Sun Aug 30, 2020
I had a new front tire to scrub in and needed some saddle time to prepare for a big ride planned in late September. With my riding time/miles curtailed this year due to the pandemic and various event cancellations, I decided to take advantage of a beautiful Sunday weather forecast to knock out my next in-state Saddlesore (1000 miles in 24 hrs) around my home state of Massachusetts.
Being no huge fan of riding interstate for its own sake, and being a fan of geography and maps, I’ve latched onto the idea of routing my in-state rides as closely as possible (and feasible) to each state’s borders, as I did in New York state and Florida. This promises to get me a better feel for each state’s terrain and character from the state highways and back roads off the well-worn superslab. Plus it looks pretty cool on spotwalla.com to see the shape of the state you just rode around. 🙂
I’d already created a general route plan in Basecamp for this ride, and just needed to do some minor tweaking and double-check gas station hours for my planned stops. This ride would require two non-identical circuits around Massachusetts, including one out-and-back run to Provincetown on the tip of Cape Cod. Each lap would require five stops to document the major “corners” of the route, plus my start/end point near home, which is right along the route.
Being a bit out of practice, and planning for a start at 03:00, I woke at 02:15 Sunday morning to down some coffee and get my shit together. I was a bit late getting out the door due to yet another Garmin GPS issue. My repetitive Saddlesore route would not show up on the unit for some reason after importing it. How many times have I told myself to actually check the damn route on the device after copying over from the computer!? I finally had to split it into two separate trips of one lap each to get it loaded properly.
It was a mild night with temperatures in the high 60s, and very comfortable after the recent bout of heatwaves we experienced this year. I rode the few miles to my designated 24-hour gas station to fill my tanks and get my receipt to officially start the clock at 03:29.
The ride down I-495 and MA 25 to Cape Cod passed quickly and uneventfully as I continued to rise into wakefulness. I crossed the Bourne Bridge and skirted the canal on route 6A to pick up US 6 for the haul to the outer Cape. I’d made this nighttime run once before, during a Minuteman 1000 rally and knew I wasn’t missing much scenery – US 6 is a divided four-lane through a tunnel of short pine trees until the rotary at the inner “elbow” in Orleans. I could also expect little in the way of traffic or traffic enforcement at this hour until route 6 turned into local roads.
I cruised north up the outer Cape at just a few over the limit, alerted to the expected local cops waiting in each each town by my V1 detector. The eastern sky grew lighter as I reached Provincetown and pulled into the Cumbie’s that had just opened for the day for my documentation receipt.
I snapped a couple shots of the pre-sunrise sky over Pilgrim Lake as I motored back the way I’d come on US 6. Venus was extremely prominent in the sky at that hour and you can see it right at the top of my photo.
As I entered the rotary in Orleans one again, I was struck solidly in the chest by something dark that bounced away before I could get a good look – a bird most likely! Hopefully, that would be the extent of any wildlife encounters on this ride.
As daylight came on, it was an easy run back along the Cape and crossed the Sagamore Bridge to continue north on MA 3 toward Boston. On the usually busy I-93 expressway, there were some early risers sharing the road with me, but it was still basically wide open. This is about the only time of day you would ever want to be motorcycling this close to Boston!
After emerging from the tunnel and crossing the Zakim bridge, I veered onto US 1 to head northeast over the Tobin Bridge and then up to catch I-95 to my northeast corner stop in Amesbury. The Circle K I’d chosen was on the wrong side of the divided street, so I pulled into another station on my side. After filling up, I discovered that due to Covid, they had no available restroom for the public nor any hot breakfast sandwiches to tame my growing peckishness. Frustratingly, the nearby McDonald’s was also take-out only, so I improvised like any good LD rider and inspected the weeds behind a convenient dumpster.
I proceeded down I-495 and picked up MA 2 for the long and more scenic run out to western MA. A McDonalds in Greenfield finally provided the hot morning sustenance I so desperately needed, in the form of a McMuffin, which I scarfed happily, standing by the bike in the parking lot. Sometimes Clif Bars just don’t suffice.
The popular big Indian gift shop in Shelburne Falls was closed up and completely devoid of cars when I pulled in for a photo op.
Now on the Mohawk Trail section of route 2, I enjoyed the riding much more through the scenic Berkshires region of Massachusetts. I got stuck for a few miles behind a couple low cages, but took advantage of a passing zone (yes, there are still a few in the state!) to get around them and enjoy at least some of the fast curves up to elevation through Mohawk Trail State Forest. Temperatures cooled down to 61F or so at the top (oddly enough in the town of Florida), and I zipped up my vents to stay comfortable.
After rounding the famous Hairpin curve, I descended into North Adams where views of Mt. Greylock were blocked by low cloud cover. Riding up to the highest point in MA with a picnic lunch might make a nice side trip for this ride, but I hadn’t included it in my planning and it seemed visibility would be limited anyway.
I stopped off at a small dumpy Gulf mart/gas station in Williamstown and had to go inside for my receipt (on both laps). I later discovered that both receipts from this location’s cash register were off by 1:26.
Aside from the gas stop, Williamstown appears a very neat and orderly little town, particular going through Williams College, with its striking older architecture and well manicured grounds keeping.
I picked up US 7 southbound and enjoyed more Berkshires scenery for the next several miles as it skirts the western side of Greylock State Reservation.
I should have planned better for Pittsfield. For some reason I always forget how slow and congested it can be, with lots of stoplights. Looking my route over now, I would probably try to go west on local roads around the two lakes and avoiding downtown, to pick up MA 41 south through Richmond and West Stockbridge.
I had planned my southwest corner stop to be in Lee, before picking up I-90 to head back east, so I dealt with the city traffic and continued south on US 7. However, during the ride I’d second-guessed my plan and began thinking that the spot track would look a bit better (and the ride more interesting) if I continued down to Great Barrington and paralleled the southern MA border on state route 57 to Springfield. So I ignored Ms. Garmin and stayed on US 7 for a few more miles to a Mobil station in Great Barrington.
After double-checking the GPS map, I picked up MA 183 to MA 57 in Southfield. 57 is a great road in terms of curves and scenery, through a very quiet rural corner of the state – however, it has needed paving for a few years now and is easily one of the worst condition paved roads I’ve seen in the northeast. Miles of the road west of Tolland have actual trenches right up the middle of the lanes where pavement is missing and weeds have taken hold. Nonetheless, it beat riding the slab and became a lot nicer to ride at the Tolland town line all the way east to Agawam. I think it added about 50 minutes to my ETA at the next stop.
Hitting the interstate system again in Springfield, I blasted I-90 east back to I-495 south and hit my next fuel stop in the now-bustling suburb of Hopkinton, where the Boston marathon starts each year. I took care of business quickly and continued south.
I passed right on by my start location, not needing a receipt there until the ride’s end, and began my second circuit of the state. I didn’t need to hit Provincetown again, but my original route took me back out on the Cape as far as Orleans MA to ensure I had enough miles to qualify for the Saddlesore certification. Having re-calculated on the fly during the ride, I realized I could turn just short of crossing the canal, to avoid the usual Sunday afternoon bridge traffic, and still secure enough mileage.
This time, I took US 6 along the north edge of the canal and made my southeast stop in Sagamore Beach, part of Bourne. I finished off my PB&J sandwich here and swigged a five hour energy drink.
Despite avoiding the dreaded bridges, returning Cape traffic was heavy northbound on route 3 this time. In the Norwell area it started packing up and I used every trick I could to keep moving before finally exiting on Derby Street in Weymouth to find a workable detour. I picked my way through local roads in Braintree and regained the highway just before the merge onto I-93. Traffic remained heavy but at least kept moving for the several miles up to the tunnel under Boston, where my foot finally touched down a couple times in the jam. Who’s brilliant idea was this ride, again?
I exited on US 1 again and enjoyed the fresher air blowing through the Tobin Bridge after the stuffiness of the tunnel. At my Amesbury stop, my Visa started declining transactions (probably due to the small repetitive purchase pattern) and I switched to another card.
Now I caught more heavy traffic on I-495 southbound, this time all the folks coming back from having a wonderful weekend up in Maine. It was frustrating, but kept moving and I realized that Saturday would have made a much better day of the week to complete this ride within the summer season. MA 2 was also busier than this morning’s lap, but got better the further west I rode towards the blinding setting sun.
On the Mohawk Trail section, I found myself stuck behind a line of several vehicles for a few miles. This time, I broke free well before the good parts and had a magnificent uninterrupted run up through the forested curves. It was just before sunset so the sun was low behind the hills and no longer blinding me at every turn. By the time I hit the hairpin on my descent, the traffic frustrations were well behind me.
I turned the corner once more in Williamstown and enjoyed the same stretch of US 7 south, this time with the inflated almost-full moon perched in the sky just above Mt. Greylock to my left. A gorgeous sight, though I missed taking a photo while chatting on the phone.
It was getting dark by the time I hit Pittsfield for the second time today. This time through, there was little traffic and I must have hit every single green light in my path. At my Great Barrington stop, night had fallen and I decided that running MA 57’s terrible pavement in the dark wouldn’t be much fun at this point in the ride. I secured my southwest receipt and followed the fastest path Garmin would take me east to Hopkinton – basically a few miles back north to access the Mass Pike in Lee. Even the pike was fairly busy with end-of-weekend traffic, enough to prevent using cruise control for any meaningful length of time.
I completed my stop in Hopkinton quickly and finished off the final 27 miles or so to secure my ending receipt at 22:18, roughly 19 hours after setting off this morning. While I hadn’t explored any new roads and the second lap had proven a bit frustrating with the eastern traffic, it was satisfying to complete my mission to log some needed LD saddle time and keep my ridecraft from getting too rusty.