The day began dark and cold. I was in a valley and in the woods, so even though the sun came up as usual it wouldn’t get too bright in the valley for a while. I wasn’t in a great hurry to get underway since I didn’t want to ride in the cold more than I had to. As I packed the bike (lightly – all the camping stuff would stay here for the day) I could see my breath. I put on a sweatshirt under my riding jacket, and put on my rain pants to keep out the wind, then made my way out to the Mohawk Trail and headed west. Less than half an hour down the road was my first stop, North Adams. Because I went to college here, I knew exactly where there was a Dunkin Donuts without looking it up anywhere.
I took it easy on the Trail – cold road and tires and all. But I enjoyed it, since I had the road all to myself with no traffic – unusual for the time of day I usually make it out here. I ran the GoPro all the way from the campground. When I went to turn it off at Dunkie’s, it had already run out of battery. Part of that was my fault. My lack of experience with this camera caused me to misfire the power button when I arrived at the campground the previous night, so it stayed on a couple of extra hours. But taking that time into consideration, that’s an extremely short battery life for the kind of travel I have in mind. I don’t intend to video every part of every trip I take, but there are some roads where you just need to run the camera the whole time and splice together the best bits of video. The Mohawk Trail is one of those. From the video that I did get (and from which I created the intro video to my YouTube channel) I know I ran out of juice somewhere in Florida, MA, about 20 minutes after leaving camp. Fortunately, upon discussing this when I got home, a friend pointed me at a nice package deal of additional batteries and a charger I can snag for a whole lot cheaper than GoPro’s equipment. I’ll make the small investment in that for future trips.
Anyway, I grabbed coffee and donuts, enjoyed them, and was soon on my way. I stopped for gas, and checked my tire pressures. The back tire was waaaaaaay low! And I’d checked it before leaving home. I must have either a small puncture in my new Metzler, or possibly it wasn’t mounted quite solid. Nothing to do about that now, though. I pumped it up to 45psi. I’ve been running the “heavy load” pressure of 41 anyway. “Heavy load” is anything over 200lbs. Considering that I weigh close to that myself, plus even when riding “unloaded” I always carry some stuff with me that probably pushes me over the edge.
With the gas tank, the tires, and myself all filled up, it was time to do some riding. I cut over to the back roads and cut the corner of Vermont to work my way into New York. My GPS took me down Route 346 to get there, and it was fun – a good reminder of why I enjoy riding out here. As the speed limit increases to 50 in Vermont, then 55 in New York, I could really start to enjoy the bike more. Oh yeah – this is why I came back.
I hopped a rapid succession of roads in a general northwesterly direction – 22, 372, 40, 197… The GPS worked well today, and I didn’t have to worry about what road to take next. Just follow the red line ahead of me, and after the miles tick down to zero, go where it says. After a while I rolled into the town of Lake George, and got stuck in probably the worst traffic jam I’ve ever been in. The last time I was there, it was Americade. This time, it was a huge classic and antique car gathering. The road was filled with classic American muscle. I saw not one, but two replicas of the Duke boys’ General Lee. For a while I was stuck next to a hot rod with two engines. Two! They were mounted one behind the other, with the crankshafts connected. The gas tank was a beer keg in the bed of the truck. You can’t make this stuff up. I tried to whip out the camera long enough to take some pictures, but the traffic was just too horrible for me to let go of the controls for that long.
Finally, I cleared town, and cruised up 9N along the west side of Lake George itself. It was as fun as I remembered it – generally OK pavement with lots of curves and hills, and a high speed limit outside the towns. I pulled over at the same overlook as last time, then turned around and went back up the twisty, technical hill the way I’d just come. It was much better the other direction, and only a little dicey on the way back down. Then I stopped at the overlook and chatted for a while with two couples on a Harley and a Goldwing. They were heading south, toward the town of Lake George, and I warned them of the parking lot they were about to sit in as the attempted to pass through town.
Onward, I continued up 9N all the way to the top of Lake George, and stopped for lunch in Ticonderoga. As a guy with a polo shirt with KD1BL embroidered on it walked by I stopped him, and introduced myself as KJ1H. We talked radio geekery for a few minutes. As I left the parking lot, I spotted his car – his callsign was on his license plate.
I peeled east on 185, crossed the bridge, and I was back in Vermont, where I picked up Route 17. This is another “greatest hit,” particular the portion between Bristol and Waitsfield, up past the Mad River Glen ski area. I’d last been up here on the SIlverwing, and I certainly appreciated the PC800’s improved performance up the mountain. I was having way too much fun to stop for pictures.
In Waitsfield I turned south on 100, which I would follow much of the way back to my home away from home on the Mohawk Trail. Around Warren there was a lot of construction, even on a Saturday. From last year, I remembered these areas were a bit broken up, and will benefit from the fresh pavement, but right then it made for some tough going, and bunched up traffic so I couldn’t enjoy the open portions of road as much as I would’ve liked. I ended up a few cars behind a big Airstream camper that acted like a traffic plug, clogging the rest of us up for miles. While passing those cars, I noticed a group of about four bikes also playing leapfrog a short distance behind me. Eventually I got past the Airstream, and soon after that those four bikes were behind me. We cruised together for a while until they turned right down Route 73, which I had taken last year. It’s a good road, but I had other destinations in mind this time.
Clouds had started rolling in during the afternoon. No big deal – it was plenty warm, and I didn’t have sun glare to worry about. But then drops started to fall from the sky. There was a 0% chance of rain when I left home not even 24 hours before. I was not pleased. Fortunately, I always carry my rain gear, no matter what the chance of rain is, so I didn’t get wet. It didn’t rain too hard, but it was annoying nonetheless.
As I went further south, the GPS told me to take a turn off the main road down some kind of shortcut. I took it, and soon realized that the road was gravel. I have specifically set my GPS to avoid dirt roads, but despite the database only months old it didn’t know about this one. At this point, especially with the on and off rain, I reprogrammed the GPS to take me back to camp by the fastest route, highways or otherwise. It sent me back onto the main road, and then down a series of rather fun back roads all the way to the center of Charlemont, MA. Why it didn’t take me this way to begin with, I have no idea, but at least I was back.
Before heading back to camp, I stopped by the general store to pick up some food for dinner – only to find that it closed at 6pm. The only place open that was less than half an hour’s ride each way was a gas station convenience store, where I had no choice but to pick up some sub-standard quality food for myself. Then I returned to camp, built a fire, and ate. I absolutely did not drink a Switchback, because alcohol is prohibited in Massachusetts state parks. Just as the fire died out, it started to rain quite steadily, and would continue to do so through most of the night. It was only 9pm, but I had nothing more to do, so I retreated to the tent, wrote notes for the day’s trip, and went to sleep.