Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Push for New York

On Monday, Anna had one more day off from work and a babysitter for her son, which equals a rare opportunity for her to go for a longer ride. And, unlike our last ride, it was warm and sunny, so she was chomping at the bit to get on the back of my bike and log some serious miles.

We dropped her son Ricky off in Warwick, R.I. around 1 p.m. Since we had to start late, the general plan was to ride on Interstate 95 south to get to New Haven, Conn., as fast as possible, and from there, head to Danbury, Conn. to connect to U.S. Route 7, the focal point of our ride. Between New Milford and Kent, Route 7 wanders very close to the eastern border of New York state, so my goal was to cross the border so we can say we've ridden in New York.

Anna is not a big fan of highway riding, and it didn't help that it was breezy. The wind pushed my bike around as my highway speed varied between 60 and 70 mph. Since I have no windshield on my bike, Anna thought I had to "hang on for dear life," but I assured her I was quite comfortable. Anna was not comfortable, however; her loose-fitting half helmet put a strain on her neck as the wind pushed her head around, and the wind noise bothered her ears. I felt her legs squeeze me tighter as we approached bumps or transitions in the road (transitions or lines in the asphalt cause the skinny 21" front tire on my Wide Glide to wander a bit).

I stopped for gas at an interstate service area in Madison, Conn., where we also ate snacks, drank water and checked the map. It was around 3:30 p.m., and we had to decide if we wanted to stay on I-95 until we hit New Haven, or get off the highway and take secondary roads to bypass the city. Since we were pressed for time, we chose the first option. My worries of hitting stop-and-go traffic on I-95 never materialized. From the highway, we got on state Route 34, only spending a little time in urban New Haven. The most scenic part of Route 34 is the section that follows the Housatonic River, which reminded Anna of her native West Virginia. We crossed the river on the Stevenson Dam Bridge in Oxford, Conn. and continued along Route 34 until we hit Interstate 84, which we rode west to Danbury. Then we got on U.S. Route 7 north.

Going north from I-84, U.S. Route 7 begins as a freeway and then becomes a busy commercial road. Traffic thinned out after the junction with Route 67, and we continued north on Route 7 until we reached the village of Gaylordsville, Conn. From there, it was only four miles to the New York border from the junction with Route 55, a twisty country road. We spotted a tall sign (near someone's front yard) welcoming us to New York, and we pulled over to take photos, wondering if the people who lived there often had to put up with photo-takers. Then we rode down a side street - Hoyt Road in Wingdale, N.Y. - before turning around and heading back to Route 7 in Connecticut.

If we had more time, I would have liked to have continued riding north on Route 7, where there was more scenic riding, but I was content to have reached my goal of crossing the New York border. For me, the pressure was off.

"You were on a mission, baby - this ride was all about the destination," said Anna, whose motto is usually, 'It's not about the destination - it's the ride.'

Instead, we went south on Route 7, and after fueling the bike, we stopped for dinner at Arby's in New Milford, Conn. (Anna's idea) and planned our route back to Rhode Island. Since we had to get back to Rhode Island by 10 or 11 p.m. and we were losing daylight, I decided to take Interstate 84 east through Hartford; Interstate 384 east through Manchester; and then Route 6 east into Rhode Island. At a rest stop in Southington, Conn., I put on my leather jacket and gloves, which I was very glad I brought; the temperature dropped quickly as the sun went down.

As we approached Hartford on I-84 east, we hit stop-and-go traffic due to road construction, and it was the only white-knuckle riding of the whole trip. I got in the wrong lane and tried to edge my way back into my original lane, which was hairy with the amount of cagers around me. Then we also hit some rough surfacing which made my front tire squirrely, but we made it through okay and it was smooth sailing through Manchester. By the time we got on Route 6 east, it was dark, and I rode at or slightly below the speed limit - partly because my single headlight does not cast much light, and partly out of concern for possible deer encounters (the glare of oncoming headlights didn't help either).

At one point, we got stuck behind a tractor-trailer being towed by another big rig, doing about 30 mph, its flashing hazard lights acting like a beacon on the dark road. The highlight of our ride back on Rou te 6 was following a big, orange full moon. We rode Route 6 into Rhode Island, and then got onto Interstate 295 south to Warwick, R.I., where we had begun. We returned around 10:30 p.m., having ridden a total of just over 300 miles. It was the longest she's ever ridden in one day, and the longest I've ridden with a passenger. Anna was very tired, although she said her butt did not hurt. My right shoulder and elbow were a bit stiff, but I was otherwise okay.

About a week ago, Anna wanted to ride 750 miles to West Virginia in a single day, and, when she researched to see how easy or difficult that would be, she was surprised to read that many people consider 300-400 miles the upper limit for a reasonably comfortable day of riding.

"I thought they were just being wusses," she said. "Now I know that's a lot."


  1. Sounds like a good ride. Also sounds like Anna needs a properly fitted helmet. One that doesn't fit properly is almost as useless as no helmet - and it can be extremely uncomfortable as she will tell you.

  2. Glad you folks are getting out there and enjoying!

  3. Ride Ride Ride. I agree a properly fitted helmet is more comfortable and way more safe. Comfort is what allows you to ride big miles. The more comfortable your scooter is the longer you'll be able to ride.

    This was the first time I've visited your blog. It won't be the last. I found you over at IHG's place.

    Ride Safe,