Let me just start by saying that I’ve got nothing against the TAT, Arctic Circle runs, the Baja 1000, butane stoves, TKCs, turkey jerky, muddy chains, or pup tents.
I dream of that stuff.
But I live in reality, and I’m a middle-aged New England dad with middle- (and high-) school kids, the typical midsection spread, middling riding skills, the middle GS, and an ultra rare mid-week pass to evaporate for two days (thanks, Liebe) to find my inner Long Way Around. Even if it was just a short loop up into Vermont.
And while I wanted my ride to give a stiff middle finger to domestic tranquility and workaday routine for two days (SUBJECT: Eff off, email…send!), I also wanted to sleep in a goddamned nice bed. With high-BTU air conditioning. In a cush place. With scalding hot showers and high thread-count sheets and nice hair and body products.
So sue me. Call me an adventure-lounger. Scoff at the incongruity between GPS-enabled dirt-path wandering and DirecTV-enabled channel-surfing.
I got 48 hours. And I’m voting with my ass.
Which means not signing up for self-imposed suffering on a neoprene camp mat with a can of Chunky Sirloin Burger soup. But instead, opting to ride all day and luxuriate all night on a crisp cotton duvet, my other BMW (Bulleit, Motrin, and Walgreen’s-butt-ointment) doing its medicinal magic.
This was to be my ride.
Obsess about riding from southwestern Connecticut (home) to somewhere in Vermont (soul home), but with as much of the journey as possible away from cars, painted lines, and pavement. Wonder if there’s a way to do this that won’t take a week. Search ADV Rider and the web for possible trajectories. Stumble upon the unheroically-named “Puppy Dog Route.”
Scour ride reports, salivate over pictures of covered bridges, KTMs, New England pastures, and dirt. Click links and fantasize. Smell the cow dung. Tell yourself that something called “Puppy Dog” could still be potentially cool and Adventurish and tale-worthy back at the office.
Notice that several folks have generously posted downloadable waypoints and GPS routes on different sites. Celebrate the fact that you have a GPS. Acknowledge the fact that you haven’t the slightest idea how to get these routes from your computer onto to your Garmin. Email? Under normal circumstances, directions are magically beamed to your GPS via space-unicorn technology. How to beam Puppy Dogs onto the unit?
Learn about GPX files. Discover that, in addition to space-unicorn technology, your Zumo has a thing called a USB port, and that you can hook it up to your computer like a digital camera to download routes. Try this, and shock yourself that you succeed. Celebrate your accidental technological prowess by sneaking a Stew Leonard’s chipwich without getting busted by the Spousal Department of Nutritional Compliance.
Pick a target. The PDR northbound starts in Greenfield, Mass and deposits you up in the Green Mountain State in or around Silver Lake. So you figure that somewhere in southern to central Vermont, you’ll need a place to crash (figuratively speaking, God willing.) Let’s see…Brattleboro? Barely over the border. Bennington? Too twee and comparative-lit. Rutland? Too many McDonalds, and I got a ridiculous speeding ticket there once, where Route 7 goes from 55 to 25 in a one block distance. So how’s about…here?
Bunch of appealing places to stay, from the pricey (but nicey) Equinox, to the Brittany Motel (mentioned in some other RRs) to the Manchester Inn. Coupla decent restaurants. Mt. Equinox. Orvis outlet. Figure it out when you get there.
Pack up some kit, add fuel, check tires, reset trip odo…
Here’s my middle GS:
Like some of you, I started on an F650GS. And constantly ponder the big GS. But for southern New England back road exploring with occasional (and reluctant) dashes on I-95/I-91/I-287/I-84 this is, I think, the perfect tool. My old F650 single, while a superb bike, felt like riding a very large Singer sewing machine at highway speeds. I did take a test ride on an R1200GS at Max BMW in Brookfield CT, and it was indeed bigger, plusher and chunkier. But it felt like riding an ICBM, where a Stinger missile would do the trick.
A brief shout-out to sheepskin. I used to see old guys with sports cars and sheepskin seat covers and think, “man, that’s lame, like something Thurston Howell would put in his SL.” Now I think, “man, you’re lame. It’s sooooo frigging comfortable. Remember: you’re dealing with Mr. Adventure Lounger here, aka Comfortman. BTW, those are earplugs on the seat. Ears like comfort, too.
So I headed out on a perfect July Sunday morning, taking the Merritt Parkway to the Wilbur Cross Highway to the Berlin Turnpike up to Hartford, CT, then jumping on I-91.
By the way, who the hell was Wilbur Cross? The unnatural offspring of Wilbur Post and his talking horse? Turns out he was a Yalie, an educator, and the 71st Governor of Connecticut…and the Principal of the very high school my son attends, only back in 1885.
Anyway, it was caution and slab for about 125 miles, although once I-91 pipes you up north of Springfield, Mass, it becomes truly joyful: uncrowded, nice pavement, and an unhurried roll along the Connecticut River.
Then Exit 26 for refueling in Greenfield:
And filling my own tank…
Which brings us to Greenfield Mass, McDonalds, and the Great Experiment—seeing if whatever I downloaded from the web actually made its way onto my GPS, and will guide me to where I want to go.
Well, I follow the directions to take Mohawk Trail (Route 2) west, and then turn off onto Peckville Road. Still macadam, but let the Puppy Dog glory begin. This is somewhere past Apex Vineyards:
Then, maybe a mile later, I find what I’ve been riding for:
I don’t know about you, but a Sunday morning somewhere in New England on an unpaved road, with barns, meadows, hills, horses, cows, nowhere to be, no work on Monday, and nothing to do but ride until nightfall is pretty much the definition of heaven to me.
This is the picture of a man who hasn’t died but has nevertheless gone to heaven:
Next up, following the Green River on a lazy, hazy ramble up into Vermont:
So I just followed the GPS route along the Green River, as it meandered its way north. For being the Green River, it really lives up to its name. Every now and then stumbled upon a few folks taking a dip in a deeper bend of the river.
But for the most part, and for most of the ride, just me.
Here’s a little video I took. It isn’t high drama. But it gives you a sense of just how pretty it really is.
After a while riding, I came upon one of the manifest pleasures of riding in New England—a covered bridge. I’ve probably crossed about a half-dozen in my riding throughout CT, MA, and VT. And each one is as delicious as the next.
I’ve seen plenty of other folks’ pictures of this. Here’s mine:
I was so intent on grabbing a shot with my bike and the “Two Dolla” fine sign that I neglected the other sign, the one about not parking within 100 feet of the bridge, especially in the path of oncoming traffic.
But hey: that isn’t parking. That’s posing.
Mr. Happy Bridge:
From here, it’s about 9 miles to the Vermont Border, and every inch of it is drop-dead gorgeous. Like this spread, on a piney stretch of the river.
Big ups for going orange with the front door:
It wasn’t entirely clear to me when I was going to cross the threshold into VT, although I did start to notice the telltale green license plate on cars here and there. So far, the downloaded PDR route was working out, well, good enough for me.
I checked this road out on Google Maps—it’s just a couple of miles outside of Brattleboro, maybe about 4-5 miles west of I-91.
And at this point, having reached at least stage one of my objective (Vermont), I’d like to pause for a sec and reflect, after achieving a life-milestone that I’ve always wanted to achieve, as modest as it might sound next to ride reports that take folks to places like Siberia, Yellowknife, and Uzbekistan.
I’ve always…always…wanted to own a motorbike and ride it all the way up to Vermont. I grew up outside NYC, and always had a near-mystical love affair with the state, skiing in Vermont throughout high school, applying to University there, and then going to UVM in Burlington. I bought and rode my first two-wheel motorized joy-machine in Vermont, a 1984 Honda Aero 80 scooter that was my college campus and around-town ride. I met my wife in Vermont (at UVM)—I hit the lottery with her, and thank my lucky stars for her everyday. Now, we take our kids to Vermont at least once a year. And we even talk about someday retiring to Vermont.
Original UVM hoodie from back in the day, still worn today:
So rolling along Green River Road and up into the Green Mountain State on my bike was like the realization of this idea I’d been carrying around, bottled up in my head forever: Someday, I’m gonna own a motorbike—like one of those on/off-road bikes, maybe even a Beemer—and someday I’m gonna hop on it and ride clear on up to VERMONT.
There’s something to be said for really wanting to do something, and then someday, getting around to actually doing it…
So here’s where it started to get a little, uh, interesting.
Up until now, the GPS route for the Puppy Dog Trail was working flawlessly. Along the route, I passed Mather Road, which appears to have crashed into an Oak tree sometime back in the 1960s or 1970s, based on this embedded link:
But not long past this, what was a dirt road became more of a dirt path, and this dirt path dwindled into the woods and a steep downhill chute that I made it halfway down (I’m on OEM Battlewings without so much as a knoblet, FWIW) before squeezing the brakes, turning sharply to get perpendicular to the hill, and saying to myself, “Dude, what the hell are you doing? Go any further down this and you will NEVER get back up.”
And if this path keeps shriveling, you’ll wind up like that guy from Into The Wild, surviving on juniper berries and scavenged bark beetles, scratching your farewells onto your panniers with a rock, until you skeletonize and die.
Then your wife is really going to kill you…
Thus, I was lost, and so was my GPS. It kept indicating that the road/path/trail would indeed be continuing. Someone else (Ed Fetz) seems to have gone down that road before here.
But halfway down, I’d had enough. And here’s where the middle GS’s lack of girth makes her a better dance partner for tight spaces.
I was able to noodle and rock the bike backwards and forwards until I was pointing about 50 degrees shy of straight uphill, using a little throttle, my tippy toes, gravity, and brakes. All without dumping. And when I finally got on the gas, I was able to scud and shamble my way back up the incline, intact. Which beat the piss out of tipping over, and having to hoof it out. Or tipping over and not being able to hoof it out. Try THAT on a Big Papi GS.
(And maybe not such a bad idea to get one of those SPOT things…)
In hindsight (and after consulting Google Maps—I’m not sure if I was north of Route 9 at this point, or south of it) I may have been on Whittaker Farm Road, which as you follow it, peters out into nothingness. Actually, wilderness.
But some distance later, it appears to connect with Lahar Road, which definitely appears to proceed North:
By back tracking, I eventually passed a home with a woman outside tending to her garden, and she was kind enough to point me towards Route 9, AKA the Molly Stark Trail.
Once more with feeling. and historical ignorance: who the hell is Molly Stark, and why does she have a trail named after her?
Well, a little Googling reveals she was the wife of Revolutionary War general John Stark. And now has the appealingly-named Molly Stark Byway to memorialize her. You can check it out here.
I’d been on dirt for a while, and wanted to start moving West at a faster clip, so I jumped on Molly (figuratively, gentlemen) and headed west towards Bennington, where I stopped to refuel my gullet here:
With a nice outdoor deck, and a view of town…
Next up? Making a run for Manchester and Skyline Drive at Mt. Equinox…but a little chow first.
So to pick up where I left off…the Puppy Dog Route got me to Vermont. But my GPS followed a scent deep into the woods west of Brattleboro that took me way off-course and looked unnavigable (by me, at least). So I threaded my way back and found Vermont Route 9, AKA the Molly Stark Byway. And my slow-twitch dirt rambling became a fast-twitch paved sprint, laterally across the state (it’s a really nice ride):
Which brings me to Bennington, home of artsy/brainy Bennington College, pierced eyebrows, chamber music festivals, Revolutionary War monuments, and an absolutely kickass spinach, mushroom & cheese calzone, courtesy of these guys:
Now I don’t know if they integrate bagel-making technology into their calzone-crust fabrication process, but it was extraordinary. A crackle-chewy shell filled with a molten mix of arigott, amozzarel (why do faux-Italian speakers transpose the “a” in cheese names, and place it at the beginning instead of the end of the word?), fresh sauteed spinach and mushrooms and a spicy tomato dipping sauce that was almost fra diavlo.
The whole thing was like biting into a cheezy, spinachy, mushroomy Mt. Etna. Besides being excellent, the mozzarella-lava removed much of the mucosal lining of my mouth. It probably didn’t help that I wolfed the thing down almost violently, it was so freaking good.
Washed it down with a Coke Zero, while watching a few bikes trundle by from the deck. Made small talk with the heavily-tatted busboy dude (who seemed to have sampled all of their fare and had an almost chef-like interest in my calzone (“How you like the ‘shrooms? We saute ’em in garlic butter first…kinda brings out a little nuttiness in the flavor, right?”)
To be honest, it was hard to tell or answer, other than nodding with my smoking piehole open, and all the singed skin dangling down from the roof of my mouth. But he was right, it was righteously good, and I was damned happy. When he disappeared inside, I ripped a burp that could shatter a wine glass, and smiled.
Again, a pause to reflect (you get to do a lot of that on a ride):
I’m up here in Vermont, and I can’t adequately communicate what it’s like to be on a bike and have no real idea where I’m going, where I’ll stay, or what I’ll do. Back home in reality-land, I have a fairly intense (but super gratifying) job in NYC, a wife, kids, a punishing commute, and a Microsoft Outlook calendar that only periodically leaves times (in 4-minute increments) to take a shit. Unlike many of the riders and reporters here, I don’t have a year or a month or even a week to extract moto-liberation from a ride. I have 48 hours. So just the thought that I could be ambitious and head up to Burlington, go west into NY State, or just shoot for Manchester and call it a day is almost dizzying.
You know that T-Pain song, I’m on a Boat?
I’m on a boat motherf*cker, take a look at me
Straight flowing on a boat on the deep blue sea
Busting five knots, wind whipping out my coat
You can’t stop me motherf*cker, ’cause I’m on a boat
Well, yo, I’m on a bike. I’m on my mothereffing bike. And I’ma head up 7A and hit Mt. Equinox, flowin’ and rowin’ through the gears on Skyline Drive. Peace out, Benner’s…
Thus, I motor northwards through Shaftsbury, Arlington, and Sunderland, where there’s a left turnoff for the gate house and toll road to ride (or drive, if you’re caging it) to the top of Mt. Equinox via Skyline Drive:
The last time I was up here in Vermont (in December, with the fam), we hiked partly up Mt. Equinox from Manchester. There was already a pretty deep snowpack, and about halfway up, the girls bailed and made a u-ey, and not long after that my son and I threw in the towel. It was just too much of a snow slog.
But before the hike, I’d grabbed a trail map, which referenced a Carthusian Monastery at the top of the mountain (part of my impulse to keep going up), and I was instantly intrigued. So when we got back down, I (in my typically obsessive information-seeking fashion) went down a rabbit hole of web research about hyper-orthodox Catholicism, The Charterhouse of the Transfiguration, Joseph George Davidson, Union Carbide, and, umm, this:
Coming up: spiritual uplift, in second gear…
So when I read about the fact that there was an order of Carthusian monks at the top of Mt. Equinox in Vermont, I naturally had to do a little web-sleuthing, which led me to the homepage for The Charterhouse of the Transfiguration. I’m neither Catholic nor remotely religious (although I do love the butter-dipped steaks at the Charthouse…related?), but found it all soooo fascinating: http://transfiguration.chartreux.org/
The Carthusian vow of silence…the hairshirts…the meditation/prayer in “cells”…the vegitarianism…the Gregorian chanting…the whole process of profession/donation/formation…just wild in its stark renunciation of all things temporal and comfortable. (And remember: I’m a guy who’s written and ridden a paean to comfort.)
But what also intrigued me was why these dudes happened to be in Vermont in the first place (of all places), at the top of Mt. Equinox. I’d mentioned to a friend at work the fact that I was starting to become obsessed with theses Carthusian monks, and he mentioned “Have ya seen that movie, Into Great Silence? You know, those are the guys that make Chartreuse.”
Factoid: “Chartreuse” is “Charter House” in French. As it is also that neon-green French liquor, made by the Carthusians in France, which seems like an oddball “Godly” vocation for ultra-religious Catholic vegetarian monks, but who am I to judge? So I downloaded and watched the movie. And besides the music and ambient sounds (it’s actually a silent movie, meant to evoke the silence of those French monks’ lives) it was pretty darned Zen and cool. But still no explanation for a connection with Vermont.
So I dug a little deeper, and discovered that Mt. Equinox (besides not being part of the Green Mountain range, but technically the highest peak in the Taconic range) was owned, at one point, by a wealthy 1940’s/50’s American industrialist named Joseph Davidson, who was a PhD chemist with 27 patents to his name (among them, for having invented Bakelite) and who was the CEO of Union Carbide.
And during World War II, Davidson had also participated in the process of uranium enrichment as part of the development of the first atomic bomb, and “as if in expiation, later founded and nurtured the first and only charterhouse in the United States of the Carthusians, a 900-year-old Roman Catholic monastic order devoted to silence, solitude, reverent contemplation of the human condition, and the quest for grace” (from here: http://www.equinoxmountain.com/early…vidson_phd.php)
The way I look at it, I was sort of doing the same, but from the seat of BMWF800GS.
So back to riding: I paid my $12 at the tollhouse right off of Route 7A, listened to the caution about road construction and the hairpin turns, and set off. Or up.
It’s a helluva ride, and the switchbacks are great, and the views (when you get to the top and can pause to look) are amazing. The parking lot at the top:
The view west:
The view east:
The view through the rafters inside the Mt. Equinox Welcome Center:
A Carthusian monk who was turned to stone for looking at a woman and thinking low, earthly thoughts (I kid, I kid):
(But those hairshirts gotta suck.) And here’s sheet music from Volume One of their Greatest Chants:
It was a cool ride, and a cool visit. If you’re up this way, you won’t want to miss it. One suggestion: don’t try to record your descent on video by using your iPhone and inserting it between your chin and the front of your flip-up helmet, with the lens obscuring your forward view. Your chin will either keep pressing the home button and canceling the record, or you’ll crash and kill yourself.
By now, I’d been riding for about nine hours, and was starting to get the double-monkey: monkey butt and monkey grip. So it was getting to be time to find that cush place to crash; if BMW or KTM or Triumph could’ve figured out how to put a little Japanese lady into a container on your handlebars that popped-out to give you a Shiatsu hand-massage after a long day’s ride, I’d have sprung for that option. But they still haven’t nailed that.
So next up, searching for an Adventure Lounge for the night…
Well, you know why they call it a cushion, don’t you?
Because it helps you get your cush on.
So I rolled up 7A, in search of getting my cush on for the night. I passed the Ekwanok* Country Club (*this doesn’t quite strike me as a native Indian spelling so much as bit of goofy pretentiousness), past the Equinox (which is super cush, but I’ve stayed there several times with my family and it would’ve felt a little weird staying there without them), and pulled into the driveway of the Inn at Manchester, which looked not too hot, not too cold, but juuuusst right.
Downy bed and DirecTV, here we come!
Arrival shot (people always seem to pull-up their fancy cars in front of places like this—I liked doing it on my F8):
And the reverse angle:
I walked inside and couldn’t find anyone except for an errant bichon frise, and creaked around the first floor in my full riding kit, sheepishly poking my head into different common rooms, calling “Helllooo? Anyone around?” Finally, a guy named Kevin appeared. I asked him if they had any free rooms for the night, and after clicking around on the office laptop said, “Yep, we have the Thyme Room—$155, A/C, free wifi, full breakfast, use of the pool…”
I’ll take it!
I was stoked, on several levels. First, when was the last time you just showed up at a hotel (or a motel or an inn) and just snagged a room without so much as a web search or phone call, much less a reservation? Second, I was about to shift from (my own version of) adventure riding to some serious-ass adventure lounging. And third, how often do you get to stay at a place that has herbal-themed rooms? They have a Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme room—I kid you not. Check out their site.
So it’s like, party-Thyme.
Here’s the herb-crusted pool house out back, with a couple of extra guest rooms:
And here’s the pool:
You know when they drop-forge stuff and then plunge the metal into a water barrel to cool it off and it sizzles and steams like bacon in a skillet? That’s exactly what happened when my ass hit the water here:
I had a good long soak, and then checked out the property. It’s a really nice place. Some hammocks and Adirondacks under towering spruces:
A pair of specially-designed marble cooling chairs to draw the riding heat out of your backside like a mineral heat-sink:
Some historical pedigree:
A nice bar, tended by Kevin the Inn Guy:
A lovely front parlor:
And that high-thread-count bed I was after, with cable (not quite DirecTV, but we won’t quibble), a hot (tiny, but hot) shower, and great remote-control AC.
Frankly, the only thing better than controlling a TV with a clicker is controlling an air conditioner with a clicker. It’s magical. Soon, in addition to creating little Japanese shiatsu masseuses in handlebar jars, I hope somebody develops an Advil and bourbon remote. That’d be innovation and progress. I hear Apple’s working on it.
Well, I couldn’t find a “dinner button” on either the television or the AC remotes, so I threw on my riding jacket (BTW, full Rev’It kit from Revzilla, and I love it), and motored down the hill into Manchester Center in search of a bite.
I settled on the bar at Seasons Restaurant (photo courtesy of their website):
Since my wife will undoubtedly read this ride report, I will advise her that I had a delicious healthy salad and piece of cedar-plank grilled salmon, while tracing the day’s wanderings old school, on a well-worn folding map:
My perch at the bar:
Selfie before a cool, half-GATT July evening ride around Manchester:
Then back to the Equinox Inn to raise a glass or two to Puppy Dogs, the Green River, molten hot Bennington calzones, Carthusian monks, getting lost, finding cush, a belly full of food, and watching the New York Yankees in air-conditioned splendor from a cush-ass bed in Vermont, while my metal steed sleeps in the parking lot.
So the evening winds down with this, and after a night of blank, dreamless, sleep—the kind of sleep you only really get after achieving exhaustion—the day starts with this:
Up at six, raring to go. The Inn already smells like French Toast, but the dining room at 6 looks a little deserted…
I bump into the In-keeper himself, a nice North Carolinian named Ron Blake, and learn that while the coffee’s been flowing since 6 am (for kooks like me), the victuals don’t start flowing until 8 am. I’m tempted to hang around and gorge, but I have the day to ride, and my SkyMotion weather app has rain coming in later this morning. So I thank Ron, check out, pack up this…
Load up this…
And head out to maximize seat time. Again, I have no idea where I’m going to go or what route I’ll take. Just want to be home in Southwestern CT by nightfall. Ready to ramble:
Down the hill below Manchester there’s already a creamy layer of rainclouds…
And without having any real route in mind, I decide to head due east. I’d like to swing through New Hampshire on my way south, just to make this a four state trip (CT, MA, VT and NH). For a moment, I contemplate a run west to the New York border to squeeze in five, but with the rain coming, think the better of it. So I head out of town going northeast on Routes 11/30, towards Peru.
I manage to undertake a minor survey of Southern VT ski hills, including this:
At Magic I motored up to the actual ski hill, went around the base lodge and paused right at the bottom of the main lift. There’s something funny/lonely/eerie/cool about being on a bike in the summer in full-kit—kinda like you’re all suited up to go skiing—but in a place that’s deserted and overgrown and sad, like in that post-apocalyptic movie I Am Legend. Ski places without skiers are just kind of depressing. Some guy is out walking his dog and looks at me like I’m a spaceman which, from his perspective, isn’t too much of a stretch. I nod, lower my space-helmet’s visor, and activate thrusters.
Then I go looking for eggs.
Much of the ride through Peru and eastward is in a fine mist. I’m wearing Held “Steve” gloves (I think they’re the absolute best, and love using the little built-in squeegie of the left index finger to windshield-wipe my face shield. Works like a charm.) I stay on Route 11 until I roll into Chester, Vermont. It’s starting to rain, and my belly’s starting to rumble. Fortunately, I stumble upon the Country Girl Diner. How could you resist this?
The place is vintage.
Cute place, cute waitresses, cute hunter tchotchke nestled among the jelly packets. I think he’s hunting for grape:
Not so unself-conscious in their cuteness, though, that they don’t also sell their own logowear. But hey, it’s a business:
Since I neglected to shoot a picture of my Mt. Etna calzone back in Bennington, I’ll let you delectate over this:
They might as well just call this the ADV-Breakfast on the “Our Breakfast Specialties” section of this and every other diner menu across ‘merica.
BTW, honey, I asked if they had egg beaters or egg-white omelets, but the cute Country Girl waitress said, “Sorry, sir, we’re plumb fresh out!”
Sneaky, phone-on-its-side countercam shot. It would’ve felt weird to pivot around on my stool and shoot a picture of old Vermont guys eating scrambled eggs:
By the time I was back outside, it was late morning, and it was raining. Which it would continue doing with increasing and alarming intensity for the remainder of the ride. When I say raining, I mean raining cats and dogs and Holsteins and Clydesdales. Like biblical rain.
But for a while yet, and into New Hampshire, just rain…
Home stretching it. So after Chester I threaded my way south and east, hopping off 103 and riding along the Green Mountain Turnpike, which was a hoot. More dirt, and not so much rain that it was mud yet (the tree cover helped, too):
I took the GMT south to Bartonsville, where I encountered another one of my New England faves, this one freshly sawn and pegged together:
It was washed out after Irene slammed Vermont in 2011…[photo credit, The Associated Press]
But now it looks like this:
Nice to have you back, Bartonsville:
Now the rain began in earnest; I made it to the Vermont Country Store in Rockingham before the skies really opened up, and squished inside to pick up some souveniers for my honey and sonny (my girls were away in camp). The VCS is kind of like a retro apothecary and candy store, with odd, thrifty, and forgotten clothing, health aids, toys from a bygone era, plus plenty of Vermont-themed ephemera:
I picked up a couple of bags of old-tyme penny candy for my son (plus a corn cob pipe, which I’m beginning to think sends a weird mixed signal to a 16 year old), some requisite Maple Syrup (Vermont Grade A Amber…not the stuff from Quebec), a hot/cold water bottle/bag for wifey (she’s always like, “Put some ice on it! Put something warm on it…you’ll feel better!”, some cakes of Vermont hand-made soap, and a little VT euro sticker for my pannier. I had to skip the “cover your back” Lotion Applicator, as my son had already gotten one for my wife for her birthday. He’s king of the genuinely bizarre gift:
Nestled in between the Lavender laundry spray, no-crack ladies hand cream, DarnTough VT-made socks (they are actually excellent), and local fudge, was an alternately surprising/funny/refreshingly-honest assortment of, uh, well, “wellness devices ‘For The Next Stage In Your Life.'” I lived in Vermont, and lemme tell ya: the winters can indeed be long, cold and lonesome. This, from their website (I was too lame to take a picture with the Vermont Country Store Lady standing there) is worth a look.
May I also suggest a large displacement Thumper, such as my old F650GS? It vibrates like a banshee and takes you to interesting places.
Back on the road, the deluge. What started as rain became unrelenting pour, but I still ventured across the border to Walpole, NH:
And here is where it started to vacillate between riding, sucking, and just surviving. It started to rain so hard that there was nothing to do but put on my flashers and tiptoe along Route 5 (91 was simply out of the question) with the rest of the sparse traffic, staying upright, and wondering whether it was worth it to dip into my pannier and pull out the rain liners for my pants and jacket.
The soaking continued for well over an hour, as I threaded south through NH, jumped back over to Route 5 in Vermont, and made my way down to Massachusetts. In Bernardston, MA, I decided that I’d better find a way to ride more drily and comfortably, for safety’s sake. I pulled off next to a liquor store on Northfield Road; they had a front porch covering their store (and the closed pizza place next door), with a slanted concrete ramp on either end of this area. A guy who apparently worked in the store (I think his name is Duke—Harley dude) waved me onto this porch, and let me park there. We joked about the ferocity of the rain, and I mentioned that I had rain liners in my bags.
“Well then why in the frick don’t ya put ’em on!?” said Duke, dragging on his cig.
So I did. I used their bathroom and a beach towel to dry off, slipped into some dry skivvies, socks and tee, zipped the liners into my jacket and pants, squeezed out my gloves, and reassembled. Then I thanked Duke, battened down the hatches on my panniers, saddled up, and headed out.
Rev’It Testimonial: this kit worked. I can’t say enough about the Rev’It Sand jacket and pants combo. Maybe not as logical or ideal as a full-on rain suit, but for an armored kit with rain liners (and integrated connection-zippers so it becomes like a one-piece suit) it literally kept me bone dry. In pissing rain. (And the winter liners work great in colder weather, too).
So I sloshed my way south, unable to take any more pictures because my iphone camera was fogged, and I was nearly out of juice. I actually had an email message from a senior client who wanted to reach me; and since it was a Monday (and I’d normally be at work) I pulled off to a Sunoco station near Northampton, and made a soaking wet client call with my phone plugged in next to the gas station’s hot dog and nacho-cheese-melting machines.
And the rest of the ride south was unmemorable, in that it was hours of intense concentration, pounding rain, brake lights, and slow moving traffic. My wife texted me that there were tornado warnings for Fairfield County, and somewhere near Harford traffic was stopped on I-91 because a highway sign had blown over, and a huge errant advertising banner about twice the size of a billboard had blown onto the highway and was blocking several lanes.
Depending on the rain, I either paralleled 91 or jumped on a side road south. I don’t think there is any way to describe the riding other than cautious and miserable, but I had to press on, and wanted to get home. Which I managed to do after nearly six soaking hours in the saddle (and a good amount of time in stopped traffic, getting pissed on by the sky). But I made it.
And you know what? Those Vermont handmade soaps and penny candy in my pannier?
Still bone dry.
Ride safe. Bring back nice things. But go places.