Seven Levels of Wet: Day Two, Vermont to Rhode Island Adventure Ride
I was on the second day of my Vermont to Rhode Island adventure ride trying to link together trails all the way across New England. Thunderstorms and thousands offeet of elevation had served up a slice of humble pie on day one. I was already forced to improvise. But day two promised to be drier. At least that’s what the weatherman told me. Instead I was about visit the seven levels of wet.
Level 0: Not Wet Yet
I set out from Williamstown mid-morning, with the promise of clearing skies into the afternoon. I had around 60 miles to cover that day- about twice the previous day’s haul, but today would see only one big climb with mostly descending all the way to Westfield, MA. I had some help planning the route from a Northampton local, as well as my friend Sam. After busy road to Adams, I would climb straight up out of the valley eastward on an old road and into the Savoy Mountain State Park. From there it was a highly recommended back road along the Westfield River to Chesterfield Gorge.
Although the first section into North Adams was on busy road, it was wide with ample space for a bike in the breakdown lane. Grey skies loomed above, but the overnight downpours had mercifully ceased. I made great time as I flew along the wide and level pavement and finally into Adams where I popped my head into Village Bike Rentals, that just happens to be run by Drew, the brother of a good friend of mine. I told him about my intended route, and described the road I would be using to get up out of the valley, and despite his ample biking experience in the area he gave me a quizzical look, “Never heard of that..” he offered. The fact that he didn’t recognize it should have been a warning. But with a long day ahead, I didn’t linger and instead headed quickly out of town and started my climb up out of the valley.
Level 1: Clammy
Rolling along pavement, I was soon half-way up the climb. I passed the Susan B. Anthony homestead, enjoying a brief reprieve in the struggle up to the top of the ridge. I rolled upward through two large active farms enjoying the view of the valley below. I managed to stay on the bike until one of the last steep pitches, where I hopped off and pushed upward. I finally reached the turnoff onto the dirt road that would take me the rest of the way into the State Forest.
Although there was no rain, my effort to gain the ridge had me sweating up a storm. I had reached the first level of wet: clammy. I was clammy. No big deal.
Level 2: This is Nothing, I’ll Dry Out Quickly
I turned off of the pavement onto the first dirt of the day and under tree cover. This wasn’t a moment too soon as the steady pitter patter of rain started just as I ducked under a friendly green canopy. I donned my rain jacket and started down a rough old dirt road that abruptly devolved into torn up doubletrack. After barely a hundred yards, the road ended entirely and I stared over the road’s edge into a deep gully. The bridge, which must have once crossed the gully was long gone, and a brook roared below full of the previous night’s downpour. This was why Drew hadn’t heard of this way out of the valley. It didn’t exist anymore. Somehow, when I was planning, I must have traced an old road. Hopefully there was more of the road on the other side of the gully.
My GPS track plodded over the now missing bridge to the other side of the gully. With no bridge to help, I needed to improvise. Although the entry was steep, I found a path down to the bottom o
f the gully. The brook was too wide and full of water to rock hop, so I took off my shoes and waded through the knee deep water to a sandy bank. After climbing up the other side of the gully, I found an old roadbed, however I still was off the GPS track. Once more, I skidded down the bank of a second gully, and up the other side, bushwhacking my way in search of the roadbed. Thankfully, before long, I happened upon a wide doubletrack heading into a deep lush forest. The rain had picked up and was now finding its way through the thick canopy of above. I was wet, but convinced myself that the showers would be short lived and I would dry out quickly once I was making my descent out of Savoy.
Level 3: Maybe I Can Hide From This
The doubletrack was the crumbling remains of an old paved road. In spots the pavement was intact, but more often than not, water had worn it away and left rocky debris that scattered under my wheels. I labored upward on what was fast becoming a streambed, as rivulets of rising water were now running down and through the eroded road.
At the edge of a large field I stopped under the canopy of a large hemlock. I knew that once I stepped out into the field, I would bear the full brunt of what was now a deluge Given that it was noon, I decided this was a good a place as any for me to stop and brew up my lunch. Perhaps if I lingered long enough the rain would pass.
I fired up the Jetboil and cooked up my soup as the rain beat down on the trees above, dripping through the thick cover of the hemlock and down onto me, the bike and my lunch. I took my time, lingering under the thick cover hoping beyond hope that the rain would stop.
Level 4: Okay, Let’s Stop Pretending
I still had a long ride ahead, and so I couldn’t wait forever. As I rolled out from under my hemlock sanctuary, fat drops of rain thundered down onto me. I continued climbing upward, through the field and back into forest until finally exiting onto a dirt road. By the time I made my turn onto pavement, I was drenched. I couldn’t have been wetter if I had jumped into a pool. And so I continued along the rolling pavement hoping the rain would soon stop, but beyond any hope of drying out.
The paved road section was quiet, and thankfully short lived, as it led to a long narrow dirt road and then back into forest. I finally reached a section I had been looking forward to all day: a long doubletrack descent out of Savoy through the State Forest and down to the main road.
Level 5: I Don’t Care. I Literally Don’t Care Anymore
I exited the road through a gate and onto the grassy doubletrack that would take me down into Savoy proper. The trail was beautiful. Surrounded by dense woods, the trail was overgrown and wild. I half expected to come upon a moose or bear as I rolled deeper and deeper onward. The trail was submerged more often than not in several inches of water, and it splashed up under my tires and onto my feet. The wet grass brushed against my legs further drenching my socks and shoes. But by this point I didn’t care. I actually enjoyed rolling through the large puddles between the large tufts of grass. Thankfully the soil was sandy and mud was virtually nonexistent despite all the standing water. It was like riding down some shallow grassy river. In a deep hollow the grass ended and gravel took over as I climbed upward. The road became more and more defined, until I was descending on pavement into Savoy.
Level 6: Pruned
The rain had finally stopped as I turned onto the quiet, and aptly named River Road, heading south. I was still wet, but my irritation had long passed. I was the kid who didn’t want to leave the pool. Soaked to the bone, but sanguine. Eager to continue.
A good friend had recommended the next section, which closely followed the Westfield River through Windsor State Forest. He had endorsed it as his favorite section of road in all of western Massachusetts. Before long, I shared his glowing admiration. The quiet road was devoid of any traffic as I hummed along brand new pavement- winding and flowing like the river beside me. With a fly fishing rod I could have made a whole day of the next few miles. But I sped busily along my way.
Level 7: Help! I’m Drowning!
“BRIDGE OUT AHEAD” announced an angry orange sign, snapping me from my dreamy trance. Anxiety crept in as I began to wonder if my route was going to be blocked and I would need to backtrack. Into Chesterfield Gorge I rode, leaving the road onto a doubletrack path that followed the river through a narrow and steep run. Still no bridges, dirt replaced pavement and I weaved my way through puddled craters under a thick canopy. To my left the narrow rushing river, and to my right a steep climb through wooded escarpments. Blue replaced grey through the branches of the trees above, and the sun glistened off of the wet leaves and rushing water.
The highlight of that day was that ride through Chesterfield Gorge, rushing along a rushing river. I soaked it in. All the rain was behind me. It was blue skies ahead. I had hours to go, and I was refreshed and renewed.
And that was about the time the creak in my bottom bracket started: pedal, click, pedal, click. And as I rolled onto a flat section of trail, I realized my shifter wasn’t working. At least not fully. I had lost my biggest cogs. But at least I wasn’t getting wet anymore.
The road turned back to pavement as I rolled out into a large open field, less than a half mile from where it joined the main road toward Westfield. I started into a large puddle and quickly realized it was only getting deeper the further I went. As I looked ahead I realized that the road- my route- was flooded. And my route was downhill from where I stood.
I decided I didn’t feel like swimming for my life. The seventh level would have to wait. I turned around in knee deep water and found a re-route that took me to the main road with a minimum of backtracking.
The roads were busy with traffic, but a large shoulder allowed me to ride in comfort as I rocketed toward Westfield. Originally I had planned to climb up away from the river and take dirt paths through Huntington State Forest. But as I had learned the previous day- you never quite move as fast as you think you’re going to when bikepacking. And so I mapped out a road route into Westfield where I would stay for the night.
And then there was that damned creak, again. Every turn of the pedals it chimed out, announcing the imminent destruction of my bottom bracket. Combined with a rear derailleur that was intermittently refusing to shift, I was in rough shape. As I rounded a turn onto the busy Route 20 in Roronoco the unmistakable wiggle of a soft rear tire made clear that I had a slow leak.
And so I stopped at a small pullover area, said a prayer to the God of Stans and ate a powerbar. And that was enough to keep me going.
With just enough light I covered the last hour on pavement, and rolled into a cheap motel for the night. After spraying down the bike with the motel’s hose, the shifting returned to normal, and the creak disappeared. Who would have thought that after all I had been through that day, my bike just needed a little more water.
As I downed a pizza while watching the Red Sox, I admired my belongings stretched across every inch of real estate in the room.
It was wet day. It was a good day. And tomorrow it was onto Connecticut.
Here’s the map for the second day’s route:
MY GEAR LIST
Osprey Manta 28L Backpack 3L Reservoir Jet Boil Fuel Cannister Collapsible Bowl Set GSI Outdoors Ultralight Coffee Filter Leatherman Lighter Spork Wet Wipes Large Ziplock Bags Backup Battery Headlamp Feed Bag (Granola, Dehydrated Milk, Coffee, Sugar, Soup Mix, Cheese)
Defiant Zipperless Frame Pack (Large) Multi-tool Spare Tire Chain Lube Hand Pump Co2 Cannister Extra Stans Notubes Fluid Rear Flashing Light
Revelate Designs Sweetroll Handlebar Bag (Medium) Black Diamond Liquid Point Shell Jacket Eddie Bauer Stormdown Hooded Jacket Waterproof Pants Eddie Bauer Synthesis Hoodie Lafuma 30F Sleeping Bag Wool Socks x 2 Wool Underwear x 2 Convertible Short/Pants Long Sleeve Baselayer Revelate Designs Mountain Feedbags (x2) 1 x Water Bottle filled with Electrolyte Mix Snacks (Almonds, Gels, Waffles, Cliff Bars, Chocolate) Revelate Designs Egress Pocket Wallet Phone Backup Battery Watch Charger Cord Phone Charger Cord Bag Balm
Granite Gear Dry Bag (Strapped to Handlebar) Big Agnes Insulated Sleeping Pad
Anywhere Bicycle Attachment Water Bottle Mount (Front fork) Blackburn Outpost Cargo Cage Nalgene Bottle