Local loop to Benson VT
Saturday Sept 4, 2021
(~ 463 miles)
As September rolled in, I hoped to keep the rider camaraderie rolling from the Yoder’s RTE I attended last month, especially after the recent news that the upcoming Void rally had been called off this year due to hotel/covid issues. I chose somewhere within reasonable distance for my New England peeps, and extended the invite to several friends from the northeast area and beyond. Even with only two days’ notice, I was happy to see some folks commit to showing up at the Wheel Inn in Benson VT, for some delicious food and great pie.
I got a nice early start, rolling out of the driveway about 06:45. There was a beautiful weather day in the forecast, but I started off with the heated liner turned on low to ward off the morning chill as I zipped up I-495, cutting over to I-195 through Bolton, and then MA 2 west for 30 miles or so. I exited in Athol, took MA 32 north through town and jogged west to pick up the NER BONE segment along Tully/Athol/Northfield/Warwick Roads. Spice bush was in bloom and crowding in comfortably on the roadway.
The last time I’d been through here in spring 2020, I remembered the pavement being fairly rough-going, and I wanted to see if it had been improved. While there were still a few rough patches, overall the route seemed better than last year, with more new pavement laid down since then. I had the roads mostly to myself and enjoyed the morning run through the woods. I found a nice little pond along Northfield Road where I stopped for a photo op and glove-swap.
In Northfield, the Garmin XT GPS tried to lead me north to my next point in Brattleboro, by taking me south and west to get on I-91. I realized what was happening just before crossing the Connecticut River on route 10 and pulled a uey to head back north on route 63 as planned. I’d spotted a local general store along the main drag and, needing a nature break, pulled in to check out Mim’s Market for myself.
Inside, it’s a well-used old-timey type of place – nothing fancy, but with a little bit o this and that for locals to pick up a few staples without traveling too far. Looks like they also do fresh-made soup and sandwiches, with a baked goods selection as well. I didn’t find a restroom, but since I was running ahead of schedule, decided to take a time-out for a coffee and piece of freshly wrapped blueberry bread. The seating on the porch wasn’t appealing, so I brought my loot over to the closed ice cream shack next door and at at one of their dew-coated picnic tables, enjoying the quiet as locals went by on their morning walk/jog.
After a nice break, I headed north through the Connecticut River valley on 63, stopping only once, to avail myself of one of the many convenient trees along the way. 😉 I joined NH 119 in Hinsdale, then crossed over into Brattleboro VT, which was just waking up for the day. I blasted several miles north on VT 30, along the scenic West River, then turned right in West Townshend to explore Windham Hill Road, which provided a quiet alternative route to the traffic/towns along part of VT 100. I did end up joining the “Vermont mother road” at Londonderry, taking 100 up through Weston, where I verged northwest, skimming alongside the Green Mountain National Forest lands on VT routes 155 and the wonderful 140, crossing US 7 in Wallingford.
In Poultney, I turned north on a few local roads that I’d picked off the map just for fun, to bypass going through the center of town. Along Lewis Road, which turns to gravel for a stretch, I spotted this roadside oddity in someone’s front yard. I’d hate to mow that lawn!
My little detour dumped me out in Castleton and I approached the lovely town of Fair Haven from the east on River Road. Waiting to pull into traffic on 22A, I spotted a BMW going by in my direction and wondered if it was one of the RTE attendees also on their way to Benson. I stopped for fuel on the north side of town, then crossed US 4, continuing north several more miles up to Benson and pulling into the small lot of the Wheel Inn, crowded with motorcycles parked semi-haphazardly, with five minutes to spare.
It was wonderful to see a nice turnout of friends on this wonderful day at a restaurant in the middle of the sticks! Ken and Felicia were there from New York. Turns out it had been Scott “Bones” Williams I’d seen back in Fair Haven, lured from his central Massachusetts village by the promise of delicious pie. Marty Cover (“oldest rookie in the 2019 Iron Butt Rally”) had left his house in Maryland at 03:00 this morning to make it here to spend time with us. Bob, Cheryl, and Minna arrived just after me, and we spent some time catching up in the parking lot as we stretched our legs.
Shortly after being seated inside by the friendly waitress, Jim Abbott and C-dog pulled up outside, dragging in with them an unsuspecting motorcyclist named Mike, who was simply out for a ride on his own today and didn’t know anything about the gathering. We made room for him at the table. Then ensued what you might call a “grande olde tyme” – fun conversation and amazing food.
I’d had a hot meal on the brain, what with the cooler morning this weather, and opted for a hot roast beef sandwich with gravy, plus a side of mashed taters, which was delicious. Their coleslaw is the best I’ve ever tasted, and I ate every bit of it.
I’d forgotten how huge the pie slices were from the last time I’d been here, and realized I should have eaten dessert first! They were out of most of the fruit pies today, so I opted for coconut cream. Damn slice was bigger than my fist! Minna was also extremely pleased with her chocolate cream pie selection.
Several of the others opted for the sounds-better-than-it-looks Triple Berry Crisp, which hopefully it tasted better than it looks (which to me is like a sad bowl of pie filling soup with a sprinkling of “crisp” on top). Marty got his dessert paid for by virtue of making the longest ride to the meetup. Char made me promise to bring her home some pie to sample, so I ordered two slices of maple walnut to go.
After a VERY filling meal and dessert, we all rolled ourselves out the door for some tire-kicking in the lot. Gradually, we suited back up, waved our farewells and headed off in various directions, into the bright afternoon. I had never ridden the NY 22 corridor along the state border through Washington and Rensselaer counties, so I pointed my front wheel south. I picked up US 4 for a few miles west and crossed into New York, soon turning onto CR-21 on the outskirts of Whitehall. This was a quiet back road through rural landscape, several miles down to Granville, where I joined NY 22 for a cruise alongside the Mettawee and Indian Rivers.
After passing through Salem, I took two short detours off 22 to look at a couple covered bridges crossing the Batten Kill River, about two miles apart. First up was the Rexleigh Bridge, a picturesque short covered bridge on a quiet local road.
After taking a couple snaps, I continued on out to route 22 again, following it south to Jackson. Making a left on CR-61, I rode a few miles until I was right on top of the waypoint, looking around for the covered bridge while crossing the Batten Kill again on a modern concrete and steel span that disguises the fact there is even a river below you. Coming to a stop sign, craned my neck around to the left, remembering vaguely that there was a covered bridge somewhere in the northeast I’d heard about that was located next to it’s replacement and used as a museum….yep, there it was! Crossing the river some 10 yards north of, and below, the current road was the Shushan Covered Bridge, built in 1858.
Back to route 22 for another mile or so into Cambridge, where I headed west on CR-59, looping southwest to where Buskirks Covered Bridge spans both the Hoosic River and the line between Washington and Rensselaer counties.
A couple miles further and I re-joined NY 22 for the enjoyable 30+ mile cruise south through the rural Taconic Range region, along the Little Hoosic River. I picked up I-90 near the Mass border for the blast homeward.