Racing the Sun

Between shifting my work schedule an hour early, making up the half hour late I stayed earlier in the week, and the boss telling me to take off even a little earlier than that, I was home, loaded, and on the road west by 4:30. Although we had hot and humid weather just last week, it had cooled off a lot, and I put on my textile jacket for this trip and left the mesh one at home. Thanks to the long term destruction of Route 2 between home and 495, I took alternate routes out of town, and decided to hit the twisty bit of Route 111 in Harvard and pick up 2 there. There would be no further turns the rest of the trip – I was going to Mohawk Trail State Forest about a hundred miles west in Charlemont, MA.

I was far enough west to avoid the nasty stop and go traffic, where traffic thinned enough to be two solid lines barely achieving the speed limit with no way to get around the left lane hogs.  It was like that all the way through Fitchburg, but afterward traffic cleared up nicely, and I settled in to put down the miles to where Route 2 narrowed from two lanes in each direction to one, and then was no longer a limited access highway.

This road is filled with memories for me. I grew up in Acton and Harvard, and went to college in North Adams, and this was the way to get back and forth. Most of it hasn’t changed. The biggest thing that has changed is the section in Erving that goes around the paper mill. When I was going back and forth to school, Route 2 slowed down to a crawl and took a couple of sharp turns around the mill, which for some insane reason had been plunked smack dab in the middle of the highway.  If a truck needed to get into a loading dock, you were screwed, stuck waiting for it to shuttle itself back and forth a hundred times lining up and backing in.  After several decades, highway designers began to realize that this was not a great idea, so they rerouted 2 up the hill a ways so that now you never have to slow down for the mill.  The old Route 2 is now a long driveway to the mill, which the trucks can go up and down and block to their heart’s content without obstructing a single car just trying to pass through.  (Don’t think that I’m unsympathetic to truck drivers.  I’m friends with a few, and did some time behind the wheel of a 22′ box truck myself.  I appreciate the complexities of their job first hand, and my truck was half as long and didn’t even bend in the middle.)

IMGP0585Before long I was taking the one exit down I-91 in Greenfield to continue west on 2 without passing through town.  Up the big hill out of town, through a few more, and I was rolling into the center of Charlemont. The park was a little past town on the border with Savoy. I checked in at the gate with a nice young woman who gave me some Clif bar samples. I rode in until I couldn’t ride anymore and found my small but perfectly adequate home away from home.  I had to refresh my memory on how to set up the tent, but it was easy to figure out just like the first time in New Brunswick. In fact, I realized that this was the first time I had actually used this tent in the United States.

After camp was set up, I ventured back into Charlemont to find some dinner. There isn’t much there. At. All.  I ended up at a coffee shop/ice cream shop/restaurant and had a couple of inferior chili dogs. (It’s not like anyone else was sleeping in the tent with me.) But they had wifi, which was a plus because this area had virtually no cell signal. It was dusk by the time I got back, despite my early start and lack of traffic. It’s a sign to me that motorcycle camping season is pretty much at an end for me, since I’d rather not ride at night if I don’t have to, and setting up camp in the dark is a pain.

Back at camp I strapped a bundle of firewood to the bike on the way in and utilized my new secret weapon of campfire lighting – half an egg carton with lumps of charcoal where the eggs used to be. It worked perfectly, and I had a relaxing fire for the night, which was good because it got cold! I still haven’t put a small thermometer on my bike (though I’d like to – sudden temperature drops are a warning of impending rain), temperatures dropped to at most the 40s, and perhaps a little lower.  Once the fire was out I retreated to the tent.  My sleeping bag kept most of my body perfectly warm, but I neglected to bring a hat to keep my head warm, so I ended up bundling inside the sleeping bag a bit to stay warm.  Eventually I got comfortable and went to sleep, with the sound of the Cold River burbling on the other side of the campground.

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