Saturday, June 22, 2013

Discover Western a Day!

(Guest Post) When people from outside of New England think of taking a vacation in Massachusetts, the first destinations that usually come to mind include historical sites in Boston and the windswept coast of Cape Cod. Less well known are the hidden treasures waiting to be discovered in Western Massachusetts.

Western Massachusetts includes the counties of Berkshire, Franklin, Hampshire and Hampden. These areas are home to a bounty of natural, historic and cultural sites and include activities for every member of the family. In addition, there are a wide variety of accommodations available to suit just about any lifestyle. In fact, families on a tight budget may find that their vacation dollar goes further here than in many other popular destinations.

Ideally, you would want to spend at least a week here, but what if you only have one day? Not to worry! While you may not have time to hike the Appalachian Trail, with a little planning you can pack a lot into your trip.

Let's Take the Tour

First things first: Gas up the car and get a good night's rest. It's going to be a very long 16 hour day. While this is clearly a road trip, the scenic drives in Western Massachusetts are part of the attraction. A comfortable car with good visibility will enhance the experience.

Warning: This trip is not for the faint of heart. Only "power tourists" need apply!


Old town offices - Stockbridge, Mass.*
Our tour begins and ends in the historic town of Stockbridge. There are many fine accommodations and resorts in the immediate area. If possible, arrive early the day before the tour and take some time to explore this colonial town,
catch a concert or even play a round of golf.

The Mission House is a good bet if you are interested in the history of the area. Tanglewood is the summer home of the Boston Symphony and offers a variety of music programs. The Norman Rockwell Museum houses the world's largest collection of original art by America's favorite illustrator.

On the day of the tour, set your alarm and be out the door by 7am. Drive a few miles east to the city of Lee for breakfast.


Like Stockbridge, Lee is a colonial town rich in history and character.

A good place to stop for breakfast is Otto's Breakfast Deli on Main St. If you want to stretch your legs after breakfast, check out the quaint downtown area or drive a mile north to Lenox Town Beach located on beautiful Laurel Lake.

You'll need to hit the road by 9am. It's a 45 minute drive on I-90 East to Springfield.


Springfield is located on the shores of the Connecticut River in Hampden County. This is the largest city in Western Massachusetts with a population of about 153,000 residents.

Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame
While Springfield is best known for the Basketball Hall of Fame, it also hosts numerous other museums. Take a stroll through the Dr. Seuss Memorial Sculpture Garden, open early at 9 am. Now head over to either the Basketball Hall of Fame or one of the other museums adjacent to the sculpture garden:

  • The Museum of Springfield History includes a collection of antique motorcycles produced by The Indian Manufacturing Company.
  • The Springfield Science Museum has live animals, a planetarium and dinosaur replicas.
  • The George Walter Vincent Smith Art Museum

Get there for the 10am opening and limit your visit to an hour and a half, allowing you time to drive to...

Historic Deerfield

From Springfield, head north on I-91 to Deerfield. The drive should take about 40 minutes.
Historic Deerfield is an authentic 18th-century English settlement in the Connecticut River Valley. Step into early America as you tour Historic Deerfield's eleven house museums.

Take an hour or two to explore the village and grab a snack at the Museum Gift shop.

The Mohawk Trail

The Mohawk Trail - Charlemont, Mass.
From Deerfield, it's a short drive north on Route 10 to Greenfield. You can pick up the historic Mohawk Trail there by heading west on Route 2.

The beautiful Mohawk Trail runs east to west across the northwestern portion of the state. This trail, now State Route 2, was the first scenic automobile route in America. It consists of 63 miles of spectacular scenery, attractions and gift shops. The road follows the old trail Native Americans of the Five Nations used to pass between the Connecticut and Hudson Valleys.

Shelburne Falls

Shelburne Falls is a 15 minute drive from Greenfield. This town is most famous for the Bridge of Flowers, a former trolley bridge over the Deerfield River that is now maintained by the Shelburne Falls Women's Club as a floral display from April through October.

The West End Pub is a great place to stop for a late lunch. The dining area has large windows overlooking the river and bridge. You may want to check out the glacial potholes just downstream from the bridge.

Continue heading west along scenic Route 2 for about 27 miles to North Adams. The Mohawk Trail passes through several state forests and you may want to make some quick stops at shops and vistas along the way.

North Adams

If you can get to North Adams by 4:30 pm, then stop by the Natural Bridge State Park. It contains the only natural white marble arch/bridge in North America. The marble was carved into an arch by the force of glacial melt water over 13,000 years ago.


Route 2 in Williamstown, Mass.
Drive another five miles west on Route 2 to Williamstown. Have a nice dinner at Hops and Vines restaurant and then head over for an 8pm show at the Williamstown Theater Festival. This festival offers a variety of performances on two stages.

Complete the Loop

After the show, grab a cup of coffee and complete the tour by driving 1 hour south on US 7 back to Stockbridge. made it!

While it's always fun to travel to famous destinations, you may find that visiting places that are off the beaten path can be even more exciting and enriching. Western Massachusetts is no exception. A one-day tour does not do justice to this beautiful region, but hopefully it will entice you to come back for more.

About the Author

Anton Pomakov is the Senior Vice President for Marketing at Dallas-based Silverleaf Resorts where he manages marketing development, operations and business growth initiatives. He has spent his entire career as a professional in the hospitality industry, leading marketing and management teams with a goals-based approach to improving customer experience and the bottom line. Follow Anton and Silverleaf Resorts @SLResorts or on Silverleaf Resorts LinkedIn.

*Photo Credits:

Stockbridge, Mass. - Old town offices: Joe Mabel [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, Springfield, Mass.:By rizha ubal (DSC04206) [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
Charlemont, Mass. - Mohawk Trail: ToddC4176 at en.wikipedia [CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or GFDL (], via Wikimedia Commons
Williamstown, Mass. - View along Route 2: By Daderot (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Prepare Your Car For Heat Before Heading to the Hills

Alford Cemter Road, Alford, Mass.
(Guest Post) With Memorial Day fast approaching, it's nearly time to flee the heat of the city and relax in the rolling terrain of western Massachusetts. Whether you're day-tripping to Mt. Greylock or settling in for a week by the lake, the combination of peaking mercury and steep grades can take a toll on your car.

When your goal is to relax, car problems are the last thing you want to worry about. Before hitting the road, even if it's just for an afternoon jaunt, it's smart to make sure that your vehicle is prepared. Take five minutes to breeze through this simple checklist and you'll greatly reduce your chance of spending your vacation or your Sunday afternoon waiting on a tow truck.

  • Battery Check

  • High temperatures can cause the electrolyte solution in car batteries to evaporate, speeding the corrosion of the battery's positive plates in the process. Keep your battery in good shape by checking your fluid levels. Simply pop open the vent caps (it's usually a rubber seal on top of the battery) and look inside. If the levels are low, add distilled water until it reaches the bottom of the vent wells -- don't fill it to overflowing.
    If you see corrosion around your terminals, wipe it away with an ounce of cola and a rag you can throw away.

  • Oil Check

  • Believe it or not, that hot oil in your engine actually keeps those moving, metal parts cool. If your levels are low, the engine runs hotter. Keep a rag in your car and check your oil dipstick every time you fill up with gas.

  • Coolant Check

  • When the temperature is even in the 80s outside, it's likely 40 or 50 degrees hotter under your hood, and your coolant can peak at over 200° F. With your engine cold, check the coolant reservoir for both level and cleanliness. If the coolant looks dirty, flush it out to prevent residue from clogging up the flow of coolant to your radiator.

  • Tire Check

  • Hot pavement quickly takes a toll on the rubber in your tires, making proper inflation all the more crucial during the summer. Under inflation can cause heat to build up inside the tire by increasing rolling resistance, leading to a blowout in the worst cases. Keep a tire gauge in your glovebox and check your inflation while the tires are cool. The proper PSI should be printed on the side of your tires.

  • Hose Check

  • The hoses carrying fluids around your engine don't last forever, and they're easily replaced. Heat speeds up their deterioration, and leaking coolant can ultimately leave you stranded if it's not remedied. Look for cracks and leaks along the hoses in your engine, squeezing them to find spongy spots while the engine is cool. Most hoses you might need are available at auto parts stores, and the employees there are often willing to help with hose changes that are easily accessible.

  • A/C Check

  • If your air conditioning system has a filter (check your manual to find out), it probably needs to be replaced each year. Keeping a fresh filter installed will maximize airflow and your own comfort. Although most A/C work requires professional expertise, you can check under the hood that the belt driving your compressor is taut and not coming loose.
    Don't let car problems stand in the way of getting out to explore western Massachusetts this summer. With your coach running in tip-top shape, there are few better places in the country for a leisurely drive. Enjoy it!

    The author of this article is John Egan, managing editor of Car Insurance Quotes, a leading online provider of car insurance news.