The blustery breeze blew the cover off my motorcycle as I loosened its tension cord. All around blue skies with only pockets of marshmallow puff clouds. A perfect fall riding day, I thought.
“I can’t believe all that stuff fit in your duffel,” Dave revealed as I tied down my Ortlieb dry bag to the top of the Jesse. “Your stuff seemed to explode all over the room,” he said referring to the fact that my gear seems to expand to the size of the space it’s unpacked. Packing for two or three weeks is not much different than packing for a trip that’s going to last a couple years. There are the basics in terms of clothing, riding gear and supplies. Of course, I always carry the full complement of technology including cameras, lenses, computer and phone. I’ve refined my packing list and packing strategy over the years and it works well. Always room for improvement, though.
Exploring Northampton and catching up with an old friend, I was able to take in some live music in which Dave performed or mixed the sound; we even found time to record a few of my original compositions in the recording studio in the basement of his house. Dave promises to mix and overdub bass, drums and who knows what — we’ll see if he can produce the next viral sensation.
While the lure of the quaint and yet culturally interesting town of Northampton never waned — this weekend both Pat Metheny and Richard Thompson are performing in small venues here — I was curious to explore the small New England towns of Massachusetts and New Hampshire while making my way to the White Mountains, part of the Appalachians and perhaps the tallest and most rugged range in New England. The weather forecast looked good, slight winds from the west with highs in the low 50’s and low’s in the high 30’s. While perhaps many of my motorcycling brethren whom I see riding and always tossing the biker’s wave or nod, perhaps are used to the chilled temps in this part of the country, I awakened to the rude reminder of my coldest days of Alaska, the high plains of Peru and Bolivia and of course the biting wind and cold of Patagonia. My plan: make it to the Kancamagus Highway by 2pm.
An afternoon session in the studio.
Downtown Northampton — seductive but I’ve got to move on.
Once the sun starts its inevitable descent west, the temperatures in these parts drop faster than the stock market after bad economic indicators. And the threat of snow? Always evident. However, riding the backroads where zig-zagging through towns, around rivers and waiting for traffic lights is just the pace of life, I didn’t get to the Kancamagus until 3:30pm. The young woman with ear-muffs working the Mobil gas station summed it up best: “You look cold now, just wait until you get up there,” she said as she took my money and waved her chin in the direction of the pass.
I changed into heavier gloves, pulled out my heated vest and repositioned my Buff scarf into balaclava mode for the ride.
The late afternoon light basked the yellow, gold, red, orange and umber colored leaves in light that saturated the colors making them look like a modern impressionist painting that moved in time with me. The bubbling brook, turned into a stream and then a river as I climbed up and down the Kancamagus. Barely a car on the road, I stopped to snap pictures, hike along the river and just stop and gaze as the colors changed with the setting sun.
Small towns of Massachusetts and New Hampshire are endearing and when you’re not in a hurry nor tempting the fate of Mother Nature, it’s the only way to go.
For a moment I was looking to trade my bike in for a canoe or kayak.
New England Color.
Sitting by the side of the road, Doc waits patiently.
I rolled into Conway, New Hampshire just after 6pm. A perfect day of riding. But this too may pass. Desk clerk here at my motel says I may wake up to snow!