My routine is always the same. I am awake at 4:30 a.m. and in my car by 5:15. With my bottle of Nantucket Nectars iced tea and my favorite CD (Revival, by Gillian Welch), I head up Route 8, cross the Conn/Mass line by 6:00, and watch the sky brighten over the quiet rural villages of Otis, Becket, and Hinsdale.
Gillian’s modern Appalachian-style songs provide the perfect soundtrack for this peaceful drive. When I reach Hinsdale, I take a quick detour past Gloria’s Place, a perfect small-town diner that glows warmly near the railroad tracks. If I hit it just right, a Conrail freight will pass through unnoticed by anyone but the loyal breakfast crowd in their hunting caps and plaid shirts.
When I reach North Adams, I never fail to feel a chill of excitement when I drive over the Hadley Overpass and get my first glimpse of the clock tower and the steeples. In a few minutes, I’ll be sitting by the window at the “Bean,” sipping coffee with Tony and Carl and Bob and Marsha, sharing their wonderful memories.