The WPA American Guide Series, written and published from 1937-41, is what first drew me off the Interstates and into the by-ways of America. We have spent many years retracing parts of their routes not obliterated by development. You can buy the guides now as e-books. Since we got most of the copies we have from used-book sales, the electronic versions seem awfully pricey.
Now when I wonder about a place I generally just look it up on Wikipedia as I pass through. This was not the case in the northern Berkshires this weekend. Cell phone reception was terrible there and in the adjacent Green and White Mountains.
People pour in Maine for Independence Day weekend. This unfortunately creates a bottleneck at the entrance to Paradise. Northbound traffic on Friday was stop-and-go from the state line to Bath. That usually bodes poorly for US 90 westbound out of Boston as well. However, years of shun-piking came in handy. We took Massachusetts Route 2 instead. Our van just gurgled with happiness as it sang westward.
The Berkshires are terribly dry right now. The foliage doesn’t show it, but the many rivulets which typically bounce cheerfully over waterfalls are nearly empty. I saw three small trout stranded in a shallow pool no wider than my arm-span. Meanwhile, people will light illegal campfires and shoot off bottle rockets in the woods.
I did these paintings earlier this summer while on Monhegan with Bobbi Heath and Mary Sheehan Winn. In the past, I have avoided tarting up plein air paintings in the studio, figuring they are fresher without it. I’ve change my mind somewhat. The brilliant sunlight on the Maine coast makes it difficult to judge the specular highlights in the field.
Our trip to the Berkshires ended with the Pittsfield Independence Day Parade. The last group was a marching band playing The Battle Hymn of the Republic. There were kids of every race and color in that band, playing their hearts out. If only Mr. Lincoln could see them now!
To avoid the bottleneck around Boston, we went home via Vermont 8 and US 202. This is one of the great scenic routes of the northeast. I didn’t need my WPA guide for this drive; it is locked in my mind’s eye from other years and other trips.