House - Motorcycle Trip Reports
New England, 1997
We again got up early in time to see the freshly risen sun and lit out along Rt. 8A to Vermont Rt. 100. Looking at the map the previous night, Rt. 100 seemed the way to go as it literally zigged and zagged through my maps elevation lines like a sewing machine pattern. Things really changed when we left Massachusetts and entered Vermont. One of the first things we came across was a sign on the side of the road that said "Police Officer Ahead." While we were hoping that all speed traps would be announced that way, it was merely one of many bridges that we would cross that was under construction. I guess Vermont either can't work on them during the winter or that they had just found out they had a hundred million or so in bridge funds but literally a third of the bridges we crossed were being worked on in one way or another.
After many miles of twisty and for the most part empty two lane we came across a tiny town consisting mainly of an abandoned mill (can't throw a rock in Vermont without hitting one), an antique store (ditto...) and a small restaurant. Breakfast! I have to give it to Bob, after the previous night's dinner and that breakfast the "only eat at local places" became the rule. Three eggs, sausage, home fries and coffee later we exited the restaurant into the clearest, brightest day I had seen in some time. We continued on Rt. 100 to Rt. 4, which we took over to New Hampshire in order to get the St. Gaudens passport stamp. Rt. 4 passes through Woodstock, which is a tiny town of HUGE houses, all lined up on a green looking like they were just plucked out of Boston. Most appeared to be turn of the century, and most were quite carefully restored. The town however looked like it had gone the way of Camden, Maine, namely that local businesses had been driven out for antique shops, bookstores and trinket shops. It was quite a sight though, and I bet is quite a popular destination for the Volvo crowd on the hunt for the perfect butlers table.
We crossed into New Hampshire at Lebanon and headed south along another beautiful and mostly empty road. Things were going great until I saw the sign. The sign warning motorists to turn off radios and cell phones as there was blasting ahead...expect delays. Well we stuck it out and as we got to the flagman we saw that he was literally standing in the road to the St. Gaudens site - No wait! :) The site was another artists maven and quite beautiful. The big house was restored to original condition and had a broad panoramic view of Vermont's Mountains, the Visitor's Center is in the Barn. With fresh new stamps we headed back to Vermont's Rt. 100 for Cy Young's "Gap Runs."
Fortunately all of the gaps were connected to Rt. 100 in one way or another. Gap number one was Rt 73, Brandon Gap, and it was fantastic not only because it was completely devoid of other cars and chock full of long, panoramic sweepers punctuated by the occasional tight twisty, but because Bob swapped bikes with me. My first experience on a K1200RS was a winding Vermont Mountain Gap ... WAHOO!! I truly liked the bike but found the handling a little too fine, almost detached. I like the bike, but was happy to get back aboard the K1100RS (partly because I was really starting to like the K11 and didn't want to spoil it with thoughts of buying a K1200RS too :)) We ran three more gaps, Middlebury Gap (Rt .125), Lincoln Gap, and the biggie, Appalachian Gap (Rt. 17), each increasingly higher with tighter curves and the added element of rapid elevation changes through curves a.l.a. the Cabot Trail. Cy sure did us right as these gaps were a thorough blast.
After getting the twisty out of our system, we continued on Rt. 100 to the Ben & Jerry factory. Unexpectedly, the further north we made it into Vermont, the less farmland we saw and the more crowded it became. While B&J's may be ice cream heaven, it is also tourist heaven and we had to double yellow more then a few huge, lumbering tour busses as we continued north. If you are into it, stop and soak in the cows painted on everything and cute names on little signs...if you just want a good ice cream, you'd be better served stopping at a soda shop in any of the small towns through which Rt. 100 passes.
Of particular note, this was the only time we had any problems with cages...The first was a pickup truck with some huge engine that would go slow begging us to pass - when we went to pass he would floor it and not let us back in! A downshift and flick of the wrist (and middle finger) solved that but brought us up to the real asshole...the Jetta. The (diesel) Jetta was mad because he didn't have the "go" to pass one particularly slow bus, and as we would approach to pass would pull into the opposing lane of traffic to "block" us. Again, the BMW big four came through, and with the proper salute to the jerk we were off.
We passed through Newport as it started to get dark, and outside of Island Pond, down Rt. 111, we stopped at the Brighton State Park for the night. The young lass at the camping office gave us #53, which looked really cool on paper because it went out on a peninsula into the lake. In reality, it was a real bitch getting the bikes safely turned around in the course sand they used to "pave" the camping area. After we had gotten set up and put on our respective heated vests (it was getting COLD!) we headed into Island Pond for food.
We again followed the "eat locally," though we have since added an addendum to the rule which states "Except in resort towns." This pizza place, while having somewhat decent pizza, had the worst service I have seen in a long time (well, at least since I least dealt with the DC government :) We were told to seat ourselves and we decided on the special, a large cheese for $5.99. Bob asked them if it would be a problem to throw on a few mushrooms, and fortunately it wasn't.
20 minutes later, after we had walked down to Ted's Market for smokes, we were told the pizza was ready and that everything we needed was on the table. And it was, on a table in the middle of the place was a rack of silverware, some napkins and some of those paper placemats. We commenced to consume and I started to read the placemat. I'd forgotten how great these are, I've only seen them "Down East." On one side all the local merchants advertise, from dentists to car detailers. In the middle they usually reserve for a history of the town. Turns out that Island Pond was a pretty swinging place in the 18th century, and was even the first international train depot in the United States being the halfway mark between Montreal, Canada, and Portland, Maine. As with a lot of places in Vermont through which we passed, it wasn't as popular anymore and there were many big, empty houses and mills in the town.
When we went to leave the waitress told us we could pick up her check. Her boyfriend had arrived and although all he kept saying was "Man I am so stoned" he did manage to look our way once and smile the smile of those truly way out in left field. Bob got a little pissed because by asking for mushrooms we no longer qualified for the "special" price and the $5.99 pizza was now $12.99. Oh well, Bob left her a big tip (NOT) and we took a slow spin through town on the way back. By this time it was downright chilly and the moon was out. By the time we got to our tents, the loons on the lake were shouting back and forth we lit a fire courtesy of wood obtained for us by the French couple that suitable understood getting wood onto the bikes would be excruciatingly difficult. After a few sips of ice cold Bourbon and a nice Hemingway Classic it was very, very easy to fall asleep.
All Photos and Text Copyrightę1996-9, Ted