Category Archives: cycling

Cycling New England: 11



No cycling today. I spent the day sitting out the rain in a Motel 6 in an industrial wasteland in Chicopee, Massachusetts. There is literally a mountain of dirt across from my hotel. Last night when I was lost in the rain I sung the Hallelujah Chorus when I saw the Motel 6 sign. Now my room is stuffy. The landscape is worse than New Jersey. People are yelling at one another on the balcony, and I’m eager to hit the road. I shouldn’t have cheaped out on lodging.

Note: Springfield Massachusetts drivers are Olympic level assholes who may be worse than Jersey drivers.

Cycling New England: 9


I knew the dark plaque was a World War 1 memorial even before I read it. The small town of Lee, Massachusetts sent dozens of young men (probably the whole graduating class of the high school) in 1918 to defend British and French imperialism against German imperialism. There are monuments like this in every town in New Jersey. Westfield (the posh New Jersey suburb not the run down little city in Massachusetts) has a magnificent World War 1 memorial that dominates the center of town.

What you won’t see in New Jersey is the reverse (fading white) side, a Civil War monument. While dozens of young men from Lee, Massachusetts filled the ranks of the Union Army, the same either cannot be said of most places in New Jersey or has been flushed down the memory hole.  Massachusetts and Ohio were the backbone of the abolitionist movement. New Jersey (which split the vote in 1860 between Lincoln and Steven Douglas) was luke warm about the whole affair, a true swing state. If you look up a town in New Jersey and find out it was founded in 1861 or 1864, that means it was a copperhead town that didn’t want to pay taxes to support Mr. Lincoln’s Army.

Cycling New England: 8


Since I cycled through the rain all day and only brought two changes of clothes, I stopped several times at laundromats to change into my dry clothes and wash and dry the wet, filthy ones I was wearing. This place, near Pittsfield, was the most interesting. This man, who looks like the generic shady Caucasian male from a true crime series, broke the change machine and stole 300 dollars worth of quarters. They haven’t caught him yet. I find it odd. A man desperate enough to smash a change machine can’t be very mobile. He’s not going to jump on a private plane and flee the country. I suppose he’s either dead, in prison for another crime, or submerged in the marginal community of Herman Melville’s old town.

Maybe he signed aboard a whaling ship.

Cycling New England: 7


I cycled 80 miles today through the cold New England rain, 35 of those 80 miles in the dark. It was Midnight by the time I got to my hotel, and I was soaking wet. Astonishingly I packed my small knapsack so well I saved my electronics. My Giant Contend 1 seems to be tough as hell. Perhaps in a decade I’ll be talking about what a resilient bike it is, the Toyota Corolla of bikes. My only casualty might be my Bròoks saddle, which got wet, and might crack. Oh well. It’s always fun to break in a new leather saddle.

The worst thing about riding a bike long distance in the rain is not the physical stress (I’m a not particularly impressive 50 year old and 80 miles is easy). Being soaked and cold is miserable, but you forget about it 5 minutes after a hot shower. No. What is genuinely terrifying about cycling long distance is the idea of getting lost. I don’t have a cell phone or a GPS. Google Maps isn’t quite useless but it’s close. Today I was sent sent me walking for over 5 miles through a private housing development on a gravel road. My guess is some local mountain bikers mapped out the course.

Long Bow Lane is in Becket Massachusetts. It’s an odd place. It’s a (massive) private development in he Berkshires and the property values still seem high. But the whole place feels like an artificial mega suburb cut into the wilderness that was never finished. The developers just never got around to paving some of the roads. Some of them they never even cleared. Did they run out of money?

The walk over the gravel roads threw my schedule off and I wound up looking for my hotel (which is in a remote industrial corner of Springfield Massachusetts) at midnight. A helpful liquor store clerk finally pointed in the right direction. Alas, unlike New York, you can’t buy beer late at night in Massachusetts. So I had to settle for a Diet Coke and a Snickers bar. Looks like tomorrow is just going to be steady rain so I booked an extra day at the hotel to sleep late and recharge. I’ll make the 89 miles to Boston early on Sunday.

It’s amazing how badly you eat on the road. Dunkin Donuts and convenience store burritos are becoming my staples.

Cycling New England: 6





I should have studied the maps better, but I was preoccupied with my overpriced coffee and Donuts. As a result I got lost (went 30 miles out of my way) in a remote area of upstate New York. It is genuinely rural, not exurban.  It was late into the night when I crossed the state line into Massachusetts, later still when I checked into my hotel on an ugly strip on Route 7 in the unhistoric not classy part of Lenox, Massachusetts. I must have cycled 35 miles in the dark. Don’t try it at home.