by Karl Rosenbaum
I started the trip on Thursday the 17th of July from Woodbridge, Va. Since I wanted to get to Connecticut as quickly as I could, I decided to take the 95 corridor. This day proved to be a rough one. I could not leave until the afternoon when the temperature was 97 degrees. Right before leaving I purchased a large camel back and was very thankful that I did. I would recommend this to anyone that is going to drive in the heat.
The traffic was horrendous and I ran through a torrential rain storm in New York and Connecticut. But after about 8 hours on the road I arrived at my parents house in Burlington, CT. For the hour prior to arriving at my parents house all I could think of was their driveway. It is about 2 miles long, gravel, and with two curves that rise up a hill — not one of the best roads to drive the LT on. To compound this it was raining. While taking the drive quite gingerly and a few spinouts I made it up the hill to the house.
Friday morning it was still hot and sticky. The riding jacket still was not completely dry from the rain the night before, but not as bad as the day before. I thought that I would take off to the local dealer and then ride around the northern roads of CT. I stopped off at Canton Cycles and talked to several of their customers about the new cruisers. As with the IBMWR most folks are saying that it is a nice bike, but not their style. I picked up a tee-shirt and asked about some parts. Nice people at this dealership and very close to some very nice roads. I left the dealership and headed west on Rt. 44 toward New Hartford. From there I headed North on a un-marked road that took me through the People’s Forest State Park toRiverton. Riverton is the home of the Hitchcock Chair company; one of the oldest furniture factories in New England. There is a old pub that dates back to the early 1700’s; I have visited there several times, but this trip it was not open. I went next door to have a ice cream cone since it was 93 degrees. Heading south on Route 20, I found a lot of shade and was able to cool down again. I then headed west on Rt. 44 toward Canaan which is on the Mass/Connecticut border. Route 44 has rolling hills with a lot of sweeping turns that make for a very enjoyable ride. There are also a lot of tobacco fields in this area. I always thought that it was strange to see tobacco fields this far north, but this is the one of the major areas for Maduro cigar wrappers. From Canaan I followed Rt. 7 south then to Rt. 4 and headed east again back toward Burlington. Headed for the parents house for a big meal at mom’s house.
Friday night we received a huge rainstorm which was a blessing; the next morning as I got up it was 63 degrees, not a cloud in the sky, and gentle breeze; but the breeze became a major wind as I headed north. Great riding weather. Since I had no where to be until late that evening, I took the long way to Newport RI – headed north on route 202 toward Springfield, Mass. There I stopped for my first National Park stamp of the trip. Springfield Armory was used late in the Revolutionarily War to store weapons and it is also where the now famous Springfield rifle was manufactured. The only problem here was someone had stolen the stamp! So they took my name and said that they would mail one to me as soon as they get it. This was not starting off well!
As I left Springfield there was about a 50 MPH wind blowing from the east and made the drive a little more difficult. So I jumped off the highway and continued on Rt. 5 which took me through several little towns along the Connecticut river. I continued up Rt. 5 into Vermont and at Brattleboro I stopped for lunch then headed east into New Hampshire. New Hampshire is one of my favorite states — I used to go there all the time for skiing and camping, but this was the first time that I would be doing the trip on two wheels. It was a beautiful day; despite the wind. I kept the speed down to enjoy the country side. Beautiful rolling hills and farm land along the Connecticut River. I stopped for gas in Charlestown at a gas station/farm stand. Filled the tank and enjoyed some of the fruit they were selling. I continued north on Rt. 12A into Cornish — in pursuit of another stamp. The Saint-Gaudens National site is the home of Augustus Saint-Gaudens (no I did not know who he was either until going there) a sculptor that created some coins during the Teddy Roosevelt’s term. The house is gorgeous, set on a hill that overlooks the Connecticut River. After spending about one hour there I continued north into Lebanon, NH.
From there I jumped on 89 West back into Vermont then jumped on route 4 west. In the passport book that I have; it shows a national park at Woodstock, VT. Well I am driving around the area looking for a familiar brown sign – not to be found. I did find the FUTURE site of the park. Marsh-Billings is still a private park, but will be given to the National Park system in a will. Only one problem – can’t execute the will with the owner of that will still alive. So after driving about 45 minutes out of the way and no stamp to show for it, I headed back unto Rt. 89 and headed east. I headed east on Rt. 4 up to Rt. 188, back north on Rt. 188 again up to Lincoln NH.
East of Lincoln, NH is the Kancamagus Highway. This is the best road that I have traveled in New England. It takes you up through the White Mountains; with several pull offs to enjoy the mountains. This road is gorgeous in the fall. I am not sure how high you get, but you definately go up! It drops you off in Conway. I took the Kancamagus one more time back to Rt. 93. Since the slab was pretty boring (but the traffic was flying) I will just say that I arrived in Newport RI at my mother in laws house around 8 PM.
Sunday was the day that I choose to be “stamp day”. I headed out of Newport into the Boston area. I first headed up to Lowell Mass to visit the park there. This is one of the many large textile areas in New England. I left there and went to the Minute Man National Park. Just a word here; the first visitor center on the east side of the park is closed. In order to get a stamp, you must continue to the visitor center on the west side of the park. Getting to the west side visitor center takes you through Concord. There are some very old buildings there dating back to the 1600’s. This is a nice quaint old town, but was too crowed for me to really walk around. It was here that I passed about 15 BMW’s that looked like they were out for some group ride. I turned around to try and find them, but they disappeared. I jumped on Rt. 128 and headed over to the Saugus Iron Works. This place was the first place in the US to manufacture iron. I had no idea that we were making iron in 1650! I always thought that I had a pretty good grasp of history, nothing like visiting the parks to remind you that you do not. I saved driving in the city of Boston for last since I knew that it would be difficult.
I used to live in Quincy, Mass before moving to Virginia, but I had never driven a motorcycle in the city. What a experience. My left hand was real sore from the all the clutching. Anyway, in the passport book it only mentions that there is one stamp for the Boston National Park. This is not true; there are 4. Charlestown Navy Yard, Bunker Hill, Faneuil Hall, and the Freedom trail (this stamp you get at the National Park Headquarters at the old state house). After finding parking right in front of each of these places (didn’t say that it was legal) I got the stamp and left. I had seen all of these places before. There were 2 other stamps that were quite hard to find. The Boston African- American Meeting House National park was right behind the new capital. I recommend that you park the bike somewhere and walk to this one. The other stamp that was a real bear because the city of Cambridge will not allow the park system to put up signs was the Longfellow National Site. The sign is only five by 8 inches on a fence in front of the place. I drove by it about 10 times and keep looking at the map. These old cities are a bitch to get around since they have no real blocks!
As I headed back to Rhode Island, I stopped in Quincy Mass for the last stamp of the day. Adams National Park in Quincy Mass is the birthplace of both John Adams and John Quincy Adams. After all the city driving I decided to call it a day and headed for Newport to see a friend and throw back some beers. He thinks that I am half crazed for doing all the miles on the bike.
Monday morning was a slightly cloudy day, but this was the day for the real reason that I came up this way. The USS Constitution was getting underway with sails for the first time in 116 years. I took the slab up to Marblehead and saw her in the harbor. She was towed out and she got underway for about 1 hour. She was hard to see, but I was there. I am still in the Navy and seeing this ship really made me feel proud. It was an amazing site. Lucky for me I took the bike otherwise I would not have been able to get anywhere near the water. They estimated that there were over 200K people there. I stayed there until I could not see her. I took off for the final 3 stamps of the day. I headed south toward Brookline, Mass to the JFK birthplace and the Frederick Law Olmstead sites. I found the JFK site easy, but it was closed on Monday and Tuesday’s and there was no one to be found in the area. I was little peeved since there was no information about it being closed. I checked out the web sites before I took off and they said that it was open also. So I headed over to the Olmsted site and it was closed also, but one of the rangers let me get the stamp. By this time I was once again getting tired and looked for a decent road to ride home. I found Rt. 109 took that to Rt. 126 to the north side of Providence. I went into Providence to check on the hours of the park for tomorrow’s ride home.
Tuesday morning I awoke to a rain storm. It was supposed to clear so I waited until 8 am and headed to the Roger Williams National Site. This site has two stamps one for the park and other for the Blackstone River Valley Heritage Corridor. From there I jumped on Rt. 44 heading west into Connecticut. This is a great road once you are out of the city of Providence. A lot of farms, rolling hills, and no traffic. I stopped at the Vanilla Bean Cafe in Pomfret CT. I read about this little cafe in several different magazines – most recently in Cycle. I stopped for a coffee and spent the rest of the time talking to Bob who owned a R65. The owner was on vacation but he has a great older toaster. Recommend that you stop if you are in the area. I continued on Rt. 44 until Rt. 84. I took this to Danbury to get my last stamp in New England for this trip.
The Weir Farm is another park that is closed on Monday and Tuesdays that is not documented. But once again there was a ranger there willing to stamp the book for me. I then jumped on the Merritt Parkway (which is one of the nicest expressways that I know) to get my last stamp. I received the last stamp at the St Paul’s Church in Mount Vernon (about 2 miles from the Bronx). I got the stamp, headed through the Bronx and then across the George Washington Bridge into New Jersey. It was too late in the day to get any there so I just rode home.
I managed to stay out of the rain until I was about 15 miles from home. Finally after 1986 miles I got back to the house. There were some things that I would do different. I would get more information about the parks that I plan on visiting prior to leaving! Also make sure all of the places in the book ARE parks. Travel with a camelback or some other device to replenish the fluids. The First Gear Kilimanjaro does well in the rain also.
The ’88 LT handled great on her first long trip and I had only one complaint: the corbin seat is not the best after 4 hours or so in the saddle.
PS — If you need detailed information on stamp hunting in the Boston area, let me know!