“Mommy, make sure my bike is ready to go when I get back from camp!”
Those were 10 year-old Quinn’s parting words to me as I dropped him off for his time at camp this past summer. Every summer, I take each of the boys on a separate bike trip. We have a great time getting to know each other in new situations and with a clear focus in just being together. Avery’s turn took place while Quinn was at camp. Two weeks later, I picked up Quinn, dropped off Avery, and Quinn and I began to pack.
Quinn chose for this year’s adventure a ride from our driveway in Northampton, up to Vermont and New Hampshire. I had done this tour with Avery when he was 9, and looked forward to the trip as much as Quinn.
The plan was to leave home, ride over to Hatfield, then go up River Road through Whately, South Deerfield, Old Deerfield, Greenfield, then over to Bernardston where we would camp for the night. The next day we would ride to Brattleboro through Northfield and stay in a motel. The following day we’d go back to the campground in Bernardston where we had left our tent and spend the night. Finally, we’d head back home.
More photos and the full trip story after the jump.
I followed my instructions and had both bikes ready when camp was over. The day we left was super hot. But Quinn was wearing what we refer to as a “traveling shirt” — a cotton seersucker shirt which was lightweight and would look presentable whenever we stopped. He could dump as much water on himself as he wanted and the shirt would still look good.
Before we left Northampton, we came across our first Road Angel. The Road Angel, or Trail Angel, is someone who helps you while on your trip, in big or small ways. We were waiting to cross a busy road and a driver stopped and blocked traffic for us. Then, as we went by his side of the car, he called out, “Have a great trip!” That’s a good way to start a journey.
We rode through pleasant Hatfield, taking our time on the back roads. Quinn had many stories to tell me about his time at camp, and being on the trip with him, I had plenty of time and attention to listen.
When we got to Deerfield, we picked up sandwiches to eat at our lunch stop, Historic Deerfield (HD). By then, we were getting tired and hot, and the ride from the center of Deerfield to HD seemed much longer than I remembered, but we finally made it. The ride through the village always seems so much more special on a bike because I’m going slower and I can see things more clearly. HD is a good rest stop because there are picnic tables, restrooms, and water fountains that we used to refill our water bottles.
Before we left HD, we went into the post office and mailed a post card to Avery at camp. Avery and I had mailed several postcards to Quinn at camp, and I wanted to be sure Avery knew we were thinking of him on our trip.
We pushed on, making the dash up Routes 5&10 into Greenfield, then followed the Franklin County Bikeway route past Greenfield Community College and stopped for ice cream and directions just past there. Several helpful people reassured us of the roads ahead and put us on the right path. The Bikeway was new since the time of my ride with Avery several years ago, so I was not sure exactly where the routes went, nor whether they required lots of hill climbing. This is one thing I should have remembered and checked out before we left home. We did have a very scenic ride out of Greenfield into Bernardston once we climbed to a plateau.
As we got closer to Bernardston, our energy was beginning to flag. We slowed our pace, and I tried to keep the conversation going to keep our minds busy and not focused on every pedal turn.
We finally arrived, and the host was kind enough to come out and take our picture. I really like that campground. The tenting spaces are separate from the RV’s, and the tents are not pushed off into the swamps like many of the places Avery and I stayed during our trip in Quebec this year. One other bonus was that they had fresh blueberries for sale! We had passed many farm stands riding through Hatfield and I did not want to buy any so early in the ride. I bought some and we had them for dessert.
We still had plenty of light after dinner so we played cards and told stories.
This is usually the best time of the trip, after dinner and before bed. We talk about the day, or anything else which comes to mind. All of the chores are finished, and we can just hang out and enjoy each other’s company.
The next morning we lingered at the campsite and made a breakfast of blueberry pancakes with the berries left from the night before. When we left, we closed up the tent and took only what we needed for the motel stay. I was planning to carry everything, but Quinn decided that he wanted to carry some of the burden, so I loaded up his panniers, too. He had been carrying his own sleeping bag, sleep mat, clothes, and his snacks. At this point he had his clothes, and most of the dirty laundry I’d clean at the motel.
We climbed up through Bernardston along Route 142 and stopped for a snack right where the view opens up and you can see the mountains just beyond the Connecticut River. It was a spectacular morning.
After a while, we arrived at the Vermont state line at Vernon. Two states down!
This day, like the day before was quite hot. So we stopped for a long rest at the mini-mart in Vernon and talked with some cyclists from Connecticut who had driven up for a day ride. I got to boast about how lucky I was to have my son doing this trip with me.
We pushed on into Brattleboro and arrived down near the freight yards. I pointed up to the cliffs above to show Quinn where the campground in Brattleboro was and explained that I had climbed that hill to camp there on 2 trips, and wasn’t doing it again. That was why we were staying in a motel!
We had lunch and then some tea to cool off indoors.
Leaving the center of Brattleboro to go out to the motel meant riding on narrow roads with lots of traffic. I was concerned that Quinn might not be up to riding and holding a straight line, but he did it like a champ, using his hand signals and being very aware of where the cars were. When we arrived, we sat in the cool room for a while before heading out to the pool. Now, I was not planning to swim. Quinn’s a swimmer and will get into the water anytime. It’s just not my thing anymore. But I was still quite hot, and I knew that it would mean a lot to him if I got in, so it I did. I kept telling him, as I eased into the water, ‘I love my children. I love my children!’ I’m glad I went in, we had fun splashing around, and I know he was happy to share that time with me.
We picked up pizza for dinner, and I got him the microwave brownies I had promised.
The next day brought us to our third state, New Hampshire. We rode back to the center of Brattleboro and crossed the Connecticut River again.
We walked our bikes on the pedestrian bridge over the river. The travel lanes are narrow, and the traffic moves too fast for me to feel comfortable riding it with Quinn. And besides, we had some pictures to take.
As we came to the New Hampshire side, I noticed a car had pulled over and the driver was waiting to talk to us. Turned out it was another Road Angel. David had seen us walking the bridge and stopped to see if these two touring riders needed anything. He told me that he had ridden across the country when he was younger and had been on the receiving end of many kindnesses and was eager to pay it forward. We visited for a few minutes and thanked him for stopping before pushing on.
On the New Hampshire side of the river you are above the river and can catch glimpses of it through the trees much more easily. Of course, being above the river means doing lots of up and downs. This is the time we really needed to entertain each other with stories and jokes. Quinn told me things about school I did not know, and I got to talk about my father and grandfather, about whom he knew very little.
We got to Northfield just before lunchtime. This time of day was really hot. So hot we were both cranky and needing a serious cool off. We first had drinks just to replenish our fluids, then found a place to have lunch. After lunch was done, we continued to sit in the shade playing cards. The next seven miles to the campground were mostly uphill and exposed to the sun, so there was no hurry to leave.
That night after dinner, we sat out on the bench swing and I read aloud to Quinn until it got too dark and the mosquitos got too bad.
Just as it had when I did this trip with Avery, it rained the morning we left for home. But by the time we arrived in Gill, the rain had tapered enough for us to take off our jackets. A good thing too — the bridge across the Connecticut from Gill to Turner’s Falls is under construction, and down to one lane. We reached the intersection in time to cross with the other cars, but did not finish crossing before the next group of cars started over. I called out to Quinn that he had to pick up the pace because the cars were coming and we had to get off the bridge. He sprinted like mad, and we made it before the cars reached us.
We got to ride along the canal path in Turner’s Falls after being pointed in the right direction by another Road Angel. We passed the Great Falls Discovery Center and vowed to come back another day. The riding along the canal is quite lovely.
We crossed the Connecticut twice more that day, once near Greenfield, and at Sunderland. As we hit the final stretch through Whately and Hatfield, we were reunited with our old friend, the headwind. It never fails to greet me as I ride River Road, no matter the time of day or whether I am going north or south. We took turns riding at the head, breaking the wind for each other. Quinn was quite the strong rider, insisting on taking his turn at the front.
We finished in early afternoon, going directly to see Heidi at work to let her know that we had returned safely. She greeted us with big smiles and told us the celebratory ice cream was already waiting in the freezer!
Quinn was quite pleased with himself to have done this big ride. Altogether we rode about 134 miles. He carried his own stuff, rode in the hot sun, up big hills, and in traffic. He kept my spirits up when I was tired, and he let me do the same for him. We made some great memories on that trip. I knew he loved it, because he asked me,
“Mommy, where are we riding to next year?”