Early in the spring of 1996, I became the proud owner of a brand new Trek 520 Touring bicycle. I had just made the trip to my local bike shop to have the bike ordered, and was waiting not so patiently for it to arrive. At the same time, my wife put forth the suggestion that we attend the annual gathering of Deaf people from throughout the Northeastern United States, held each year during the week of July 4th, at a campground on South Hero Island, Vermont. After 15 years of marriage, my wife knows me well. She knows that after a couple days of basically hanging around the campground socializing, I would become extremely restless and want to get out and DO something. Therefore, she suggested that we attend only for the weekend.
Since my mind was already full of thoughts of bicycle touring, it was natural for the plan to spring to mind: my wife June and my daughter Anju could drive up with the truck and camper, and I would ride my bicycle. This would allow June to enjoy the whole week there, and I would arrive towards the end of the week, spend a couple of days, then drive home with my family. It seemed to suit everyone's desires to a 'T'.
Since this would be my first bicycle tour, the spring months were spent getting used to my new bike, as well as researching, selecting and purchasing the necessary equipment, tools, and spares. I spent many happy hours poring over maps, trying out various routes. I also managed to find time to take a weekend 'shakedown' trip to try to fine-tune my equipment and make sure I hadn't overlooked anything vital.
This was a fully self-supported tour. This means that I carried not only all necessary clothing and personal items, but also a tent, sleeping bag and pad, a small single-burner stove and fuel, and a small set of nesting pots for cooking. I shopped daily for food. In order to carry all of this gear, I outfitted my bike with a full set of front and rear panniers, as well as a small handlebar bag to hold such things as camera, sunglasses, snacks, maps, etc. By staying in campgrounds, and doing all of my own cooking, I planned to hold my expenses to $25.00 per day.
The route I eventually settled on would take me up the Farmington River Valley through west-central Connecticut, and into Massachusetts, where I would climb into the hills west of the Connecticut River valley. I would then descend into the valley, cross over to the east side of the Connecticut River, and follow the river valley all the way to southeastern Vermont. From here, I would have to tackle the inevitable climb over the Green Mountains, descend to the eastern shore of Lake Champlain, and follow the shore north until I reached South Hero Island.
Day 1: Meriden CT to Westhampton MA