UMass Amherst Merchandise
Northampton, Mass., USA
August 20, 2015

Professor N. has become so much more carefree and impulsive since she was granted tenure.

"Shall we make a day trip somewhere outside of Brattleboro?", she suggested. "Maybe we can go visit somewhere else in Vermont?"

I had already been pleasantly surprised that she was up for extending our Adirondack rendevous by tagging additional days on in southern Vermont whilst I cat-sit chez Logan & Olivier. I hadn't expected her to further be up for just about anything including demanding bicycle rides and impromptu road trips. This has been unexpected fun.

Dedicated Delivery Locker-
Banks @ UMass Amherst
"I'd be up for a little road trip," I said. "I've been curious about visiting Bennington due west of here. Though, there's another destination even closer to where we are now that I've also been curious to explore. Due south of here there's an area where there's a consortium of five colleges all around one small area in western Massachusetts. I recall that Amherst, Smith, and Holyoke are among them. I forget the other two."

A 40-minute drive south on Interstate 91 brought us from Brattleboro to the college-rich area. Professor N. had a loose connection at UMass Amherst so we started our visit with that campus. After lunch atop a campus picnic bench I left her at the DuBois Library to talk shop with her professional contact over the afternoon. I wandered off to explore the Amherst campus on my own.

Dairy Farm Ice Cream Shop
The campus had an old New England charm in a style that wasn't familiar to me having grown up in an opposite corner of the country. As with so many campuses across the U.S. there were buildings in traditional, old-world style peppered among more modern construction. Part of the local touches I found unfamiliar included fences formed from slabs of stone laid atop each other, barriers that used neither mortar nor any joining compound other than gravity. Old- or New England, that was a kind of construction I never saw growing up out west.

Another surprise (to me, at least) was technology far more recent than old-world style stone-fence construction. It appears that the delivery locker is becoming entrenched in the U.S. as it was when I saw it so many places while in Asia. The basement of the main food and shopping center on the UMass campus had a dedicated center of such lockers replete with on-duty service staff.

Professor N. with Ice
Cream Cone at Dairy Farm
Amazon Locker looks like it's muscling in on the traditional campus bookstore by establishing a physical presence for students to order their textbooks directly to UMass Amherst. I'm sure there are many more such places on other campuses across the country. I suppose Amazon's rise had already killed most other bookstores. Last nail as this may be in the campus bookstore's coffin I'm not all that sad that anybody, no matter if it's a profit-driven mega corporation, is agressively challenging the entrenched textbook racket that sells required readings for hundreds of dollars per book.

Dinner at a Taiwanese dumpling house within the city of Amherst was followed on by a drive to rural farmland for dessert. Our route took us past the Holyoke campus--though we decided not to pause to explore the school. A dairy farm just down the road that produced their own ice cream sounded a far more enticing place to be at sunset than the campus of a college whose academic year hadn't yet started. At the Flayvors of Cook Farm I ordered two scoops: one of ginger, the other of honey. It's hard to do better when eating ice cream than being outside as the sun sinks sitting atop a bench from where you can see the very herd of cows from which the ice cream was initially milked.

David at Botanical Garden
Smith College
Professor N. and I did manage to spend time together on one last campus. We walked a circuit through the Botanic Gardens of Smith College just before twilight ended.

"SUNY, McGill, UMass, and now Smith--I think I may have been to more college campuses with you than with anyone else," I remarked to Professor N. at some point as we walked on lawns laid out between the old buildings.

Though the sun has long since set our day-trip hasn't yet ended. We're finishing our evening by seeing what else the town of Northampton has on offer. I did vaguely know the town from a visit I made at the end of spring some 12 years ago to call on my friend Michael. There is a cute strip of independent businesses running along a street not far from the Smith campus that, based on its architecture, clearly must have existed during colonial times. Professor N. and I are finishing up our day-trip on the far end of the strip with pints at a dimly lit bar called the Foundry, just below the railway station. The beer is very good and the Brooklyn-transplanted bartender is friendly and engaging in conversation.

But, it's now time to head back to Brattleboro. And beyond our Vermont synch-up the both of us have school terms beginning soon.

Thanks for making the additional drive, Professor N.! I'm sure I'll see you back in Buffalo before long... or perhaps we'll next rendezvous on some other college campus.