November 26, 2011

Berkshire Cycling: Stockbridge Loop 1

27 miles     Paved Roads
Start: Berkshire Botanical Gardens, Route 102, Stockbridge
Towns: Stockbridge, Housatonic, Great Barrington, Alford, West Stockbridge 

It's now about two weeks later than the date of my last outdoor ride in 2010, and that was later than in 2008 or 2009. Before that, who knows? This despite the scare thrown into New England cyclists by the Halloween weekend storm. Today is sunny, 50+ degrees, little wind; what more could a rider want towards the end of November? There was a skim of ice on the swamp when I left, but it warmed up quickly.

And there was other news, as good as the weather today. What does this tell you: shopping center parking lots full to overflowing, with merchants providing school buses to ferry people from distant overflow parking. Town centers crowded, with people on the sidewalks and no parking places available. Yes, it must be the day after Thanksgiving in the U.S., so called black Friday. Everybody was shopping ... so, happy side effect, no one was on our rural roads ... they were emptier than I have ever seen them from a bicycle seat. I will scoff no more at my culture's love of shopping. Instead, I'll jump on the bike and be glad for open roadways.

I parked at the Berkshire Botanical Gardens. This is a fabulous garden, gardens really, in Stockbridge. If you're in that town during the short Berkshire growing season, don't miss it.

Riding south on Rt. 183, I passed both the Norman Rockwell Museum and Chesterwood, a National Trust Historic Site that was home and studio to sculptor Daniel Chester French, probably best known his work on the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC. It is more than a museum to his work, also hosting resident sculptors and an annual juried show of contemporary sculpture.

The road follows the Housatonic River, and passes through the eponymously named town, where many of the old factories are put to use as galleries, studios, and one very good bakery, Berkshire Mountain Bakery. Worth a stop for bread, including some with chocolate, but unhappily, no coffee.

Turning south on Rt. 7, my ride went through Great Barrington, then turned west on Taconic Street. The traffic in Great Barrington was bearable, because everyone was inside shopping, their cars still on the roadside.

This year's crop of winter berries is abundant,  their bright red colors appearing in wet areas. I followed Taconic Street through Alford, using West Road to West Center, which ends back on Rt. 102, where I turned right into West Stockbridge, then continued on back to Stockbridge

Besides its historic downtown, Alford still has several working dairy farms, a happy fact in a town where development pressure must be intense, given its location in the southern Berkshires (read that: accessible to NYC, Tanglewood and Great Barrington.)

All in all, this made a very nice ride, thought not exactly what I set out to do, it was fun and I saw quite a few other cyclists on the road today.

 Finally, a retraction. I've been wondering if there are any careful readers out there who noticed my writing a month or so ago of my plan to keep fit  by going to the gym on the way home from work, and thought: huh, what's that, her?  Is this the person we know? Well, there was at least one: my brother! So truth be told, no. I came to my senses, lost the illusion, and realized (happily before spending $300 that I will do much more fun things with) that there isn't a bat's chance in hell that I will stop, after work, tired, in the cold dark winter night, to work out in a gym. I don't like gyms. I like the outdoors, cycling, cross-country skiing. So this year, once I can't ride, it's back to the stationary set up. Though I'm thinking of purchasing studded snow tires for the bike, they certainly help the car get around in winter .... hmmmm. Black ice, anyone?

Roads: Rt. 183 south to Rt. 7. South to Taconic Street. West to West Road / West Center to Rt. 102. East to West Stockbridge, then Stockbridge. Click here to see the route, with map, cue sheet and climb  details, on Map My Ride.

1 comment:

  1. Glad to see you've come to your senses! Walking on a treadmill--that's a metaphor you don't need in your life.


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