverted, obsessive, compulsive, boring, and socially incorrect a decade ago, still is, but has now been given the term "social media" so it is a more accepted,tolerated, almost expected behavior.

Actually, it is the tolerated addiction.  Frankly, there is not much we can do about it.

So, while you are sipping your coffee this morning, and mulling this over, check out this pic. WTH is she staring at?  LOL.

My inseam is 32".

Friday, September 12, 2014

Heeee's Baaaaack: Post Warm Weather Musings & Ramblings

It's been a great summer, and I took some time off from writing this summer, emptied my head of most things thinkable, and let the breeze blow in one ear, and out the other.  I enjoyed the summer a lot.  We spend a lot of time at our place in Maine.  Nothing against my hometown, but if Sturbridge had an  ocean, I'd spend more of my summer here, too.

Wells Harbor, Maine
(c) 2014 W. Hersee
So, what's new?  

I do have a few things I've been thinking about.

In July I posted that the "Yield On Left" signs went up after it was brought to the attention of Sturbridge PD that they would be more than appropriate at the intersection of Route 20 and Route 148.  The idea was brought to MassDot, and after they looked it over they agreed.  Well done to everyone involved.

There are now two signs, one attached to the traffic light support pole on the right at the end of Holland Road.  The other is on it's own pole on the right side of Route 148 before the intersection.

Great sign, lousy location.

The drivers eyes are focused on what is in front of them, and since the road deviates slightly to the left here, and often there are two rows of cars as well, the sign is not seen as clearly as the the other one is.  To tell you the truth, I know it it there, but I never "see" it when I drive to that intersection.  It would be better on the same pole as the Holland Road sign, facing north towards Route 148.

What else is new?  

I heard the Town Administrator resigned.  Actually, I did know that.  Strange that he left a few weeks after coming over to our house, and looking over the Sturbridge artifacts I had, and wanted to get into the hands of the town.  Talk about being noncommittal.   I'll hold on to them for a bit longer before they see Ebay.

I don't see a rotary at Route 131, and Route 20.  

We have three Dunkin' Donuts in town, and I don't like their coffee any more.  I used to buy it everyday before work.  Then, they changed it up from flavored beans to "flavor shots", but I stuck it out for a few years.  Then the coffee began to loose its fullness, and started to taste watered down.  The coffee we brew at home tastes far better.  At first I thought it was only this way in that one Fiskdale location, but I found it was the same at all the locations in town, and beyond.  Their donuts are now generic, and bland.  So after being a Dunkin's customer for my entire adult life, I bailed on them.  They've grown so big that they've changed from  caring about quality, to quantity. Happens a lot to companies.  Cumberland Farms Coffee is 1/3 the cost, and tastes far better. For that matter, so does McDonalds coffee.  

Who would've thunk?

This week we are having insulation blown into our 1858 house.  Except for a pair of toy doll knickers that one of the insulation installers pulled out of the wall, there was not a lick of insulation to be seen in those old walls.  New boiler last year, Nest thermostat the year before, and now a newly insulated house, we should be in a lot better shape this coming winter.  I'll let you know how we do.

Mary's been asking for a shed to house all the stuff in our single car garage.  I had it arranged the stuff in the garage in such a way that she could park her car inside.  There was a problem with her getting out of the car, but she did become quite adept at siding in and out of the drivers side window.
I could have built the shed, I've done that before, but this time we drove up to Hudson, NH, and visited Reeds Ferry Sheds, and picked one out.  It's coming in a few weeks.  I didn't want to spend the summer building a shed.  I had beaches to sit on.

Last April I took the motorcycle safety course in Boylston, and received my motorcycle license.  Now, all I needed was a motorcycle. I figured that with the insulation, and the shed, it would be best to wait till next year.

It would have been best if Sheldons Harley-Davidson dealership in Auburn did not have a tent sale for the second time this summer.  The second time was too much for me.  

I caved.

I bought a 2005 Harley Sportster.  For me, this bike is one for me to learn on.  When I get more skilled, more confident, then I may go for something newer.  Right now, I have to continue to learn.  Good thing that shed is coming soon, it's going to be a great place to store it over the winter.

"That worked out rather well", he said with a surprised look on his face. 

Unfinished business.  Still waiting on some unfinished business I wrote about last spring.  One of them was who is responsible for enforcing town by-laws regarding pool enclosures.  When I hear, I'll let you know.  Another piece of unfinished business was addressing the dilapidated house beside the Blackington Building.  The town did find the owner, and the town did tell them that they wanted the building, and grounds made safe.  That means, cleaned up, and the house closed up to the weather. The family assured the town they would get some family together, and get on it as ASAP.

"It's coming along nicely", said no one ever.

Tell me what's been on your mind lately.

I do hope your summer was as wonderful as ours.  Let's enjoy the fall together.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Well Done

It's only been two months since a request for a yield on left turn sign to be erected at the junction of Route 148, and Route 20.  In the "Gettin'-Things-Done-In-A-Small-Town Calendar" two months is a nanosecond.

From suggestion to implementation it took under two months, and involved the Sturbridge PD, a selectman, and the MassDOT.

Well done.  An improvement suggested by Sturbridge resident for something all of us have thought of each time we drove south on 148 to that intersection, was also seen as being good idea by those at MassDOT.

Shows that the system does, and can work if done right, without dropping the ball.  This time all the players held tight.

Friday, June 6, 2014


No more Mini Coopers being swallowed by the potholes that lived in the parking lot at the Hobbs Brook Plaza.  No more mandatory wheel alignments after a half dozen trips to Stop & Shop.  The roadway, and parking lot is being completely redone--the right way.  The old asphalt has been completely removed, not milled, or ground down, but totally removed.  A bottom coarse layer of asphalt was put down followed by a top, fine coat.

Seems like a simple thing, a newly paved parking lot, and it is, but it is also a very appreciated thing.  Long overdue things always are.

Roadbed removed in preparation for the paving of new roadway.

Looking toward Route 20

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

A Whole Lot Closer Now

I received this email late this morning, and it made me smile.  You see, I had just emailed the Chief at the end of last week, before the Holiday weekend, and on the first business day after the weekend I was sent a reply.  I had already received a reply, and had spoken to Selectman Moran on the phone, and was reassured that the matter would be addressed.

He was right, the matter is being addressed.  Let's hope that it comes to fruition.

Thomas Ford

10:52 AM (5 hours ago)
Good Morning All,

This morning I spoke with Joe Farley at MASS DOT regarding the signage at Rtes 20/148. He advised me that he and his staff would be looking into the posting of this signage. He told me that they would need to look at the age of the existing traffic signal to determine if it could withstand the weight load of this signage. If the signal was not able to sustain the load, then they would erect a standing sign reminding motorists to follow the state law and yield on green. The Police Department has addressed this issue on many occasions with patrol officers stationed in the area monitoring this intersection. Unfortunately, we have not had much success in enforcing this violation (it is amazing how cognizant we are of the law when a marked cruiser is within sight). We will not be discouraged by this and will continue with our enforcement efforts in this area. On a side note, I also spoke with Mr. Farley regarding replacing the green traffic lights at the intersection of Rte. 20 and OSV with green arrow lights in order to assist visitors who cannot read the overwhelming amount of signage in that area. This idea was given to me by Tony Celuzza. Mr. Farley advised me that he would notify me, via e-mail, of their progress. So, thank you all for your assistance and continued commitment to a safer community.


Thomas J. Ford III
Chief of Police
Sturbridge, MA 01566

A Little Closer Now

Update on the requested sign at 148 & 20.

Sent: Sunday, May 25, 2014 6:42:47 AM
To: DOTInfo (DOT)
Subject: MassDOT Contact Us: MassDOT
Auto forwarded by a Rule Name: Walter Hersee

Phone Number: 508-963-5465
Email Address:
Topic: MassDOT

I write a blog in Sturbridge. Recently I received an email re: placing a sign reminding drivers to yield when turning left at the intersection of Route 148, and Route 20. The intesections configuration with Holland Road encourages those coming from the north on 148 not to yield. This occurs with each light change, and results in confusion, and anger. I don't have accident data. Apparently the idea of a sign reminding to yield has been on other peoples mind for this intersection as well. Could this be looked into b the DOT? Regards, Wally Hersee Fiskdale, MA

From: Jessen, Klark (DOT)
Sent: Sunday, May 25, 2014 6:46 AM
To: DOT Feedback District3
Subject: Fwd: MassDOT Contact Us: MassDOT

From: "DOTInfo (DOT)" <>
Date: May 25, 2014 at 6:42:49 AM EDT
To: "Jessen, Klark (DOT)" <>
Subject: FW: MassDOT Contact Us: MassDOT
Mr. Hersee,

Thank you for contacting MassDOT Feedback.  We have forwarded your email to the District’s Traffic Section for their review.

Feedback District 3


Saturday, May 24, 2014

An Inexpensive Fix

Ever sit and think why something was, and how it could be made better?  Of course you have.  Passive fixing accounts for much of what occurs around us.

I am sure many of you have driven south of Route 148, and stopped at the lights at the intersection with Route 20.  And, most of you know that you must yield to oncoming traffic if you are going to turn left.


Well, you do, but most of you don't.

I have seen close calls, obscene gestures, and hands flying up, and off the wheel in exasperation at this intersection, and it doesn't have to be that way.  People just need to be reminded to yield.  Those yellow triangle signs we see at merges are there to remind us to Yield; so are stop signs.  As drivers we need to be reminded, alerted, and instructed as we drive.  Experience, common sense, and knowledge can only help us so far.

At the intersection of Route 148, and Route 20 there is the need for a reminder.  A sign placed on the large metal support for the traffic lights where Holland Road and Route 20 meet, and facing towards Route 148, and another placed on the wire light  supports over the intersection would be very good reminders.  This past week I received an email from a fellow Fiskdale resident expressing the same concerns.  That email prompted me to write today.  Thank you, Hoyle.

This is not an expensive fix, but as with the No Turn On Red signs at Hobbs Brook, it is necessary.

I have forwarded the email I recieved to  to Selectman Moran, Greg Morse of the Highway Department, and Chief Ford.  All of these men consider public safety to be a priority.

I'll let you know when I hear back.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

It's Simply A Matter Of Public Safety

A few years ago I wrote about the abandoned house beside the Blackington Building in Fiskdale.  It wasn't the first time I had addressed the issue of the abandoned house, and the fire danger it presented.  It is also a blight on the neighborhood.

The former chairman of the BOS contacted me in an email, and assured me he would address it.  He later called me and said he was involved with other negligent property owners in town, and wanted to take care of them first.  He felt if the BOS addressed the Fiskdale house it would affect the proceedings with the other abandoned homes in town.  He assured me he would address it in about three months.

Say what?

I was confused.  Here was a safety concern for the businesses, and those living next to the abandoned building that had been an issue for many, many years, yet the town would was not going to address it.  Any other town would have cited the owner, given them a date to correct the issue, and if it wasn't, tear it down.

I did email reminders each year after the initial email in 2010, but never received a reply.

It's 2014.  The building is still there, and he's not.  There is a a new chairman, a new building inspector,  a new fire chief, and a new attitude.  So, let's try this again.

To the Sturbridge Board of Selectmen, Fire Chief, and Building Inspector:

The abandoned house beside the Blackington Building is a public safety hazard.  It has sat empty for well over a decade, and it needs to be razed.  

What are the towns plans for the building?

OK.  Let's give the town a chance to formulate a plan, and to get back to us.  This time, I promise not to let it go.

Friday, May 16, 2014

And, We Will Be Better For It

Fisherman on Wells Beach
(c) W. Hersee
This will be our second full season of enjoying life on the coast of Maine.  For years we frequented the southern coast of Maine, and enjoyed it for all the same reasons that millions of others have over the years.

The sea is very different each day.  The feeling of the mist on your face on a cool, overcast morning  is as enjoyable as the scent of sunblock soaked sand on a 90 degree day.  The gentle sound of the tide going out is so different than the heavy surf coming in when there is a storm at sea.  Both are wonderful, both enjoyed equally.

I could sit and watch the sea roll in, and then out, again forever.  This passive act is perfect for thinking, dwelling, and pondering about nothing more than nothing at all.  Sometimes that is the very best thing to do.  It justifies that staring
A young girl enjoys the sunrise on Wells Beach
(c) W. Hersee
off  into space look one has as they watch the sea touch the sand over, and over again.  Yes, sometimes it is not only a good thing, but a necessary thing to just let the mind go, and process little more than getting up, pouring coffee, and staring out to sea.

This summer we plan on doing a lot of mindless staring off to sea.  We are getting quite good at it, almost to the level of making it an Olympic sport.

Watching the surf chase the Sandpipers up and down the sand is therapeutic--it actually cleanses the head, washing all the debris that has accumulated  in those hard to purge recesses.  It is a healthy thing to do. There is a renewal that occurs, and one can feel it as it is happening.   It is not an act of laziness, in fact, if done correctly it surpasses being lazy.

Fishing on the Jetty at Wells Beach
(c) W. Hersee
We all need a place to go to renew ourselves, to flush out all the detritus that has burrowed deep inside, and taints everything we do.   You have a place, but you may not know it as your renewal place.  If you feel different, for the better, after being there, then you have your place.  Gardening, mowing the lawn, hiking a trail, painting your child's room, or staying at a cabin in the mountains all have a way of emptying the dust bin on our shoulders.  These activities are not without another purpose. They were not only designed to accomplish their intended purpose, but also make you feel good along the way.

Nature is cunning, and manipulative that way.  We plan on being victims of manipulation on the beach a lot this summer, and we will be better people for it.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Weekend Project: Build Your Own Cat Distractor

The one thing that will get your cat to listen to you, follow you around the house like a puppy, and keep itself occupied, and out of trouble for awhile is this thing.

It may look like a little plastic ring, but to the Felis catus, it is crack.

No matter what they are doing at the time, annoying you with those choreographed in 'n outs through your legs while you are taking dinner from the oven, or slapping your face as you lie in bed trying for those last few minutes of sleep, if they so much as hear one of these rings hit the floor you can say, Adios, gato!

There is something about these plastic circles that drive cats mad.  I used to think it was the scent of milk from the milk jug from which they came, but after finding a few under the couch months after they were lost, and they still have the same narcotic effect on them, I now doubt that is the reason.  It could be how the thing springs madly about when slapped with a paw, and can be carried from room to room in their mouths, but I haven't a clue.  It is something powerful, though.  It can distract the most hungry, and persistent cat, the most annoying cat that appears out of no where to sit on your head while you are watching TV.  Just toss it on the floor, and watch the fun.  If we could invent a human equivalent I believe we could achieve world peace.    All we would need to do is have fly a drone over a trouble area, drop a few hundred thousand of these little plastic diplomats onto the angry throngs, and then sit back and watch the distraction.  After awhile, the opposing parties may forget what had them so hot and bothered for in the first place, and go out for a beer.

I hope those smart kids at WPI are reading this.

How to Build Your Own Cat Distractor

The plastic cat ring in its natural state.
  1. Buy a jug of milk with a turn off cap.
  2. Take off the cap.
  3. Take off the ring.  A fork may help.
  4. Put cap back on the milk jug.
  5. Toss the cat distractor onto the floor in front of cat.
  6. Watch the fun.
*  You may pour a glass of milk for yourself between steps 3 and 4.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

And, The Hits Just Keep On Coming

If something I owned broke, or just stopped working, I would try to fix it.  I would take the repair as far as my skill, and knowledge would allow.  With some broken things that wasn't far, but with many other things I did succeed.

How old the broken something is, is there a newer, better, shinier version available, and cost would be the factors that would preempt any repair attempt.  The challenge of giving the broken thing an extended life was always something worth taking on so that when I had to buy a new own I could justify the purchase, and have no regrets.

Many of us follow these steps to some degree.  We'll wiggle it, shake it, and turn it upside down. Some of us will even go the next step, and take a screw diver to it, open it up and do the wiggle, shake, turn maneuver all over again.  We do it not so much to save a buck, but to satisfy the driving force to accept the challenge to fix it that the thing has offered up.  Half of our brains hope for a quick, and easy fix, and the other half are hoping for a new, shiny thing.

The other day, after wiggling, and shaking,  I bought the new shiny thing.

Failed lock set.
The lock set on the door leading from the house to the garage failed.  It was only about three ears old. I bought it at Home Depot along with the metal door I attached it to.  One morning before the weekend I saw that the door was closed, but there was light coming from around the lock set side of the door.  On closer inspection I found that the door was not closed all the way.  I opened the door, and rotated the knob, and found it would only turn one way.  I made sure it was unlocked, tried again, and got the same result.  Now, this lock set was one of those sets that also comes with a deadbolt.  It wasn't cheap, and that would be my motivation to take the thing off the door, and tear into it.

Challenge accepted.

I grabbed a Phillips head, and went at it.  Soon I had the knob off, and in my hand.  I wiggled it, followed by the required shake, and then examined it from every angle as I wiggled and shook.


The knob continued to turn only one way, but not the other way so it would not allow the door to be closed unless the knob was turned.  Without any further wigglin',  I was off to Home Depot. It was time for a shiny new knob.

Home Depot's lock set aisle is impressive.  Large displays up one side of an entire aisle of lock sets with, and without deadbolts, brass, or nickel finished, antiqued rubbed bronze, or brushed metal finishes, key operated, or combination lock.  I narrowed my search to a combination pack of knob, and lock set, and I found the price was a bit more than it was three years ago.  Maybe a new part would help.  One company did sell a replacement inside piece, but my lock was a Schlage, and the store no longer carried those replacement parts because they were seldom sold.

Well, duh.  They are replacement parts.  If you sold a lot of them it would not speak well for the product,  but it you did need a replacement, you would need it then, not in three to five business day from an online site.

I was directed to a lady at the end of the aisle.  The Home Depot employee that directed me said she knew everything about lock sets.  And she did.  I told her my problem, and she asked what company the lock was from, and I told her it was a Schlage.  She said to call them, and they will replace the lock set for free.  They warranty their products for life.

Free?  Really?  Well, that sure as heck beats a shake and a wiggle hands down.

The new lever lock set.
I bought the set I wanted.  The only difference was that I bought one with a handle, not a knob.  It would be easier to open coming in from the garage with hands full of groceries, and such.

When I got home, I called Schlage, and was greeted by a lady named Judy, and I explained my situation.  She said she would be happy to help, and asked for the numbers on the replacement set I had just purchased, and for me to email her a copy of my receipt.  She then told me my refund for the newly purchased lock set would be sent out in two weeks.

Really?  She told me that Schlage stands behind their products, and they are guaranteed for life.  I asked if she wanted me to send her the old set, and she said no.  I then told her the new lock set had a lever, and was not the knob type that it replaced.  She agreed that a lever was the best thing to have on that door since it would make life easier with hands full of groceries. No, she said, it didn't matter that it was a lever.

In the span of a couple of months, I had been visited twice by the Consumer Good Fairy.  First the powered bathroom shade was replaced for bupkis, and now a $70.00 lock set was being replaced as well, and all for the price of a phone call.

So much for planned obsolescence.  Today corporations find it better business to build a product that will either last, or take on a policy of replacing a defective item with no questions asked.  For the consumer, this means a great deal.  Loyalty is insured, and that spawns more positive word of mouth reviews, and more business.  It works - I'm doing it now.

The lesson in all of this is if you have a product that has failed, and you fully expected it to last a lot longer, then give the company a call, and speak to customer service.  You may be in for a pleasant surprise.

Now, for a bit more positive consumer news.  I want to report that the new razors from I wrote about back on April 30 are great.  That first razor I loaded onto the handle two weeks ago is still there, and shaving very well.  Let's see just how far it will take me.

In the meantime, the hits just keep on coming.