New England '00



Southern New England, June 2000

Day 1 - Boston, MA to Townsend, MA

I was originally planning on starting my ride yesterday, but a cold, rainy, windy Nor'easter blew into town, so I postponed the start until today.  Even fellow touring lister Tom took the day off from riding into work!
Got a late morning start, as I waited for the  last bits of the storm which cleared out around 8 or 9 AM.  And the skies actually turned blue in the afternoon for some good weather riding.
After using the Rubel Bike Maps to navigate my way around the suburban back roads (starting from my brother's house just outside the city), I was relieved to finally make it to a "numbered" road (225), which is much easier to follow.  I didn't have a problem with the maps - they're excellent - but the streets in Mass. are hard to follow sometimes.  The street names randomly change names at town lines, and they curve so much that when you get to a "Y" junction it's occasionally hard to tell which way to go.
I was hungry for a late lunch by the time I made it to Carlisle.  Nothing in Carlisle but a rotary (roundabout) and a grocery store.    I had to settle for the square shaped pizza with grease floating on top of it in the square shaped pan.
It was then that I remembered that I had wanted to visit Peter White's bike shop <> in Athol.  Shoot, it's in Acton, not Athol - I always mix those two towns up!  Bummer, because if I had planned to go to Acton, I would have routed myself through historic Concord instead of Carlisle. 
I had a second (better) lunch at a sub shop in Littleton.  While I was eating lunch I overheard a couple of older ladies outside talking - "boy he's got a lot of stuff on that there biii-cycle".
After Littleton I crossed I-495 - now I was really in the boonies!  (When I was growing up the dividing line between civilization and everything else was Rt. 128, but apparently the line has been moved out to I-495.)  But I could notice the difference - instead of low density suburbia (house after house on a two lane road), there were now sections without houses.  And the terrain started getting hillier as I approached the central part of the state.
When I stocked up on food in a general store in Townsend, a lady who had come in around the same time recognized me - she had seen me about 15 miles back in Westford - as a matter of fact, I had only seen two other cyclists that day also.
I pulled into Pearl Hill State Park and there was no one at the contact station, so I decided to ride the few extra miles to Damon Pond SP.  I had called yesterday asking if I would need a reservation and they said that although they have some same day first come, first served sites, it would be a good idea to make a reservation.  Instead, I decided I would show up and test my luck - I checked in and got a site - there was a grand total of one camper (me) for both campgrounds! 

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Campground view
I had forgotten some of the subtle differences between California and East Coast camping.  For one thing, it was nice not to need a sledgehammer to get the tent pegs in the ground.  But the other thing - mosquitoes - not a problem in California, but here ... good thing the weather was cool enough to wear a jacket and long pants.
And the question of what to do with the snack food while I went out to search for dinner.  There weren't any critter-proof boxes, and all the tree were tall pine trees that didn't have any branches low enough to hang the food from.  So I left it all on the picnic table, thinking that I'd rather let the critters have the food instead of putting it in the tent and inviting them to chew through the tent to get the food.
I stopped at the closest place for dinner - a takeout window nearby (burgers/fries/ice cream).  When camping alone on a bike trip, I don't like to bother with bringing all of the cooking stuff - for me, it's too much of a hassle.  I don't need morning coffee (one of the few, the proud...), and in the mornings I have no problem with eating cold food until I find a restaurant with breakfast.
When I got back to camp, all of the food on the table was gone, without a trace.  Duh - I could have taken it with me on the bike when I went out for dinner!  I guess most campers don't have that problem - they just leave the food in the car...  I hope there's a place for breakfast tomorrow in Ashby...

Day 2 - Townsend, MA to Greenfield, MA
69 miles, 3300 feet of climbing, 11.5 mph average

Forgot to mention yesterday's stats:  55 miles, 1900 feet of climbing, forgot the average.  I also forgot to mention that Townsend is just north of Fitchburg, which hosted the Eastern Tandem Rally one year - definitely lots of good (but hilly) riding in the area.
Now back to Day 2 ... I woke up to the sunrise sometime between 5:00 and 5:30 AM.  (If that wasn't enough to wake me up, then the sound of the construction crews working on the nearby road around 6 AM would have *definitely* gotten me up....)  With a hungry stomach and without food, I packed up and was on the road at 6:45 AM - a personal best (or worst, depending on how you look at it) for an early start.
I wasn't sure how far I would have to go for food.  I knew there would definitely be food in Winchendon 20 miles ahead, but I didn't want to wait that long.  Luckily there was a diner in Ashby.  only a few miles away.  The people working there were very friendly - and they also work at my alma mater in Worcester during the school year, so they were telling me what new buildings were going up, etc.
After leaving Ashby, 119 gets nice wide shoulders, making for a nicer ride.  I went into New Hampshire briefly before turning off on the road along Lake Monomonac going back to Winchendon, Mass.
My original planned stop was in Erving State Forest, but I arrived at the halfway point in Winchendon by 10 AM!  (And to think if Robin was on this tour, he'd just be rolling out of his sleeping bag right then....)  So I decided to have a second breakfast and reassess my plans.  I still wasn't sure how far I wanted to go for the day, but at least I knew I didn't have to drop down to Athol/Orange to get to Erving - I could instead stay north through the more rural Royalston and Warwick and could have a late lunch 20 miles later in Northfield.
While sitting on the curb in Winchendon eating my blueberry muffin, a gentleman who at first glance didn't appear to be knowledgable about bikes came up to me and asked me a few questions about my bike.  Soon we were getting into a detailed discussion about gearing, and about how stock bikes are geared too high for normal human beings (my gearing is custom).  He was trying to get lower gearing on his Trek 520 and wasn't getting much help from his local bike shops.
The terrain quickly became more rural and hilly going through Royalston toward Warwick.  I decided to take a shortcut to Warwick but taking a dirt road.  The dirt road then had a fork in the road not shown on the map - one direction was muddy and unpassable, so I went in the other direction.  A guy from Mass. Electric passed by and I asked him i this was the road to Warwick - no it wasn't it was a really long driveway he said, as I was being eaten alive by mosquitos in the middle of the day.  So I backtracked and found another dirt road that led to the paved road going to Warwick.

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That's the dirt road ... oops, it's a long driveway ...
I blinked going through Warwick, and after a short climb, it was a nice steady downhill to Northfield in the Connecticut River Valley.  I rolled straight into the Main St. Diner for a late lunch.
Both of the restaurants in Northfield close before dinner, and I didn't see a hotel in town (there's a youth hostel, but it's closed for renovations), so I continued for 15 miles to the largest town in the area - Greenfield.
Staying in Greenfield meant getting a hotel for the night, and there were none in the old downtown.  That meant they were all clustered on the outside of town by I-91.  I got a room at the Candlelight Motor Inn - I was talking with the manager and he mentioned that the tour company that does the fast LA to Boston ride (30 days, about 100 miles a day) stops here for a night.  It's at the end of a tough day, starting in Albany, NY and climbing the Berkshires in Western Mass. before arriving in Greenfield.
Being out by the interstate, dinner choices were limited to Taco Bell/KFC/Pizza Hut (all under one roof - good grief) and the local Friendly Ice Cream (and other stuff) chain.  I had to jaywalk cross Rt. 2 (no sidewalks or crosswalks at the traffic lights) to get to the grocery store to stock up on food - depending on tomorrow's destination (still TBD. depending on how I feel in the morning) I might not be able to get food for the next three meals.

Day 3 - Greenfield, MA to Charlemont, MA
38 miles, 2000 feet of climbing, 9.8 mph average

I had planned to do a short "rest" day today - I know from experience that I'm always a bit sluggish on the third consecutive day of riding.
I didn't get up at the crack of dawn today - good thing because the breakfast places didn't open until 7 AM.  But I still made it there early enough to avoid a couple of large parties (2 groups of 20 each) - the hotel manager had said last night that there were a few graduations going on in town.  While I was checking out of the hotel, I saw a yellow school bus fill up as a parade of kids was leaving the McDonalds next door and going straight on the bus.
Due to the hilly/mountainous terrain, there is only one road to go west from Greenfield - Route 2.  The section of 2 between Greenfield and Williamstown is listed as scenic on my AAA map, but my bike map shows it as a secondary instead of a primary bike route, with the warning of "steep hills, narrow lanes, and heavy traffic in places".  Although there was a lot of traffic (but not an excessive amount, then again, it's Friday - I don't know what the weekend traffic is like) the road had wide shoulders, and had the best road surface of all the roads I had cycled in the state. 
This section of Rt. 2 coming west out of Greenfield is also called "The Mohawk Trail".  It was an old Indian route, and then in the early 1900s it became one of America's first scenic roads (similar concept as parts of Hwy. 1 in California).  There's lots of places to stop along the way, although some of them include the obviously tourist oriented Indian outpost/souvenir shops.
Going west out of Greenfield, Route 2 climbs steeply, then levels off a bit into rolling hills before going down into Shelburne Falls.  Shelburne Falls had the look of an old New England Main St., with a couple of things to see:  a pedestrian bridge decorated with flowers and the "glacial potholes" - weird shaped rocks in the river bed, geological reason for existence uncertain.  There were also a couple of yellow school buses in town - apparently school kids on a field trip.  There was a group of them by the candle shop - the owner was showing them how candles were made - and there was also a group by the glass blowing place.

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Bridge of Flowers

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Glacial Potholes
The terrain had leveled out to rolling hills, now that Route 2 followed the Deerfield River.  The early morning weather was nice, but now I was feeling sluggish for some reason - I checked my thermometer, and it was already up to 85 degrees (give or take 5 degrees, if you know the type of thermometer I'm talking about)!  And it's never a "dry heat" here in Mass., although it was the driest heat I'd experienced in the state. 
I found lunch in Charlemont at the only food place that looked like it had anyone eating there - a pizza and sub shop.  Afterwards, I backtracked to Route 8A (North Heath Rd.) to take a look at a covered bridge.  The covered bridge was closed to traffic during repairs (but still OK for a photo shoot) - a temporary bridge was set up for traffic (it looked like one of those accordion types that the Army Corps of Engineers would use).

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Covered bridge
Then there was the choice of which direction to go and where to stay for the night - continue west on Rt. 2 to the state forest campground, or head south into the hills of Rt. 8A to the other (further) campground.  There was a third option - go to the (really cheap) rustic cross-country ski lodge (which had food also)  but a group had rented the whole place out for the week.  So I decided to make it a short day, and head about five hilly miles west on Rt. 2 to the Mohawk Trail State Forest.
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Camping at the Mohawk Trail State Forest
When I checked in, I saw a sign warning about black bears.  I asked which campsites had bear-proof food boxes, and the attendant was rather surprised by the question.  I guess people just lock the food in their cars - the bears here aren't like the huge California ones that can break into cars.  I told her I had some rope to hang the food between two trees.
I had started hiking up a 1.5 mile trail to a scenic lookout, but the stomach was starting to growl, so I headed back down after only going up halfway.  On the way to the state forest campground I had passed a private campground with a restaurant - that's where I backtracked 3 miles for dinner.  It was quite a big restaurant for being in the middle of nowhere, and it had a real good selection and decent food.  There was also a full service bar and pool tables.
Then I stopped at Mohawk Park - a tribute to the Mohawk Indians.

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Mohawk Park

Day 4 - Charlemont, MA to Lee, MA
63 miles, 3600 feet of climbing, 10.7 mph average

Things went off to a great start early in the morning - the weather was nice, and no bears or critters were able to get to my food, so I was able to eat breakfast.
The first part of the day came straight out of a Mark Boyd ride report (inside joke for you touring listers...) - upon leaving the campground I immediately came upon a big hill (westbound on Route 2)  I dropped into my lowest gear and was climbing at a slooow 5 mph.  And the hill kept on going and going with no end in sight...
The shoulders on this part of the road were now almost non-existent in places, although thankfully the uphill lane was wider than the downhill lane, and traffic was pretty light early in the morning.
After about 8 continuous miles of about a 8-10% grade, the terrain started to level out a bit (although it was still going uphill) in a place on my map called Drury.  I was hoping there would be food there, but the only place of business was a garage - the lady working inside waved as I passed - I waved back.

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Steep hills warning sign
A couple of miles later I reached the town of Florida.  I first saw a church, a cemetery, and a town building.  I was hoping there'd be a restaurant around the bend, but there would be nothing - that was the town, I blinked too fast.
About a mile later (still going up...) there was a gift shop with a summit view.  The gift shop was closed - it was difficult to tell whether to was a seasonal or permanent closure - the shop appeared fully stocked, the porch had a new deck, yet the sign was missing...
Well, they were lying about the summit thing because I had another mile or two of climbing until I hit the "true" summit - Whitcomb Peak, at 2800 feet.  Yippee!  There was a restaurant on top - I went in and was ready to eat whatever meal they were serving - it was about 10 AM, so breakfast was fine with me.  I chatted with a couple of locals, the waitress, and a customer.  The customer had experience leading bike tours on the Cape (Cape Cod) for teenagers.  The waitress related stories about the fast LA to Boston bike ride - the summit was a good place for a pit stop for the Albany, NY to Greenfield, MA day.  Just then we saw some cyclists climb to the top from the west side - it was a Saturday morning, so it must have been a club ride.
Finally, a well deserved downhill into North Adams, which is in a north to south valley.  Once I lost the downhill breeze, it was pretty hot, almost hitting 90 by noon.  I headed south towards Pittsfield, with a late lunch stop in Lanesborough.
While crossing into Pittsfield from Lanesborough, my headlamp decided it didn't want to stay on my bike and fell off into the middle of the road.  I went back to retrieve it - I had expected it to be run over, but somehow it had safely rolled over to the edge of the road.  Closer inspection revealed that with enough road rattle the nut had worked its way off of the bolt holding the lamp on.
Pittsfield was a big enough city that it was easy to find a bike shop - my tires needed air.  I hadn't realized that they were as bad off as they were - when I topped them off the bike seemed a lot faster...  I had thanked the bike shop by buying another copy of the Western Massachusetts bike map - my current copy was getting real beat up from use.
After crossing from Pittsfield into Lenox (while singing Eurhythmics songs to myself - ugh), I bought a glass of lemonade from a couple of kids who set up a lemonade stand.  I guess with inflation the going price is 25 cents a glass.  They must not have been doing well since they didn't have change for a dollar.  But they were happy when I was able to dig out two dimes and a nickel.
I made the uphill climb into October Mountain State Forest, which is actually in Lee, the next town over from Lenox.  I had remembered seeing a restaurant at the bottom of the hill close to the campground, but after I got set up and rode down the hill for dinner, the restaurant looked like it was out of business.  So I had to ride the 3-4 miles into downtown Lenox for dinner, and it was all uphill, and I was wearing my "normal" clothes.  Luckily it had cooled off a bit.
Lenox is a really cute little town, with lots of art galleries, B&Bs, etc.  But that meant there wasn't a cheap meal in town that would be easy to find.  So I found a nice, but overpriced and slow outdoor cafe for dinner.

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Lenox, Massachusetts
I had been pretty much playing my plans by ear, but now I have a more or less final plan for the next few days.  Sunday will be a short day to Granville State Forest.  Tuesday will be riding into the car rental at Providence airport to end the tour.  Monday will be somewhere halfway between - still working on the exact location.

Day 5 - Lee, MA to Granville, MA
About 40 miles
It's too wet outside to get the other statistics.  (OK, got them now - 2200 feet of climbing, average 10.5 mph)

From the October Mountain State Forest campground I headed into downtown Lee for breakfast.  I knew food wouldn't be a problem, since the Mass. Turnpike has an exit in Lee - but I was fortunate that there was a laundromat next door to the restaurant.
I had to pass through Otis to get to Granville.  Instead of taking the more direct US 20 and MA 8 to get to Otis, I took a more roundabout way through Tyringham.  Although this way had some nasty hills, it took me past the Gingerbread House "Santarella".  It was the studio for the guy (more info later if I remember the name) who sculpted the Revolutionary War monument in Lexington.  The house is now a museum explaining its history, and also houses some artwork by local artists.  A worthwhile detour - although I was only the second person there that morning.  I chatted with the girl who worked there - she had seemed bored to tears...

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View on the way to Tyringham

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Cottage behind Santarella
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After passing the church and town hall in Tyringham, I had a ridiculous amount of climbing to get to MA 23 - more than I had expected, since the map only shows chevrons for continuous grades, not rolling hills.  Once I got to 23, heading eastbound toward Otis there was a lot more climbing, but afterwards there were some steep but straight downhills - that's probably where I got my maximum speed of 48 mph.
There wouldn't have been anyplace to eat lunch in Otis if it weren't for Sal's Pizza, which had just opened in May.  They were too busy for conversation, but I saw the newspaper article on the wall about the "guy gives up city life in the fast lane and opens up a pizza place in the country".
Route 8 south out of Otis runs parallel to a small river.  You know it's a good sign when the river flows in the direction you're riding - it means you're going downhill!  Not a major downhill, but enough to maintain about 18 mph with very little effort.
The weatherman forecasted afternoon thundershowers a couple of days ago, but that petered out after a few drops fell from the sky.  Not this time.  The skies opened up and poured.  I found some shelter in a nearby picnic area near the river.  Today would be a short riding day, so I had no problems spending a half hour to wait out the storm.  I continued on after the rain stopped.
I didn't realize how close I was to the Route 8 / 57 junction - otherwise I would have waited out the rain at the tavern at the corner.
I turned eastbound on Route 57 and immediately came upon a 12% uphill grade for the next mile (I confirmed that from the warning signs in the downhill direction).  After a brief downhill stretch, it was all uphill again to Tolland.
Then the skies clouded over again for another downpour.  But this time I just happened to be near the country store, which also had a coffee shop.  So I stopped in for a second lunch, and by the time I finished it had stopped raining.
After crossing from Tolland into Granville, there was the unpaved turnoff onto the road going to Granville State Forest.  Luckily it's packed dirt and drains very well, otherwise it would have been like riding through pea soup.
This State Forest really has that "middle of nowhere" feel to it.  I was glad I saved the other half of my lunchtime meatball sub for dinner.
I'm about a mile from the CT (Connecticut) border, so I'll be riding into CT to avoid having to cross the Connecticut River in the busy Springfield area.
As I'm writing this in my tent a massive downpour has started.  Because I live in sunny California, this is the first time this tent has been used in the rain!  So I'm now looking to how good of a job I've done sealing the seams on the rain fly (thanks for sealing advice from "Rain Goddess" Judy a long while back...)  It looks like it's holding out OK, except there's one small spot where drops of water are sneaking through the seam and occasionally dripping on me through the mesh roof.  The tent construction in which a small puddle can form on top of the rain fly probably isn't helping the situation much.  Uh oh, just found roof leaks number 2 and number 3 ... will I survive?  :-)  (If I only had cell phone coverage inside the tent I could e-mail this to you now and leave you all in suspense...)

Day 6 - Granville, MA to Somewhere in CT
63 miles, 3100 feet of climbing, 12.5 mph average

It rained and it rained all last night.  Occasionally a really hard downpour would be loud enough to wake me up.
When I woke up in the morning, the sleeping bag was a little wet from water falling from above, but not too bad.  It was still drizzling - the forecast was for morning drizzle, with clearing in the afternoon.  So needless to say I got off to a late morning start - and I had to spend some time to make sure the wet stuff didn't contaminate the dry stuff...
Granville State Forest is on the MA/CT border - it was hard to tell whether the best way would be to backtrack to Mass., or to go straight into Conn.  The tricky part would be finding a place to cross the Conn. River north of Hartford, CT yet south of Springfield, MA. 
Heading south out of Granville SF makes for an unglorious crossing into Conn. - the road changes from dirt to pavement at the state line - no welcome sign or anything like that.  This road then connects to Conn. Route 20.
Heading east on 20, it was very scenic, hilly, and sparsely populated.  The road flattened out to rolling hills near Granby, and after crossing US 202, CT 20 started to become very busy as I approached Bradley Int'l (Hartford and Springfield's airport).  I turned off onto 187 north, which was much better riding.
The plan was to cross the river at CT 190.  There were two other river crossings on the map (other than I-91), but one was out of the way, and the other wasn't labelled, so I doubt I would have been able to find it.
CT 190 appeared to be a "normal" road on my AAA map.  But when I approached the bridge, it had one of those boilerplate prohibition signs.  I thought the sign was just a remnant of bridge discrimination past, and traffic was very light, so I rode across.  As I rode across it, I could see on the other side that CT 190 appeared to be controlled access until the I-91 junction!  Luckily, there was an exit to US 5 on the other side of the bridge.
I used the "force" (i.e., lucky guess) to guide me which way to turn off US 5 to get back toward CT 190.  Well it worked - I was back on CT 190, which was a "normal" road again.
CT 190 was a little busier than the roads I used in Mass., but still not too bad.  For Conn. I did not have the benefit of bike maps that I had for Mass., so I had to stick to numbered roads, whereas in Mass. there were a lot of good through roads that were not numbered.
The original plan was that Ray was going to pick me up at Bigelow Hollow State Park on the MA/CT line.  I had called Ray last night from the campground pay phone, and the quality of the phone on my end wasn't too good, so we really weren't able to work out something other than that. 
When I got to Stafford Springs, I left a message on Ray's machine that I'd be detouring down CT 32 to put me somewhat closer to his place.  He's on the way with the van as I'm writing this...
I'm glad Ray's offered to pick me up, as I dread the thought of pulling out a wet and muddy tent out of the bag....

Day 7 - Somewhere in CT to Providence, RI
44 miles (too lazy to get other stats)

I had an enjoyable stop at Ray and Kristie's house in Connecticut last night.  We had dinner and talked about lots of things - bikes, jobs, dogs, vacations, etc.
Ray was kind enough to prepare a "cue" sheet for me to get to my final destination at Providence's Green Airport.  I got a cool, but dry start early in the morning, as rain was forecasted for the afternoon.

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Before the cool morning ride ...
Ray is obviously very familiar with the back roads of Eastern Connecticut, and his route slip reflected that.  Soon I was riding through "Hell Hollow Rd.", a road narrow enough for the trees on the side of the road to block out the sunlight from above.  This was better than the numbered roads I was on yesterday.

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Hell Hollow Road
After coming out of Hell Hollow onto CT 49, the scenery changes to farmland.  The terrain is still rolling hills, although much flatter than the Berkshires. 
A turn onto 14 from 14A marks yet another unmarked state line crossing - this time into Rhode Island.  Then a turn onto RI 117 would get me across the state in a couple of hours!  I had a burger at a country store in Coventry, which would be the last store of its kind before starting to approach the Providence area.
Ray had a couple of turns on his sheet to take me off of RI 117 to minimize the amount of riding I would have to do on US 1 to get to the airport.  But I missed his turns, so I ended up taking RI 117 east to a one-way street that had signs pointing toward US 1 north.  I followed the signs, and then there was a turnoff for a road bypassing US1 for most of the way to Green Airport.  This bypass road had a wide shoulder and then rejoined US 1 northbound only a couple of blocks away from the airport.  Although US 1 is one of those four lane shoulderless roads, the traffic south of the airport is a lot better than the the traffic north toward Providence.
T. F. Green is a small enough airport, so it was an easy ride to the car rental places inside to get a car for the rest of the trip.

Page Last Edited (though probably not for content): 14 September 2010