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Common Tread

A two-up Monday afternoon ride: what PTO was really made for

Aug 29, 2014

We were two strangers, united by a passion for motorcycles, drinking beers in the fading Connecticut sunlight on a Sunday afternoon. Laughter flashed across her eyes as she took a long swig from her glass of beer.

"So, are you going to take me for a motorcycle ride tomorrow?" she asked with a devilish grin, lowering her glass to the table.

I had met Melinda through RevZilla. She had some serious shipping issues with the U.S. Postal Service and I had helped her cut through the red tape. From there on, we kept in touch via e-mail. As it turns out, we had the same affliction for sarcasm, British motorcycles, and taking a day off from work on a lazy summer day to go ride.

Melinda had called me early that Sunday and suggested I meet her at her sister’s house in Connecticut. She had ridden her own motorcycle there but was interested in a two-up ride on my Bonneville. We could ditch work the next day and explore the northern backwoods of the state.

My arm never has to be twisted too hard when it comes to a motorcycle adventure. With a full tank of gas, the clothes on my back, and a not-quite-maxed-out credit card in my pocket, I headed north out of Philly. I made a mental note to find a drug store later in the evening to buy a toothbrush.

I stuck to the highways heading up and I made good time to Windsor, Connecticut, just north of Hartford. A little more than five hours after her original call, Melinda and I were sharing icy blueberry beers and discussing possible routes for our impromptu adventure the next day.

We settled on a route that would take us north out of Hartford and then west on Highway 20 through Enders State Forest on our way to North Cannan, just south of the Massachusetts state line. From there we would follow Route 7 as it snakes its way through Housatonic State Forest.

What's this GPS thing people keep talking about? Photo by Spurgeon Dunbar.
I do not use a GPS, so I scrawled the directions on the back of a piece of cardboard that I stuffed into the map portion of my tank bag. We left the end of the trip open, polished off our beers, and retired for the evening.

We were geared up and on the road shortly before 9 a.m. After one missed exit, a peek at the map, and a U-turn in Massachusetts, we traded the freeway of the city for winding country roads, which weaved through the forests of northern Connecticut. The Triumph’s two little pistons thundered along, bellowing out their alluring song, propelling the two of us briskly down miles of nearly abandoned two-lane highway.

Just past the town of Granby, we came upon a fork in the road where we veered left and found ourselves blasting through the tall pines of Enders State Forest. The surrounding woods are famous for the hidden waterfalls located deep within.

Enders State Forest
Enders State Forest. Photo by Spurgeon Dunbar.

The morning air was crisp and cool, fresh with the smell of pine, as we crossed the Saville Dam on the aptly named Saville Dam Road. The Bonnie’s 3.8-gallon tank was running on reserve, so we detoured a few miles to New Hartford for fuel and coffee.

The original plan was to ride west on Highway 44 to North Cannan and then south on Route 7 to Toymakers Café for a late breakfast. Nestled along the Housatonic River in the town of Falls Village, Toymakers is a regular stop for motorcyclists all over New England. Greg Bidou and his wife, Ann, opened the café about 13 years ago, and thanks to Greg’s side business of restoring vintage British motorcycles, it has become a hotspot among the moto community.

It turns out we did not properly do our homework, for the café does not have Monday hours. I would miss out on the opportunity to press my nose up against the windows of the big barn that reportedly houses countless British bikes in various stages of restoration. Mindy was bummed because she had heard they served sweet potato waffles that would change her life. Clearly, we both had reasons to return.

As it turned out, one of the other reasons to return was Route 7. This ended up being one of the nicest stretches of winding blacktop I have found since leaving the South. Following the river, Route 7 is littered with covered bridges, scenic views, and small towns that look as if they were transported in time from the 1800s. We picked up the highway in the town of North Canaan and followed it south until we ran smack dab straight into, Kent, Conn.

Spurgeon and covered bridge
Connecticut countryside, covered bridge. Photo by Melinda Peterson.

We found ourselves surrounded by small cafes, low-hanging shade trees, and bearded, unwashed hikers stumbling off the Appalachian Trail in search of supplies. It was the perfect place to stop for a late breakfast.

Turkey and brie sandwiches for lunch with Mindy. Photo by Spurgeon Dunbar.
We lunched on turkey and brie sandwiches from the Farm Country Food Shop and Bakery as I presented the possible routes for our return trip. When presented with the option of “super slabbing” it home or retracing our steps and riding the long, winding way back to Hartford, Melinda didn’t hesitate to choose the long way.

I was excited for two reasons:

  • I am a man who loves the long, winding way.
  • We had passed a small gas station that boasted a sign for self-serve soft ice cream for $1.79. I am a man who loves ice cream.

Without a cop in sight, we burned through the curves. Melinda was completely synced up with my approach to the handlebars and we attacked the corners together, throwing our combined weight at the apex and shooting out the other side. The Bonnie’s new Bridgestone Trailwing tires devoured any imperfections in the asphalt.

ice cream stop
Ice cream stops are essential. Photo by Spurgeon Dunbar.

Minus a stop for fuel and some ice cream, we made good time back to Hartford. The road was beginning to clog with commuters returning home from their daily grind at the office as we pulled into the driveway of her sister’s house.

With social media stealing our attention, e-mails attached to our phones, and computerized schedules constantly reminding us of our daily obligations, it can often seem impossible to get away. On the rare occasion you wake up and find yourself facing a day with weather too perfect to be ignored, don’t ignore it. Personal Time Off (PTO) is better spent riding through the corners of New England with a raven-haired woman than actually being sick.