Tuesday, July 26, 2011

3 Hot Days around New England

I was toying with other names of this ride, one being "Guardian Angels Do Exist", but decided against that, as that was only a few seconds in the few days.  I will get into that story in a bit. And then it could have been named "Jack went on Vacation", as my gps decided to black out on me this week.  Having bad luck with electronics! The title I chose has something to do with how plans can change from one minute to the next. This ride was originally supposed to take me to Wisconsin, (I hope to see my photo at the HD museum some day!) but with dangerously high heat out there this week, it became Plan B, then Plan C...D etc.  It was not until just 48 hours before I got on my bike did I finalize this trip. The second idea was to meet a bunch of riders in Pennsylvania, but the high heat was coming there too...then it made its way to New England, and the one place where it was promising to be a little bit cooler was north. I had not been in Vermont yet this year, so this was a fine idea to go chasing lower temps.

My friend Bob was also going to ride to PA, so I offered up the alternate idea and he was good to go north. Kick stands up around 8am, and we were off through the lovely back roads of north-central MA, heading towards VT.  It was cloudy, looking like it might want to rain, but the clouds held onto their water for the most part as we rode around the north side of the Quabbin Reservoir.  The road had been paved in the last year, so it was delightful!  I had the directions for the 3 days all written in big letters in my map case so that I could read them easily.  I was not overly concerned about getting lost, Bob's gps had my route in it.  He was giving me directions from in back. Most of the time it worked, between my hand written directions and his turning on his blinker in plenty of time for me to see.  The one time I missed the turn (in both directions no less), getting back to the route took us on a gravel road for a while.
A nice change from the paved road, I always enjoy gravel.
haha :)

My Shame On You Award goes to the town of Conway, MA, a little town in northwest MA. This is a new award, made up just for the occasion, but I can think of a couple of candidates for it, one being Dragonfly Cycle Concepts and the defective stereo deck they sold me with my fairing. This trip was a test ride for a new Kenwood marine stereo, that I had to buy because the last one died. Dragonfly Cycle, in my opinion, should have recalled it as they knew the decks were failing, and stopped selling them almost immediately after I bought mine.
That is just bad business! But I digress...
Anyway, back to Conway, MA... a long descending hill approaches the town center on Rt 116, nearing the bottom is a 20mph speed limit sign giving this indication, but that was all. I don't ride my brakes, preferring to downshift as I approach traffic or situations like this. It makes for smooth riding, most of the time.

Seemingly out of nowhere, a car was suddenly in front of me, entering the road from my right without stopping. The cross road was blind.  I pulled hard on my brakes, and instinctively veered to the right, toward the back of the car.  My back tire locked up, and my bike went into a full skid, the back tire was swinging out to my left.  I was about to smash into that car and told  myself to get ready for a crash, but in the next split second, decided I did not want to crash.  Released the brakes and somehow rode the bike around the car, with only 2 feet of clearance. Then a swerve to the left to keep from going up the granite curbing and launching into a short wall surrounding a garden.  I don't know how I pulled this off, most surely my Guardian Angel was with me.  I parked the bike, shook a bit and then got really angry.  I mean, really really angry... the car did not stop, for one. And the cross road did not have any sort of stop or yield sign! 

The town hall just happened to be sitting at that intersection, so I went in there and passionately (putting it mildly) asked them if they knew that this intersection had no stop sign.  (of course they know, but they claimed to be unaware) They did however hear my tires skid and were trying to sit the hysterical motorcyclist down on a chair. I wonder just how many skids they hear during a work day?  I am still incensed that due to this town's negligence, my life was put into danger, as well as any other drivers coming down that hill.  This is the intersection,looking back on it, where the road behind the triangle meets South Deerfield Rd, I came down that hill.
The brick building is the town hall.
No signs at all.
For the rest of the weekend, Bob would occasionally shake his head and say that he was amazed I didn't crash. I think it was on a continuous replay in his mind's eye.

This made for the perfect time to look for a place to break for food.  What I soon found was Shelburne Falls and their Flower Bridge. Rather than tearing down an old trolly bridge, they have made it into a gorgeous oasis over the river. This little town is worth finding!

It was time to turn north, to Route 100 in Vermont, one of my favorites. It winds north/south through the whole state through small towns, along rivers and up and down mountains. You don't ride route 100 if you are in a hurry. Not a lot of stop signs, but slow speed limits.  
One place we had to stop, was Vermont Country Store in Weston.  A good old fashioned place, fun to poke around- clothing, penny candy, jellies, toys, and beauty products from 'the old days'...like perfumes that you cannot find anymore. Vermont Country Store reminds me of what LLBean used to be before it went global.

We stopped in White River Junction for the night, made for a good 300+ mile day of back roads, and the day was made complete with overeating at a Chinese buffet. I set my room AC on super cold and promptly conked out. It was a hot day, well up into the 90s. 

One thing that made the heat a little more bearable was my HyperKewl vest.  It gets soaked in water and then the evaporation keeps your core quite a bit cooler.  I was the height of motorcycle fashion with this sexy number! Especially when you take into account that I always had a wet butt in my jeans.

Day 2 started with a quick jaunt back to Quechee Gorge (kwee-chee). The high heat has the river running pretty low...but still an impressive sight from the bridge! 
 The road this morning took us by way of the Moosilauke Highway (118), in Warren NH, which has potential for a favorite road if it is ever repaved- I was glad to see the end of it because of the countless cracks and frost heaves that made the bike chatter and bounce.  The next turn was onto the famous Kancamagus Highway, running through the White Mountains.

Some beautiful views and I am disappointed to report that I missed the one moose sighting.  I was in Motorcycle Nirvana and sailed right past it... Bob tried to make me feel better by saying it was a just little moose, but I was still pouting for a while!

Crossing into Maine and tucked away on a winding back road, this little mom and pop place was a welcome ice cream stop and a resoaking of my vest (and my butt) from their garden hose.
 Not much later, I saw a sign for a road stating that is closed in the winter: Route 113, between Stow and Gilead.  Past the gate, this section is now my most favorite New England road! It falls into my category of what I describe as 'story book roads,'  those kinds of roads that are forested, dappled with sunshine, usually winding along a river. I found a few of them on my travels last summer out west. With no traffic to speak of, it was serene and cool, a much welcomed change from the intense heat blanketing the area- look how narrow it is!  It is the kind you wish went on forever.

Back out to the main roads, we decided to change the route a bit, make a bee line (haha) for a motel in Brunswick, unload the bikes, cool off a bit and head back to Boothbay Harbor for dinner. But not before seeing this sign:

Who knew Maine had its own United Nations thing going on? :)

It was a brilliant plan, the air had cooled down quite a lot. A haddock fish fry and peach shortcake were on the menu at the Ebb Tide, one of my favorite places to eat, small, old fashioned and really proud of their business.  Fresh and delicious!! 

The peach shortcake was to die for. :)

An early morning sit by the ocean at Reid State Park, (I don't need to remind you all about how I love to be here, right?)  

It was time to head home, with the temps predicted to go to 99 degrees later, a direct shot was the best plan rather than back roads. But first, a quick stop at my other favorite eatery in Portland Maine for lunch, Becky's Diner. I had a nice spicy scrambled egg and veggie sandwich, Bob had a giant bowl of gorgeous fresh fruit, granola and yogurt. I was envious, but got to have some for my dessert :)
We jumped on the interstate, fought a bit of hot heavy traffic, but made pretty good time.  I waved bye to my friend and I arrived home around 4pm with over 800 miles on Dirty Girl's trip meter. 
A fall into the swimming pool was the perfect end to a nice trip. :)

Thanks for coming along for the ride!