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Subject: Boston area relocation question rss

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Einmal ist keinmal
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Hello to any familiar with the Boston Metro area and surroundings.

My family and I may be changing jobs to work at Ft. Devins (west of Boston). We will need to decide where to live within the next couple of weeks and move shortly before Christmas. We have a 2 year old son. I would like to find some regular gamers/groups. I prefer deep (medium to heavy complexity) Euros, but occasionally indulge in Ameritrash as well. We will consider an apt/townhouse, condo or house. What areas around Boston will fit the following criteria best?

--fairly safe, low-crime
--close to Ft. Devins (max of @20min drive or @45min ride--train/bus)
--close to Boston
--public transportation is a plus for the above two criteria.
--Rental prices no higher than @$1,100/mth (with paid utilities offsetting)
--Or, home prices no higher than @$200,000. (not sure if we would buy or not)
--easily accessible to gamers/gaming groups. (and specify a little about the group if you can) *this should be #1,
--Good elementary schools or private schools (this isn't critical, as we could move again before my son is school age.)

Hmm, that's all I can think of right now. If you were in my position, what town, city would you start looking for an apt, house?

Thanks in advance!

Or, point me towards any useful website(s).
 
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Ron Pfeiffer
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Desiderata wrote:
Hello to any familiar with the Boston Metro area and surroundings.


--fairly safe, low-crime
--close to Ft. Devens (max of @20min drive or @45min ride--train/bus)
--close to Boston
--public transportation is a plus for the above two criteria.
--Rental prices no higher than @$1,100/mth (with paid utilities offsetting)
--Or, home prices no higher than @$200,000. (not sure if we would buy or not)
--easily accessible to gamers/gaming groups. (and specify a little about the group if you can) *this should be #1,
--Good elementary schools or private schools (this isn't critical, as we could move again before my son is school age.)

Hmm, that's all I can think of right now. If you were in my position, what town, city would you start looking for an apt, house?

Thanks in advance!

Or, point me towards any useful website(s).


I'm from Westborough (aka Westboro) which is about 20 miles South of route 2 and Fort Devens heading down 495. I'm not sure how you are going to find all of the criteria you are looking for. In order to find homes in the 200,000 dollar price range you cannot go closer to Boston. You could try Fitchburg or perhaps Leominster but both a fairly large older communities so the homes you might find at that price level would be older. Not sure about crime rates but usually large cities/towns have more crime (I cannot back that up with stats though) You could try Worcester which would be South on route 195. this is a city (150,000) but it does have a number of 3-deckers including some pretty nice ones that would have rentals in the 800-1000 a month but you would probably need to pay utilities. The advantage of that would be much less traffic going back and forth to work as opposed to going closer toward Boston where homes are probably going to be double what you are looking at and the commute on Route 2 will be tough. You might also consider heading west towards places like Gardner (about 20 miles away where prices would also be more attuned to what you want.

Public Transprotation is probably out of the question. Ft. Devens is not in an area where public transportation would be normal. You might find some kind of transportation to Fitchburg and/or Leominster but my best guess is that's unlikely at best.

In order to get very good schools you probably need to be in a town where the homes are more expensive (Westboro would be a good place to live, as would Northboro, Southboro)

I know someone who has game nights pretty regularly, Dave and Sharon Smith who are young, have youngsters, and who live pretty close in Fitchburg. I have an email for them if you are interested. Also Joe Huber lives in my town Westboro and has a gaming get together once a month at his house.

If you want more info let me know and we can continue this discussion.

Ron
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Jeff Michaud
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for a possible gaming group... Ayer is only about 20 minutes from Westford, check out

http://games.groups.yahoo.com/group/SOG_List/
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Greg Lam
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I agree that you're probably not going to get everything in your criteria due to geography and housing prices. The closest I can think of is Arlington, MA which google says is 48 minutes from Ft. Devens but still on the bus system into Boston, Cambridge, and Somerville (where I go to game, often). Can't speak of the school system or crime, though it's always struck me as a nice place which doesn't feel too suburban for my tastes.
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Dan Blum
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I agree that these requirements are somewhat contradictory, although it depends on how flexible your definition of "close" is - the Boston metro area is pretty compact compared to any place in Arizona I have been.

There is commuter rail that runs near Fort Devens - the Fitchburg/South Acton line has stops in Ayers and Shirley, which are probably both close (how close depends on whether this job is in what Google Maps considers to be Fort Devens or the Devens RSV Force Training Area south of there). However, the schedule is aimed at people traveling in to Boston, not out of it, so you'd probably be best off living near Fort Devens and taking the train in to Boston when you want to go there. Housing prices will be lower there than they are closer to the city, too.

You can see most of the public transportation routes and schedules at http://www.mbta.com. Some areas also have local bus routes which you'd have to research separately.
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C Lloyd
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Hmm... Definitely hard to satisfy all the nice-to-have's. Some suggestions I have:

Andover: Very nice town. Excellent schools. You can take I-93 directly into Boston, and 495 to Ft' Devens. Housing tends to be a bit pricey there.

Waltham: Pretty good public transportation. Not too far from Boston or Ft. Devens. Lots of apartment complexes. Good restaurants in downtown area. No idea about schools.

Lexington: Excellent schools. Pricey housing. You can take Route 2 into Boston or to Devens.

Arlington: Near Boston, good public trans. Can take Route 2 to Devens, although it may not be as close as you want.

Framingham: Not far from Devens. Can take I90 into Boston, but it's not that close. Lots of apartments. Not the best school system from what I know.

Westford & Chelmsford are also good options. Good schools and not far from Devens. Not that easy to shoot into Boston though.

Good luck deciding!
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Jeff Michaud
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tool wrote:
I agree that these requirements are somewhat contradictory, although it depends on how flexible your definition of "close" is - the Boston metro area is pretty compact compared to any place in Arizona I have been.

To give an example of what Dan says... I live in another State (New Hampshire) and as long as you don't go during rush "hour" (really hours) I can get from my house into or out of Boston in under 40 minutes. Folks from Rhode Island also commute into Boston easily.

If you want to use pubilc transportation to get in/out of Boston, commuter rail is not the best. Your best bet if you don't want to drive all the way in is to drive to a subway (T) station as Dan mentions. From the Ft. Devens area that would mean coming in on Rt. 2 and parking at Alwife (red line). Myself I used to drive to Sullivan Square (orange line).

By the way, don't forget to reserve Saturday Feb. 7th... Unity Games 15 was just announced yesterday... up to 15 hours of open board gaming with 300 other area gamers for $12.50 (prepay). See http://www.unitygames.org/ugxv/ugxv.htm
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Chris Burke
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Check out http://www.city-data.com/ for excellent basic data regarding cities. It has housing cost data, median income, crime stats, and demographics. I am moving to Boston in a week, so I am in the same boat. We found a rental in Watertown, just west of Cambridge. My wife and I don't have kids, but I would seriously consider renting rather than purchasing a home right now. Renting is way more affordable than purchasing a home in Boston right now. The only thing to look out for is renting a home from someone that will be foreclosed on. If you find a rental you like, make sure you check the assesor's office to find the purchase price, date of purchase, and tax amount for the property. They have these records available online. Use google to search for assessor for whichever town you are looking at. I would stay from any property purchased in the last 2-3 years. They most likely overpaid and will not have any cash flow to make repairs or negotiate price. As for some unsolicited feedback if you cannot afford more than a $1100 rental then you cannot afford a $200,000 house. A 30 year fixed mortgage with 20% down on a $200,000 is $1100 alone. You still need to factor in taxes, house insurance, and any condo fees. Let alone fixing things that will break or painting the walls and making improvements that make it personally yours. Sorry for that last rant. I hope you at least find the other info useful, and hopefully we will get some good gaming in the Boston area. Cheers.
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Jeff Michaud
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clloyd09 wrote:
Westford & Chelmsford are also good options. Good schools and not far from Devens. Not that easy to shoot into Boston though.

Actually Chemsford is almost just as easy to shoot into Boston as Andover is. Rt. 3 South to Rt. 128. From there you can choose either to go Rt. 93 South or Rt. 2 East depending on which side of Boston you are headed.

Chelmsford would actually be better as it too is right on Rt. 495 to shoot down to Ayers (Ft. Devens) where you will be going more often than Boston, and Chelmsford is more affordable than Andover.

By the way, if you bicycle, Ft. Devens is close to the Ayer end of the Nashua River Rail Trail. A nice paved (and lightly used to the now crowded Minuteman Rail Trail) 12 mile trail with the other end in Southwest Nashua (New Hampshire). If you are a die hard biker you could live near the trail anywhere on it's path and bike in to work in the non-Winter months.

Speaking of which, you could consider Pepperell which I think is affordable, right on the rail trail, and within 20 minutes drive of Ft. Devens.

By the way, my Uncle during Ft. Devens hey day as an active base used to commute from Nashua, New Hampshire to Devens. And Nashua is only a 40 minute drive into Boston as well. If you do that, every Monday is game night at the local Borders, see http://www.meetup.com/New-England-Gamers/
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Einmal ist keinmal
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Thanks for all the replies, I will take it all into consideration.

Keep the suggestions coming.
 
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I will echo what some others have said with a little bit of my own flavor added. Fyi ... technically, the former military base that was known as Ft Devens is no longer called that. It is now just called Devens. Last I heard, they were working very hard on becoming an incorporated town within the Commonwealth (Massachusetts is a Commonwealth, not a state, though don't ask me what the difference is ). I'm not sure whether or not they have yet succeeded in that endeavor, but I'm sure they will eventually if they haven't yet.

If you haven't visited there though, it still looks very much like a military base with a lot of the military housing still standing. You probably want to at least consider renting right in Devens since that may actually be the most affordable housing in the area. However, I don't know what the schooling situation is, so you'd need some more research on that. There is plenty of great outdoor green spaces and fields to run and play in.

If living right in Devens isn't quite right for you, then Rte 2 corridor is probably where you want to start your search.

From there, consider things below as starting pretty close to Boston and then moving out West along Rte 2:

Arlington is probably a little closer to Boston than you are looking for. It is also a very expensive place to live. You would be unlikely to find housing in your price range. Part of the reason for the expense though is because Arlington has an excellent school system. Not necessarily best in the state (Commonwealth), but certainly in the top tier.

Waltham is pretty nice and also has the benefit of being toward Boston and is at the intersection of Rte 2 and 95. (Locals call it 128 since it's what the road was known as before it was repurposed into the Eisenhower interstate system 50 years ago. Just don't expect to see many signs for it anywhere. If someone gives you directions that include 128, they probably mean 95.)

Lexington is expensive and has great schools. Very nice town, but maybe out of your stated price range.

Lincoln and Concord are next heading out Rte 2, but again expensive. Pretty much anything right on 2 that is east of Walden Pond is going to be pricey. Either you need to go farther west or you need to get farther away from 2. Of course, the farther from 2 you get, the less convenient it is to get in to Boston (until you start getting down toward the Mass Pike (90)).

I don't know much about the boros mentioned above but that's still a pretty nice area around the intersection of 2 and 495.

Framingham is more down by the Pike and a bit farther off of 2.

Honestly, I think the ideal place for you might be around the Leominster area. This is west of Devens, but its got a lot going for it. I think it's got a lot of what you're a looking for. It's going to have some really nice housing in your price range. It's about 45 minutes from Boston (during non-commuting hours, 1hr 15+ at commuting times). It's a sort of low-key sleepy community but there's still plenty of shopping/commerce to conveniently find most everything you'll need. Schools aren't top of the line, but they're still pretty good. It's a very low-crime, nice area. I have a bunch of friends that grew up there and went through the Leominster school system and they were very happy with their experience in that town.

Fitchburg isn't quite as nice as Leominster in my opinion, but it's not bad either. It may be another place to check out.

Gardner is getting a little farther out and starts even trending toward a little rural (though nothing in New England counts as real rural, there's just more land per house in Gardner than those other towns and less convenient shopping).

I would not highly recommend Worcester. I know some folks that live out that way and are very happy with it, but Worcester is a little less nice of a place to live in my personal opinion (no offense intended to those that live there and/or like it).

To do:
- +1 for the bike trails. The Minuteman trail is indeed crowded, but it's still nice.
- There's a reasonably new disc golf course right in Devens. Google if interested.
- Wachusett Mtn has great small mountain skiing and hiking. Most of Massachusetts is convenient to Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine for Appalachian mountain skiing and hiking.
- Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics, Bruins; Boston is a spectacular sports town.

Good luck!!!

p.s. It's Ahlington, Concuhd, Leominstah, Gahdnah-hey, and Woostah.

Edit: What preview button?

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention ...
As far as the housing market goes, don't expect too great of a deal if buying around here. Things are definitely cheaper here than they were 2, 3, 4 years ago, but we have *not* fallen off like the rest of the country. A lot of the housing bubble for places in other parts of the country was inflated due to a glut of inexpensively built new housing. Well, in New England, there just isn't a lot of undeveloped land left, so most of our housing tends to be between 30 and 150 years old. There are definitely homes to be found and had and to love here, but our housing market is still reasonably strong. Also, don't be too shocked at how much less house you get for your money compared to places like Atlanta, Dallas, Arizona. Apartments and condos aren't a huge bargain either. Real estate just ain't cheap around here. Nervous about moving here yet? Don't be too badly. It's still a great place to live and I love it. And there are some deals out there, you may just need to work for it a little more if you want it.
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Michael Lucey
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The best thing to do is look at a map of the area along rt2. Based on your econimic criteria (and safety / schools) any of the towns outside 495 between Acton and Leominster should accomidate your needs. "Close to Boston" is really dependant on how much you like to drive, anything inside an hour drive is really close to Boston and rt 2 is an ideal highway to get you into the city.

I'd go with Acton, I did when I moved out there because their are a ton of rental condo's, its right on 2 highways (2 / 495), rich in history (Battles of Lex and Concord next door), great access to the city minus a lot of the traffic you'll see on rt128. Actually on a RR commuter line. Has a great school system and is very clean and safe. The cost for a home is outrageous but renting should still be affordable. If you are renting now I'd do this for a year or 2 and find the town that fits you better to buy a home in, home prices are outrageous inside and now bleeding outside 495 so you really need to experience what you actually get for your money before you take the plunge (again based on your $ wishes).
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+1 for Acton (and Maynard)
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Jeff Michaud
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Dujo wrote:
Well, in New England, there just isn't a lot of undeveloped land left, so most of our housing tends to be between 30 and 150 years old.

Definitely... from what I recall even during the 1990's if you wanted a new house in Lexington you bought a house just for the land, tear down the house and then build new.
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Einmal ist keinmal
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Wow, I've got a lot of researching to do now with all this information. Again, thanks.

I'll keep this post updated with our plans.
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Chief Slovenly
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One suggestion, from another transplanted Westerner:

A GPS unit, out here, is positively mandatory if you plan on driving anything yourself. I'm dead serious. Boston is a city that was designed and built in the 17th and 18th centuries, and incorporated surrounding towns before the advent of 19th-century city planning.

It's a city that was designed for horses and cattle, not cars. Add to this the fact that there are massive variations in temperature between winter and summer months, and you get potholes that are sporadically filled by mob-connected city services.

MA has that invention of Satan, the rotary.
Here, and nowhere else I've seen, it's legal to drive on the shoulder in rush hour. Apparently at asshole-level speeds. (Yes, I've bitched about this before, and it never gets old, because it never stops BEING TOTALLY DAMN INSANE.)
I've seen 6- or 7-way intersections, without a light, and only two streets of which will have stop signs.
For many drivers here, stop lights are merely suggestions rather than mandatory, in ways that I never saw living in CA.

All this is an environment designed for accidents and car-related insanity of every kind, so save yourself some sanity at the outset with a decent GPS unit. The mind you save may be your own.
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Dom L
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bbenston wrote:
One suggestion, from another transplanted Westerner:
MA has that invention of Satan, the rotary.
Here, and nowhere else I've seen, it's legal to drive on the shoulder in rush hour. Apparently at asshole-level speeds. (Yes, I've bitched about this before, and it never gets old, because it never stops BEING TOTALLY DAMN INSANE.)


MA is the only state where I've run into the "lane change traffic jam," where the only reason traffic comes to a standstill is because everyone at the front is so goddamn busy changing lanes to try to get out of traffic that they create it. You'll be in bumper to bumper traffic for an hour, and then it will just... disappear.
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Chief Slovenly
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My rant earlier made it seem like I don't like my adopted city, but I actually do. I once came up with a little comparison chart of SF vs. BOS:

Better in Boston:

Seasons
Abundance of parks
Fact that you can drive out of the city for 20-30 minutes and hit complete beautiful wilderness
Land prices are the same as SF, but you get roughly double the sq. footage
Boston is a denser city/metro area: you're closer to downtown as the crow flies, and closer to things you'd like to do locally. In SF you'd have to drive forever just to visit friends or do things in the city. It would be a big production just to socialize, since the Bay Area is one giant suburb around the entire circumference of the bay.

Better in SF:

Driving
Pac Bell Park (Sorry, Sox fans.)
Miss the fog
Stunning skyline (Again, sorry. The Charles is mighty nice, especially on spring days, but I'd always get a chill driving over the Bay Bridge in to the city. And the view of the Golden Gate from the Marina just isn't fair.)
Goofy wacky culture/city character (Bay to Breakers being a prime example)
Foodie city
Pacific coastline

So yeah. On balance, Boston is certainly better, especially for things that are relevant to starting a family and settling down, especially because my wife's parents are in western MA -- one of the big reasons we moved here in the first place.
 
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bbenston wrote:
I've seen 6- or 7-way intersections, without a light, and only two streets of which will have stop signs.

And don't forget that 1/2 the street (name of the road) signs are missing or not where you'd expect them to be.
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bbenston wrote:
at masshole-level speeds.


Fixed it for you.

By the way, my favorites are the roads that are just kind of nebulous about how many lanes they're supposed to be. No white lines, but hey there's enough room for 1 and a half car widths, so we'll just call this road 2 lanes and zoom, around you I they go.
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Einmal ist keinmal
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Dujo wrote:
bbenston wrote:
at masshole-level speeds.


Fixed it for you.

By the way, my favorites are the roads that are just kind of nebulous about how many lanes their supposed to be. No white lines, but hey there's enough room for 1 and a half car widths, so we'll just call this road 2 lanes and zoom, around you I they go.

Ha, ha! Reminds me of Italy!
 
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Oh, and another useful tip for a Westerner, especially one from a desert state:

If wherever you live doesn't have central A/C, invest in 2 or 3 window A/C units now, while they're cheap during the winter months. Read up on some reviews, get some back issues of Consumer Reports, and buy a couple/few.

I'm originally from Bakersfield, CA, on the western edge of the Mojave, and was used to desert temps -- although I'd braved bad humidity before. There are worse places than Boston in the summer: Orlando and DC for the Satan's-left-nut-level humidity, and NY for the whole urine smell thing.

However, there's a space of time about a month long, and I'll say it's mid-July to mid-August, where you basically want to strip down naked and sit down in a corner of a room and whimper until the stewy, soupy air goes away. Either that or throw whatever green cred you had away and take multiple showers every day.

As for winter, I went to college in Chicago, so Boston winters aren't really much of a thing to me -- I find them nice and entertaining, although my hands are icy cold as I type this. I don't think you'll need to invest in a space heater as most homes are equipped with the whole heating oil/radiator system, although be prepared for the spike in energy costs in winter, depending on whether your living arrangements are heated by oil or gas.
 
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Chief Slovenly
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Dujo wrote:
bbenston wrote:
at masshole-level speeds.


Fixed it for you.

By the way, my favorites are the roads that are just kind of nebulous about how many lanes their supposed to be. No white lines, but hey there's enough room for 1 and a half car widths, so we'll just call this road 2 lanes and zoom, around you I they go.


Oh, and the open secret nobody talks about: you become one of them, a total Masshole, as a survival mechanism. So the evil damn system perpetuates itself.
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Richard Savage
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BETTER than Fenway Park? Son of a.......
 
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Darren Copple
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Man all these stories of Mass-hole drivers, sink pot holes, streets only wide enough for a donkey cart, unbearable humidity are making me homesick.

One thing to bear in mind, in the summer months you must retreat into the house no later than 30 min before sundown... otherwise you're liable to be carried away by the mosquitoes and never seen again. Specially near Ft. Devins.

As a right coast boy now on the left coast, thats the one thing I always marvel at. Being able to stay in the backyard until the wee hours without being A) a walking pesticide popcycle B) in a hermetically sealed netted gazebo or C)slapping yourself silly and pretending that West Nile doesn't exist is just amazing.
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