Day 5
October 11th, 2004
Binghamton, New York

My phone stirred me out of bed right on time, and when my feet hit the floor the first course of action was pulling the curtains to check on the 13.  A rain storm blew through last night, waking me, and causing anxiety about today's ride.  The blue Honda was standing ready to go, but dripping water everywhere.  I flicked the TV on for a look at the radar, and went outside and wiped it down.  I used motel towels, something they rather you not do, but I had no other choice.

The TV announced it was 42 degrees, it will be another cold morning.  I haven't seen the sun in almost 4 days, and it was starting to wear on me.  I resigned I might not be warm again till I pass through Georgia on the way home from the Blue Ridge.  

I was strapping my gear down when I thought to myself I've been hauling this camping gear around and only used it one time.  That is true to course on my fall trip.  Its hard to get excited about camping on the East Coast.  Setting up your tent in Connecticut or New York, is like camping in your backyard.  You try to make yourself feel as if you're in some beautiful isolated spot but in reality, a huge city is just down the road.  
The picture on the left says it all.  A chilly 41 degrees.  The clock is Alabama time.

I gassed up at Exxon station down the street from the motel.

By 7:45 am I was on I-88 east bound heading for Northern Massachusetts.  I added another layer under the Roadcrafter.  Traffic was nil on I-88 and the 1300 purred along as we made our way east.

Columbus Day is a big deal in the Northeast, and a lot people were off work, but it looked as if most of them were sleeping in.

My agenda today is riding through the Hudson Valley, and sampling the Berkshires in Western Massachusetts.  Probably less then 300 miles when its over.

I left I-88 for SR 206.  I've traveled New York back roads extensively.  Most of them are very good, meaning good surfaces, and wide shoulders.  SR 206 is no exception.  The route transported me to the Catskills and followed the contours of the hills and valleys.  Leaf color was outstanding and the boroughs I passed through were interesting. 
This says it all.  A chilly 41 degrees.  The clock is Alabama time.
​New York 26 winding its way through the hills and farms.
Good riding for a southern boy.

That's another thing I've adapted to.  Northern States call jurisdictions by several names.  In New York they are boroughs, in Pennsylvania they are townships, and in some they are villages.

The farmhouses along the way were all decorated for Halloween.  I saw hay bales and scarecrows decked in the front of more than a few.  The riding was really good, and I enjoyed the valley vistas.  The extra sweatshirt did the trick, I was not as cold as yesterday.  I had the screen almost full up to cover me from the wind. 

​I caught this Masonville, NY resident putting the finishing
touches on her Halloween decorations.

I stopped numerous times for pictures on 206.  One I time shot past an interesting side road then slowed and double backed to it.  I wanted to see where it could take me.  I followed the paved but unimproved road for 2-3 miles when it suddenly ended at a old cemetery.  I sat on the ST while it idled, and took the picture below.  These cemeteries are all over the North.
Cemeteries like this are common in the Northeast
It was still early morning when I arrived in the mill town of Walton.  I came by a large Kraft Foods plant when I entered town, and I assumed it to be the bread and butter of this borough.  The town looked busy, so I pulled into TA's Place for toast, just a few blocks from the downtown business section.

In TA's the tables were right up against each other, and I found mine next to 4 locals, I might as well sat down with them, we were that close.  

The walls of the diner were covered in Yankee paraphernalia-pennants, pictures, old newspaper headlines, the stuff went years back in time.  I gave my order for jelly toast to a middle aged waitress and got out my phone.  I called my wife at the office and checked on the trip to Florida. (in the Accord)

"didja call those folks about a place to stay?'

"Not yet, but why don't you do it?  You said you'd take me"

"I know, I know, and I am.  I wanna go too, I'm tired of the cold."

After putting my phone away, I heard one of the men next to me.  "I see you're not from around here."

"well no, just passing through"

"where down south are you from?"

"Alabama, on my way to somewhere in Massachusetts"

"you spent the night here last night?"

I sheepishly responded, "nah Binghamton."

"WHAT the hell FOR??"

"look, I knew that was comin, it AIN'T that BAD"

That comment cracked up the other 3 guys at his table.

The lady sat my toast down and I wolfed it down quickly.  I was hungry, because I hadn't ate since lunch yesterday.

A few more locals gathered at the next table, and soon I was the center of attention.  We talked about sports, motorcycles and Florida.  All New Yorkers like to talk about Florida. 

"Look here, I gotta get goin, y'all are good company, I mean "use guys" are good company, but I better get on the road."  I rose up from the table, placed my tip down then gathered my stuff.  A lady next to her husband asked, " can ya say something again?"  "Like what baby?"  "I dunno just say something, I like to hear ya toik."  My accent in this part of the country gathers more attention than the Honda.  I use to be self conscious about it, because some like to ridicule when they hear it.  Like, "you can't be for real with THAT sound."  Many up here still think you don't know anything because you sound hick.  I had to learn to take the good with the bad.

The encounter in Walton is one of the joys of American back roads.  The cafes, truck stops, and con stores along busy interstates are staffed by people who meet folks from all over the country everyday.  But I was probably the first joker from Alabama to ever set foot in TA's.  The folks that call Walton home seldom see a guy from down south passing through on a motorcycle, in fact they see very few of ANYONE passing through.  Walton is not on the way to anywhere, Long Riders riding here do so for a reason.

I left Walton on SR 10, and dissected Delaware County on my way to SR 23.  The highway followed a creek and I passed covered bridges, and bubbling water over rocks.  It was a good ride through the countryside.  I recommend it for anyone wanting to see what its really like in this part of the country.
This covered bridge is still functional.  The original cost 
5,000 dollars in the 1800s.  This exact replica built by hand,
from the original plans, cost half a million.

The riding was good and the 1300 did not seem to mind the cold temps.  I lazily rolled past green pastures with houses and barns in the distance.  The hills were blanketed in fall colors of red, orange, and lemon. 

I recall overtaking 2 slow moving delivery trucks, that spewed toxic exhaust in huge volumes from worthless emission control devices.  I wondered how they passed their last inspection. 

The highway on occasion would bend and I tilted the 13 easily on the gentle sweepers.  This is what a fall ride is all about.  A chilly day on a New York back road decorated in the splendid colors everyone associates with Autumn.  For a southern boy I'm pretty lucky, I get to ride where I want, when I want, and in the fall I like riding north.   I was relishing the miles on this cool and cloudy day.
​I was crossing a bridge on SR 10 when I captured this 
couple trying their luck with fishing poles.

When SR 10 intersected SR 23 I made a right turn and followed the route as it skirted the Catskill Mountains.  Traffic began to pick up, and the elevation increased as I climbed the hills guarding the Hudson Valley.

Prattsville, New York is a lot different than Prattville, Alabama.  The only similarity is in the name.  The borough is old looking and occupied by factory workers and store owners.  SR 23 is the main street through town.  My guess is the population is a few thousand.  The houses are the customary wood frame, common in this part of the country, I saw no large brick homes anywhere.  A heating oil truck was making a delivery to a nearby residence.  A house heated by oil is very rare in Alabama, in fact I don't recall ever seeing one.  Natural gas and electric are the choices back home.
Prattsville, New York.  Note the ever present tavern
After taking a few pictures I left Prattsville, New York.  At least I can say I've been there.

I continued on 23 as it wound its way through the Catskill foothills.  Traffic picked up as I drew closer to the Hudson River.  I reached the peaks of the foothills, and out before me stretched the Hudson Valley in all its glory.  The valley was painted in fall colors and I could see New England across the river.
​"I reached the peaks of the foothills, and out before me stretched 
the Hudson Valley in all its glory."

Down I took the 1300 from the hilltops towards the river.  Cars were everywhere, but I found a safe spot on the 4 lane boulevard to New England.  The leaning wasn't bad as I dropped down in elevation.  The temp gauge had climbed all the way to 48 and the sun was coming out.

Rivers make good natural borders, so I found it odd the Hudson does form the border for Massachusetts and Connecticut with New York.  I guess New York was just too big and greedy to accept what comes naturally, and pushed the 2 smaller states further eastward.  Southerners like to fight too much to ever go along with such a scheme.  If Georgia had tried to come across the Chattahoochee the folks in Alabama would've rose up big time.
I was passing through Cairo when I noticed a BBQ place.  It looked very authentic and could have passed easily anywhere in Tennessee or Alabama.  The sign proudly pronounced southern style BBQ.  If not for this diet I would have stopped to sample a bite.

The toll booths for the river crossing came into view so I pulled to the side to pre stage.  I scoured my pockets for a couple of dollars and placed them in the right arm zipper of the Roadcrafter.  I left my gloves on the dash to save time at the booth.  I don't have the toll booth thing down as well as ChrisK yet.  That joker glides in, removes glove, gets out tokens, throws it in, puts glove back on and zips up without ever missing a beat. 
Pulling into the booth I knew to watch for oil slicks.

In the crossroads town of Hillsdale, I gassed up at Chevron gas mart.  When I finished I went inside for a diet drink.  The clerk had a country station on the radio, that was playing Alan Jackson.  Felt like back home.  Good to see southern culture make its way all the way here.

After paying up, I finished off the rest of New York rather quickly.  Several boroughs and towns dotted the route as I went the final few miles.  I crossed into Massachusetts by mid afternoon.

Near Great Barrington, I took SR 41 north toward the Berkshires.  I passed houses with wooden plaques on them pertaining to their history.  "Boardman House 1760," so there, our house is older than yours."  You get a lot of that in New England.  

The highway gently flowed along and I found myself locked down.  Speed limits on Mass and Connecticut back roads (if you can call anything in these states as back roads) is 50 mph.  In reality, it would not be safe to try them any faster.  They are narrow and full of blind driveways and lines of cars.

SR 41 carried me through the Western Massachusetts woods.  I didn't want to go into Pittsfield so I took US 20 and went briefly back into New York.  I came back into Mass on SR 43. 

A church in Hancock was having a fall festival so I stopped to check it out.  A long line of vendors had booths set up trying to sell things.  Most of it looked like flea market items to me.  A dunking booth was doing a brisk business, as was the apple bobbing window.  All through the area I noted the distinct Mass accent.  "We gotta get back to the cah."  "Tell them not to paak thah."  I dared not open my mouth in such surroundings.  A tractor pulled a hay ride wagon across the road to a pumpkin patch.  It was loaded down when it left the church.  All in all, it looked as if everyone was having a good time.
​These youngsters were having a grand time in the pumpkin

After strolling the area for 15 minutes I got back on the road and headed for my intended stopping point of the day in Williamston.  When I arrived in the city it took me all of about 5 minutes to pass on staying.  

Williamston is a small New England college town.  My route went by the campus of Williamston College and students were everywhere.  They made their way about on bicycles or walking.  A herd of kids wearing turtlenecks and wool sweaters swept by me while I was parked at a traffic light.  I rode a little further into town and in all my travels have never felt more out of place.  I could sense people starring at me and thinking, "What are YOU doing here?"  Although I never stopped to check, I'm sure the motels were beyond my budget, so I kept riding east to see what else was down the road.

What else down the road was North Adams, another college town with the same feel as Williamston.  This town was home to the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, the name should tell you everything you need to know.   The thing I find most funny about these places, is how the people here genuinely believe the rest of the country is out of touch with things.  They think they're right and everyone else is wrong, we are the country's elite, and know what's best for everyone is the belief.  The fact Ted Kennedy cannot campaign outside the state should tell them something.  It is no coincidence Kerry has not asked TK to stand with him on any platform outside of New England.  The great thing about America you can elect anybody you want to represent you, and if these good folks are way left wing that's their business, I love them just the same, they are MY countrymen.

Perplexed at what to do next, I rolled into a McDonalds for a diet coke.  I learned to like McDonalds for butt breaks on the west coast tour, because they offered a place to sit, and on a day like today I could get out of the cold.

I brought in my atlas and looked over the options.  It was obvious I was out of place in Northwest Mass.  I was at the turnaround point for the trip.  It was my intention to spend the night here, and turn south for home the next morning.  But my current line of thinking is to turn south today, and start making my way to the Blue Ridge.  I took out the Motel 6 directory to find the first unit south of here- near Hartford, Connecticut.  It would mean riding Mass north to south, how far is that?  Twenty miles?  One good thing about New England, the next state is never too far away.

After booking a room at the Motel 6 I loaded up and headed south.  I took comfort that temps should began to rise a little more each hour riding south.  I left North Adams with a good feeling to be heading home.  My direction would generally be south for the next few days.

The road south was SR 8.  

Though I really didn't need gas, I stopped in Adams to top off the tank, just so I could ride to Hartford non stop.

The owner saw my tag and said, "you rode all the way from Alabama?" 

"Yes sir did."

The clouds came back and they dampened by spirit.  The temp was still holding steady at 48, as the 1300 ferried me south.  SR 8 is a fine example why riding the back roads of the New England is limited.  Just too much going on.  Traffic, shopping centers, houses and driveways, no clear highway to really get anywhere.  But despite that the New England color was perfect.  Just like you see in the movies.  I had a good ride south to Connecticut
​SR 8 brushed against this lake somewhere in Southern Mass.
Moving south, I broke through the cloud blanket that had plagued me the last few days.  Blue sky was a welcome sight.

I followed SR 8 through the forests and villages and then saw a WELCOME TO CONNECTICUT sign.  What? That was all there was to Massachusetts?  It seemed I should go back for another swipe, but no, I kept on south.  
SR 8 morphed from a quiet road in Mass, to a full fledged expressway in Connecticut.  Cars were zipping by me at all kinds of crazy speeds, but something told me NOT to speed.  The little voice I've come to respect was begging my attention, and I listened up, leaving the the 13 on 70 mph.  A good thing, a car that just a half mile before blew by at 80+ was ambushed by a trooper in a blind curve.  I saw the cruiser leap out for him when he shot by.

In Terryville I left 8 for SR 72, and bogged down in the suburbs surrounding Hartford.  In fact, all of Connecticut is a suburb.  The sun was out full and even though it was only 49 it felt warmer in the sunshine.
The route carried me through Bristol, and I saw the massive offices for ESPN.  It was surrounded by satellite receivers that looked to be begging for ET to phone in.  I stopped and took a phone picture of the place and sent it off to my son.  He practically watches ESPN 24 hours a day.

I moved back in the line of cars and trucks till I found I-84 West.  Once on the interstate the motel was no problem to find.  The freeway ramps in Connecticut were extra dangerous with debris and oil, but I was ready.  I knew better than to try and lean them.

It was late afternoon when I checked in, the sun was almost gone and it was getting cold.  I've not been able to run since Youngstown, because of my late arrivals and cold temps.  I had none of my cold weather running gear with me, and after being chilled most of the day, I wasn't up to anymore after I checked in.  I was feeling sluggish and fat after several days of not running.  A good sign I've turned the corner on the getting in shape thing.

It was a 360 mile day.

After a hot shower I took a walk to a nearby Chilli's for supper.  I found a seat in the bar area and ordered a chicken and rice concoction.   The establishment has some of the best chips and salsa around but I HAD to skip.  I'm beginning to impress myself with my willpower.  While I ate supper, I called home and station one.  The latter to check on a possible cost of living raise.  Chief Tucker advised it didn't look good.  I can't complain in light of my windfall 2 years ago, but if we go too many years without COLAs the city will be doing a new pay plan.  I guess I'll never get the next COLA, I don't plan to be working next October, but I still have my merit raise in January to look forward to.

I looked kind of spiffy in my white turtleneck, jeans and Nikes.

I hung around after eating, making notes, watching the ballgame, and laying out the ride to Virginia.  I actually have a day to kill.  I could easily be in Northern Virginia and at my in laws house by tomorrow afternoon, but they've just returned from Alabama late today.  I'd feel bad about crashing on them before they get settled in.  I'll just have an easy day tomorrow, and spend the night somewhere in the Philly area, and arrive at David's on Thursday as planned.  I could stay with Uncle Boots, but they deserve a break too.

While checking my atlas I noticed an area on the New York-Connecticut line that might need checking out.  The area is called Bulls Bridge.  The map says a nice covered bridge is there.  I'll stop for a visit, then go to New Jersey via 287.  The route might be a little longer, but should keep me out of the congestion in the south near 95.
When I made it back to the room I broke out my DVD player and watched the "The Lost," a TV show that I recorded last week.  Good show.  After that I checked the weather- going to be perfect.  I deserved it after the last few days.

Sleep came quickly.  I fell asleep looking forward to meeting my friends in the Blue Ridge in a couple of days.