Day #14 & 15: Onward to Massachusetts

The Connecticut River – Our companion for most of our fourteenth day of riding.

We started this day off with a hotel breakfast. On the one hand, it was good to have all we could eat, and we were both impressed by the seemingly magical pancake machine that would spit out fresh-made pancakes at the press of a button. But I found all of our hotel breakfasts a bit too light on anything but sugar. Still, it was enough to get us on the road. We left a bit later in the day as today’s ride would be relatively short – only a little over 50 km, and our hosts worked during the day so we didn’t want to arrive before they got home.

The ride took us over rolling hills. I found that now that we were on our third day straight of hills our technique was getting a bit better. The hills were getting easier, and I was less disappointed to see another hill. Of course I had also learned by this time that hilly terrain didn’t just mean climbing. As Daegan became prone to sing: “What goes up, must come down…”

Leaving late meant that we actually ended up skipping our second breakfast. But with the short ride ahead we didn’t have a lot to worry about there. Still, we ended up finding a Chinese restaurant at the edge of the river and we stopped to replenish the carbohydrates we burned with white rice and the salt we sweat out with salty food. It was just what the doctor ordered.
Daegan refueled and ready to go
Still, another hour or so later, when we arrived in Putney, Daegan still was happy to have a sub at a local pizza place. We’d also found another source of energy. As I posted to the facebook page when we were on our route, we found that “energy bars” came in different forms in different places. Sure, we had actual energy bars, but when we first left we also had cinnamon raisin bagels – a nice balance between quick to metabolize fruit sugar, and slower to metabolize flour. As we went further east, we found fewer bagels. However at that point we started finding plain donuts. A little sweeter so we would get hungry faster, but they did the job. In Vermont, though, we found another kind of energy source entirely.
Instant energy
After several days in relatively quiet small towns, Brattleboro’s traffic was a bit of a surprise. Lots of cars, relatively busy streets, and stoplights! It was all pretty overwhelming but fortunately our host’s directions were good and we found our way to their beautiful farmhouse where, after we both showered, we were served a delicous barbecue dinner including sausages our hosts had made themselves. Once we were fully stuffed we spent a long time talking everything from food to politics to homeschooling, to what one of our hosts and I loved about growing up in Vermont.

After a lovely day like that it was easy to fall asleep and we both slept extremely well. The next morning we woke up bright and early, packed our things, and after a nice big breakfast (including a good degree of caffeination for me) we headed out. And almost immediately upon leaving Brattleboro we hit something disheartening. An enormous hill. And I know I said just a few paragraphs ago that I was a new man when it came to hills but my positive attitude was definitely tested here. The hill continued for seemingly forever – in reality we probably only trended upward for 60-90 minutes. Still, it was possibly our most challenging hill to date. Finally, though, we crested the hill, and rode along a ridge for a little while before our friends Blood, Sweat, and Tears turned out to be right again and what came up did, indeed, come down. At great speed, for quite a good distance, eventually bringing us in to the city of Greenfield – and just in time for lunch.

South of there we ran parallel with Interstate 91. The traffic wasn’t too bad as most of the southbound traffic was taking the interstate but what did change was the offerings in terms of stops. Instead of village cafes and pizza places we wound up spending our stops at truckstops and convenience stores at the edge of the highway.

Finally, though, we made it to Northampton – a little over 70 km later. And once again we found ourselves hitting another of Sage’s and my old favourites, La Veracruzana for dinner. The burritos were just as delicious as I’d always remembered them.

Sadly this night we would be staying at a hotel instead of couchsurfing. And as we were at the edge of the highway in a college town known for pricey lodging, this would be one of the more expensive hotels we’d stay at as well as one of the worst. Fortunately the long bike ride and big hill made it possible to sleep through just about anything and even the damp carpet smell and highway noise couldn’t keep me awake.

Day #13 – Route Change!

On our rest day, we had a chance to catch up on a few things. Dae, being a teenager, caught up on sleep, sleeping through the better part of the morning. And as my friend and her mom had some things to do out of town, I caught up on the trip, checking in with couchsurfing hosts to revise arrival dates, and in the bigger picture it was time to see where we were relative to our planned timeline. What I found was a little disappointing. the extra days we took in Montreal, Burlington, and Montpelier had caught up with us. We could still do the rest of our planned route across New Hampshire and Maine and down through Boston but sadly if we did that and took only our planned rest stops we would arrive in NYC and have to leave the next morning. So much for relaxing and enjoying the big city. And that assumed we had no mechanical problems, no really bad weather, no lovely beaches we wanted to relax a little longer on, and no days we just wanted to stop early as we had already a couple times on this trip. And so when Dae woke we talked about turning a bit more directly toward NYC. In the end we both agreed that this plan, which would bring us to New York a bit earlier than expected would be the safer bet and let us not stress out about making kilometres instead of having an enjoyable trip.

And so we cancelled our couch requests on the old route, plotted a new one and sent out some last minute requests. Our new plan would take us due south the next day instead of east. We could find no hosts available in the next stop, Springfield, Vermont, and so we made reservations at a Holiday Inn not far from our planned route.

That took the better part of the morning which fortunately left the afternoon and evening for us to hang out. We ended up going to a diner for burgers for lunch. The day was stiflingly hot and the diner was not air conditioned, but fortunately there was something there that unfortunately we can’t find easily here in Toronto: unsweetened iced tea. For some reason a tall glass of that made the hot restaurant completely bearable.

That afternoon by the time my friend and her mom returned, it was extremely hot out. But the air had a noticeable stillness, and then not long afterward, the winds started to pick up and before long the rain came. First lightly, and then torrential. Yet again, it seemed, that other than our third day out when we were drizzled on for a few minutes, the rain timed itself perfectly with our rest days, helping to make for cooler riding the next day. As the rain stopped, aanother old high school friend came by with her boyfriend and we had a delicious feast and caught up on our lives.

The next morning we had our first breakfast, said our goodbyes to our hosts, and loaded the bike with our first rest stop already determined about 30 kilometres away – the 4 Aces Diner. In addition to being a lovely old fashioned Worcester car diner with excellent breakfast, it also happened to be a bit more special for me. In 1991, after meeting online, my partner, Sage came for a visit. On our first morning together we woke to the ground covered with snow and we walked together from the house I was living in – about 20 min to this diner to have breakfast. Four days after that breakfast, instead of going home as scheduled, Sage decided to stay forever.

On the way to the diner we hit our next big milestone: 1,000 kilometres (621 miles)

Dae trying not to fall in the river.

At the Four Aces Diner, Elvis watched over us while we had our breakfast.

A perfectly delicious “second breakfast” – with real maple syrup, of course.

After breakfast we headed south on the New Hampshire side of the border through rolling hills and forest. The views were lovely though at times the shoulders were a little narrow. Still, the views were worth it.

Finally we reached Cornish where we were to cross to Windsor. To do this we crossed the longest single-span covered bridge still carrying automobile traffic. The Cornish-Windsor covered bridge. Traffic was light and so we were able to be relatively slow as we crossed. The most memorable part for me was the smell – instead of asphalt or exhaust, the inside of the bridge smelled of wood. Delightful.

Approaching the bridge

The sign says “Walk your horses or pay two dollars fine” – we were able to ride our bike without worrying about being fined.


We followed US Route 5 down the rest of the way to Springfield where we arrived at our hotel relatively early. In fact, our room wasn’t even ready. The desk clerk had a great suggestion, though. She handed us two towels and an access card and so, after locking the bike up for safekeeping, we headed to the pool where we spent the next couple of hours lounging and relaxing.

The only downside of this hotel’s location was that it was not in the village of Springfield itself. All that was around was a gas station and an interstate on-ramp. The village itself was a few kilometres to the west up what appeared to be a pretty steep hill. Fortunately we were able to find a pizza place who would deliver and so I had a sandwich and fries. Dae ate like a growing 13 year old who had just biked over 1,000 kilometres and consumed an entire pizza and some of my fries as well.

That night we relaxed and I continued our search for couchsurfing hosts for the rest of the trip. Looking at the map as I did this I saw how much shorter our trip had become. While it was exciting to think of how close we now were to our goal, it was also a little sad to see that we were much closer to the trip’s end.