American Pie in the Housatonic Valley

Local loop
Sunday September 26, 2021
(~441 miles)

Sherman, Connecticut is a quiet hamlet near the western border with New York, in the Housatonic River Valley. I’d had my eye on a particular bakery/restaurant there, called American Pie Company, for a couple years now, after seeing some riders post about it on the New England Riders group for a Ride-to-Eat event. It’s a three hour ride from my house, and I wanted to indulge in their breakfast fare for my first visit, particularly the potato pancakes listed on the menu. That meant an early start and long day of riding – my favorite!

My buddy Gerry was a available to meet for a late morning Sunday meal, with some fun riding afterwards. I checked the NER website for nearby suggestions and decided on the Housatonic Valley Ride, which I had not ridden yet. We’d had a weather system rolling through overnight, but the rain was petering out as I prepped to go, and had all but stopped by the time I rolled out of the driveway around 07:00.

bike at Dunkin in ThomastonI took the I-295 loop over to pick up US-6 west of Providence. It was a coolish ride into Connecticut, dipping down to 57 degrees over the hills at the RI border, but it felt brisk and refreshing after the mostly warm temps we’d been seeing. It quickly became sunny with clear blue skies as the lingering clouds moved past me to the east. I’d remembered to remove the top box this morning, which does seem to make the bike handle more lightly, and I was feelin the groove on early morning roads with the ST humming smoothly beneath me.

On the far side of Hartford, I stayed on US 6 when it diverges from the interstates, continuing due west through Farmington and Bristol. Not being too familiar with this part of the state, I unwittingly passed through many sections of commercial strip malls and traffic lights – my least favorite place to be on two wheels. Happily, it was early enough on a Sunday morning when most shops were still closed and traffic was light, so I breezed through the area with nary any delay.

Gerry was meeting me at the restaurant, but a Dunkin Donuts in Thomaston serves as the starting point for the NER ride, so I pulled in there briefly to stretch my legs for a minute. Just down the road, the route picks up CT 109 (BONE), which provided many miles of great curvy riding through rural scenery. The pavement was generally good condition, though there were a few bumpy sections. Sunday drivers had started to hit the road and there weren’t many passing zones, but I passed where it was safe to continue enjoying the morning.

After passing through Morris, I noticed a largish lake to the north of the route and decided to make a short exploratory detour to check it out, since I was running a bit ahead of schedule. I pulled a uey and headed north on 209 for a couple miles along the western side of Bantam Lake, with a couple nice views of the water near the southern end.

Bantam Lake

the faster guys live over in Hartford…

When I breezed into the sleepy little village of Washington Depot, I was struck by the close, tucked-away feel and picturesque geography of the place, and had to stop again, to grab a few photos by the Shepaug River.

churches in Washington Depot CT

Dueling churches…a common arrangement in many New England towns

Washington Town Hall

big cow statue

Old Boardman BridgeContinuing on 109 for several more miles, it finally dumped me out on US 202 in New Milford. Here I detoured off the NER route, south through the center of town to cross the mighty brown Housatonic River itself. Turning northwest on US 7 along the river, I spotted a cool looking bridge and had to pull in for a look-see.

The Old Boardman Bridge is a striking bit of architecture, built in the brief period of history where wrought iron was used to replace older wooden structures, before steel took over. It carried horse-and-buggy traffic and then automobiles for over a century until being replaced by the modern span right next to it. There are apparently plans to restore it eventually for pedestrian/cycle traffic. I could just picture another “Bridge of Flowers” scene here, a la Shelburne Falls MA.

Old Boardman Bridge

Old Boardman Bridge

Old Boardman Bridge

the mighty Housatonic

After getting my fill of the bridge, I crossed back over the river and picked up CT 37 which winds up and over some low hills in big sweepers to get over to Sherman. I was stuck behind a particularly slow-moving vehicle doing exactly the 30mph limit, so I didn’t get to really enjoy these well-paved curves that much. On the way down the other side, about 30 Porches come by in the oncoming lane – apparently out for a club ride, so must be a popular road for sports car enthusiasts.

American Pie in the Housatonic ValleySherman is so small, that I kind of rode right through the center of town without even realizing it. I also missed the entrance for the restaurant itself, having imagined it being right in a “Main Street” sidewalk setting. It was actually set back from the road a bit with a couple other businesses, backed up against some woodsy hillside parkland. I lucked out with a parking spot front and center, and spotted Gerry walking over as I killed the ignition and doffed my gear.

The place was doing a brisk business for Sunday breakfast, and there were people waiting to be seated, though the line wasn’t absurd.  We put our name on the waiting list and went into the bakery entrance to scope out important matters first…pie. And my oh my, what an abundance of pie! I think I stopped breathing for a moment or two, as sensory overload hit me. The show cases were stacked full of just about every kind of pie you could imagine, from fruit fillings to refrigerated cream pies. There were also trays of cannoli and other assorted pastries and cookies available for sale. Please excuse my overindulgence of photos that follows.

bakery counter at American Pie Co

cookies and pastriescream pies and pastries

stacks of pies

outdoor tent dining areaWe seem to have arrived at a good time, between the breakfast and lunch crowds, and it wasn’t long before the host came to seat us.  The restaurant interior itself is fairly small and close, but they had a sizeable outdoor eating section in place under a big white tent, like so many establishments have done for the pandemic. I’m guessing this move worked out pretty well for small popular places like this (the ones who survived), as they have doubled their available table capacity as the distancing restrictions have eased up (at least until cold weather hits). When our name was called, we chose the outdoor area, as the morning had warmed up rather nicely by now.

I ordered a simple breakfast combo that included the potato pancakes, served with sour cream and the restaurant’s famous “hot spiced apples”. Gerry opted for regular buttermilk pancakes with a side of the potato pancakes to sample as well.

breakfast with potato pancakes

We enjoyed a nice breakfast, and both enjoyed the potato pancakes. Gerry said his regular pancakes were good and came with real maple syrup, to boot. The spiced apples were yummy, but had cooled down too much by the time the reached the table. I’ll ask to have them heated up just before serving next time I’m back here.

After settling our tab, I headed back inside and purchased a pie to enjoy later at home. I selected a specimen of the strawberry-rhubarb variety, and the friendly staff was happy to apply extra tape to the box after I explained I was traveling by motorcycle. After securing my precious cargo in a saddle bag, we kicked some tires a bit while Gerry showed off his newly acquired GSA, along with the seriously bright aux lighting he’d added so far.

We linked up our Sena headsets and pulled out of the lot to begin our ride around 11:30. We headed back over the hills and skirted north of downtown New Milford to pick up the NER route from US 202. We followed some local farm roads north by the West Aspetuck River, then looping up and around Iron Mountain Preserve, pulling over for a beautiful view of a lovely vale.

view near Iron Mountain

clock tower in Sharon CT

Sharon CT

At US 7 in Bull’s Bridge, there was a bit of traffic jam due to tourists stopping to see the covered bridge across the street. Luckily, we were turning right here, though I’d have liked to check out the bridge myself. Maybe next time or off-season. We followed route 7 a few mile up into Kent, where we topped off our tanks. Crossing the river, we turned on Skill Mountain Road for an enjoyable few miles of remote woods riding. We crossed into Amenia, New York for about 500 feet to pick up CT 41 (BONE), which is featured on this part of the route for many enjoyable miles up into the northwest corner of the state.

In Salisbury, we passed the town library, which we had both photographed as a bonus on the Iron Butt Rally earlier this year, bringing back memories to share as we rode on. The northern turnaround point for this ride was Beaver Dam Road, next to Fisher Pond. The roadbed runs parallel to, and lower than, the (man-made) dam creating this lovely pond, making for a nice “reverse infinity edge pool” photo op.

infinity pool view of pond

Fisher Pond view

We completed that loop back in Salisbury, then turned east, back down to the river, which we crossed into Canaan just briefly to the recommended lunch stop for this ride, the Mountainside Cafe. It looks like a cool little hole-in-the-wall place that would be a great pitstop if we hadn’t just had a big breakfast. Probably not roomy enough to accommodate a large group, and looks like they may be open for take-out only at the moment.

Crossing back over the river, we hit more nice back roads through Sharon, coming back down to the river to cross through the West Cornwall covered bridge.

West Cornwall covered bridge

road up Mohawk MountainNext up was a little out-n-back loop to nearby Mohawk Mountain State Forest. It was free entry, and the narrow lane leading us up the small mountain, was fun and picturesque.

The small lot atop the mountain was mostly empty, with a couple cars and a couple other motorcycles. The temps had reached the mid 60’s and the sky was bright blue with fluffy white clouds….perfect day to be out in the open air! We spent 15-20 min taking in the views and stretching our legs.

bikes on Mohawk Mountain

Gerry had to bail for home at this point, while I intended to finish out the route, so we said our goodbyes before gearing back up. We headed back down the curvy little road to route 4, tooted farewell, and headed in opposite directions. I headed back west through West Cornwall, crossed the covered bridge once more, and enjoyed the cruise south on US 7 for several miles, crossing the Housatonic one final time in Cornwall Bridge.

early foliage colors

Early splashes of autumn color

The route leaves 7 just past Kent Falls State Park (maybe worth a stop next time) and follows more local roads through South Kent, before crossing over the earlier leg of the route just south of Iron Mountain. I hit a bridge-out detour on Chemiske Road (yes, I rode a couple miles in to the bridge to make sure a bike couldn’t squeeze past…no way). After an easy detour, I hit CT 45 in New Preston and then pulled into a small parking lot at the south end of Lake Waramaug for a quick photo and stretch.

Lake Waramaug

West Shore Road is a lovely narrow lane winding along the lake, past small cottages and with many nice water views. Although curvy, there are lots of pedestrians and it was nice to just cruise along and enjoy the scenery here on this final portion of the ride.

West Shore RoadLake Waramaug

Completing the circuit round the lake, it was an easy few miles on CT 341 and US 202 to reach the end of the posted route in Litchfield center. This was really quite a fabulous route, one of the better overall rides I’ve done in the northeast – all due credit and thanks to NER’s Ed Conde for yet another plug-and-play day of fun. I toyed briefly with the idea of stopping in for a coffee, but it was 16:00 and I still had 120 miles to the barn. After nibbling a Clif Bar and swigging some water, I pulled back onto the roads, following Gerry’s suggestion of CT routes 118 and 4 to reach I-84 and retracing my morning’s route back east toward home.

PIE REPORT

I’m happy to report that the strawberry-rhubarb pie survived the curvy roads of western Connecticut just fine and dandy.  On top of that, as of this writing, I think it’s probably the best pie I’ve ever had yet (minus homemade of course). I can’t be sure, so I’ll have to go back again (several times should do it) to try some of the other flavors. The crust had just the right degree of flakiness and moisture. The filling was delicious, especially warmed up and served a la mode. Truly a successful and most excellent day!

strawberry-rhubarb pie

strawberry-rhubarb pie

map of todays ride

 

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