After our unfortunate breakdown, I was determined to finish the ride Elana and I had started a few weeks ago. Between commuting and other short local rides, I’d put about 200 miles on the bike since getting it back with its new tire, really this time, and it’s been running flawlessly. I’d built up enough confidence to venture a bit farther from home. Yesterday’s weather was great, Elana was around, so it was time to finish this thing.
With a mid-morning start, I set a course for the Whately Diner. The GPS surprised me by taking some back roads from Millers Falls to cut the corner around Greenfield, but the route worked well – it was fun and saved a little time. The Whately Diner is down the street from where our problems began on the last ride, and is always a good lunch stop. I try to get there anytime I’m in the area around mealtime. Then we retraced our steps past Yankee Candle, made the left onto 116, and rather than bail onto 91 like last time, we kept going on 116. I hadn’t taken this road in a while, and was soon reminded about what I was missing out on. There are lots of swerves and curves, plus the beautiful scenery of the Berkshires. We had absolutely no traffic all the way from Deerfield to Adams. It was an hour of my favorite kind of motorcycling. Finally, I was able to show Elana not only why I do this, but why I travel significant distances to favorite stretches of road to do it. She not only understands, but enjoyed it herself.
We made a couple of pit stops in North Adams. Though it wasn’t part of the plan for our original ride, since we had the time we decided to ride up Mt. Greylock, the highest point in Massachusetts. The road to get there is completely unmarked, yet having spent a few years going to school out here I knew exactly where to go without even programming the GPS. A few other bikes fell in behind us. As I downshifted to make an acute uphill left turn, the transmission stuck in neutral, and the next thing I knew the bike came to a stop in the middle of the road. I let the other bikes go around me, then managed to rock it into first gear and get rolling again. I don’t think anything went wrong with the bike – it was just a bit of bad luck. After the horrible section of some of the worst pavement I’ve ever seen, it improved as we entered the park, and we were on our way up the mountain.
The ride to the summit is longer and much more technical than Mt. Wachusett, which we rode up on our last trip. There are a series of first gear hairpin turns near the bottom. It gets easier from there, but it’s still a slow ride up a narrow road. The temperature gauge definitely went up, but never beyond halfway. Eventually we got to the top, where we parked and took a break. The tower was closed, so we didn’t get to climb up it. But we did walk to the other side of the summit and enjoyed the spectacular view from there. The entire town of Adams, which we had just ridden through, was tiny. I could easily pick out the buildings we had passed not too long before, as well as the gravel pit up the road in North Adams. Beyond that, nothing but rolling green hills.
After enjoying some time at the top, we hopped back on the bike and made our descent. For me, this was the tricky bit. Going up is easy – lots of throttle, and if you need to slow down or stop, just let off the gas and it’ll happen. But going down I need to rely on the brakes. They work fine, but I’ve learned the hard way that too much front brake in a turn can drop the bike. I’d also never made a descent this technical with a passenger on the back. In the end, though, everything worked out fine. I got stuck behind a slow moving Camry, which forced me to keep my own speed down. I ran in a low gear to take some of the burden off the brakes. Around the hairpins, I dropped into first gear, and favored the rear brake in the middle of the turn itself. I normally don’t like braking and turning at the same time at all, but the road was so steep that I had to. Also, unbeknownst to me at the time, Elana was shifting herself on the passenger seat toward the outside of the turns to help me balance. Between all those factors, we got through just fine.
Remember that section of the worst pavement I had ever seen? We were slowly bouncing across it, when suddenly my left mirror fell off. Thank you, Honda, for attaching a piece of safety wire to keep it attached to the bike! This mirror has never been attached completely properly since I got the bike, and it’s pretty obvious that the bike had been dropped on the left side at some point. Unfortunately, these mirrors are made of unobtainium. Even a cracked one sells for hundreds of dollars on eBay. No doubt this was why it was never replaced. Unfortunately, this crummy road was too much for it. I soon realized there was no way to reattach it on the side of the road with the tools and supplies I had with me. Fortunately there was a Walmart nearby, where I figured I could at least pick up some duct tape to get it home.
We continued on. Before making the turn down Route 8 to go to Walmart, Elana pointed out an auto parts store we were about to pass on Route 2, so I went there instead. I picked up some Gorilla tape, made by the same people who make Gorilla glue. Elana held the mirror in place while I taped. Fortunately, years of LARP experience have given me lots of practice applying duct tape to boffer weapons. Gorilla tape is thicker and more sticky than duct tape, and by the time I was done I think the mirror was better attached than it was before whatever caused it to come off happened. I think I’ll keep this roll of Gorilla tape in the trunk at all times for any other similar repairs. All I need now is some red tape on the mirror to cover it up. I set a course for home.
We had an excellent run down the Mohawk Trail. We didn’t get caught behind any slow traffic all the way through Charlemont, which meant I could enjoy the curves at a brisk but safe pace. I was feeling tired as we came down the hill into Greenfield, so I pulled into what I remembered being a Big Y supermarket, but was now a Home Depot, just to get off the bike for a few. It’s been so long since I’ve been on the bike this long (without a breakdown) that I’m simply not used to an all day trip anymore. Since we were at a Home Depot anyway, we went inside and picked up some screws and hooks we needed for our canvas tent, which we’re taking to Pennsic. It seems that in our final week leading up to our departure for this event (some friends of ours are already there), we can’t even squeeze in a bike ride without thinking about and preparing for it!
The rest of the ride home was tiring, but otherwise uneventful. We made more frequent rest stops than I usually do, because both of us were feeling it and needed to stretch more often. It’s better to stop and stretch than to press on regardless. You can’t control the bike adequately if you can’t feel parts of your body. Even a passenger going numb might slip and do something unexpected, which throws off the rider’s control. But this didn’t happen. We arrived home under our own power, which came as a great relief to me. There was the mirror casualty, of course, but it didn’t even budge during an hour of high speed superslab travel, so I’m not worried about it. I do plan to look up schematics to learn how it’s supposed to attach, and hopefully rig up something more than just tape to do it. I’m more concerned about next year’s inspection than it actually staying on the bike, though.
I’m glad we got to finish the ride we started. With SCA events coming up thoughout August, it’s possibly the last day trip I’ll get to take for a while. It’s kind of sad, because this is also the first successful day trip I’ve taken this year, and it’s already the end of July. I don’t know if I’ll even get an overnight trip in at all this year. Maybe toward the end of the season, particularly if I don’t camp out for the night. But at least, now, that’s an option.