Monday, September 02, 2013

TBCMtW, Day 3

Packed up and ready to go Monday AM.  The campsite permit doesn't match the lean-to because I switched sites after checking in.  It blew off somewhere on the way home.

My plan was to take 8A south thru Massachusetts and catch the northwest corner of Connecticut, to fill out my map a little.  So doing would leave RI the only New English state not ridden this trip.  I plotted GPS south to Jacksonville, VT, where I picked up 8A for a cloudy, wet, early morning ride down thru northwestern MA.  Having paper maps this trip made nav duty so much less frustrating - lesson learned.  Somewhere along this route a stream parallels the road and I was so overwhelmed by beauty of the location that I pulled over and spent a few minutes drinking it in.

At some point further on (I think it was Plainfield, MA), I encountered a "travel at your own risk" warning due to the road being torn up for 2 miles.  The road was completely gone down to deep gravel - they wouldn't let you drive on this in PA, they'd close the road entirely.  I pretended I was off-roading and continued with no drama.

I spent a hour or two on 8A before stopping for gas and getting my bearings.  The scenic roads are always the slowest - I was enjoying the ride but making very poor time.  I re-plotted to get over to 7, hoping that it would be a quicker move towards CT.

Soon the Ghetto Positioning System had me in downtown Pittsfield, MA - a painful crawl thru traffic lights.  I passed a Suzuki dealership and turned in.  I originally planned to get off and shop around, but I was getting panicky about putting miles behind me so I just re-plotted a course to the TSP - abandoning my plans to ride thru a tiny bit of CT - and nipped back out.  GPS sent me 20, to (I think) 40 > 295.  In short order I was entering the TSP and finally putting on some distance.

I really like the TSP.  No trucks, no commercial traffic, no shoulders, no billboards/ advertising.... it's a pair of lanes winding through the the woods at 55mph.  At times the driver is under a canopy of trees - with no truck traffic, the "ceiling" doesn't get trimmed; the lack of shoulders makes trees on either side closer together.  It's an odd sensation to be going 55mph on a 4-lane highway completely shaded.
I pulled off to have lunch at Lake Taghkanic SP, thinking how nice it would be to have a picnic lunch in a state park by a lake.  Approaching the entrance, tho, I noticed a sign telling me it would cost $8 to get in.  An employee in a booth was making labored gestures for me to approach, but there was no way I was paying $8 to sit at a picnic table for 20 minutes - I made a U-turn at the entrance.

I took the TSP all the way to 84 and crossed the Hudson thru the EZ Pass Express lane, assuming I didn't need a special transponder or any other special permissions.  EZ Pass is slick.  The only thing slicker would be if the myriad of road-related taxes we pay enabled toll-free interstate travel.  I stopped at a rest stop on 84 and opened a can of tuna for lunch an hour from Lake Taghkanic.

Now much closer to home, I was less worried about time and so resolved to try again at the NJ side of the Delaware National Rec Area.

I found Wallpack, which was being mowed by a couple of old guys on tractors.  Stopping to peer in windows didn't seem very polite.  I mistook a sign for Buttermilk Falls to be the town name, and plotted for Wallpack Center, which routed me on Mountain Road, a beautiful gravel path thru the woods.  Again overwhelmed by the location, I stopped for a 'drink'.

I saddled back up, and literally minutes later would be stopping again at Buttermilk Falls.

Mountain Rd leads back across the one-lane wood-decked bridge I'd crossed on day 1.  There are turn-offs with signs warning that it's illegal to ride anything on the roads.  I got back out to 615 and the GPS took me down to the fork of 615 and Old Mine Road, ultimately taking me on OMR in a big loop back towards the Wallpack Inn.  Somewhere along this route, a black bear was at the guardrail.  I stopped and honked the horn a bunch of times - bears on the road freak me out a bit when I'm on the bike.  The bear was no happier about the encounter than I was, and disappeared into the woods.
It took a while to dawn on me that the little town with the old guys mowing was in fact Wallpack, so I stopped going in circles trying to find it.

Right on 615 is a bridge to nowhere.  Seriously.  I assumed this bridge would lead to either an old road or an old house/ property, but the geography on the other side seemingly could accommodate neither.  The google satellite view suggests an old road, but it's too overgrown in summer to find.

A little further down the OMR brings me to Millbrook Village - I'd passed this a few days prior but didn't feel like I had time to investigate.  Apparently it's a re-created farm village.  Some buildings were here, others were moved or re-built here to re-create what a typical farming village was like in the mid 1800's.  It being a Monday, the buildings were all closed and there was only me and an exceedingly loud, stupid, retired couple from New York wandering around.  I distanced myself as well as I could from their inane musings and walked around a bit.  When I returned to the bike, I found I'd left the key not only 'in' but also 'on' - headlights burning.  I was a little concerned I'd have to ask Mr. and Mrs. Dumbass for a jump start, but the bike turned right over and I was off.

OMR > 80 > 209 > 33> 512 and home in time for supper. While unpacking the bike, I found my sticker and took a pick of it on the seat which turned out to look almost computer-generated to my aging vision:

A great trip, somewhat washed out by being my being a little depressed.  Watching so much scenery scrolling by somehow turned into a wrenching reminder of life's brevity.  There is too much world to experience in one lifetime.  There is regret for having spent so much of my youth bored at home while so much world sat waiting, unseen.  The sense of freedom and self-reliance engendered by camping solo is tempered by loneliness - by having no one with whom to review a great day around the fire; no one to remember adventures with in later years.  A multi-day, thousand mile bike trip affords many hours of quiet contemplation - a potential danger to depressive realists.

On the plus, it was another great trip: no crashes, no drops, no mechanical troubles, good weather, beautiful country.  My gear all served flawlessly and I was in relative comfort the whole trip.  Navigation was vastly improved with paper maps for overview planning and pre-loading GPS waypoints.  I had to blow past a lot of things, but made good enough time to double back and catch some of it on the return trip.  I didn't spend a dime on prepared food.  
5 tanks of gas at $15, another $54 in campground fees, $16 to get on the Auto Road, a few bucks to cross the Hudson, and a few more for loaf of bread and pint of milk in VT.  Earning my ADV "gnarly adventurer" title: priceless.