Gil Gilmore and I agreed to meet at my house in Meriden CT sometime during Thursday. We then made a few vague plans to start off on our long-weekend tour through the southern Berkshires. Unfortunately, during the week the east coast sweltered through the first of the summer's triple-H weather patterns (Hazy, Hot, and Humid).
On Tuesday Gil emailed me from Philadelphia before setting off to link up with me two days later in Meriden at noon. Wednesday, I received an email update from Gil who had arrived in New York City. He wrote of his intention to leave at 4 am on Thursday.
At that point the heat and humidity were devastating but at about 1 PM on Thursday he called from Fairfield, CT and indicated that he was going to be a bit late. He refused my offer of a SAG.
Later, at 5:30 PM, Gil rolled up to the front of my house, having ridden 130 miles from New York City, the last 35 miles or so in the rain. He asked if I wanted to leave but looked very relieved when I indicated I was willing to await a drier tomorrow. Instead we passed a pleasant evening debating and solving the world's many problems. The next day we set off on a Friday morning that dawned clear, cool, and dry. A glorious day for a cycle touring adventure!
We headed north along one of the many traprock ridges that run through central Connecticut, until we intercepted the course of the Farmington River in Farmington. We made a brief stop at an old church in the historic district of Farmington where Gil recalled playing an organ recital while attending college at nearby Wesleyan University.
We then headed north-west, following closely along the Farmington River. We were bedeviled with an annoying headwind and Gil clued me into the joys of drafting. It made a useful addition to my arsenal of cycling skills.
As we biked farther along, traffic and development slowly thinned out and the country-side became decidedly rural. Later during a roadside pit-stop we were passed by another cyclist astride a late model Atala with barcons. A bit later he came by again and slowed down in order to ride with us a bit as we headed north through the state forest. He regaled us with tales of the local cycling scene and made helpful suggestions for some interesting roads worth riding.
We were now truly ensconced in the New England countryside and enjoyed lightly traveled secondary roads through the forest. We stopped at a store in Pleasant Valley, CT to purchase snacks and lunch, and then took an hour's siesta at the state park perched on the bank of the river. After our break, we rolled into the tiny town of Riverton. This is the site of the old Hitchcock Chair factory and featured a museum which was unfortunately closed.
We soon intercepted Route 8 just south of the Massachusetts line. Here we found an interesting antique store that was one of many in the area. After inspecting the old steam engines, bicycles, and other such things, we crossed into Massachusetts and continued north.
At the tiny town of New Boston we stopped at the store to pick up supplies for supper. We were well away from any large towns and the store prices were exorbitant. We'd come to the place of true capitalism where prices reflected the lack of competition.
From there we headed west on Route 57 and started climbing the eastern slopes of the Berkshire mountains. At this point my energy reserves were rather depleted, and after a few miles I had to walk some of the bigger hills. We thus decided to look for a suitable campsite.
Gil spotted a cemetery on a hill-top, and we set up for the night behind a small rise at the back of the cemetery. Some of the grave-stones dated back to the early 1700s and made fascinating reading. The mosquitoes, however, were voracious and attacked in platoons. We both decided to beat a strategic retreat back to the safety and sanctity of our tents. Bless the person who invented netting.
Saturday brought more glorious weather. We hit the road and immediately started climbing. After a few miles we spotted a house and pulled into the driveway to beg some water. Fortunately, we had reached the top of our climb and were soon flying down the hill on our way to Great Barrington. Gil's bike was geared higher than mine and he proceeded to crank down the hills at an easy 40 mph, while I drafted along behind him. This was the way to cycle-tour!
We spent some time in Great Barrington, MA where we had a second breakfast at the delightful diner. Afterwards, we inquired at the local Chamber of Commerce for the birthplace of W.E.B DuBois. Gil was extremely disappointed to learn of the lack of any monument to honor this seminal figure. We also stopped at the local farmers market and scored some delicious whole wheat rolls.
We next turned south and followed the Housatonic River valley toward Salisbury, CT. While taking a break in the shade along Route 41, we were joined by several cyclists on an AMC-sponsored ride. This is the same Route 41 that touring list-member Mark Boyd found so enjoyable on his way north a week or so ago. Fortunately, it is equally delightful southbound!
We arrived in Salisbury, CT early that afternoon. After washing up and changing out of cycling clothes under the town bridge, we checked out the library, book store and then relaxed on the steps of the Town Hall. While we watched the world pass us by Gil entertained me with stories of his journey through the Darien gap.
As evening approached, we made our food purchases at the supermarket and then headed to a camping spot I knew. It was located on the Appalachian trail which passes just north of the town making Salisbury a popular stop-over and mail-drop for backpackers hiking the AT. At the campsite we encountered a backpacker who was out hiking on the AT for four weeks. We subsequently passed a pleasant evening talking mostly about hiking rather than biking.
On Sunday morning we broke camp and headed our separate ways, the backpacker toward Bear mountain, Gil toward Philadelphia and me toward Meriden.
The entire three-day trip ended up being about 155 miles for me, and much more for Gil! It was a great weekend. Gil is a delight to travel with, and I hope to be able to do so again!