Seth Brown: Leaf-peeping guide for tourists
Welcome to the Berkshires! For 90 percent of the year, you pretend that we don't exist and that "Western Mass" refers to the western part of Boston or maybe Worcester at the outside. But now it's autumn, and you have been told (correctly) that there is no better place in the world to see the fall foliage. So here are some rules you will follow during your visit:
• Ask about best routes at any public building. Whether you're visiting a museum or just stopping into the local library, the people who work there would be delighted to help you plan your leaf-peeping tour. They probably weren't doing anything important anyway, and anyone who works for the state is required to suggest a route to you. However, it is also important to keep in mind that these people are uneducated locals, so after they begin giving you the advice you asked for, be sure to argue with them by stating, "But I heard that the best route was actually..."
• Drive at a constant speed of 10 mph. Imagine your day as similar to the movie Speed, except instead of having to stay above 55 mph, you have to stay below 11. If you go too fast, you might miss a tree, and there is the small but terrifyingly real chance that the tree you do not see was The Best Tree in all of the Berkshires. You would never forgive yourself if you sped by The Best Tree without looking at it, so be sure to keep your speed fairly slow. Don't worry about any cars lined up behind you, they're probably just looking at leaves anyway.
• Stay in your car. Fall foliage is something that can only be appreciated out the window of a car, and while you don't want to drive too fast for reasons explained above, it's also important not to stop and enjoy any particular tree for too long. Some people will just spend hours sitting happily under a beautiful tree and enjoying a lazy autumn day with a cool breeze and a good book. These people are idiots. You don't want to waste the day under just a few trees, because leaf-peepers are judged by the number of trees they see. Any trip in which you see fewer than 50,000 trees is basically a failure.
• If you must stop your car, avoid parking spaces. Parking spaces are there mainly as a courtesy to locals, but as a tourist, you should feel free to leave your car wherever you like. If you think about it, parking spaces are delineated by white lines on asphalt, so in a way, the breakdown lane is like one giant luxury space for your car. Just pull over wherever you like, and people will happily wave at you or honk their horn of friendliness.
• Finally, remember that if this is not your first time, you are now a leaf expert. If some other traveler starts talking about how beautiful the foliage is, be sure to defend your position as expert by interrupting to say, "It's nice, but not as pretty as last year."
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