This past February I got a gift. It was for the seven day Cycle Mass Tour. Included in my gift was a Comfy Camper package which include, a single tent, air mattress, camp chair, fresh towels daily and the tent was set up and taken down during the tour by Comfy Campers personnel. The tour started on July 30, 2016 and ended on August 5, 2016. When I told a riding buddy that I was doing this ride, he looked at me and said good luck. He further stated he did the tour a few years earlier and thought that the tour went out of its way to find the worst roads to ride on. I can partially agree on that statement, because there were a couple of days where the roads were crappy.
On the afternoon of Friday July 29, I arrived at Nichols College. I picked up my registration packet and went over to Comfy Campers to find my tent and home for the next three nights. I was on my own for dinner. After returning, I read a little until it became too dark to read. I settled in for the night which was a very hot sleeping night. There was a church nearby and I heard it ring its bell every hour on the hour.
On Saturday at 6:30 a.m. the music started. One song that was played over and over through the tour every morning was “Istanbul/Constantinople”. I put on my kit and made my way to breakfast. After breakfast there was a riders meeting (there were riders meetings everyday usually after dinner). I along with two other riders I knew headed out on our own for the 62 mile ride. Saturday was hot but most of the ride was on shady roads with nice scenery. I thought it was a little too far for the first rest stop at approximately 25 miles but it was well stocked. The second rest stop was around 50 miles, but we decided to stop at a mini-mart/gas station and get some water and gatorade. We were about 8 or 9 miles from the next rest stop. I am glad we stopped because it was a very hot day. We climbed on to the last rest stop of the day. After the rest stop we had 12 more miles and 1,200 feet of climbing. The roads weren’t that great, some were busy with no shoulders. We survived. Cycle Mass provided a nice dinner and live entertainment. That evening rain came.
Sunday was day two. It rained during the night and was raining in the morning. At breakfast I tried to get a feel of who was doing what. Some people were going to wait until the rain had passed and do the real short ride. I decided to rid the moderate ride with someone I knew from my club. It was raining but I had a rain jacket and a cover for my helmet. Near the end of the ride the jacket and cover came off. I decided that northeast Connecticut was fairly scenic, especially down around Woodstock. After the ride, I showered, socialized with some beer and went to dinner. Back at the tent I got everything organized for the next day and packed my bags for the move for our next overnight stop.
On Monday it was off to Suffield, CT, just west of Enfield and east and slightly north of Bradley International Airport. The majority of the ride was scenic and uneventful with a couple of very steep rollers. The difficult and must screwed up part of the whole tour was the last part of this ride. We rode down past busy strip malls, center turn and right turn only lanes and lots of red lights. We were playing dodge-em. To add insult to injury, we had to deal riding through a four lane cloverleaf interchange with I-91. We then crossed the Conn. River on a multi-lane road and had to work to the left turn lane. Meanwhile, as I am enjoying the few of the Conn. River, I look and see a nice safe bike lane separated by traffic barriers. WTF!
Our stay in Suffield was okay, but no great shakes. Dinner was good and we ate in a nice air conditioned school. The breakfast really left something to be desired. All I can say is thank goodness Comfy Campers had their great coffee as usual. The caterer for the non Comfy Campers did have enough coffee nor had it ready in time.
Tuesday, off to Great Barrington. This was to be a killer day, hills and more hills. It rained overnight but was sunny when we departed. The ride was nice for a while. We also rode along a beautiful bike path, probably one of the best I have ridden. Then we turned on MA rt. 57. Rt. 57 was a steady climb until the first rest stop. The road had a lot of grit and sand along the side of the road. The road was still wet, so a lot of crap got attracted to drive-trains. From the rest stop at Granville, you could see the first of many walls that needed to be climbed, along with a road detail near the top of the first hill. These were brutal, after the first series you had a screaming downhill that plowed into a sharp left turn or a runaway truck ramp. This was in the town of New Boston, MA. After that it was a another steady climb to the next rest stop at Sandisfield, MA. After Sandisfield it was almost downhill all the way into Great Barrington, MA where we would spend two nights.
Our host for Tuesday and Wednesday nights was the Berkshire South Regional Community Center. This was the best place of the whole trip. We were walking distance to restaurants (including a brew pub), and other amenities. The caterer we had for all our meals here was outstanding. Since we were out in the country there was not any light pollution, so the stars were very bright at night. It also got cold at night and I was thankful that I paid attention and packed warm pajamas and had a warm sleeping bag. This was contrary to the first night in Dudley, where it was so hot that I slept on top of my sleeping bag, wearing shorts and a t-shirt.
Wednesday was a dilemma on which of the three rides to hit. Two went into New York state and one stayed in Massachusetts. An 80+ and a 60+ mile ride went into New York and hit some nice scenic spots of the Hudson Valley. The ride in Massachusetts was called the Alice’s Restaurant Ride, it was about 50 miles, give or take and I chose this ride. If you ever heard the song Alice’s Restaurant by Arlo Guthrie, this ride was named for it as it went past the Guthrie Center, which was the church referred to in the song and where the movie Alice’s Restaurant was filmed. There were other scenic highlights such as a covered bridge over the Housatonic River and historic markers documenting Shays’ Rebellion and the first official documented UFO sighting in the U.S. I was initially torn on which ride to take. I have never ridden my bike in New York, but the Alice’s Restaurant ride seemed more appealing. After the ride I got back took a nice shower, went over to the brew pub and met some other riders and had a nice time.
Thursday, pack up and go. Another day of climbing heading east over the Berkshires. We followed route 183, and 23 over the Berks. The climbing wasn’t too strenuous. It was steady climbing to the first rest stop. The distance between the first and second rest was not that far; the majority of the climbing was behind us, but there was still some more climbing to go including one climb of just over 1/2 mile with a grade going between eight and thirteen percent. It was 86 degrees with building humidity, so there were more than a few people walking parts of this climb. Once over the top we had a sweet four mile downhill where speeds hit almost 40 mph before the next rest stop. This rest stop was a country store that was run by some Mennonites. The facility sparkled and the food and ice cream was great and the hospitality was even better. We had more downhill before the rest of the day’s ride turned sketchy.
The sketchy part of Thursday began after the the downhill. Going through Westfield, MA was fine, it was a nice college town. We then hit West Springfield, dodging traffic on route 20. At least there was a farmer’s market to give us respite. Traffic got worse and the temperature was soaring as we crossed the Conn. River playing dodge’em cars on the route 5 rotary. Then down to the bike path, which do to construction dumped us onto a gravel railroad crossing of at least two tracks. (I wasn’t sure it was even a legal crossing.) We came out by the Springfield bus terminal and rode through downtown Springfield during very early afternoon. The sights and sounds of downtown Springfield included, metal plates in the road, weird smells from food trucks and some dude talking to himself while trying to hump a street light. After Springfield the roads eased out, I stopped for some Gatorade and got behind some guy buying 20 different scratch tickets. Then it was on to Wilbraham, MA, home of Friendly Ice Cream. I got there it was 90 degrees, our tents were out in the middle of a high school track. But there were shade tents and ice cold beer available. Dinner was great that night.
Friday, the last day. The hills of Worcester County beckon, also that last four miles of climbing back up to Nichols College in Dudley. There were a couple of hard climbs, but beautiful riding through a lakeside town. Finally, I arrived in Dudley sometime between 12 and 1 pm. The ride and experience was over. I gathered my stuff, said goodbyes and thought about a suggestion from a friend that I should consider volunteering for this next year. I will have to see.