Sunday, April 24, 2016

Bridgewater Falls - the most generic place in America

In the late 1980s and into 1990 we lived in Oxford, Ohio, a college town (Miami University) near the Indiana border, and about 30 miles north of the Roebling Bridge, which connects Cincinnati and Covington, Kentucky.

This weekend we returned to the tri-state area for the wedding of a friend from our days in the Buckeye State. We were completely disoriented by all the changes we found since our time here. Miami University, along with the town itself, had exploded in new buildings. We were excited to see that there was a brand new public library, though. There was also a Chick-fil-A, something that ordinarily would escape any interest from us, except that during our drive from Oxford to Cincinnati we spotted a billboard for said restaurant indicating two nearby locations: Oxford, and Bridgewater Falls. 

Once we checked in to our hotel room (where a gift bag from the grooms awaited us) we Googled Bridgewater Falls and discovered it was a shopping center (or, more specifically, a "lifestyles shopping centre") in the nearby town of Fairfield. It also appeared to have only national chain-type stores. It didn't look like the kind of place we would seek out, unless, as James pointed out we were looking to appoint a dorm room. In other words, it is a great place to look for stuff you already know how to find.

Nevertheless, it is called Bridgewater and we were nearby so a pilgrimage was called for. If there ever was a place with "no there there," this is it. Stores include\ Target; Staples; JCPenney; Bed, Bath and Beyond; Panera Bread, Chiles, and of course, Chick-fil-A. We walked around and took a few pictures. It did have fountains and geese at the entrance, but there were no local shops, and no place that we had any interest in going into.
 Near the main entrance. That's the Chick-fil-A on the left.
Another view from the entrance.
Could be anywhere 
Our first-ever blogspotter award (as yet unspecified, but it will be local to the real Bridgewater) will go to whomever can identify a national chain retailer that is not represented within one mile of this spot!
At least it has a rotary.
We have already experienced it ... so you don't have to.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Golden Bridgewater

There's No Bridgewater in Colorado. Except that there is.

Followers of this blog will know that our ambition is to visit every place we can get to that is named Bridgewater, and that this has so far included towns by that name in many U.S. states. We hope eventually to get to Bridgewater Nova Scotia and of course to the original Bridgewater in Jolly Ol' England.

When planning a family outing to the Front Range region of Colorado and (relatively) nearby parts of the Great Plains, we of course started scouring the maps for towns named for our own. We found no such towns in Colorado, Wyoming, or Nebraska.

Careful readers will remember, however, that non-municipal places also count, such as the subdivision we visited in Maryland in 2013. So the Bridgewater Grill in Golden, Colorado went into the "must-do" column for this vacation. We are delighted that it did, not only because it turned out to be a very nice place, but also because of the aplomb with which an old friend joined us in the discovery.

Lori is a friend from our undergraduate days who has been living in Denver for some while. We were very glad that she was able to join us for the first day of our visit, first taking us to one of her favorite Mexican restaurants and then to the wonderful Denver Art Museum (tagline: DAM, That's a Great Museum). In the early evening, we decided it was time to go on a Bridgewaters Project adventure. From the address, Lori guessed that it might be in the beautiful old Golden Hotel, and she was correct (though an employee who answered the phone is somehow getting to work without noticing the hotel that surrounds it).

At this point, I should mention that Lori is a clown. Really: after regular college, she went to clown college, and has used been a professional clown in a variety of settings, including therapeutic. But even when she is not officially "in clown," she is a wonderful prankster, and it comes naturally to her. So when the hostess greeted us, Lori asked her "Have you heard of the Bridgewaters Project?" in a way that really implied she should have known about this blog. None of the staff seemed to know quite what to make of us, but they were very gracious as we proceeded to take pictures of stationery and pose for photographs in places that normal guests would not.
LtoR: Blogger, Blogger, Promoter
Having had rather a late lunch, we did not order full meals at Bridgewater Grill, but we do hope to arrive hungry next time, because everything looked delicious, and we very much enjoyed the snacks we did have. James had a Caesar Salad that was delicious and much closer than usual to the original recipe. Paloma and Lori had desserts and Pam had some tomato bisque. We all shared bites of those desserts, and they were fabulous. The best peach cobbler we ever tasted as a matter of fact!

Our arrival in Denver had been on an unusually wet day -- and we had a bit of a downpour just as we had gotten to Bridgewater Grill. For this reason, we did not avail ourselves of the lovely outdoor dining area that overlooks a small ravine and Clear Creek, a tributary of the South Platte River. I went to the window to have a look at the scene though, just as I was wondering aloud how this place got its name. As soon as I clicked this photo, I had my answer.
What's this place called again?
We left the restaurant very satisfied, and determined to relieve the staff of their puzzlement by sending a link to this blog post. Our adventure ended, we made our way back into Denver and did a few errands on the way to our hotel. Lori pointed out a gas station where she had recently had outstanding service, and we pulled in. While the three of us sat in her vehicle, we were startled by a rapping on the window.

It was Lori with the attendant, a young woman who put on her best fan-girl persona to ask us, "Are you really part of the Bridgewaters Project?"

After watching our prankster friend work the restaurant staff, we ourselves were pranked!


The Bridgewater Grill is not a town, but at least it is a place. A discovery later in our travels pushes the scope of this blog even a bit further. At one of the many cute little shops in the Old Town section of Ft. Collins, we found this candle. It is the eponymous variety of a candle company by the same name. It will live in James' office, since he could not not buy it, even though Pam's scent sensitivities preclude using it at Casa Hayes-Boh.
Notice the bridge. Notice the water.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Back to the Hills of Bridgewater (NY)

I-90 is the driveway of our summers
Tempis fugit (time flies), as they say, and today's post is a reminder of just how fast. It is difficult to believe that we started this little project almost five years ago, and just as difficult to believe that it has been four years since our visit to Bridgewater, New York. Our return was just in time, it turns out, as Bridgewater is about to disappear!

That's an exaggeration, of course. Bridgewater is a village within the town of Bridgewater. It comprises just about one of its twenty-some square miles, and includes its main highway intersection, all town offices, and close to half the population. Voters recently decided that little was to be gained by continuing the overlapping jurisdictions of such small units of government, and so the village (with its included hamlets) will cease to be separately administered at the end of 2014.

Photo: Lake Chalet; we took almost no photos during our Bridgewater getaway
As with our 2010 visit, we found ourselves in Bridgewater in connection with picking up our daughter from her home-away-from-home camp in the Adirondacks. This time, however, we decided to spend a couple of days in the area (a bit south of the area, actually) for a few days. When making a plan, we eschewed the urban temptations of Utica (that is, brewery tours) and chose a pet-friendly get-away with our blog dog, most of whose adventures are vicarious at best. It did not take us long to realize that the perfect place to go would be Lake Chalet, just north of the village center.

This family-run and family-friendly property surrounds a stocked, six-acre lake and provides every level of rusticity. Visitors can choose to camp, hookup their own campers, rent a cabin, rent a motel room, or rent an efficiency. We chose the last of these options, enjoying the convenience of cooking for ourselves in a very comfortable room with a view of the lake and nearby mountains. Just perfect! We saw people enjoying all of the other options (including the fishing), and we even rented a little boat the second day to keep up my rowing skills!

During our return, we delved into the history of the town just a bit more, though we did not get a chance to visit the local historical society. When we do -- as I am sure we will return some day -- I want to ask about the possible Tory origins of the town. Various online guides mention that it was named for the Duke of Bridgewater, and that it was settled and established in 1788 and 1797, respectively. To be named for a British noble in the early days of the revolution and republic ... well, there must be a story.

One interesting story surrounds the location of the settlement, at the intersection of what would be Route 8 (a regional highway) and Route 20 (a national highway). The former originated as a plank road, which is exactly what it sounds like -- a road paved with boards! Apparently these were common in several states in the decades preceding the Civil War. As Daniel Klein and John Majewski have explained in Plank Fever, such roads were funded by investors who believed exaggerated (and fabricated) claims of the longevity of this peculiar form of pavement. The movement was tolerated -- even encouraged -- because it allowed for private investment in lieu of what really should have been publicly-financed infrastructure. Until it unraveled, that is, almost literally.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Bridgewater Triangle Premiere

Just as the Mapparium in Boston is the perfect date venue for us (a globe in a library), so too was the world premiere of The Bridgewater Triangle the perfect date event for this librarian-geographer couple. Not only does it include our adopted home town in its title, but it also features maps and books throughout, with at least one direct mention of a library. And of course, attending the premiere was almost mandatory for purposes of this life-long blog project, which after all seeks to cover -- eventually -- all Bridgewater-related phenomena, in this world or any other.

As I mentioned in Isosceles or Scaline back in March we were both intrigued and skeptical about this film, but when we learned about its premiere, we bought our tickets right away. We were pleasantly surprised by the quality of the work. We do not watch a lot of film or television about the paranormal, and most of what we have seen either takes itself far too seriously or suffers from laughable production values, or both.

The Bridgewater Triangle avoids both of these tendencies; it really is presented as a documentary about modern folklore, rather than an investigation of the phenomena themselves. Throughout the film, the focus is on the stories as stories, though of course some are sensationalized a bit and the case is steadily built that "something" might be a common cause of all the strange creatures and occurrences that arise from these stories.
The film begins with a map, and then with the words of author Loren Coleman, who coined the term "Bridgewater Triangle" in his landmark cryptozoology tome Mysterious America back in 1983 (there is also a new expanded version). When he first started researching the folklore of paranormal events in North America, he noticed that many of the stories did emerge from the Hockomock Swamp (the largest wetland in New England -- spooky in folklore but vital in ecology and water-supply protection) and areas to its south. He eventually identified a roughly triangular region encompassing some 200 square miles and all or part of about a dozen towns. From among the possible names for this region, Bridgewater suggested itself because when he first heard about the Hockomock Swamp, he associated it with Bridgewater, and he quickly learned that there were three such towns, in a small triangle of their own. (As I explained in one of this blog's earliest posts, "The Bridgewaters" have been thought of as a trio since North Bridgewater was renamed Brockton in 1874.)

In the Q&A afterward --  for Mr. Coleman was one of many paranormal investigators on hand for the event -- he further explained that he just has a knack for places, events and phenomena names that get attention, and Bridgewater Triangle is just the best-known of several examples. At this point, he claims that it is the third most-cited paranormal Triangle on Earth, after the Bermuda Triangle and Devil's Triangle in Japan, exactly opposite the Bermuda Triangle in terms of longitude, but at the same latitude north of the equator. (That term "Devil's Triangle" can also be used as a synonym for the Bermuda Triangle or to refer to an area of particularly twisty highways in Tennessee.)

An interesting aspect of the documentary is the frequent reference to the violent history of conflict between Native Americans and English Settlers in the region, which was most brutally experienced during the King Philip's War of 1675-1676, in which 500 English and 3,000 Wampanoag were killed. Some see that violence as the cause of subsequent disturbances, citing an "Indian Curse," while others see the war itself as evidence of dark forces that have affected the region for millennia.

The film also mentioned quite a few Wampanoag - Algonquin names, including Nunckatessett. This happens to be the name of a trail project James is working on with students and others in the region, with the intention of bringing people closer to the land throughout The Bridgewaters (more to come on this project as it unfolds -- the Nunckatessett Greenway is a developing part of the Bay Circuit Trail).

We have learned over the years that university bureaucracies can be almost as mysterious as the Triangle and as impenetrable as the Hockomock swamp. The location of the world premiere provides an excellent example. The film opened to an enthusiastic crowd of 500 people in the main auditorium at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth. That campus is near the triangle but not in it, and certainly does not bear its name, but it was the only campus whose bureaucracy the producers could navigate in time to release the film.

Fortunately, they did eventually find the right connection, and The Bridgewater Triangle will be coming "home" to Bridgewater very soon. We plan to see it again!

Bridgewater Triangle @ Bridgewater
October 28, 7:30pm
Horace Mann Auditorium
Bridgewater State University

Tickets $8/person
Students and children free

For tickets call the Box Office at 508-531-1321 or email

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Swimming to Bridgewater

(With apologies to the late, great Spalding Gray.)

As part of one of our other life-long blogging projects, we recently re-watched the 1990 film Mermaids, starring Winona Ryder and some other people.

We had watched the film before -- years ago -- and had forgotten an obvious link to this project. Our daughter -- who is quite the young geographer/librarian -- had remembered this scene from early in the film:

Yes, that is soap on Cher's finger, as her character cannot wait to get her hands on an atlas to begin locational analysis for her family's next departure from love and lust gone wrong. The scale of this map is small, so that viewers will not notice that their destination in Eastport, Massachusetts is entirely fictional.

Using a more detailed (larger-scale) map, hand-model Pam shows where the Flax family is really headed. Although the on-screen credits thank only the people of Rockport, Massachusetts, IMDb lists a half-dozen towns in which "Eastport" was created. It is a composite of idealized New England scenes, and although we have been in every one of the the towns shown, almost nothing was familiar to us, except possibly the lake at Borderlands Park in Easton.

View Mermaids in a larger map

The name of the fictional town -- Eastport -- and the heavy use of the real town of Rockport both suggest a more nautical location than the one indicated by the soapy finger of Mrs. Flax. The plot of the film is not affected, though, as the mermaids of the title barely get their flippers wet.

A bit of fiction is included in the location credits themselves. Although many town names in Massachusetts begin with the cardinal directions, the 351 cities and towns of Massachusetts include a solitary Easton. It is all very lovely, but local belief is that North Easton is the better half. Something like 85 percent of Eastonians claim residence.

The "before" picture for this film is Big Lake, Texas, and although we have been all around that state, we have not yet had the pleasure of taking in Big Lake.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Bridgewater at Carvel Beach


Prior to our recent trip to Maryland, I (Pam) "Googled" Bridgewater Maryland to see what would come up, and found a link for Bridgewater at Carvel Beach, a new-ish subdivision in Anne Arundel County, whose website might lead one to believe that it is located in an area that is perhaps less industrial than this picture  indicates. We took this photo -- it is not an angle that would be featured in the brochure!
The material in the foreground is actually a good thing. To protect the Chesapeake Bay, Maryland actually enforces very stringent requirements to control erosion from active construction sites. Massachusetts has similar requirements, but nobody seems to know or care how to use them.
The smoke stacks at Wagner Station make it look more like it belongs in the opening credits of The Simpsons. Aside from this view, we found that everything possible was being done to distance the development from its surroundings.

View Larger Map

The development is much smaller than we imagined -- only 35 units at the end of a local street -- and was mostly sold out when we arrived. Read more about the development in the faux news article placed in the Baltimore Sun. We did talk to a Realtor who was representing the development; she was on the verge of selling the model home (a McHenry style).

One thing about building thousands of homes -- the builders have time to figure out what really works for kitchen layouts. This kitchen feels more spacious than ours, though it is smaller, and it was actually designed, so that we can imagine cooking and entertaining very effectively in this space.
We walked through the house and found it to be spacious, but without all the extra (and in our opinion, unnecessary) rooms. For instance, the main entrance opened to an open living/dining area and an adjacent kitchen with no additional dining space. There was no separate family room, although it did have a finished basement. There were a lot of bedrooms (five), more than most families would need, but this would not be the case without the optional third floor. The landscaping of the home had the same look as just about every other house built in the country since the late 1990s -- low-maintenance foundation plantings with a bit of color and a lot of lawn chemicals.

The decor was pure Model Home, also known as "Unique, Like Everyone Else" -- full of items to "personalize" spaces in a generic way. Admittedly, a geography-theme pillow worked its magic on me (James), even though it is not really that geographic and was probably made under deplorable conditions.

If my sales resistance gives out -- and my recent nautical bent makes this a real question -- we do not have to buy the whole house. I can cause an identical bit of individual expression to be sent my way with the click of a few buttons.

New housing developments are designed on templates both for economies of scale in construction and for ease of resale. Selling a home depends on people being able to envision staying in it long-term and at the same time being able to sell it themselves. The monotony is broken up slightly with palettes of choices in various kinds of building finishes. In the basement of a model home, the masonry equivalent of fabric swatches allow buyers to choose bricks that range from red to reddish and stonework across a similar spectrum.
The people who prepare model homes are detail-oriented. The "boy" room had a baseball bat in the closet, and the "girl" room was pink, down to the backpack!

It looks like they are also in cahoots with the wedding-industrial complex.
At this point in the Bridgewaters project, we have seen a range of realities. It was interesting to see the name invoked to sell a bit of fantasy in an otherwise gritty neighborhood.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Isosceles or Scalene?

A student recently shared this trailer for a documentary about the Bridgewater Triangle phenomenon that Pam described earlier in this project. As an active member of the community and follower of local news, it is surprising that I had not heard of the film yet, even though the trailer is six months old, and that I do not recognize any of the people who speak in this clip. I assume that the trailer is part of a fund-raising effort in support of a film not yet complete, but if so, it does not make a direct appeal.

The YouTube account that posted the video appears to be that of a small production company, but no "Trailer 2" is as yet available. The producers and commentators, in fact, seem to be as elusive as the phenomena they are pursuing. I have to confess a certain skepticism of the entire enterprise, though I do admire the inclusion of a stylized locator map in the closing frames (oops -- Spoiler Alert!) that employs a very pleasing color scheme.

Watch the clip to make a comparison with this more detailed map from Cryptmundo.
Click to enlarge.