Carol Waaser and Karin Fantus
Karin and I had
started planning more than a month in advance. It would be a six-day,
self-contained, inn-to-inn tour during the Labor Day weekend, leaving New York City on September
1 and returning September 6. Who knew the Northeast would be slammed by
Hurricane Irene on August 28?
route was up to Pawling, N.Y.,
then across western Connecticut and north
through western Massachusetts, finally
crossing just into New Hampshire.
We would return through the Berkshires and ultimately take the train back to
the city from Wassaic.
As the storm
mop-up began on August 29, we watched all the flood warnings and road closure
updates we could find. There were several places, particularly in Connecticut, where roads
on our route were closed as of Monday, but we couldn't get any further updates
as to whether they would be open by Thursday. And we had planned to take the South
and North County trailways the first day, which we
feared might not be cleared as quickly as the commuter roads. So on Tuesday,
August 30, I scouted the southern section of the South County Trailway.
Although it was still strewn with leaf and twig debris in many places, crews
had already been out clearing the downed trees. We were confident it would be
completely passable by Thursday...and it was! Luck stayed with us throughout the trip and we never encountered a
closed road or bridge.
the journey as scheduled on September 1, we took the subway from Columbus Circle up to 238th Street
in the Bronx, there being elevators at both those stations, allowing us to get
our lightly loaded bikes down to the platform and then to the street easily.
Thus we skipped the "junk" miles and started our tour close to the first entrance
to the rail-trail. Starting with a trail was a good way to ease into a
multi-day tour, putting us immediately into a touring frame of mind--an easy,
relaxed pace, a chance to chat as we rode side by side, remembering to look at
the scenery and maybe even stop for a photo. On a weekday morning, there were
few other trail users.
never without a little adventure, from missed turns that added eight miles to
each of the first two days, to a hill that was 18- to 20-percent incline for
about half a mile (yes, we walked), to on-the-fly route changes, to a power
outage the third night that meant a bath in the swimming pool instead of the shower.
On the fifth day, as we cycled over the mountains from Northampton to Great Barrington, we had
torrential rain storms. The worst came as we started across Route 23 from Otis
to Great Barrington. We didn't know there was road construction on the route,
and some sections were now unpaved. At 3 in the afternoon, it might as well
have been dusk, cycling in the pouring rain, unable to see more than a few
yards ahead, on unpaved stretches with loose stones, ruts and mud, and a little
lightning and thunder just to keep us alert! But we made it to our next inn,
had a good dinner in town and spent the evening drying things out.
was specifically designed to accommodate visits with various friends and
cousins in western Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire. In
addition, we met other fun and interesting people and animals along the way.
Three nights were spent at bed-and-breakfasts, one of which, the Sugar Maple
Trailside Inn, sits immediately alongside the Northampton Bikeway, which is a
westward extension of the Norwottuck Rail Trail in Massachusetts. The inn is run by Craig Della
Penna, who has been a lobbyist and advocate of trails and alternative
transportation for a number of years. Needless to say, that was an interesting
planned to do a few sections on rail-trails and ended up doing about 75 miles
(out of a total of 350-plus miles) on eight different trails and greenways,
including the Putnam Trailway and Harlem Valley Rail Trail in New
York, and the Still River Greenway and Farmington Canal Heritage
Trail in Connecticut.
The trail systems in the Northeast continue to grow; we probably could have
done more miles on trails had we done a little more research beforehand. Some
trails we either came upon serendipitously or were told about along the way by
local folks, and some of the roads we were on are now marked as bicycle routes. These trail and bike route systems are
making multi-day touring safe and possible for even novice cyclists.
The innkeepers where we stayed, as well as local residents we encountered, see
rail-trails as an asset and an economic boon to the community. Wherever we
stopped to ask about trail facilities, local merchants and residents knew the
information and were very helpful. Along the way, we encountered many smiling
cyclists and other trail users who exhibited good trail etiquette. The whole
experience came together so nicely.
inn-to-inn touring is an easy way to take a short, inexpensive vacation. Karin
used her road bike and a large Carradice bag that attaches firmly to the
seatpost. I used my touring bike with a rack and Topeak MXP rack trunk
with small drop-down panniers. Each of us carried between 10 and 15 pounds
extra, including gear and tools, an extra cycling kit, a set of off-bike
clothes and lightweight shoes, plus whatever toiletries and necessities we
needed. Ziploc bags and dry bags protected most of our stuff, even in the
downpour. With a spirit of adventure, you can handle anything that happens
(especially when you're not camping). And when you're touring by bicycle, you
can count on folks to help you out along the way.
plenty of interesting places you can see in a two- or three-day trip if you
want to dip your toe in without making a big commitment. But we've also done
10-day trips covering 600 to 700 miles, still only lightly loaded. (For some of
us, camping is not in the cards--we like our creature comforts!) This style is
very different from doing club rides, but it is another gift your bicycle--and
trails--can give you. Photos courtesy of Carol Waaser and Karin Fantus.
great job ladys keep on riding I think that the only way to get around places
Great story Carol. I should note that the Norwottuck Rail Trail [aka the Mass Central Rail Trail--www.masscentralrailtrail.org] will be open all the way [100+ miles] to Boston from Northampton in 8-10 years and the trail from Northampton to New Haven at Yale [80+ miles] will be open in about 4 years.
That route will provide world class bike tourism.
Thanks for sharing.... hoping it will inspire me to get out on fun trips like that..
Too bad there is not a web site where one could get current and up dated info from and for users , a forum type area for messages , questions, suggestions? Before a trip
love to see a wiki type interface, forums, so user’s could update, inter connect… get real time status of trail… i.e. .. flood damage, detour, new store, camp site ….
Sounds interesting. Could you let me know the names and locations of the inns where you stayed each night? firstname.lastname@example.org
Great Story! thanks for sharing! I have only been doing day trips. This type of trip inspires me to try a several days type trip.
Carol, How fun to read your article! Got the email from Rails to Trails and clicked on this article and saw your name. Sounds like a great & fun adventure. Just finished a 10-day ride in Kentucky - beautiful! But we did have a truck with our luggage.
The Duke Ellington Building
2121 Ward Ct., NW
Washington, DC 20037