We continued on across the Berkshires today, through more of Western Massachusetts’s forests, to get to Northampton, our final stop before Farmington. Riding along the river today, we followed it as it travelled distinctly east, close enough to the coast now that the rivers are flowing in its direction. Today was a shorter day in anticipation of the finish, and as such we had plenty of time to spend in town, going to a coffee shop, an art gallery and passing some time on the city green. Of all the places along the way, a place like this one is one that I could see myself fitting in well with.
This trip has given me a greater appreciation for cities, small ones at least, with their bit of local flair and flavor, just large enough to speak to the culture of an area and not much larger.
Over this trip as a whole, we have seen a lot of places, a lot of local cafes, a lot of local pubs, a lot of local ice cream shops and and coffee shops, and despite the similarity of overlying themes, each maintains some unique aspect that in some sense speaks to person and place. Despite the increased globalization of markets over the past half a century, there is still a surprising amount of local culture and subcultures present across our country, in varying degrees of resilience, more than I had expected before coming on this trip.
I see our country moving towards a greater centralization of information and power over time, as though the solution to our woes might lie in a unified command with egalitarian ideals, as if power did not corrupt of its own accord, and attract the people it ought to avoid, in corporations and governments alike. I think the strength of a nation comes from the reciprocally balanced tension between the individual and the whole, like spokes in a wheel tightened just right to keep it traveling in a straight line. In that light, a strengthening and resilience of local economies and governments may be a necessary defense against an emerging oligarchy of power in America, individuals who produce something, neighbors who exchange goods and services with neighbors, and a public sphere that raises the lowest common denominator for its vulnerable citizens to allow them to meaningfully take part in a society’s affairs, things of this nature may help to reaffirm the balance of power to a healthy degree.
We spent the night with our final ‘warm showers’ hosts, Andrew and Tory, camping in their backyard after eating hamburgers and sitting around a grill talking about the places we had been, comparing them to Andrew’s when he had done a cross country trip just two years ago. Tomorrow we head to Farmington, and are interested to see how the day will unfold.