Day 6
October 12th, 2004
Southington, Connecticut

Today is the day I start the trip back south in earnest.  Gone are the bleak skies of the last few days, replaced by a glowing sun and blue sky.

I was in no hurry to get on the road.  The Philly area is not that far, and I have plenty of time.  Last spring I spent the night at the Motel 6 near Valley Forge, so I decided to shoot for the same today.  I've been through the area a few times over the years, because its really the only way to get to Virginia from here.  I hope to get to Philly a little early, and check out some of the historical sites I've been missing.

After sleeping late I finally loaded and got on the road around 9am.  I'm so worthless on fall trips.  The fall ride is an entirely different ride than my West Coast Tours.  The pace is much slower, and a little less hectic.  Up here I don't really feel that far from home.  If I wanted, I could be home with just 1 Iron Butt ride.  

I-84 West was semi busy when I entered the freeway, I was kind of surprised.  I expected more congestion, but apparently everyone had something else to do.  I took a short ride ( EVERY ride in Ct. is short) through Waterbury and exited for US 6 to pick up SR 67 North.  I wanted to visit the Bull Bridge area before moving on to New York and New Jersey.

The temp was 53 degrees and rising. 

On the outskirts of Southbury, a large sign for a hospital was advertising their OB GYN services.  It said something about a friendly staff and modern equipment.  Contrary to what many abroad think, it is possible to receive free health care in America.  Just go to the ER and say you need to see the doctor.  Reading the sign reminded me of the hospital my nephew was born.  My sister in law had a private room, bath, color TV with recorders, furniture, carpet and who knows what else.  It was like a hotel room.  She had round the clock care by a team of nurses and doctors.   She also had good insurance.

I took SR 47 north, one of the quieter Connecticut roads.  The foliage was outstanding.  I picked a great day for a ride.  Along SR 47 I felt long removed from the day I rode across US 50 in Nevada.  Gone were the wide open spaces of the Great American West, where the roads appear never ending.  I moved along 47 thinking about the out of the way crossroad towns that line so many highways out there.  Places where only a few hundred live, and once your ride out, you might not see another for 100 miles.  Roads a Long Rider can cruise at 100 mph safely.  Living here would take some of the fun out of riding.  Hard to be alone with your thoughts because of the constant assault of urban sprawl and dumb cage drivers.  It is just too crowded, and on top of that it gets cold here.  The brothers that battle this traffic and weather are special.  I think their appreciation is greater of what it means to ride free, than those of us who take good roads and weather for granted.  The things they do to ride would put most of us on the sideline.

Everyone's image of Connecticut contains rustic green landscape, thick trees, and country roads.  You can thank the movies for that. In the movies it seemed everyone was always leaving the city for a weekend visit to Connecticut.  But in reality, the state is full of ranch houses, shopping centers, and cars.  I maneuvered the 1300 through lines of towns and villages.  Large trees shuffled leaves to the ground and owners were busy raking and blowing.   There is always something going on here.

A school bus trapped me near Roxbury.  I had no room or place to make a pass.  The vehicle was empty, and I had no idea as to where he was going.  I didn't even know they had public schools here, I figured everyone went to private or one those prep school things.

New Milford was a typical New England town.  White churches with steeples, a decorative courthouse, and stores with wood signs.  Colorful trees stood watch over the roadways.  

Before I knew it I was in the Bull Bridge area.  In Connecticut you can cover huge distances on maps in minutes, so pay no attention to the things you see on the map.  The scale in my atlas is 1 inch=10 miles, and its not that many inches across the state.

The narrow road to Bull Bridge and New York was across the street from a store I was taking a butt break at.  A break after a 40 miles?  Hey I'm on vacation.  I pulled a diet Dew from the cooler, and found a granola bar because I was out of Cliff Bars.  The store had a nice table out front, and I  took a seat to enjoy the fine morning.  Soon after starting my break, a young man in a truck pulled to the back and started in.  He had on a Red Sox cap.  I pointed to the road and asked him, " look here, ya reckon that road yonder will take me to New York?"  He responded in a yankee accent, " Yes, just follow it to 22, its easy."  "Thanks."  I called Debbie and sent my son a text message. 

It was still cool, but it was warming up nicely.  I was happy to have a bright fall sun.

The road in question was just like the map, no signs or route markings.  It was displayed in the atlas as only a line to New York after crossing Bull Bridge.  I had to take it on faith, and the Red Sox fan, that it would work.
Bull Bridge can be seen from the highway, and on this quiet morning only 1 other fan was on the scene.  She was taking pictures on the west side, and although not for sure, I think she snapped one of me in the bridge.
The area surrounding the bridge was quiet by Connecticut standards.  Thick woods and trees were on both sides of the creek.  The dominant color was yellow.  Covered bridges are a fascination to many, and Bull is a worthy ride for those so inclined.
​Bull Bridge
When I finished the bridge pictures I figured it was time to move on to New York.  The small local road was home to white wood frame houses, that were too small to be in Connecticut.  Tricycles and other playthings were scattered on the front lawns of a couple of homes near the state line.  The short ride from the bridge to New York was excellent.   A fall painting of a typical New England ride could not reproduce the scene I was in.  
​Across the bridge, and through the woods, on to NY I go.
I was kind of sad when I left Connecticut, because soon I was going to be on the interstates.  As much as I love back road riding, in this part of the country, they are tied to ugly urban sprawl.  The congestion around Jersey and New York does not afford many back road ramblings.  Venturing off the freeways inside of I-287 will only stick you in piles of traffic lights and shopping centers.   

Leaving Connecticut I went to SR 22 South in New York.  The route started off good, but the closer I got to 287, the thicker the traffic.  I had to fight my through long lines of cars trying to get south.  The places in and around here, were not the quaint boroughs like further north, but modern suburbs, and all that go with them.

SR 22 dropped me off on I-84, and I took the interstate west.  My plan is to stay on 84 till I-87, and turn south there.  I knew it was the long way, but taking this course took me around the congestion inside the 287 loop.  It proved to be a good strategy, I had a quick and unencumbered ride.  I didn't even have to ride the far left lane, traffic was minimal.

I crossed the Hudson near Newburgh.  I know when I cross the river I'm out of New England.  A few miles later I turned south on I-87.  Traffic picked up, but it was still manageable.  The wind also picked up, but it was nothing like last year when ChrisK and I (the Black Knight) came through this area. 

Toll booth workers are some of the unhappiest people on the planet.  Those standing guard over 87 were no exception.  I had staged prior to entering the line to speed things up the best I could.  But I had NO idea how much the toll was going to be, so I had to make sure I had enough in the sleeve pocket, which meant stuffing bills and coins in it, that would have to be sorted later.

I pulled to the booth and asked how much, but couldn't hear the response because of earplugs, so asked him to repeat it.  A dark complexion guy with thick black hair, shouted and pointed at the digital readout, "ARE YOU BLIND??"  "No, but sometimes bikes are half."  "WELL NOT HERE."  I don't recall the toll, but I remember having to dig past several larger bills to get close to the correct amount.  " HURRY UP YOU'RE BACKING TRAFFIC." 

"Look I'm not from here, and not very good at this, I'm doing the best I can."  I handed over the money and took my change, then had to zip everything back up, and put my glove back on.  The whole procedure took less than a minute.  " I DON'T BELIEVE THIS, " the guy screamed.  I think he was just pissed off because he was stuck in that toll booth all day and I was out riding the country.

I-287 was the next freeway, the outside loop around everything else.  Things were busy, and I piloted the 1300 to far left.  I feel safest there because I only have one side to watch, and it removes me from the merging going on at the far right lanes.  I can also run a little faster than the flow, which keeps you out of trouble if things back up.

Traffic clipped along near 80 mph, and it was hard to keep a cushion with the guy in front of me.  Drivers on this day thought nothing of a bumper to bumper 80 mph train.  Less then 1 car length separated many of them.   All it took was just one joker to do something stupid and it was going to be ugly.  I gave the car in front of me at least 2 seconds, but the guys behind me couldn't stand it.  They would pass me on the right then come back in front of me.   Why they did this I don't know.  I was matching the speed of the next car, they were just as fast behind me, as they were in front, I know what I'm doing.  When they cut over in front, I gave them the same 2 seconds as I did the other, till someone else did the same thing later.  It was frustrating.

In thick expressway traffic, at high speeds, I often use my "soft vision" on the guy immediately in front, and look 4-5 cars ahead.  This tactic allows me to see stuff before it happens.  It has been my experience traffic can back up quickly on these things, and if you're not looking ahead you might find yourself in a panic stop from 80 mph.  Its imperative to know what's going on further up, because if you judge only by the guy in front, you might be too late.  Most ABS equipped cages can stop quicker, and if he jams the brakes quickly you may not be able to avoid hitting him.  Nothing could be a worse than watching the bumper of some vehicle grow closer as you slide into him.
I followed 287 to 78 and turned west for Pennsylvania.  I noticed here the difficulty of getting off, then back on the interstate.  I stopped for gas in Lebanon, which entailed following a boulevard to Main Street.  There were no easy off, easy on, con stores or gas marts near the ramps.  After gassing in Lebanon I had to follow signs back to 78 west.  The ramp I exited only served east bound.  The west bound reentry was 3 miles away.

From Lebanon it was a short ride to Allentown.  A  wayward sign directed me off 78 to surface streets.  It didn't appear to be the correct way, and my doubts grew more serious in nature when I failed to see a confirmation sign for the longest.  Why I doubted, I don't know, I was about to give up and return to 78 when I found the 476, right where they said it would be.

I pulled my ticket from the booth and pulled away from the plaza, I left the screen down because it was such a pretty day, and after so many days in the cold, I wanted to feel the wind on my face.  The miles to Philadelphia went quickly.

When I was a child Philadelphia was the 3rd largest city in America, but more than a few years ago, LA pushed it back to 4th.  I remember passing through the city in our station wagon when we left New York City to visit my Uncle Boots.  We planned our vacations around my aunts and uncles (both sides) because they offered a free place to spend the night.  My dad HATED to spend money on motels.  I recall passing through endless miles of downbeat ghettos with black kids playing in the streets.  People were lounging on the steps of tenements, and over running trash cans lined the sidewalks.  It was the poorest place I'd ever seen, and I couldn't wait to get the hell out.  I squatted low in the car at traffic lights.

That was many years ago.  Things have changed the last few years.  Much of the past has been cleaned up, though there are still remnants.   Today, the 1300 and I float over and through the city on the interstate without ever setting a tire down.  I thought about taking one of the Center City (in Philly, downtown is referred to as Center City) exits and taking a look at Independence Hall, but I grew disinclined at that notion with rush hour approaching.  

I recalled a Comfort Inn at the King of Prussia exit so went there looking for a place to spend the night.  Most Comforts have a fitness room, and I wanted to use the treadmill.  It has been a few days since my last run, but if I could get my mid week 6 mile run in, it would be a huge psychological boost.  The main item I was missing was my bicycle, I've grown to love my Trek as much as my Hondas and I longed to take it on nice ride.

The 476, 76, 422, and 202 interchange is mass confusion.  The 1300 and I worked our way around to position ourselves for the correct exit.  Drivers all around me looked confused and desperate.  Everyone was exchanging glances trying to get in the proper lanes for the route they needed.  The quick steering 1300 flicked confidently as I threaded my way through the traffic, it inspired confidence with its ABS brakes, quick steering, and nimbleness (for a loaded touring bike).  I did everything correctly, and was soon parking in front of the Comfort Inn at King of Prussia after a 268 mile day.  A definite step up from the Motel 6.

I was on the second floor and unloading was not as easy, I used one of the luggage things in the lobby to bring my gear up.  I was off the road early and planned on enjoying it.

After relaxing for an hour I suited up and went to the pseudo fitness center.  The treadmill was a cheap looking unit from Sears, that I suspected would not last 6 miles.  Still, I needed to run so fired it up.  It did ok, but the safety key was magnetic, 3 times it dropped off shutting the belt down while I was in mid stride.  I almost broke my neck.  I turned the TV on Fox News and went to work.

About 30 minutes into my workout a man came in and asked how much longer.  I said, "about 30 minutes."  He turned around real sad looking, as if I had just told him I found his wallet, but NOT a thing was inside it.  He kept sticking his head back in every 10 minutes, but it didn't change anything.  I did my full workout, despite being dumped off the belt 3 times.

When I finished I took a walk over to a nearby gas mart for some diet dew and a USA Today.  I still had time to kill.  I clicked the TV on and took a 30 minute nap.  

I was just about to get in the shower when my phone rang.  

" heyyyyyyyy Bamarider whats up?"  It was Sal Landa.  

"Not much brother, watcha dewin?" 

"At work, just checkin with ya, I'm leaving in the morning to start the ride to the Blue Ridge".

"Thats great.  But I don't think any those boys from up north are gonna be able to make it, the weather and other stuff kinda scaring them off.  But I'm sure you and I will have a big time if nothin else"

"where ya at now?"


"You're so awesome"

"Thats what everyone keeps tellin me"

I cleaned up then took a stroll down the street to a place known by all Long Riders-Hooters.  I go just for the wings.

A typical Hooter waitress took my order for a disgustingly healthy grilled chicken sandwich.  All the TVs were on ESPN and I caught the commentary about the baseball games currently going on.  

I called my son and had a long conversation with him.  He had a busy day at Progressive and was out of the office most of the day helping his adjusters.  He told me about a guy with new a Porsche that had been hit.  The man was so distraught he could not leave the house.   He hadn't even made the first payment on it.  The adjuster worked the numbers, but it was going to cost so much to repair, he had to go up the chain of command.  Chris advised the total was beyond what he could approve and HE had to request his boss to look at it the next day.
A delicate walk back to the motel followed supper.  It was dark, and the sidewalks were under construction, but I made it without stepping off in a hole.

I stayed up late watching TV because I have a easy ride in the morning.  I have every intention to take advantage of it.  I might not get up till 10am.