And we’re off!
Posted 06/17 by Ruthie BenDor
This post comes to you from Northampton, Massachusetts, my first rest day. In the past 48 hours, I’ve biked 111 miles, pitched a tent in a thunderstorm, cursed at Google Maps, met some friendly people, and proposed to a bicycle path. Happy Friday!
After a late night of last-minute packing, I left Boston at eight in the morning on Wednesday, and promptly discovered a present my housemate Brett had left for me. What a great guy.
A quick stop at Canto 6 Bakery for a muffin and a loaf of monkey bread, and I was off! Rode the Southwest Corridor bike path to its end, and then set off through Roslindale heading west. By midmorning the sun was beating down pretty strong, so I stopped outside a Dunkin Donuts in Natick (I think?) to slather on the sunscreen. Met this charming gentleman, who voiced his approval of my plan to avoid skin cancer.
A few hours later, just before Worcester, I ran into my first road angel—a fellow named Fran, who was riding a bike with panniers from Boston to his home in the far exurbs. When he learned that my destination for the day was 15 miles past Worcester, he gave me his phone number and said to call him and his wife Ann if I get tired, and they’d come give me a lift to the campground. I was feeling pretty strong, and would have also felt guilty about accepting a lift on my very first day, so I said I’d call him from the campsite and let him know when I arrived.
After picking my way through the bike-unfriendly industrial park that is Worcester, though, I began to regret not calling him. The final fifteen miles of the day consisted of long, steep hills followed by too-short, very steep drops. And this was after I’d already biked 50 miles! To add insult to injury, Google Maps gave me lousy directions for the final four miles to the campground, adding a few miles to my already-too-long day. I wish I’d snapped a photo of the “road” that Google Maps thought I should take—unpaved, with terrain so rough a Jeep couldn’t have managed it—but I was too busy cursing and eyeing the rapidly-approaching thunderheads to pull out my camera.
The first few drops of rain began to fall as I pulled up to the campground entrance, and by the time I arrived at my campsite, it was raining in earnest. First important lesson: know which pannier has your raincoat! I, of course, had no clue which bag it was in, and didn’t want to risk getting my laptop and sleeping bag wet. So I set the tent up wearing my cycling shorts and T-shirt as sheets of water fell from the sky. Once the tent was pitched, I threw all my panniers under one of the vestibules, crawled in the tent from the other side, stripped off my sopping wet clothes and dried off, all while cursing a blue streak. Wells State Park: what a welcome.
It continued to drizzle on and off for most of the night, which didn’t stop me from cooking dinner and availing myself of the free hot showers. Thursday morning brought clear skies, so I set out everything to dry in the sun while I got some work done.
Also in the morning, I discovered my first equipment failure of the trip: the supposedly odor-proof bags I’d brought to store food and toiletries in were no match for a squirrel. I’ll be double-bagging all my food from now on, and hanging it where possible. Cheeky bastard got my Snickers bar.
By the time everything was dry and I rolled out of the campground, it was almost noon. Thankfully, the ride from Wells State Park to Northampton was both fairly flat and short—only 45 miles or so. The last ten miles were a dream, thanks to the Notwottuck Rail Trail—a beautiful paved path through the woods that brought me within three blocks of my host Ben, the housemate of my friend Joshua.
Ben and I had burgers on the main drag in Northampton, and then we hung out with his younger sister Ashley, who’s also planning a cross-country cycling adventure. I shared with her my “spreadsheet of doom”, and wish her good luck on her travels.
My cat allergies kicked in late in the evening, so I ended up pitching my tent on Ben’s lawn and spent a comfortable night sleeping on the grass. Woke up at dawn on Friday and blearily stumbled back indoors minutes before it began to rain. After making eggs for Ben and Ashley, I spent much of the day catching up on email, running errands (read: I am now carrying allergy meds), doing a bit of freelance work, fixing a few things on this site, and drying out my tent.
I also had a long lunch with Joshua, the designer of the TiGr lock, who happens to live in Northampton. Great guy, really interesting conversation.
That’s it for now. Tomorrow I’ll be biking to the Pittsfield State Forest on Route 9, which—I’ve been warned—is scenic but hilly. The following day, I’ll cross the rest of the Berkshires and head toward Troy, New York. Next update on Monday. Thanks for reading!