You who are simple, gain prudence;
you who are foolish, gain understanding.
Listen, for I [wisdom] have worthy things to say;
I open my lips to speak what is right.
As promised, read on for the first installment of the Western Massachusetts Bike Path Adventures.
On Saturday we took our time getting ready because the motel we reserved a room at didn’t allow checking in until 3:00 pm. As a result, I managed to get the house reasonably picked up and tidy before we left, which made coming home much nicer. I hate leaving a messy house. At about 9:30 am we finished packing up and hit the road. It was about 57°F and steadily raining — not dazzling conditions to ride in, but we hoped the storm, which was coming off the coast, wouldn’t make it all the way to the Berkshire Mountains.
I spent a good portion of the drive reading Pillars of the Earth and napping. Ian drove. We got slightly lost at one point when we missed the small, hand-painted road sign that marked our turn off. Fortunately, we figured out our mistake and turned around in a reasonable distance; we recognized the turn-off the second time based on the horrific road kill that came immediately before it. Otherwise there were no real landmarks: Just trees.
We got to the Adams Visitor Center about 1:00 and ate the picnic Caesar salad I had brought along. It kept plenty cool with a couple frozen Nalgene bottles wedged around it in the picnic basket. The Visitor Center was beautiful and quite recently built, with nice clean bathrooms and a zillion brochures.
After lunch we wasted little time in getting started on the trail. I carried Ian’s jacket and wore mine — and long pants — the entire time. It was about 59°F and windy, but not raining, for which we were extremely grateful. Before we left, Ian had to do some emergency brake adjustment on his bike, but between my theoretical knowledge of how his brakes work and his ability to successfully mess with things, we got the brake to not rub the rim horrifically. That success is why we look so happy in the pre-ride picture. That and no rain.
Once again we found the rail trail beautifully paved, fairly lightly populated except for a few fishermen — a phenomena we attributed to the un-summery weather and not the trail itself — and quite pleasant. We rode by several reservoirs, and I stopped to take pictures of the trail and the reservoir at one spot.
As you can see, this looks like it would be a really lovely trail with beautiful views if it hadn’t been so cloudy. There were lots of Massachusetts-sized mountains around us that were partly hidden in the clouds, and I can imagine that at sunrise or sunset you could get some gorgeous views. Also notice the good-sized (for a small lake) waves on the water. That meant we had a headwind the entire way back to the car, but also meant we flew along at 14+ mph on the way out. Fortunately it also felt downhill most of the way back and we still had a good time despite the wind.
We reached the far end of the trail, almost exactly 10 miles from the start, in record time. The cooler weather meant we felt much fresher and less disgustingly sweaty at the midway point, which was quite nice. Ian learned at that informational sign that children under the age of 12 have to wear helmets in Massachusetts. I thought it was either 12 or 16 years old, so that seemed settled. Except then I read the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail web site, and it said kids under 16 years old had to wear helmets, so I remain confused. Of course, we both wear helmets anyway, having a good appreciation for the value of our noggins.
On the way back, Ian found a pretty spot where we stopped and took pictures for a while. Ian rode around and around in circles around me while I played around with slow shutter speeds and zooming while taking a picture, which resulted in the following pictures (and the motion-blur picture of Ian shown yesterday).
Near there, the trail also went by a fairly secluded home that looked like a very peaceful (if mosquito-y) place to live. Of course, now they have all these people constantly going by on the rail trail disturbing them, so maybe it isn’t so secluded as it looks.
On the way back we also stopped just short of the end so I could take a picture of a bicycle wheel-shaped light fixture that we saw on a building near the trail. I thought it was too amazingly elaborate to not take a picture of.
In all we agreed that it was a very nice rail trail, beaut
ifully paved and well worth the drive. I just wish we could have had a nicer day to enjoy it on, but the we probably would have had to share it with more people. In any case, I recommend it to anybody with bicycles passing near North Adams, MA or Lanesborough, MA.
I do not, however, recommend the Lanesborough Country Inn. They don’t show you the strip-mall next door, the ragged gravel around the entire thing, the vinyl-sided motel portion, or — most of all — the interiors of the rooms. Here’s what we got for $150(!) a night.
1.a. An ugly view out the kitchenette window. The fenced-in area was actually accessible via the back door of our cabin, but unfortunately you couldn’t get around to the front: The fence went all the way around the back of ALL the cabins and blocked all handy access that way. Darn.
2. Two queen-sized beds with two pillows per bed. We took all four pillows but only slept in one bed (don’t ask what we did in the other bed!). The beds also had half-sized green comforters in case the normal blankets weren’t warm enough for one of the bed’s occupants. I guess the other person would just have to go cold.
5. A mini-fridge so cold it froze our sliced turkey solid. The turkey didn’t seem worse for the wear when we ate it on Sunday, fortunately.
6. Best of all, no fewer than THREE threateningly-worded notices completely inappropriate for the low quality of the surroundings. We speculated that they had bought most of the decorations at Home Goods.
After showering and recombobulating ourselves, we headed out to find food. This involved driving into Pittsfield, finding the theater district but not the food district, and driving nearly all the way back to our motel to eat at a place called Zucchini’s Restaurant. We had an hour until our movie, and figured that should be plenty of time. But we stood in the foyer waiting for the hostess for several minutes, and Ian quoted “‘We’re having a bit of a rush,'” which turned out to be more prophetic than he knew. They weren’t having a rush, by the way, but the quote refers to a Bill Bryson vignette in which he’s the only person in an Australian restaurant and he ends up having to forage for his own food. The quote came from what the waitress told Bill Bryson before never bringing him food.
We eventually got seated and I immediately noticed that we were the only people under 55 in the entire restaurant. Oh well; the menu looked good. We planned to order a margarita pizza and an appetizer of tomatoes and mozzarella and pesto. I say “planned,” because after bringing us water, the waitress vanished for approximately 3 days. Eventually she reappeared and we begged to please get some food. She vanished again with our order.
Ian went out to the car to get me Kleenex — I forgot to mention that this entire time I was blowing my endlessly-dripping nose raw, punctuating the nose-blowing with the occasional massive sneeze — and he came back to report that there was a high school reunion in the banquet hall downstairs. Maybe our waitress had to personally greet every person at the reunion or something. Whatever the reason, we waited and waited and eventually received the cold appetizer. I had envisioned roasted tomatoes with melting mozzarella and a generous blob of pesto; we received a cold, sliced tomato with mozzarella slices sandwiched between, and a microscopic smear of pesto. Nevertheless, we ate it ravenously, having not snacked after the bike ride in order to be hungry for dinner. That was not the problem.
The problem was that by 6:30 — almost an hour after we walked in the door — we hadn’t gotten our pizza, and the movie started at 6:50. However, the pizza arrived not long after, and despite our grumbling, it was excellent. The crust was particularly crusty and delicious. We took the precaution of asking for the check when the waitress came by to ask how the food was, knowing it would take another short eternity pay and leave. Sure enough, she took our credit card and bill back to charge us just as I picked up the last piece of pizza. Then she had to run up the road to find a pay phone, where she called the credit card company, placed the charge, and confirmed that we were legit. Then she came back and gave us a receipt to sign. We were just relieved to escape the La Brea Tar Pit of restaurants (PS – tar pits are FUN!).
Despite our chafing at the restaurant’s snail-like serving pace, we actually made it to the movie theater with plenty of time. It was rather disturbing to drive all the way out to the Berkshires and be surrounded by all this natural beauty, but then to go to a movie in a big mall full of chain stores. Ian snagged the automatic ticket machine, whisked us past the remarkably long line, and zipped us in to the theater just in time. We missed most of the ads and previews and only paid $17.50 for a non-matinee, which made up for many frustrations. We enjoyed Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince more than most of the other Harry Potter movies; I think the acting quality has increased as the actors mature. I also think they did a decent job picking out the key plot points from the fairly massive volume of material in the original book.
got back to our Cozy Cone at around 9:30 and agreed that it had been a fun and successful day. We decided we would sleep in on Sunday and leave by 9:30 the next morning to ride the Manhan Rail Trail and still get home at a reasonable time. And not long after I fell asleep and slept very well after all the excitement.