Chicopee and Boston are up. I find some great riding, meet some more wonderful people and don’t get shot. All good things.
Thursday October, 5th (cont.)
Fueled by the big breakfast that Prashad had fed me, I left Pittsfield. What an amazing time I had there! The remainder of the day would be travel. Though my next place, Chicopee, was close, I decided to take a much more scenic but much longer route. Prashad had recommended that I ride up to Mount Greylock (the whale looking one) and my Mom had recommended taking Massachusetts highway 2, the “Mohawk Trail.”
Route, something like this (except I took Greylock Rd from New Ashford):
Greylock Rd was a bunch of fun. I sometimes get a little carried away on gravel. 🙂
I almost don’t want to post this picture since it pales in comparison to the actual view…but here it is.
The Mohawk Trail was great as well.
I stopped in Greenfield to use the library. I was struggling with my writing, so much so that my parking meter expired. I got my first two parking tickets of the trip, 40 minutes apart from each other. That seems a little excessive. I’ll see you in court!
I didn’t have a good idea about where I would camp but I found some sandy, hard to ride roads along the Connecticut River. There were some pull outs, but most of them were covered with trash and showed signs of partying. I found a little lower track, beneath a berm, which looked good enough. Here, I think:
I didn’t love the spot, but it seemed safe enough.
Yeah….not so much.
First came the teenagers. Just after dusk, a loud truck pulled up, then eventually two more. A group was congregating “above me” (hard to explain the layout). They weren’t being especially loud or obnoxious, but I was unsure of how to proceed. Though I like to remain hidden, I didn’t want to surprise them (or vice-versa). I decided to walk over and let them know that I was camping nearby.
None of them seemed particularly interested nor particularly nervous. This was the ideal reaction. They dispersed around a half hour later.
Then the gun shots started.
I had seen some shotgun shells along the sandy road I had been riding, so I wasn’t too surprised. Apparently rednecks are looking to expand their territory into the northeast. I was in no danger because of where I set up, so I wasn’t too concerned. Gunshots do make it a bit difficult to sleep though. 🙂
I slept well once it was finally quiet.
Friday, October 6th
I woke up without any bullet holes in the tent. Another great night! I had coffee while watching the sun rise over the river.
After a short ride, I found myself in place number 30 of 92: Chicopee (Verse 2 Line 5). I actually already had a picture for the place taken over three months earlier at the sign post forest in Watson Lake, Yukon Territory. Told in this post.
I had done a decent amount of preparation for this place. After some emails with a lady at the chamber of commerce, I decided that I really wanted a picture next to one of the C-5 transport planes that flies out of the Westover Air Force Base. These things:
I tried multiple phone calls and almost ended up enlisting, but I couldn’t make it happen. Shame. I did, however, have an afternoon appointment with the Chair of the Chicopee Historical Commission, Steve Jendrysik.
I spent the morning bumming around town and was able to glean quite a bit about Chicopee’s history. It is another one of those post industrial, northeast cities, with huge, old, empty buildings.
That one was a textile mill. Not all were run down though. The one across the street has been refurbished and is now home to apartments and office space. It looks really nice.
Chicopee has manufactured a dizzying array of products over its history. Bed sheets, guns, basketballs, bicycles, swords, knitting machines, statues, tires…..and those are just the notable things. The Duryea, made in Chicopee, was America’s first gasoline powered vehicle. The bronze doors for the east wing of the capitol building in Washington DC (pictured below) were cast in Chicopee.
I spent some time at the library before going to meet Steve at the Edward Bellamy House. Edward Bellamy wrote the novel Looking Backward while residing here in 1887. The book is about a future Utopian socialist society. There have been at least 30 different books written in response to it!
Steve was great. He spent over three hours with me talking about Chicopee and Massachusetts in general. I learned so much. Parts of the house are very well taken care of. Other parts need some attention.
One of the main things we talked about was how Westover Air Force Base ended up in Chicopee. It was built in the late 30s and was a major boon to Chicopee’s post-depression economy. The story is a wild one, unfortunately too long for the blog.
Post WWII, the base played a large part in the Berlin Airlift. This operation was focused on providing supplies to West Berlin after all ground routes were closed off by the Soviets. Part of this was “Operation Little Vittles”, in which an American Pilot, Gail Halvorsen, began dropping candies and sweets for the children of West Berlin.
Steve was in elementary school when this took place and even took part in it. They would tie little parachutes to the candies before they were taken aboard the airplanes. Over 23 tons of candy were dropped during the airlift period. I’m assuming it was lucrative time to be a dentist in West Berlin. 🙂
As we parted, Steve took the honor of crossing Chicopee off of my sign.
He also loaded me up with some Chicopee swag, including a book about Chicopee in the 40s which he wrote and compiled. All for free!
I did ride by Westover Base to see if I could get a picture through the fence. If so, I had been instructed to call the base before getting my tripod out. 🙂 I didn’t find any place for a suitable photo though.
Near the base I did find a great camping spot. It was a patch of forest in an industrial with a few trails running through it. Perfect.
I did a little more business before returning for the evening.
Saturday, October 7th
I got up early to try to get a couple more good Chicopee pictures. I finally got one with a C-5 transport plane:
Hey, I tried my best. 🙂
I also got one at their impressive city hall.
I don’t feel like a got a GREAT Chicopee picture, but I know more about its history than almost any place I have visited. I guess that’s a fair trade-off. I rolled away feeling satisfied.
Oh yeah….and Sonic made another buddy.
Two Massachusetts places down, one to go. You may have heard of place 31 of 92. It is a quaint little hamlet called Boston (Verse 2 Line 1). I’m normally not super excited to get into a big city, but I actually had a guide for this one. Do you all remember Prashad from Pittsfield? This guy:
He hooked me up with his friend Chris in Boston.
On the way I stopped at a McDonalds. There were some crazy Jesus people at the next table talking about crazy Jesus things. I introduced myself and we ended up having a crazy Jesus prayer service right there. 🙂
Chris texted me an address at which to meet him. It was a yacht club. I got there first and pulled into the open parking lot. Soon after, Chris arrived, but the gate was now shut. I had to ask someone to open it for me.
“Are you a member here?”
“Nope. Just an idiot!”
Chris rides a really sharp red, white and blue Honda Shadow. We proceeded to ride around town and see some of the sights.
A tall, shiny building:
(Sorry, Sonic. That’s not a very flattering angle for you)
Trinity Church reflected in said shiny building: (the front facade was under construction unfortunately)
It was a busy time of day so it was hard to get great pictures that included Annie. It was a lot of fun to have a riding partner.
I really enjoyed getting to know Chris. He’s a smart guy who is really welcoming and easy to talk to. Our conversations spanned a vast variety of topics. He made me an awesome supper of steak and salmon.
One of recurring themes about Boston was its standing as an intellectual hub. As Chris said it, “Welcome to Boston, where you’re never the smartest person in the room.” Harvard, MIT, BC, BU and many other prestigious institutions call Boston home.
We had considered going out in the evening, but ended up staying in. It was kind of nice to just sit around watching football (though the Huskers lost).
Sunday, October 8th
It was raining in the morning so I decided to wait it out. Chris and I got our picture together and he crossed Boston off of my sign.
Real bikers wear shorts and boots.
He gave Annie a really nice tattoo with a quote from Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.
What generosity he showed to a guy who his friend met in a turn lane a few days prior. The road continues to surprise.
Stay industrial, everybody!
Realtime update: Sorry for the lack of updates recently. I’ve been getting pampered in Brooklyn for a few days. It’s been fun to experience the city from a local perspective. Haverstraw and Hackesack are done, so I will be heading towards Baltimore tomorrow.