After fighting our way out of the Boston area on Friday afternoon (well okay, we didn't really fight our way out. We just sat patiently in interminable traffic), we eventually made it out to the other Massachusetts. The one without the gridlock and wall-to-wall development. The one with trees and hills and hay fields and quiet, peaceful roads.
When we got off the Mass. Pike in Lee (Gateway To The Berkshires), we were chased by thunderstorms as we made our way north. I just hate driving in the rain when the bikes are hanging on the back of the car. They get coated with all the road grime that gets kicked up behind the car. So I was happy that we caught just a few big, fat drops.
We stopped at a cool little diner in downtown Adams for dinner, then drove the last few miles to North Adams where we had a reservation in the cookie-cutter Holiday Inn. Boring and over-priced, but it served it's purpose, which was to provide a launching point for our weekend.
The thunderstorms blew through Friday night, and Saturday morning dawned fresh and clear. There was a good strong breeze blowing, and most of the humidity had apparently been blown clear to Boston.
After hanging our panniers on the bikes, and stashing our street clothes in the car, we set off west heading for Williamstown. The wind was in our faces, so we took our time riding along Rt. 2 while we looked for a promising place for breakfast. We spotted a diner with plenty of people inside, so pulled in. It might be a popular place, but it's not so because of the food. After a serviceable breakfast, we continued on our way and in a few minutes were riding past Williams College. It sure is a beautiful place in the summer. It must be gorgeous in September when the students arrive. I wonder what they think of it in the depths of January, though?
From Williamstown, we headed just a bit west of south, along a rolling valley. The road surface was good, the traffic was light, the air was fresh. We had only the nagging, oblique headwind to remind us that the good things in life must be earned. We rode along enjoying ourselves, and watching for the road which would allow us to cut over the ridge to the east and land in the valley to the south of Mount Greylock. We missed our turn-off, or more precisely, we saw it but didn't realize it was our turn off. We were prevented by going too far out of our way by the fortuitous sighting of the big "Welcome to New York" sign.
Never liking to have to back-track (it smacks of defeat) we looked at the map to see if we could perhaps loop into New York and back into Massachusetts. But, the Taconic Range runs along the Massachusetts - New York border, so east-west routes are few and far between. Turn around we did. We varied our route back by turning off onto the Main Street of the little town of Hancock, so it wasn't really back-tracking.
We found our turn, and turned east to climb through the gap into the next valley. I definitely felt my legs chugging uphill. I guess riding the flatter roads to the Cape a couple weeks ago doesn't really do much for climbing on a semi-loaded bike.
The reward for climbing is, of course, the fast descent down the other side. And we enjoyed a great one. The road was curvy enough to be interesting, but the sight lines were long enough that we could keep off the brakes and let the bike run. I tucked in and got up to about 40 mph, which definitely feels fast on a bicycle.
We popped out onto Rt. 7 just opposite the entrance to the road up Mount Greylock. It being just past noon now, we turned south on Rt. 7 and went into Lanesborough to get some lunch. After lunch we turned back north and rode back up, and into the wind, to Rockwell Rd. Rockwell Road is the road that leads to the summit of Mt. Greylock.
Rockwell Road starts off with a short, very steep section leading past a couple of houses and some fields before crossing into the Mount Greylock Reservation and coming to the Mount Greylock Visitor Center. We stopped at the Visitor Center and checked out some of the historic photos, as well as the scale model of the mountain that let us see just how much climbing was ahead of us. One of the workers at the Center was an enthusiastic cyclist, and she talked about what a wonderful ride we had to look forward to. She assured us that the grades for most of the climb were less than the short steep section we had just come up. She also said we'd be mostly shaded in the trees, with occasional breaks affording views.
We left the Visitor Center, passed the sign informing us that it was 8 miles to the summit, and entered the woods. Except for a couple of switchbacks, the grades truly weren't that difficult. We climbed rather slowly along the road. Just as we had been told, it was nice and shady. There wasn't as much traffic heading up and down the mountain as I had feared there might be. It was a good enough climb to feel like we were accomplishing something, but not so steep so as to turn the ride into miserable effort.
Since we were climbing in the trees, we didn't get much sense of how much elevation we were gaining. When we occasionally broke out of the trees and treated to a view off into the distance, it was always a surprise just how high we had climbed.
As we neared the top there were a couple of switchbacks. One of them was steep enough that I had to stand and lean forward to keep the front wheel from lifting. The fact that we had only rear panniers on contributed to this. Just a bit before the top we came to a pull off at an open area that afforded spectacular views to the east, overlooking the valley and the town of Adams, where we had stopped for dinner the night before, was spread out below us.
We met a cyclist here who was part of a sagged group that had cycled over from Greenfield. He was suffering from some pretty severe leg cramps, and was sitting here waiting for their sag wagon to come by. After chatting with him for a while, and enjoying the view, Jodi and I pushed on the last bit to the summit.
The first building you come to at the summit is Bascom Lodge. There were a few of the cyclists from the Greenfield Group sitting on the wall outside as we arrived, and we got a bit of an appreciative cheer from them for making the climb with panniers on our bikes.
We had made the 8 mile climb from the Visitor's Center at about 1,600 feet up to the summit of Greylock at 3,419 feet, in just about an hour and a half. Alright, it's not a Lance Armstrong pace, but Lance doesn't carry luggage, tools, and spare parts on his bike. We do.
After checking into our room at the lodge, we showered and changed, then wandered around outside for a while. We enjoyed a well-earned rest as we sat on some rocks and enjoyed the views spread out before us.
Dinner was served family style promptly at 6:00. We shared a table with a trio of women who had hiked up the Appalachian Trail from the south, and a family of four who had driven up from Williamstown just to enjoy the views and eat dinner at the lodge. Along with plenty of good food, we enjoyed conversation about hiking, cycling, the joys of living in the Berkshires, Boston traffic, and a host of other topics.
Being quite tired, we didn't manage much of an evening. We did go outside to enjoy the sunset after dinner. It was getting quite cool and was still windy, so we didn't stay out too long. By the time the sun was actually down, we were tucked into our bed and sound asleep.
Sunday morning dawned beautifully clear, and the wind had died down to nearly nothing. After a good hearty breakfast shared with the same group of hikers, we got ready to hit the road. This morning's ride was trivial. All we had to do was coast down the Notch Road, which is the road to the summit from North Adams, for about 8 miles. The grades on Notch Road are quite a bit steeper than the grades on the Rockwell Road are, so we had made a fortuitous choice on which route to take going up on Saturday.
Once we made it to the base of Mount Greylock and rejoined Rt 2, we were only a couple of miles from where our car was parked at the Holiday Inn in North Adams. We had thought about doing some more riding before heading home, but decided to hit the road instead, and get home with time enough left to do some chores around the house on Sunday afternoon.