Western Connecticut & The Lower Berkshires – Day 2

Connecticut is very nice

Diana and I spent Saturday August 30th doing a pre-ride of the scenic portion of our upcoming fall trip to Connecticut. As I mentioned in an earlier post I took a ride route from Moto-Maps and added The Southern Berkshires Loop that was listed in Motorcycle Journeys Through New England. The Berkshires are a range of low mountains in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont and New York.

babbling creek in connecticut

Like most New England trips, the day started out rainy and cleared up in the afternoon. You have to have at least one of these days on every trip north. Between the weather and Diana’s hate for the killer pillow at the Motel it wasn’t the most enjoyable morning. I think having some traveling companions would have made this part of the trip more fun. We grabbed a muffin, juice and coffee at The Big Y grocery store which had a cafe. It was down the street from the Motel and very convenient. I never heard of Big Y before this trip.

cool old bridge

The beginning portion of our ride put us on Interstate 84 West for a little bit. This section of 84 was grooved and I wasn’t crazy about riding wet grooved Interstate first thing in the morning. Good thing I had a cup of coffee first. We got off the Interstate and our Moto-Map route of western Connecticut had us zig zagging northerly through classic New England backroads. The windy hilly roads are lined with houses so it’s not like you’re in the middle of no where like West Virginia; Diana kept calling it a residential road. Every so often we would pop into a tiny little town with a big white meeting house or steepled church in the center… then back into the pine tree covered hills. Up in Norfolk we cut west across Rt 44 and caught Rt 8 North. Rt 44 was one of our favorite roads we took coming across Connecticut from Rhode Island earlier this summer. Route 44 is a winner!

old new england meeting house

Coming up Colebrook River Road Route 8 through Winstead, CT is Colebrook River Lake and the West Branch Reservoir. About 3 miles before the Massachusetts state line is the entrance on the right to the Boat Ramp area maintained by the Army Corp of Engineers. Out of curiosity I had to check it out. It was a really neat area. There is a huge lake and hardly anyone around. There is a long beat up old road that runs along the water toward a dam. Having grown up on dirtbikes I couldn’t resist exploring the pot hole puddled cracked up old road to nowhere even though I was on a Harley. Good thing I got those new Progressive 412 series shocks. It was really cool; I felt like I was exploring way off the beaten path. You can check out the satellite view of this on Google Maps. The outhouse back at the boat ramp area made for a nice comfort stop. It was noon and we shed a few layers as the sun was starting to warm things up. We took a few pictures and got back on the road.

Boat Ramp Area

road to no where

gotta check it out

goofy Jay

princess of the boat ramp area

After that it was a short jaunt to the state line where we caught Route 20. Route 20 went through Lee and then we caught Route 183. Route 183 took us up into Lenox. I wish we explored Lenox a little more but we mistakenly rode right through in the blink of an eye. We stopped at the Norman Rockwell Museum on 183 but we didn’t want to pay $15 each admission and we were getting hungry. The museum is centrally located between Stockbridge, West Stockbridge and Housatonic. Diana found one of those cartoony maps that are very helpful in navigating small towns, this one is published by Miles of Smiles Directional Company. If you travel to the Berkshires call them at (413) 298-3999 to see if they will mail you a map.

Norman Rockwell Museum 

goofy jay 2

We were going to eat lunch at Jack’s Grill in Housatonic but it appeared to be closed. The whole town appeared to be closed. We continued on with our grumbling stomachs to the eclectic town of Great Barrington. I don’t know if there is a college nearby or what but we felt like everyone, especially young adults, swarmed into this little town. There were punkers, geeks and birkenstockers strolling Main Street. We checked out a coffee shop and a cafe before finding a sit down eatery that we thought was somewhat normal. We were wrong. The place was called Baba Louies and it was very artsy inside with curtains, candelabras, paintings on the walls and old music from the 20’s playing. I ordered us some Diet Cokes and the waitress told me they don’t have that. She was one of those wired frantic type waitresses freaking out because she had more than one customer and they were about to close for lunch. There was a carafe of water on the table so I poured us some water. It turns out the entire menu is organic foods and drink only. We ordered Smoked Turkey Panini sandwiches. You’ll be glad to know this sandwich is antibiotic and hormone free! I hate when someone slips antibiotics in my sandwich! I prefer traditional condiments or even organic condiments to Neosporin any day. No joking, these sandwiches were the tastiest sandwiches I ever had. They were bang’n! I recommend you try the Smoked Turkey Panini sandwich at Baba Louies if you stop into Great Barrington.

baba louies in great barrington

From Great Barrington we took Route 41 South back down into Connecticut. To quote Marty Berke, author of Motorcycle Journeys Through New England, “Route 41 is made for a bike”. To further quote Marty…

Route 41 meanders north past beautiful farms and through small villages with the Taconic Mountains providing a scenic backdrop to the west. Sharon, which was once an important crossroads, has immaculate Victorian homes lining the green, but each village strung along this route has its own charm.

In Sharon we got on Route 4 and then Route 7. We stopped at Kent Falls State Park on the left to check out the 200′ waterfall. It was a great picture op but we were attacked by swarms of pesty gnats that were intent on flying up Diana’s nose. This is a pretty stop and you should check it out despite the bugs.

Diana at Kent Falls State park

Soon after Kent Falls we merged with Route 202 and approached the New Milford area where we planned to meet up with my buddy John and his family. On Route 202 one of those new motorcycle commuter types who seemed to have recently dug out an old Japanese motorcycle from the 70’s or 80’s in order to beat the gas prices was riding in the lane next to me scratching his neck like he had fleas. Too busy scratching to wave at me or recognize a fellow rider. Of course I don’t think these guys get the brotherhood thing anyhow. Although he had a white full face helmet on, he was only wearing shorts and a t-shirt. Apparently he needed to run a quick errand to Home Depot because he started to take a quick turn and leaned the bike over to swoop into the parking lot. That’s when a huge pile of debris in the middle of the parking lot entrance caught my attention. I noticed it while passing by at 40mph from the corner of my eye, I don’t know how Mr. Scratchy Neck didn’t see it. Down he went! By time I was able to turn around and get back to him others had already stopped to help him up. He brushed himself off, rode the bike up to the lot and went into Home Depot with some minor scratches on his knee. I circled the Home Depot parking lot and got back on Route 202.

Jagermeister Truck

Just a few miles down the road we found the Octoberfest located across the street from New Milford High School. We couldn’t miss the Jagermeister Truck and big white tent. We met up with my buddy John and his wife who I haven’t seen in over 10 years. We had German beer and brats while listening to the oompa band. It was great catching up with my friends.

Octoberfest in New Milford, CT

After the Octoberfest we were invited to a little after party where we had beer, apple pie and of course… ice cream! Then we followed John and Margie to their home in Sandy Hook. They have a great house with a great guest room. We climbed up onto the guest bed which was about 4′ high and slept like logs.

the guest room

Use these resources to plan your own trip to New England (see below).

Moto-Maps is an excellent resource for scenic backroads and is available at www.Shop.RoadCaptainUSA.com

Motorcycle Journeys Through New England is also a great resource and is available through my Amazon store.

Click on the below pictures for more information.

Moto Map CT

Motorcycle Journeys Through New England

My First Ride on the Interstate

Diana is grinning from ear to ear

I have been feeling very confident on my new Dyna Superglide.  I put the first 1000 miles on in just 3 weeks. Despite the fact that she was at the shop for several days while I spent 4 days riding bitch for our Connecticut trip I still logged 1500 miles in 5 weeks.  I’ve been itching to ride my own bike on weekend overnight trips.  The problem is I have never ridden on a highway.  There was no way that I would be ready to take the Turnpike all of the way through Jersey for our Connecticut trip.

We were recently invited to my inlaws for dinner and this was the perfect opportunity to get a little highway experience.

The Plan:  Create a route to Mom & Dad’s that blends a small taste of busy highway traffic with some scenic roads as well.  We planned to start out on I-95, take the Fallston exit and follow some back roads through Harford, Baltimore, & Carroll Counties, and then hop on I-70 for the rest of the ride to Frederick.

I was perfectly fine with the plan, excited in fact…until we stopped to gas up.  Jay, bless his heart, was giving me pointers about highway riding: 

  • Stay away from trucks!  Avoid the “no zone”!
  • Ride in the center lane as it gives you more options.  if you do use the passing lane, don’t stay there! Some moron will insist on flying up on your ass at 90 mph. Beware on the right hand lane with its on/off exit ramp traffic.
  • Watch the demeanor of the cagers.  Aggressive drivers are likely to continue randomly darting in and out of traffic without paying much attention to their surroundings. 
  • Don’t overlook the seemingly complacent ones either.  You never know when a vehicle that has been stuck behind a truck for several minutes is going to run out of patience and dart out to get around the truck.
  • Think of the flow of traffic like a river.  Any interruption to the flow is cause for heightened state of caution.
  • And finally, the Art of the “Soft” Lane Change; don’t change lanes abruptly. Look in your mirror, put your turn signal on, check again and then make a gradual lane change taking your time. Give people that you didn’t see time to react. It’s not all about you out there.

This is all great advice, except that it was making me nervous.  I was fine before, but now I was scared to death!  (Thanks baby for making me a nervous wreck!)  I just thought to myself “You’ve driven this road a million times in your car…you know this stretch of road very well…relax…you are an accomplished rider…you will be fine.”

Tydings bridge

Jay had me lead so he could keep an eye on me without staring incessantly at his rear view mirrors.  We took the ramp onto I-95.  Traffic in this area is not particularly heavy since it is about 45 minutes away from both Philadlephia and Baltimore.  But it is 65 mph, and there are 3 to 4 traffic lanes in each direction.  And then there is the Tydings Bridge across the Susquehanna River.  I have grown quite accustomed to crossing at the Conowingo Dam & Hydro-Electric Plant.  It is only 2 lanes and 30 mph there.  The water is right beside the crossing on one side, and on the other it drops quite sharply down to shallow water and lots of rocks.  But the Tydings Bridge is 6 lanes total, very high above the water, and subject to severe crosswinds.  These winds frequently toss my car around, so I was very nervous about my bike (which is a good ton lighter)!  Luckily there was only a light breeze that day, so we crossed with no concern…other than my death grip on the handlebars (LOL).

Altogether we spent about 40 minutes on I-95 with no incidents before heading off down Fallston Road to Sweet Air Rd.  We took Paper Mill Rd to Hunt Valley, then Shawan Rd past Cal Ripken‘s house and several thoroughbred racehorse farms.  Now we were riding through my hometown…on the streets where I first learned to ride.  We took several roads that I always thought would be awesome to ride on a bike…and I was right!  After a quick rest stop at my brother’s house we headed out of Reisterstown, following Wards Chapel Rd through Soldier’s Delight.  Jay and I had taken this road once before when I had my Sporty, and it had been a disappointment.  On my Dyna with the lower center of gravity and superior handling capabilities, it was awesome!

horse farm

We soon found ourselves entering Howard County and preparing to get on I-70 for the last leg of the trip.  There is a very long ramp where you are technically on US-40 (Historic National Road) as it merges with the interstate.  I was well up to speed as I approached the merge area.  There was much more traffic here than up north since it was later in the day.  Many cars, SUVs, and a group of serious looking bikers were all jockeying for position to either move onto or off of the highway.  I saw an opening in front of an SUV, signalled with my blinker, turned my head all of the way to look over my shoulder and check clearance, signalled with my arm, and moved into the lane.  It was certainly not a sudden or drastic move, but there was not sufficient space for Jay to pull in with me.  We were separated as he got in behind the SUV. Then he moved over to the hammer lane to pass him and catch up with me.  In the meantime, the serious Harley dudes were collecting themselves back into some semblence of formation as I blew past them at about 80 mph… never looking back.  Jay just filed in behind me, looking over at the bikers and shaking his head as if to say “yep, that was my wife that just blew by you!”

We would be on I-70 for about 40 minutes, so I decided to try out my new cruise pegs that the chrome fairy put on my bike a few days before.  Two problems:  my legs are too short and the air cleaner cover is in my way. I had to kinda curve my leg around it to get to the cruise peg.  This left me sitting bowlegged with my right foot turned half inside-out, and my toes trying to grip onto the pegs through my boots!  It was probably pretty comical to look at.  It certainly wasn’t relaxing.  It was more like WORK!  Mental note:  don’t try that again until we can figure out a way for my feet to reach the cruise pegs better!

Altogether the ride took a little under 3 hours–a good combination of highway, country roads, and twisties.  And of course it was great fun!

Dinner at the parents’ house was fabulous.  I had just gotten my braces on a few days before, so I was not able to bite into the flatbread appetizer Mom made.  (I had to break it into small pieces with my fingers and put it in the back of my mouth.)  Dad grilled up some steaks (again I had to chew tiny little pieces with my back teeth), and Mom made cole slaw and the most fabulous potato salad I have ever had!

At the parents house

Mom & Dad both loved my new bike.  Mom named her “Pearl.”  Tony, the salesman, had already named her “Quick Silver.”  Personally, I just haven’t had anything grab me yet.

We hit the road early, knowing that we had a long ride back and wanting to be home before dark.  We made a few changes to the reverse route, going more through Carroll County.  We did start out back on I-70 for aways.  At one point, I had moved to the right lane to get past a slower moving cage.  Jay had issues with me passing on the right too often.  I wanted to get back into the center lane, and in my mirror I saw a ginormous gap that I could get into.  As I went to turn my head after signalling, I saw this huge truck closing in on the space that I hadn’t seen before.  He was still pretty far back, so I started to make my move.  As I did I realized why I hadn’t seen the truck before–he had to be going like a zillion miles per hour, and he was beginning to barrel down on me.  I knew that I did not want any part of being crushed by this giant truck behind me! I stayed my course and gunned the throttle to expand the distance between us.  (Mr Motorcycle, you can up my fastest speed to 85 mph now!)  WOW!  That was exhilerating! 

This section of road happened to have been part of our return trip from West Virginia, and the next landmark for that trip was the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.  After my mind made the connection, my next thought was “OK, Interstate down; next up: crossing the Bay Bridge!”  It’s only 4 miles long, huge, super high, lots of trucks, tons of traffic, open grates down the middle of the lanes, & crazy windy–what the hell, why not?

I reminded myself to take baby steps, and we took back roads the rest of the way home.  It was an amazing day of riding, we had a fabulous dinner, and I marked off another big milestone in my riding skills.  I still wasn’t ready for 2 hours on the Jersey Turnpike the following weekend, but my goal is to ride my own bike on our club’s spring trip to Outer Banks, NC.  Wish me luck!

The Tao of Road Captainhood

Group motorcycle riding is a sport unto itself, different from riding solo. To illustrate my point please imagine a Blue Angels fighter pilot. He will use different skills and tactics if challenged to a one on one dog fight then when he is flying in formation with the famous 6 plane flight squadron. A group ride is usually planned and lead by a Road Captain. This individual gives his time and takes on the responsibility of leading the group because he enjoys sharing the sport of motorcycling with others. The Road Captain is essential to group riding. He is the warrior leading the tribe through the jungle. He is the strategist predicting what the highway will throw at us and deciding how we will approach the challenge. He is the planner, the navigator and most importantly the leader!

Blue Angels

There are Road Captains of all levels. Each is traveling on their own journey to mastering the art of Road Captainhood. No one starts out from day one as a black belt. Like a Samurai warrior or Kung Fu master, the Road Captain develops his skills over time. Someday I hope to be a wise old master Road Captain who can look up at the sky, listen to the wind and know from the flow of energy in the universe which direction to travel, which road to take, how fast to ride and when to take a comfort break. For those of you who travel solo this might sound strange. For those of you who ride in a diverse group, you understand the challenge of trying to please everyone.

Mr Miagi

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Amish Farms & Susquehanna River Ride – Pennsylvania Motorcycle Route

The first official Road Captain USA Motorcycle Route!

Amish Farms & Susquehanna River Ride - Motorcycle Route

Amish Farms & Susquehanna River Ride

200 Miles, 8 Hours, Delaware & Pennsylvania

This is for advanced riders who can handle tight twisty roads and ride for 200 miles

  1. Start from the Deer Park Tavern on Main Street in Newark, DE (reccomend leaving at 10:00am)
  2. Right onto Rt 896 North
  3. Right onto Rt 372 East
  4. Left onto Rt 41 to Gap, PA
  5. Stop at Wawa in Gap, PA for fuel, food and restrooms
  6. Right back onto Rt 41
  7. Left onto Rt 30 at the traffic light
  8. Take the next right onto Rt 772 at the traffic light
  9. Follow Rt 772 to Manheim, PA
  10. Pull into the back parking lot of  Twin Kiss Family Restaurant for lunch (get frosty mug of rootbeer)
  11. Right exiting the front of the parking lot onto Rt 772
  12. Follow 772 all the way to the end in Marietta, PA
  13. Take a left onto 441 South
  14. There is a Rutters on the right if you need a pitstop
  15. Follow 441 South to 462 West
  16. Cross the Columbia-Wrightsville Bridge
  17. Follow 462 West (lots of traffic lights)
  18. Take a left onto Rt 24 South to Red Lion, PA
  19. In Red Lion, PA take a left onto Rt 74
  20. Left onto Rt 425 (this road is awesome)
  21. Right onto Rt 624 (this is a great road too)
  22. Pull into Lauxmont Farms on the right to check out the scenery and get farm fresh ice cream
  23. Right back onto Rt 624
  24. You need to go back across the Columbia-Wrightsville Bridge on Rt 462 East
  25. Watch carefully for the sign for 462 East and take a left (if you go under the bridge you passed it)
  26. Go up to Stop sign and make a right and then another right to get onto the bridge
  27. Right onto 441 South (S Front Street / Water Street)
  28. Follow Rt 441 South to the end
  29. Follow River Road (River Road is challenging, do not attempt in the dark or during inclimate weather)
  30. Quick left/right at Route 324 stay on River Road
  31. Left onto Rt 372 East
  32. Follow 372 East to Rt 896 South
  33. 896 South will take you back to Newark, DE

If you need to shorten the trip or are not up to the challenge of River Road you can take Route 30 East. At step #27 you would take a left onto Rt 441 North. Catch Rt 30 East a few blocks up. You can take Rt 896 South in Lancaster to get back to Newark, DE. Or you can take Rt 41 in Gap (Gap Newport Road) to Rt 2 Kirkwood Highway in Delaware.

For those of you with loud exhaust pipes you may want to avoid downtown Newark, DE where you may be fined by the police. If this is the case use Rt 41 instead of 896. You can catch Rt 41 at Rt 2 Kirkwood Highway near Prices Corner. This is Newport-Gap Pike Road. You can take Rt 41 Newport Gap Pike Road all the way to the Wawa in Gap, PA.

Sidenote: you can grab a good breakfast at the Deerpark Tavern or the Gap Diner across the street from the Wawa.

In the near future, I will release an abridged version of this route for less advanced riders as well as a product review of Microsoft Streets & Trips which I use to make my maps.

Microsoft Streets & Trips mapping software

Congrats Mr. Assistant Director

HOG Logo

When we joined the First State HOG chapter only a year and a half ago, we never dreamed that we would become so involved or that we would get so much out of being in this club. HOG has become a very important part of our lives and an integral part of our social life.

As of tonight, Jay is officially the new Assistant Director of First State HOG!

From day one, Jay has been involved in chapter events–not just participating in rides, but volunteering to make hundreds of hamburgers for the 9/11 riders’ stop at Mike’s Famous HD dealership, leading groups of riders for the spring poker run, coming up with creative ideas for chapter events as our Activities Officer, and planning & leading many rides as a Road Captain including several weekend trips to far away destinations!  He entertains at our monthly meetings with his comic antics, bizarre stories, and cheesy prizes for the monthly new-member contests.  Jay is always thinking about ways to make the chapter more successful and fun.

I cannot be more proud that his efforts have been recognized.  Congratulations baby on this well-deserved honor!  You are going to be fabulous!

PS – I love you  🙂

We Flew Solo to Connecticut – Day 1

Our Shadow

Diana and I took our first motorcycle trip by ourselves on the Lowrider over Labor Day weekend. Previously we went to Rhode Island with a friend, but all of our other trips have been with our HOG chapter. As the rider it was alot less on my mind to just be concerned with myself and traffic. I’m the kind of person who is always thinking and worrying. To only be concerned with myself was much more relaxing. On the other hand there is a small amount of discomfort knowing that if anything should go wrong, I’m on my own. The trip went very smoothly and we had a fantastic time.

Diana is almost ready

Jay is ready to roll

The mission was twofold. This was officially the pre-ride for our 2008 Fall Peeper trip in October. We were also going to reconnect with my best friend and roommate from college who I lost touch with over 10 years ago. John and his wife were hosting a Labor Day barbeque and family party. We were invited as weekend guests. I was also going to try to meet up with the Assistant Director and Head Road Captain of the Ghost HOG chapter who visits Road Captain USA and often leaves comments under the handle Doorman.

Leaving Delaware

NJ Turnpike

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